Review: The Eco-Friendly Youman Tee

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Let’s face it, none of us can look at our wardrobes and feel particularly good about our environmental impact. How many clothes do you own that you never wear? How many were made by workers in terrible conditions? Which ones are made from unsustainable materials? So, if clothing is so destructive for the planet, why am I writing a review of the Youman Tee which, to all intents and purposes, is trying to encourage you to buy more clothes?

Because we can’t all walk around naked. So, if we need clothes, we need innovation. Which is exactly why I said yes when Youman got in touch to ask if I’d be interested in testing out their Tee.

As there’s only two weeks left to go on the Youman Kickstarter, I’m going to drop the link to it here in case a large rabbit breaks into your home and chews through your charging cable before you can finish reading this review: Youman Tee Kickstarter.

The Concept Behind the Youman Tee

This tee is the company’s first product; in fact, the company only began in 2020. Youman are a business dedicated to not only creating sustainable products for use in the great outdoors, but to supporting the people who love to spend time there. To that end, they use their profits to support adventure entrepreneurs in countries where they otherwise wouldn’t be able to build a business.

Youman are actively fighting against the modern phenomenon of Greenwashing. This is where companies pay a lot of lip service to ‘sustainability’ without actually doing much about it. They’ve spent a year developing their first t-shirt so let’s see what makes it different from all the other ‘sustainable’ tees out there.

HeroKemp Fabric

The Youman Tee is really all about its fabric. It’s made from a proprietary material the company calls HeroKemp, made up of three plant fibres: eucalyptus (Tencel/Lyocell), hemp and seaweed (Seacell).

Eucalyptus: This fast-growing tree grows in challenging soil types, regrows after being felled, doesn’t require pesticides and the solvent which breaks it down is non-toxic to water and air. Both recyclable and biodegradable, Tencel’s microfibres won’t cause any environmental havoc either, unlike synthetic fibres.

Hemp: People have been using hemp for generations, not to mention the sailors of yore with their hemp ropes. It’s a ferocious grower and requires no pesticides or coaxing to grow. Hemp uses considerably less water than cotton and returns plenty of nutrients to the soil it grows in. Sustainable hemp processing uses the same process as Tencel although some hemp fabrics are made using a much harsher, toxic process.

Seaweed: Youman use kelp harvested from Iceland, a remarkably sustainable source of fibre. Kelp simply keeps growing so harvesting above its regenerating section has no impact on its wellbeing and it’s processed in the same way as Tencel, with a non-toxic solvent. Biodegradable and endlessly regenerative, Seacell (the name for the processed fibre) has some serious sustainability credentials.

Together, these fabrics are anti-bacterial, odour-resistant, soft to touch, UV-resistant, breathable and biodegradable. In fact, the more I read about these fibres the more I’m kinda horrified that all my clothes aren’t made of these.

Photo: Youman

A Wholly European Creation

I don’t know about you, but I’ve become so much more conscious about the miles travelled by things I buy. Sure, it’s a nuanced area and massively depends on volume and method of transport but sourcing materials and products close by just makes sense to me. Youman source everything for the Youman Tee from Europe and then create the final product in Italy.

The profits don’t stay in our wealthy continent though. Instead, Youman is focused on supporting others in poorer nations. Their first project involves working with a mountain biker in Ecuador, Gabo, who is turning his love of the sport into a community business.

Yeah Yeah But How Does the Youman Tee Actually Feel?

I’ve been using the Youman tee for running mostly and a little bit of hilly cycling. You’ll be thrilled to know that I haven’t washed it yet after four sweaty outings.

Sizing: Youman sent me a black tee in size small with a women’s cut. I was immediately skeptical because I’m super narrow and size small almost always looks like a tent on me. However, this tee fits perfectly for my tastes. It’s loose around the upper arms so there’s no constriction on range of movement and it lets the air in. It’s fitted across the chest and looser around the midriff, an ideal balance for sport. It has a great stretch, so I imagine the size small would easily fit women a size up from me too.

The fabric is soft. Like, really soft. Like, merino soft but without that strange roughness merino sometimes has (or maybe my hands are just in terrible condition….Either way, it feels wonderful to touch and to wear. It also takes the edge of the freezing wind that’s been blowing around here lately (in late spring! Outraged) which is nice because I hate that first kilometre outside where you really wish you’d worn a jumper but know you’ll get too hot for it.

I find running is the best way to test clothing like this because you end up going through so many temperature changes. Particularly right now. The fabric kept me warm in the cold breeze and, crucially, didn’t feel wet and heavy when I began sweating buckets (I’ve moved to an obnoxiously hilly region). When the sun burst out, the t-shirt instantly heated up, which wasn’t the most welcome thing and I think as a result I’d prefer a paler colour to combat that.

When the sun disappeared and the icy gusts came whooshing down the valley, my bare arms got cold but the tee kept the wind off and I stayed warm. This is important for me because I have Raynaud’s (aka shitty circulation) and there’s nothing worse than sweat turning cold and draining the life from my body. You know what I mean.

Odour: Call me gross, but I’m a massive fan of being able to wear cycling/running clothes more than once between washes. It seems excessive to wash something after running for an hour. However, I’m usually thwarted in this by the smell of fabric after it’s been hugging my sweaty body for that long.

I’m pleased to tell you that not only does the Youman Tee not smell after four sweaty jaunts, but after the second one I even left it in a heap on my floor for two days because I had just moved house and don’t blame me okay I’m not that messy all the time. When I located it and gave it a cautious sniff, if I hadn’t already worn it I would’ve thought it was clean. This is fantastic because washing machines use a lot of energy and water.

I always run with a little man on my shoulder…

Verdict: The Youman Tee

When you read about why the Youman Tee fabric is so good, it makes you very aware of the opposite: most of my other active clothes are not good, they were made in a planet-destructive manner. But painful truths aren’t a good reason to pretend it’s not happening.

If you don’t need any new t-shirts for running, cycling or just hanging out in, then don’t buy any. It’s as simple as that. But if you do need a tee for doing some sport in, I highly recommend the Youman Tee and I absolutely recommend supporting them on Kickstarter before it finishes in the morning of Friday 21 May.

The Youman Tee is innovative, it’s exactly the technology we need to create clothing that doesn’t harm the planet or the people and animals on it. From a use point of view, it’s soft, comfy, is odour-resistant and makes you feel a little like a hero.

Want more of my rambling reviews? Head here.