A pilot who gets into trouble and must eject from his plane at a high altitude quickly ends up with a new set of problems. The temperature outside of the cockpit is about minus fifty degrees and the pilot's underwear is often drenched in sweat. In an instant, his or her clothes form an icy armor.
The bodies of athletes – whether pro or amateur – quickly begin to cool when the clothes in contact with the skin become wet with sweat. Their performance drops at pace with the cooling of their body, disturbing the fluid balance even more. If the problem could be solved, the efforts would be even more worthwhile and successful.
These were only a few of the problems that made Anders Bengtsson go out on a new exercise session in the spring of 1973 – outside his home in Borås, Sweden. Next to his skin was new underwear made of a material just released from a factory in Halmstad. After a few kilometers, his body began to react as it should. The sweat started to roll.
As usual, after the session he weighed his underwear, measured the moisture content of the garment with a moisture gauge and compared it to previous results. There was no doubt. He seemed to have found the perfect garment to have next to the skin – a garment that handles moisture from the skin’s pores and transports it onwards with as little absorption into the fibers as possible. He just took one step closer to solving the problem.
The secret behind the discovery Anders Bengtsson made after one of his strenuous exercise sessions is that the material – polyester – does not become wet on the outside and only absorbs a minimal amount of moisture in the fibers. Add to that a weaving technique that greatly helps to transport moisture and keep the skin fresh. The most effective stitch ratio proved to be three stitches outward and two stitches inward.
In addition to underwear, garments for the next layer, so-called absorption garments, were developed. These work to transport moisture further out from the body. In addition, a third and outermost layer was designed to protect against weather and wind without trapping moisture from the inside. These three layers were the start of the idea – the Craft Principle – that Craft then used and developed into today’s modern function garment. This principle was also the basis for Craft of Sweden, which was registered as a limited company in 1977.
The second place in the giant slalom was a disappointment. “I am not satisfied, but I won’t toss the medal into the ocean,” Ingemar Stenmark said after the 1982 alpine world championship race in Schladming, Austria. A couple of days later everything was back to normal when Stenmark won his third consecutive championships slalom gold. Ingemar, who was a spokesman for Craft, had won the gold wearing Craft’s revolutionizing underwear.
The Swedish winning machine, whose stunning record includes numerous Olympic and world championship gold medals as well as 86 world cup victories, will always have a place in the hearts of the Swedish people. When Craft created a life-size image of Stenmark on cardboard and put it on display in the sport shops, the customers couldn't stay away. It was almost as if they wanted to ask for an autograph.
When Gunde Svan’s sweaty body and runny nose worked its way through a fifty-kilometer race, Swedes sat in front of the TV with their own watch to catch intermediate times between the trees. The competitors fizzled out in the last uphill slopes and skier Svan became Gunde to the entire Swedish population.
Craft’s sales certainly were not hurt by Gunde Svan appearing in full-page ads dressed only in Craft underwear with the heading “My dad likes these too”. During the 1989 cross-country skiing world championships in Lahti, Finland, Gunde Svan won three gold medals wearing Craft garments.
During the World Cup season of 2000, the Swedish cross-country ski team wore a new competition attire designed and produced by Craft. One of the skiers was the new Swedish star Per Elofsson. In 2001, Elofsson became the man to beat when he won two gold medals at the world championships in Lahti, Finland. He finished off the year by winning the legendary 50 km at Holmenkollen, Norway, as well as the overall world cup series.
She had skipped the sprint relay the day before because of an unyielding cold. The individual sprint at the 2005 cross-country skiing world championships at Oberstdorf, Germany, were only 12 hours away and the stubborn infection was still there. The doctor of the Swedish national team dug deep and came up with a radical solution: 12-year-old whiskey and garlic.
The doctor’s choice proved brilliant when Emelie Öhrstig, after a night of gargling whiskey spiked with garlic, won the qualification race, the quarter final, the semi-final and finally the final to be Sweden’s first female cross-country skiing world champion since 1987. Emelie’s victory was especially emotional for us, since she was a Craft skier almost her entire career.
During this period Craft intensifies its presence in professional cycling. Through close collaboration with Team CSC, with riders like Carlos Sastre, the Schleck brothers and the world's best ITT cyclist Fabian Cancellara, Craft develops world-class cycling garments. When Sastre and Andy Schleck win the Tour de France in 2008 and 2010 respectively, they do so wearing clothes from Craft. During the last years, the brand has also collaborated with other successful teams such as Team Saxo Bank, Leopard Trek, Orica-GreenEDGE and BORA-hansgrohe.
Forty years of continuous product development has taken us places. From our beginnings in 1977 to high-tech labs and the working grounds of elite athletes, Craft’s journey is lined with dreams, inspiration and overwhelming success. A success that starts from within. Closest to the skin.