Survival of the fittest

Survival of the fittest

Before you decide that 30 bucks for a pair of underwear is too much, consider this: You spent $800 on that down-filled jacket you wear maybe 40 times a year, yet you protect your most intimate parts with a pair of cheap cotton undies you found in the bargain bin?

For the CEO of Vancouver-based Saxx Underwear Co., this is tantamount to lunacy. Tim Bartels had never heard of Saxx when he was offered the top job last year. But after wearing a pair for one day, he called the recruiter and said, “These are a game-changer. Let’s talk.” Saxx designs some seriously high-tech undies, with a structure inspired by the, ahem, male anatomy, and featuring moisture-wicking fabrics like merino wool, viscose and spandex, plus a patented mesh “comfort pouch” that eliminates chafing. “There’s nothing else like it,” says Bartels, who has held executive posts at Nike, Columbia and DC Shoes. “It just keeps everything where it’s supposed to be. You can buy a three-pack of Hanes, but when you put these on, they become your favourite pair in the drawer.”

Saxx was created by MBA student Trent Kitsch, who came home after spending a week fishing in Alaska in a skin-tight survival suit determined to invent a friction-free pair of undies. Kitsch won the $50,000 Dragons’ Den Audience Choice Awards in 2008 and used the money to buy a van and start peddling his gear across the country. Three years ago, the start-up was bought by No Limits Group, a Vancouverbased clothing distributor. Saxx are now on sale at 1,600 retailers across North America and have a devoted following among athletes in the NHL, MLB and NBA. Bartels won’t give out sales figures, but boasts: “We’re up triple digits over a year ago. We’re killing it!”

- Dawn Calleja / Photograph by Natasha V

Field test

Our art director, Erik Mohr, wore Saxx during a 160-kilometre, 27-hour canoe race in Northern Ontario. Other paddlers found themselves waddling along the portages due to chafing. Not Erik: “Saxx worked like a charm!”