Much has been written over the past years on the topic of properties of textiles and some other materials comprising sport garments, which affect the manufacture and physical attributes of garments. A considerable amount of the debate involves transport of liquid water, water vapor and thermal properties. This debate continues, particularly with respect to refinements of existing fibre types, the creation of different fabric structures, and the application of new finishes and coatings, many of which are designed to enhance human performance. However, much less is known about the effects of wearing suitable garments on human performance, although this topic has become more important in recent years. The factors that contribute to human performance are many and complex and are influenced by physical, psychological, technical and tactical factors.
Other factors also exist under each of these broad categories. For example, human performance is influenced by physical fitness and body composition, both potentially interacting with clothing and properties of textile materials used, among other factors, and determining the performance outcome. For example, a triathlete may improve his or her hydrodynamics and increase swim speed by wearing a buoyant wet suit, but the wet suit could in turn impair excessive metabolic heat loss and place the triathlete at risk of heat injury during the subsequent cycle of the event.
The swimming skill of the triathlete, along with the water temperature, may interact with the properties of the wet suit design, comprising materials to influence final performance. Thus, determining the effect of clothing and textiles on human capability is difficult because of the multi-factorial nature of performance and limiting factors that can cloud much of the theory. In some situations, clothing and textiles have a more measurable and obvious effect. For example, in specialized sports such as cycling, aerodynamics is a critical performance factor, and the cycle clothing ensemble can have a large impact on the maximal velocity.
In other situations where exercise must be performed under adverse environmental conditions or in a contact sport like cycling, use of appropriate bicycle clothing is essential for safe and successful human performance. Extremes in temperature resulting from exposure to industrial heat sources, such as working or competing in the tropics or the desert, create particularly demanding conditions for clothing the individual. Working or competing under pressure (e.g., diving) or at high altitude introduces other challenges that are not limited to human thermoregulation.