Under Armour softens stance on cotton

FRESNO, Calif.

/*Under Armour*/ has introduced a new "charged cotton" line. The soft, stretchable shirts are 95% cotton. Cotton growers who used to despise the company are now proud business partners.

The Valley's high quality cotton crop doubled in production this year due to high prices and increased demand. But growers never thought they'd see the day Under Armour would come calling.

Mark Watte serves on the board of directors of the industry marketing group Cotton, Incorporated. Watte remembered, "We didn't like them at all. That placard at Dick's Sporting Goods, 'cotton is the enemy' doesn't sit too well, especially with the wives of us cotton producers so to win over an enemy is really an extra feather in our cap."

Watte recalled when Under Armour requested a meeting two years ago. "When they initially met with us it was under a cloak of secrecy." But now stores like Big 5 Sporting Goods are carrying Under Armour's new charged cotton products.

The treated fabric is very soft and said to dry five times faster than regular cotton. Store manager Jose Diaz explained, "If you don't like that clingy feel with like polyester. When you put it on it sometimes feels real fitted. It can be uncomfortable. This is more loose, more relaxed."

Watte said each cotton module produces 13 bales. Under Armour's call for 10 million units means the company needs a lot of cotton modules from growers.

Watte said, "That's 45,000 bales that formerly would have been synthetic and now it's cotton and it's growing."

Diaz expected the charged cotton products to be very popular this holiday shopping season.

Helm cotton grower Don Cameron said, "As cotton growers we like to see that. Any increases in demand is great. It keeps our prices up."

Valley cotton growers said the feud with Under Armour is now a friendly partnership.

The company has also developed charged cotton "storm." Rain runs off the material, which is used for hooded sweatshirts and hunting gear.

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