Fabric UPF Primer

Feb 6th 2018

I thought I’d write this blog entry on one of the most fundamental aspects of our products, namely the protection derived from the true UPF 50 Ultraviolet Protection Factor of the fabric that makes up our shirts. This rating in fabrics is designated by the letters “UPF” (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) while other products such as sunscreen have a rating designated by the letters “SPF” (Sun Protection Factor). Most consumers I encounter aren’t aware of this so I thought I’d clear up any confusion. Due to the labeling laws in the United States, a manufacturer is only allowed to advertise a maximum rating of 50+, which means that while wearing the garment, one would have at least 50 times the sun protection than bare skin alone. To put it another way, one could be in the sun 50 times longer before getting sunburn than with no protection whatsoever. The actual rating of our proprietary fabric far exceeds the 50+ advertised figure and “unofficially” comes in at 98.5% blockage for UVA and 99.4% blockage for UVB.

upf 50

In designing this line of fishing apparel, I wanted to not only appeal to the passion of the individual with the fish logos on custom, hand painted backgrounds, but also to have a functional garment that affords protection from the risks of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Most cases of skin cancer come from excess UV radiation. Fishing exposes us to the damaging effects of the sun directly and by reflection from the water. This continual exposure over time increases the risk of skin cancer and causes premature aging of the skin even during cloudy days. UV-A (320-400 nanometer wavelength in the electromagnetic spectrum) penetrates the skin more deeply and is more prevalent than the more intense but less prevalent UV-B (290-320 nanometer wavelength). Sun protection t shirts must protect against both types of UV radiation for maximum effectiveness. Long sleeve shirts, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are all wise defenses against UV radiation. Our proprietary performance fabric is designed to protect against both UVA and UVB by means of the caliber of yarn used to knit the fabric, the technique of knitting and the fabric finishing process. The two main types of knit fabric are jersey and interlock. We utilize the interlock method of knitting our fabric from high quality (and expensive) polyester yarn. “Hand” refers to the feel of the fabric, whether it is smooth or coarse. Our fine raw materials are what gives our shirts a smooth, silky feel against the skin as opposed to the rough, coarser hand that results in using cheap polyester yarn and inferior knitting methods. It’s moisture wicking properties allow the fabric to draw moisture away from the skin to facilitate a temperature drop by a process known as evaporative cooling. Our fabric is soft, comfortable and suitable for wearing for fashion as well as during your favorite outdoor activities. We’ve been asked by retailers and consumers if the 50+ UPF will wash out over time. A variety of UPF substances can be added during the fabric finishing process. We do this as a best practice to ensure that our apparel meets our guidelines for quality, but the tightness of the interlock knit of the fabric is what provides the true 50+ UPF. Yes, the chemicals do wash out slightly over time, but our testing shows that even without the addition of any UPF chemicals during finishing, our fabric still exceeds 50+ UPF.

Many customers who speak with us have changed their habits and have begun to wear UPF performance shirt due to an actual bout with skin cancer, having a friend or family member with UV induced skin cancer or simply as a preventive measure. The younger crowd doesn’t seem to pay much heed to the possibility of skin cancer, however it’s precisely in one’s youth that measures should be taken to protect the skin from overexposure to UV rays. The results of UV damage shows up years later, and continual sun exposure and sunburn year after year dramatically increases the risk. But good news for the young crowd: Our shirts look cool and let you identify your passion in the fishing lifestyle - with the added benefit of protection from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Now that you’ve read this primer on UPF and fabric, we’ll be posting more blog entries on skin cancer prevention in the weeks to come.

John Helm