Why our Clothes are Stupid

and how they can benefit from technology

An image of extruding polymers and spinning them into yarn

To start off, is technology what we think it is?

It’s not just wires and bolts and touch screens and virtual reality goggles. Tech is, of course, all of those things (learn what they are in this article by Daniel Eckler), but it’s also the most basic things, like a polyester shirt, or a piece of fur tied around shoulders.

Technology is, simply put, the application of science for practical purposes.

At its origin, clothing was used to protect humans against the elements, like climate change, for example. This is one usage we consider when dressing ourselves, but the other woes of of human existence are too often left out of our apparel, but not for long…

These woes could be anything; from sore muscles and bug bites to ugly bruises and back acne. When aiding our bodies we leave clothes out of the equation, forgetting that it’s attached to us nearly 24/7.

Why is it that we’ve added technology to the insides of our bodies and directly on our skin, but never our ever present outer layer? The reasoning lies, in part, in our perception of what technology is and what it can do.

Wearable technology in healthcare is an obvious application, but it’s not the only one. We like to think of technology as mysterious and futuristic beyond comprehension. Packaging conceals the inner-workings, and incites adoration and allure from devoted (and addicted) users simply by not understanding how it does what it does.The Fitbit, the smartwatch, and the iPhone are all examples of this.

This isn’t to say that wonderful, useful, beautiful things haven’t been created in the space of wearable tech accessories.

It’s just that many wearable offerings subscribe to the former definition of tech; one that stems from the post-internet tech trends of portable gadgets and shrinking machines. As useful as they may be, none have managed to integrate seamlessly into our basic fabrics and clothing.

The most revolutionary thing about these gadgets is arguably in their impact and in how they change our behavior, despite our not knowing what their technology entails.

Image: The Crated

Take the seismograph for instance. It has allowed humans to become in tune with the workings of our planet, while its technology remains fairly simple. Upon its invention in 132 A.D. humans knew the earth was shaking, they just didn’t have a way to predict it. Once we created something sensitive enough to feel the slight vibrations and translate them into a visual map we could see, we adapted for safety. What seismographs are to the rattling of the earth, so can technology be to apparel, thus our bodies.

Smart fabrics and e-textiles still have a lot to learn from plastic gadgets, however. Being able to track how many steps you take in a day is a pretty good way of measuring fitness and health. Cooler yet is being able to track your heart’s activity to prepare for something harmful that might otherwise go undetected.

What is special about this technology is that it doesn’t create or combat, it listens, and the impact is still revolutionary. The same can be achieved on a simpler canvas of soft, everyday textiles. It’s just our process of creation and views of technology that have been interrupted.

Wearable tech and fashion tech receive constant criticism as being unsustainable and a temporary trend. At the same time there is an urge to return to all-natural materials with low environmental impact. While the two aren’t mutually exclusive, they often contradict each other. A marriage between the two is a reasonable solution to combat the ephemeral quality of plastic wearables. With the wearable fashion industry only four years old, the growth is unquestionable and the impact already tangible. Google’s Project Jacquard with Levi’s made a huge splash in recent press, along with The Met’s recent technology themed gala “Manus X Machina”. The Crated is just one of many startups and designers bringing the “magic” of mysterious electronics down to earth by merging the natural with the seemingly supernatural.

The Crated’s ARMOR Project with Strong Arm Technologies

Smart apparel and intelligent textiles are on their way to becoming replacements for the stupid clothing we wear today. With conductive inks, flexible circuits and easy to wear and wash electronic components, soon our clothes will be technologically on par with gadgets, sportswear and safety wear.

It’s a future where even the lightest weight jacket could keep bodies warm in the winter, and a mosquito with the Zika virus would have no chance of coming near unprotected skin.

Some inventions identify a need, or a problem, and solve it from the root. These days those are hard to come by, especially when it comes up against forces of nature. It’s difficult to even see a need if we’ve adapted to a problem a certain way for centuries.

Clothing’s role as the original wearable technology makes it the perfect medium for technological advances.

Amalia Webber is a summer PR intern at The Crated. She loves sipping espresso on her fire escape and petting strangers’ dogs in Park Slope, but mostly is ecstatic about the possibilities of technology in clothing and fashion. The Crated is dedicated to bridging the gap between sexy, futuristic tech, and the form-fitting and natural fabrics humans were born with. Follow our instagram account: we’ll be posting our creations all summer long.