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Editors’ Choice: Specialized Trail Supima Cotton Short Sleeve Jersey

No T-shirt is JUST a T-shirt

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I can imagine the blank stares the designers got from the higher-ups at Specialized when the Trail Supima Cotton jersey was pitched: “So … it’s a T-shirt?” they may have asked. “And it will cost how much?”

But I’m thankful it was greenlit. This has become my favorite short-sleeved riding shirt by far. I go to great lengths to be comfortable on my rides, and there is something almost silky about the Supima Cotton jersey. It is made of a unique type of cotton. A unique species, in fact. Pima cotton, named after the indigenous people who originally farmed it in North America, is a certain type of ELS (extra long staple) cotton. The individual strands are significantly longer than those used in your Hanes Beefy Tee. That makes it possible to manufacture thinner but stronger yarn, which then makes lighter, softer, potentially more breathable garments that are more durable and less likely to develop “pilling.” Supima is essentially a brand of Pima cotton, but not exactly. It’s a nonprofit company that licenses growers, textile mills and manufacturers to ensures that the resulting product is actually made from authentic U.S.-made Pima cotton. Oh, and to answer that question the folks at Specialized probably asked, it costs $65.

Yes, I’m shilling for a T-shirt that costs almost as much as my SLX rear derailleur. And unlike my rear derailleur, I absolutely could live without this shirt. I’m not about to go replacing my whole rack of jerseys with these things. Partly because I prefer long-sleeved tops if I’m going to be out in the sun for long, and unfortunately there’s no long-sleeved Specialized Trail Supima Jersey. But also because this is a shirt I save for special occasions. It’s something I treat myself to on certain rides. I make it a point not to wear it when I have anything more than a lightweight hip pack. It’s not bad with a pack, and does a better job at wicking moisture than lower-tech cotton shirts, but it’s so nice to feel it flutter when ripping down a trail.

I can’t overstate how soft it is, and softness is rarely a priority in high-tech lightweight cycling gear. Designers can do some pretty amazing things with synthetic fabrics. I have tops from Leatt, Patagonia and Yeti that are almost robotic in their efficiency at staying cool and dry. but I don’t stop and run my fingers down them every time I slide their hangers over in my closet. Wearing the Specialized Trail Supima Cotton jersey is like stepping into a detergent ad, where there’s always a cool breeze, the towels are impossibly fluffy, and maybe there’s a cute talking teddy bear helping you fold them.

I’m guessing that’s the pitch the designers at Specialized used to get this thing made.

Photos: Anthony Smith