At one point or another, we’ve all wished for an athletic top that is technical yet presentable enough to wear with regular clothes. Inevitably, most miss the mark: they either look too sporty or don’t hold up to the rigors of the trail. A small Boston-based running company called Janji thinks it has found a solution.
On Thursday, the company released its Runpaca top, a long-sleeve made from a blend of 75 percent standard cotton, 22.5 percent pima cotton, and 2.5 percent alpaca wool. Janji claims the material looks and feels like your favorite cotton shirt but is far more breathable, thanks to alpaca wool’s natural water resistance (it absorbs less and dries faster) and a loose weave that allows more moisture to pass through. Alpaca wool also has the same natural odor resistance as merino wool, so it stays stink-free for a long time. Alpaca fiber makes up a small percentage of the fabric, but it’s enough to make a sizable difference.
I am skeptical of any cotton apparel supposedly built for performance, but one trail jaunt in the Runpaca made me a convert. The shirt feels and acts nothing like cotton. Over the past three weeks it has slotted easily into my regular running wardrobe, wicking and breathing just like synthetic and merino tops. The majority-cotton fabric does stretch and shrink with each wear and wash, like your favorite jeans, and it lacks the compressive fit of some traditional performance layers, but with that loose fit and soft knit feel, it’s perfect for casual daily runs.
The relaxed style also gives the Runpaca top the the aesthetic of an everyday knit shirt. It looks just as at home with jeans in the office or bar as it does with running shoes in the woods. On a Labor Day camping trip, I hiked in it one day and then wore it the next evening for dinner in town.
Though Janji is not the only company to turn to alpaca wool for active apparel (Appalachian Gear Company launched its own line of 100 percent alpaca hiking T-shirts on Kickstarter last year), it is the first running company to do so. I have primarily worn the top on cooler, early-morning excursions, so I can’t say how its breathability will hold up in the sweatier conditions of high summer. But it’s a one-shirt quiver for folks without the time or suitcase space for post-run wardrobe changes.