As literal lifers on the trade show circuit, we’re always pleasantly surprised when we see something truly amazing. 3M, a big company with 34 billion in sales and 84,000 employees, is never afraid to think big, which inevitably leads to ground-breaking innovation. While reflective material has long been a staple for safety gear (think reflector tabs on firemen’s uniforms, kid’s backpacks, and crossing guards) it’s not so common on everyday urban adventure apparel (save a few commuter-friendly items).
The new Scotchlite Reflective Yarn takes the dork factor out of the linear silver tape that adorns safety vests. Rather than long, rectangular stripes that deter from the fashionable aspect of a garment, the new yarn is woven into the fabric. During the day, a shirt is just a shirt, but at night, there’s 360 degrees of enhanced visibility—sort of a low-key, human glow-stick. The yarn utilizes retroreflection—basically smoke-and-mirrors magic that returns light directly back to its original source, a reaction that’s based on microscopic glass beads and prismatic technologies. When hit by a light like a headlight, streetlight, or flashlight, the yarn makes the apparel more visible during low-light conditions. It’s not the shirt you’d wear during a night of revelry when you want to blend into the dark, but for nighttime running, biking, hiking, or even climbing, it’s a great way to stay seen by fellow adventurers, crazed drivers, and potential rescue teams. And–most importantly—you look cool in nighttime photos.