16. März 2018
The world’s first all-black night visibility sports gear
The Black Light layering system from Vollebak has the same matt black hues as a stealth bomber but incorporates advanced material technology to make the wearer highly visible at night. The design of the t shirt, baselayer, midlayer and jacket is based on the science of how we see in the dark, with a series of matt black reflective dots becoming instantly recognisable as a person as soon as light hits them.
Vollebak co-founder Steve Tidball says: “As athletes, we feel that high vis sports gear has always been a compromise – it’s either heavy, crinkly, noisy, sweaty or ugly. But sport at night is fun and you shouldn’t be punished for being safe. We wanted to get rid of the need to wear a specific layer like a vest or jacket to be seen. When it comes to sport, the idea that you become more or less safe as you take off or add layers is backwards. You shouldn’t have to make a choice between over-heating and being seen. So we set out to rethink high vis gear from scratch.”
As far back as the 1970s experimental psychologists showed how just 8 dots of light placed at key points on the body are all the information our eyes and brain need to understand we’re actually looking at a person, even in pitch black conditions. Our brains are so good at it, that in a quarter of a second we can predict what they’re doing, where they’re going and how fast. This is the science that the Black Light system is based on.
Rather than relying on silver reflective tape or stripes for night-time visibility, the Black Light system’s high vis protection lies in reflective matt black dots made of thousands of microscopic black glass spheres. Every dot has over 60,000 of these glass spheres embedded in its surface. The dots are barely noticeable until they’re lit up in the darkness of night. Each one weighs just a fraction of a gram, with the look and feel of super-thin, soft, smooth and flexible rubber rather than glass.
Nick Tidball, co-founder of Vollebak, explains: “At night, when the dots are hit by any light source they transform from matt black into glowing discs of bright white light. Because we’ve positioned them on the parts of your body that move the most – like your elbows, wrists, shoulders and hips – they create a pattern that’s instantly recognisable as a person from any angle. Your brain’s pattern recognition system kicks in to simply join the dots. We’ve done exactly the same thing on the t shirt, baselayer, midlayer and jacket, so you can just as safe wearing a t shirt as you will be wearing a jacket.”
The all-black, minimalist design of the Black Light layering system means that this kit looks and feels nothing like standard hi vis gear. Every detail is black, from the Swiss and Italian materials to the waterproof zips, the seams, the logo, and the reflective black glass dots
Images: Courtesy of Vollebak