Nike Hyper Elite Revolutionizes Uniform Design

August 10, 2010 at 5:12pm

Nike Hyper Elite Revolutionizes Uniform Design with Innovative Lightweight, Strong and Breathable Fabrication

Back in the day, basketball uniforms were marked by heavy knits, heft and the feeling of fabric strength – all seemingly signs of apparel quality, despite the high-absorption and retention of body sweat and general bulk.

Those days are done. In development for nearly two years, Nike introduces Nike Hyper Elite, an innovative uniform fabrication that provides superior comfort and breathability, in a design that is much lighter than conventional team kits.

“This is a fundamental shift in fabrication, allowing us to look at basketball apparel in a totally different way,” says Ryan Aanderud, Design Director for Nike Basketball Apparel.

In today’s game, some 95 percent of basketball players are wearing base layers (like Nike Pro Combat) for support, compression, protection or comfort. This trend compelled Nike designers to completely rethink the outer shell, or what is historically the uniform itself. With compression base layers tight against an athlete’s skin, the outer shell can provide other performance functions beyond traditional moisture management.

“The Nike Hyper Elite short is designed to help keep an athlete cool and dry by providing more airflow between the uniform’s two layers,” says Aanderud. “As the base layer gathers sweat, air is ventilated over the surface through the outer shell’s perforations, keeping the player cool. The outer shell becomes less critical for moisture management.”

Nike Hyper Elite is a super-lightweight fabrication that has a lower moisture absorption capacity. “Throughout a game, the new uniform absorbs less moisture,” says Tracy Teague, Nike Basketball’s Global Creative Director. “It means players are carrying around less weight, and that’s important at the end of hard play and competition when an athlete’s fatigue rate is at its highest.”

The Nike Hyper Elite fabrication properties provide maximum durability and strength, which are both crucial for the supremely physical game that basketball has become.
The ventilation design of the short is a key example of this, as optimally-sized laser-perforated holes provide airflow but does not diminish the garment’s strength.

Lightweight uniforms are no strangers to runners and soccer players, but the sensation of lightweight apparel is relatively new to basketball players. “We took key insights from other sports and were able to remove some 15 inches of material and reduce seaming usually found in a traditional basketball uniform,” said Aanderud.

“No longer does a short have to be thick and heavy to equate to value or quality,” says Teague. “One perception is that because they’re so light, players are asking if they’re strong enough. We put Nike Hyper Elite on eight of the NCAA teams at the end of 2010. Athletes are surprised at how light they are, but they’re also pleasantly surprised at how strong the material is.”

For the Nike Hyper Elite, designers utilized Nike Aerographics, the company’s innovative engineered mesh process introduced in Beijing in 2008. The Nike Aerographics design process enables a breathable story-telling graphic to be incorporated into the back of the jersey. “Nike Aerographics allow us to tell a cultural story about a specific team or about the game of basketball in general,” says Aanderud. “And it’s supremely breathable. It’s truly innovation plus inspiration.”

Nike Hyper Elite uniforms are tailored to modern basketball players. With new NBA rules regarding off-court appearance, players want that style to also transplant on-court. “As more fitted apparel appears off court, we wanted to tailor the on-court look,” said Aanderud. “Players are very visible. Nike Hyper Elite delivers performance with less weight but it also looks good.”