A Look Back: The Creation of Nike Dri-F.I.T.

A Look Back: The Creation of Nike Dri-F.I.T.

If you’re an athlete, chances are you’ve worn Nike Dri-F.I.T. apparel at some point in your life. And if you haven’t, you’re missing out. From base layer tees, to running shorts, to socks, to track jackets, to slacker tights, to sports bras to hats – the lightweight, moisture-wicking Dri-F.I.T. material has been a staple for athletes young and old for 30 years now. I’ve been wearing Dri-F.I.T. clothing since the late ’90s, and I fondly remember how great that microfiber material felt. The functionality of Dri-F.I.T. was unmatched, and I remember how well it was marketed by Nike. I’ll never forget seeing tennis star Andre Agassi rocking a royal blue long-sleeve zip polo at the US Open during a night match. I couldn’t believe it – it was 80 degrees and he was wearing long-sleeves? What was he thinking? But that was the point. Dri-F.I.T. fabric was moisture-wicking, unlike your standard cotton tee shirts. It worked so well, you could stay cool like Andre on a hot, humid night in New York. I was hooked.

Drew Hammell Look Back Nike Dri-F.I.T.

In case you didn’t know, F.I.T. stands for “Functional Innovative Technology”. In the late ’80s, Nike Apparel was known mainly as a tool for branding and promotions. Think big Nike logos plastered on the chest of tee shirts and hoodies. Heading into the ’90s, however, Nike’s new objective was performance innovation, with a reinvigorated focus on materials. This focus was based, as always, on the needs of athletes.

As Nike was perfecting their Dri-F.I.T. material, their ACG line was also taking off. In the ’80s, layering was necessary for hiking in the mountains and other outdoor activities. Athletes preferred a base layer and then a thermal layer that provided insulation when the temperatures cooled down in the fall and winter. For the extremely harsh elements like wind, rain, and freezing conditions, there was also a need for a waterproof layer. And that, essentially, is how the F.I.T. line was created.

Drew Hammell Dri-F.I.T. Running
Drew Hammell Nike Dri-F.I.T. Training

Along with Dri-F.I.T. were three other key materials that each served specific functions to aid in the athlete’s performance. Nike designed materials that were versatile enough to handle a wide range of temperature and climate variables. Here is a breakdown of the core four F.I.T. categories:


Quickly wicks the sweat away from your skin to keep you dry and comfortable. This unique fabric was designed to keep you cool and dry or warm and dry in a wide range of conditions. The construction of the inner layer transports moisture from the body to the outer layer for rapid evaporation.


Fabric better than waterproof – allows excess body heat and moisture to escape while keeping water and wind outside. The dense weave of the Clima-F.I.T. microfiber eliminates the need for special laminates or coatings, making it breathable and comfortable in a wide variety of conditions.


Totally waterproof but incredibly breathable laminate fabric. Lightweight, soft, and supple – this seam-sealed fabric was designed for the athlete. It will keep you dry and comfortable from the inside out – no matter the weather or activity.


Engineered to keep the body warm in cold conditions. The tiny spaces between fibers trap air within the material while blocking wind from the outside to provide the utmost comfort for any cold-weather activity.

Drew Hammell Therma-F.I.T.
Drew Hammell Therma-F.I.T. 2
Drew Hammell therma-F.I.T. 3

Nike launched their F.I.T. line beginning in the spring of 1991 after years of research. Soon, the line accounted for nearly 40 percent of the total material Nike used in apparel manufacturing. They even designed special sewing machines to ensure the fabrics were super-thin yet durable enough not to tear.

Prior to F.I.T. technology, Nike utilized outside products such as Lycra, Coolmax and Thermax for apparel construction and components. John Notar, former VP of Apparel Categories, led the F.I.T. project and remembers, “We decided to name each layer by its function, so on simple terms, it was Dri-F.I.T. keeps you dry, Therma-F.I.T. keeps you warm, Clima-F.I.T. protected you from the elements. A few years later we added Storm-F.I.T., where our thinking was around waterproof fabric. That was really the birthing of Nike F.I.T.. When we went to market, we even had a F.I.T. manual. (source: www.swell-graphics.com) 

Like most things Nike did in the ’90s, the results of the F.I.T. line were ground-breaking and have had a long-lasting impact on the sports industry. Those early tees, shorts, and jackets set the standard for what athletic apparel could become. Not only did Dri-F.I.T. tees look and feel cool, they actually helped you perform better. Granted, Nike was not the only company utilizing polyester microfiber in their apparel back then, but in my opinion, they definitely made the coolest stuff (both literally and figuratively).

Drew Hammell Dri-F.I.T. spread
Drew Hammell A Look Back

Drew is the creator of @nikestories on Instagram. Growing up in the ’90s, Drew loved playing soccer, basketball, tennis, and even dabbled in cross country running. He ended up focusing on tennis in high school and helped lead his team to multiple state titles. His favorite athletes growing up include Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Andre Agassi, and Ken Griffey, Jr. He was smart enough to save all his old Eastbay catalogs from the ’90s and loves sharing them with the sneaker community. Follow him at @nikestories

Move Without Limits: Nike Pro Hypercool Max Tights

Move Without Limits: Nike Pro Hypercool Max Tights


Nike’s warm weather training gear is as good as it gets. From the new metalized Pro Hypercool Max Tights to the always-reliable Dri-FIT Training T-Shirt, these pieces are as cool as they come. Even LeBron James trusts their performance. Whether you love him or hate him, you can’t deny LeBron’s work ethic, dedication, and skill. He’s one of the best (if not the best) athletes on the planet. He’s earned that kind of praise because he trains harder than everyone else. But being “one of the best” isn’t good enough for LeBron. He wants to be the greatest of all time, and the only way to do that is to keep pushing himself harder and harder every day. Luckily for LeBron, Nike created gear that can handle even LeBron’s most intense workouts.

Hypercool Max Metalized Tights

The new crisscross style you see on LeBron’s legs catches your eye immediately, but these tights are way more than an updated look. Nike took the best technology and elevated it in two areas like only Nike can.

FIT: With a close-fitting design and the capability to stretch without losing their shape, these tights are designed to move without limits. That means no matter how hard you challenge your body, your tights will be right there to support you. And if they can handle LeBron, they can handle anything.

HEAT MANAGEMENT: The norm for compression gear is breathability, so when the heat rises, your gear can release it, allowing cool air to flow in. While these still feature the same breathability to take care of your body heat, the crisscross metalized fabric actually reflects the sun’s heat from ever reaching your skin, so you stay cooler than ever.

Nike Dri-FIT Training T-Shirt

This isn’t your regular tee. It’s built for one thing and one thing only: training. If you’re going to sweat, do it in a shirt that was created for it. Two parts of this shirt make it LeBron’s go-to.

FEEL: Nike designed this shirt to be the lightest, softest shirt in your arsenal, and trust us, it will be. The Dri-FIT® fabric wicks sweat and is so soft, you’ll have to feel it to believe it. Plus, it’s made with a knit construction that reduces the weight drastically, so you can move faster than ever.

FIT: Training in hand-me-down tees from the back of your closet limits your workout. If you can’t move freely, your muscles aren’t getting the work they need. With articulated shoulders and underarms, this Nike shirt offers a wider range of motion without restriction.

If you want to take your workout to the next level, get the gear that can handle it. You have to get the best to be your best. And you can get both pieces of LeBron’s look at eastbay.com.