New York’s Masterclass Apparel debuted two months ago at MOVE, an off-shoot of the winter MRKet menswear show that highlighted up-and-coming activewear and athleisure brands. Their line of pattern-coordinated tees, compression tights, and shorts are produced in NYC’s Garment District, and retail for $70-150. In just the past couple of weeks, they’ve been featured in Outside Magazine’s “All the Gear You Need to Make it Through the Work Week”, and a Bloomberg piece on “Small Activewear Brands to Combat Army of Under Armour Drones”. Tiffany Ying, one of Masterclass Apparel’s co-founders, explained the initial motivation: “We started the line when my husband, who works out a lot, noted that he was jealous of the variety of options in my activewear. He’d been wearing the same old brands since he was 15 and was ready for a change but didn’t find anything that spoke to his own style evolution.”
Masterclass Apparel sent me a tank, compression tights, and shorts to put through the wear-test process, and I’ve been running and working out in them regularly for the last four weeks. Overall, while I have some concerns about durability and fit, I like the aesthetic and the direction the company wants to take men’s activewear.
The tank is part of the Deep Sea pattern-coordinated collection (the other pattern is Camo, although the tanks come in solid black and solid white as well). It’s a 91/9 poly/spandex blend with an ombre-gradiated pattern printed on the back panel. It’s cut to be relatively loose-fitting, with a medium-depth v-neck and large arm openings. After multiple washes (cold, hung to dry), my size medium measures 12.75” across the shoulders, 22” at the waist and bottom hem, 10.5” from the bottom of the sleeve opening to the hem, and 26.5” in total length.
After extensive wear-testing, I had no concerns with the tank’s durability, and despite the fabric being relatively thick, it wicked sweat reasonably well and didn’t chafe. The fit, however, was problematic for me. I’m not sure whether it’s cut for a powerlifter instead of a lean runner, or if I just have different preferences for how workout shirts ought to fit, but I found it too loose through the torso and waist. The sleeve openings were baggy around my chest, and the amount of shifting and bouncing when I ran was frustrating and distracting. A slimmer cut with smaller sleeve openings combined with a lighter fabric and tighter neck opening would improve the shirt tremendously.
The compression tights from the Deep Sea collection and solid black shorts are designed to be worn together, which is an aesthetic pulled from recent streetwear trends.
The tights are made from a four-way stretch 92/8 polyester/spandex blend fabric, while the shorts are 100% lightweight polyester. Like the tank, both are made in New York’s Garment District. For size medium, the shorts measure 15.5” across the waistband (with a medium stretch), 12” front rise, 7” inseam, and 11.75” leg opening. Size medium tights measure 15” across the waistband (with a medium stretch), 11.25” front rise, 27.5” inseam, 8” thigh, 5.75” knee, and 4” ankle. Both have a large 2.25” waistband with substantial stretch, which prevents them from riding up, even during hard efforts. I did find, however, that the combination of two wide, tight waistbands layered over one another was a bit uncomfortable.
The simple shorts were my favorite piece from Masterclass Apparel, and they pair well with other compression shorts and running tights. The hip pockets were deep enough to hold cash and energy gels, but cut close enough to prevent bouncing and shifting. And at $70, they’re pretty reasonably priced for US-made workout gear.
Unfortunately, my wear-testing led to some concerns about the durability of the compression tights. To me, every seam is an opportunity for chafing or tearing, and these have an excessive number of them. Although they were tight enough to minimize chafing, a small tear developed next to one of the three seams in the crotch panel.
Overall, despite concerns about the fit of the tank and the durability of the tights, I think Masterclass Apparel is trying to take men’s activewear in an interesting direction. Their collection is aesthetically consistent and on trend, and with more feedback from extensive wear-testing, I think the next iteration will see some improved functionality.
Jason Brozek is an ultramarathon runner, lapsed Ironman triathlete, and professor at a small liberal arts college, where he teaches courses on sustainability and international politics.