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Reflective materials
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Reflective materials

Written by: Micah Holland


The Application of Reflective Materials in Apparel

It has always been a rule to wear white during early morning walks or evening jogs to keep us visible to oncoming traffic. But technology now offers an even safer way to be outdoors when it is dark. The solution: reflective fabrics. We commonly see reflective materials on our tennis shoes, bicycle wheels, and road signs. But did you ever think you would have reflective materials in your shirts and shorts? They are becoming more and more common in today’s sports and active-wear, and they will continue to affect the way we dress, work, and play.

Reflective fabrics, films, yarns, and trims contain thousands and thousands of tiny glass beads that refract light. These beads act like mirrors reflecting light back to the original source. When a car’s lights hit the glass beads, your clothing and accessories become highly visible allowing you to be seen on even the darkest night. Some reflective materials such as 3M’s Scotchlite Silver Reflective Material are 1,500 times brighter than your favorite white tee shirt. And not only are you visible, but your clothing fabric is possibly water resistant, resistant to environmental agents, and stronger than ever before.

Fabric manufacturers are now using DuPont’s Cordura ® fabric to create reflective fabrics that increase visibility and safety in low light conditions such as snow, fog, and darkness at night. Some manufacturers weave reflective yarns into this soft, comfortable fabric while others use an IlluminNITE TM coating based on thousands of metallic micro-particles. Both methods allow clothing to be ideal for play such as snowboarding and cycling, and work such as police and roadside emergency work. The possible uses are endless, and people from all walks of life can benefit from them in some way.

Active wear, sports wear, children’s wear, and even pet wear is being enhanced by the safety features of reflective materials. With the use of technology, designers and manufacturers are making safety more fun and fashionable. In many situations, the safety features cannot be seen during the day as colors and accents disguise the reflective material.

Technology allows reflective materials to come in different shapes and sizes and meet the needs of any active lifestyle. Now that these materials are available in craft and fabric stores nationally, it is easier than ever to take advantage of this high-tech safety gear. Fabrics, films, yarns, trims, sheeting, and transfers can now be produced with reflective qualities. This means that you can sew or peel-and-stick reflective materials to your clothing, accessories, and equipment. Caring for these materials is also easy as most of them can be machine laundered and ironed on a low setting.

Clothing and accessories in which reflective materials are commonly used include caps, shoes, uniforms, helmets, leg and arm bands, and carrying cases such as backpacks. Everyone benefits from the use of reflective materials including children, adults, the elderly, athletes of all types, and even pets.

Pet products containing reflective materials are becoming increasingly popular. Glow Dog, Inc. and Neo-Paws International are just two examples of companies now offering reflective comfort, safety and performance for your loyal friend. Reflective merchandise includes jackets, leashes, shoes, life vests, dog and cat collars, and logo wear for pet owners



Reflective Materials and Transportation

Reflective materials are not only taking apparel into the new millennium, but the way we travel as well. We often take the air and roadways for granted and do not realize how reflective materials keep us moving safely. For example, signs along the roads we travel everyday are visibly enhanced with reflective sheeting and films. Traffic signs, traffic control devices such as markers, tractor trailer decals, and commercial signs would be impossible to see at night without the use of these powerful, reflective materials. Available in colors such as red, yellow, blue, white, green, and orange, reflective materials can easily be used to make traveling safe and easy.

Considering the role of reflective materials in our lives, they have many benefits and advantages. Wearing and using them is an easy and inexpensive way to keep yourself, your family, and your pets safe at night. So next time you think the oncoming car can see you, or you stop as you see the stop sign at the intersection, think about how easily visible your world is with the power and safety of reflective materials.

Possible Characteristics of Reflective Fabrics

  • soft
  • breathable
  • wind resistant
  • water repellent
  • safe
  • attractive
  • comfortable
  • self-adhesive
  • strong
  • easy to sew
  • durable


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