You won’t think about it until it’s there. That small glob of sweat precariously jiggling on your brow. One quick move though - say, to swat at a point guard driving the lane, or to return a spin serve on your backhand side, or to catch a snap in shotgun – and the perspiration drips. Down your forehead it goes, straight toward your eye, causing a split second break in concentration – enough for an easy layup, an ace, or an interception. Michael Luscher thinks that small drop of sweat can have a massive impact on athletic performance. He invented DRYV moisture control technology to deal with it. The patented design strategically places sweat absorbing fabric onto apparel, so athletes can more effectively wipe away perspiration that accumulates on their hands and face. Luscher is now the CEO of POINT 3, a basketball apparel company that uses DRYV to manage sweat on the hardwood.
Men's Fitness: How did you come up with the idea for DRYV?
Michael Luscher: What I probably do best on the basketball court is sweat. I'm just that dude who nobody wants to guard. I’m the sweatiest guy around. What I found playing two to three hours at a clip is that all of the gear that ball players – and athletes in general – wear today is made form moisture-wicking fabric, which is inherently designed to repel moisture. Wicking means the transfer of moisture from one spot to another. So when you try to dry your hands or your face off on a wicking garment, it’s not actually absorbing the moisture, it's repelling and spreading.
My hands would become saturated with sweat and I would try to wipe them on my shorts or on my shirt and it wasn’t doing anything. In hopes of being able to stay on the court, I would steal my wife's kitchen towels and I would hang them over my waist like a quarterback's towel so I could keep my hands dry while I was still in the game. My business partners at the time joked, “you should get some safety pins and pin them to the side of your shorts.” And that was our “a ha” moment.
When was the last major apparel innovation in basketball?
There's wonderful advances happening in basketball and running in footwear. But what we feel has happened is the focus on innovating for the athlete's foot has taken away from a universal desire to improve and innovate performance apparel.
From a performance perspective, the last major change was in the early 90s. The Fab Five are frequently credited for pulling their shorts down, but that's not a performance innovation, if anything it probably inhibits performance. So we would argue that DRYV is the greatest innovation to take place on a basketball court since the tank top.
When you were first developing the product, how did you research the right fabrics to use?
I grew up in New York and lived in the garment district. My mom was a fashion designer for about 35 years and my grandfather had a sweater factory in Hungary and then had a sweater factory in Brooklyn, so I have enough of a background in textiles to be dangerous. For about 14 months I traveled to tradeshows, factories, and fabric mills on three different continents to find the ideal pairing of fabrics that could make our concept become a reality.
I think the pairing of fabrics in a POINT 3 garment is very specific. And the reasoning behind that is the fabric that touches the skin you want to be wicking. When sweat hits a piece of wicking fabric, rather than absorbing through the fabric, it hits the fabric and spreads through capillary action and goes wide. When the moisture goes wide it evaporates more quickly and it will actual pull moisture off of the skin. For fabric that touches your body, yes, wicking is exactly what athletes want.
But the issue is it’s not doing a good job of absorbing the moisture off of an extremity. So what we did is find a compatible fabric, in its weight, in its thickness, in its stretch, and we apply that absorbent fabric either adjacent to, or above the wicking fabric which gives the wearer some surface area to dry their hands off.
What kind of fabric is it?
It's an absorbent, textured fabric. On the absorbent outer layer we felt like a texture was critical so that if you are going to dry your hands on the sides of your shorts, it needs to have that towel like, tactile feel.
For us, the fun part is the research because we're all hoop heads and research for us means going out and playing ball and watching ball and seeing how players deal with sweat when they’re on the court. A lot of players dry their hands off on their shorts, keeping dry hands when you are on the court is critical for ball control. We've done some research showing what it can do to help eliminate turnovers because when your hands are dry you can control the ball better. So on the shorts, the absorbent fabric is down the sides. We put it in a place where it was easy to wipe their hands off. On shirts, and this applies to our uniformed jersey's and some of the shooting shirts that we sell, we build in an absorbent outer layer fabric into the shoulder panel of the shirt. If you were to lift your shoulder up and turn your head to the side you can easily wipe the sweat off your face onto the shoulder panel.
All of the gear you produce now is for basketball, but can this idea be extended out to other sports?
We have found a ton of examples of athletes where sweat may inhibit their performance. Most notable is tennis, but really any sport where you need to maintain control of an item – a ball, a bat, a racket – with your hand, or you don’t want to have moisture coming from your face affect your concentration. The most frequent face wipe we see is actually the pitcher in baseball. Watch when a pitcher is looking at a catcher’s signal and see how many times the pitcher will use the collar of their jersey to wipe that sweat off their face.
At your business’ core, you make basketball apparel. That’s a crowded field filled with major international companies. How do you guys compete?
As a new brand we can’t rely upon our logo or well-paid professional endorsers to sell product. Any garment that has that POINT 3 logo on it has to somehow help you perform on the basketball court. And if it doesn’t we aren’t going to make it, because there are plenty of people out there making generic moisture-wicking garments that you may be more familiar with. What our goal is – through a lot of study and a lot of hours on the basketball court – is innovating on behalf of that ball player because we think we know what they should wear on the court. That’s where POINT 3 comes from: 0.3 seconds is the shortest amount of time that’s tracked in a basketball game. Where football is a game of inches, basketball is a game of tenths of seconds and if a dry hand on a crossover or a jump shot can give you that advantage of 0.3, that may be all it takes to win.