Introduction: Size Matters
I bought my first Velocity Systems Boss Rugby Long Sleeve Shirt back in 2017. I loved the fabric and features, but I didn’t love the fit.
It wasn’t until I read RedBeard Tactical’s excellent review of the short sleeve version that I realised I may have been better off sizing down for a more athletic fit.
The urge to go Rugby took me again in 2020 and that’s exactly what I did – sizing down by one size.
I’m a 42” chest, so I’m normally a solid large in most apparel. However, judging by VelSys’ size chart I fall between medium and large. So this time, I went with medium.
I ordered direct from VelSys, which was quick, easy and painless for US to UK shipping.
Design features aside, the true star of this shirt is the fabric. It’s very much a performance blend, often marketed by outdoor companies as ‘technical’. It’s 83% Nylon and 17% Spandex (the latter is the US term for what we in the UK refer to as Lycra).
It’s easy to tell from that combination that it’s very much a synthetic. Now, for some of us Gen X types, synthetics have a chequered history. I can still remember wearing some in the 70s and 80s, which didn’t breathe particularly well and absolutely stank because they were really good at retaining body odour chemicals – even after a good wash.
At some point that all changed, with new formulations and – crucially – the ability to extrude synthetic fibres with different cross sections (I only know this after reading Patagonia founder Yves Chouinard’s book about his company’s history). These innovations radically altered the capabilities of synthetics, but I didn’t get that particular memo in a timely manner – swearing off them until the early 2000s, when I started indulging in outdoors gear – ostensibly for trail walking in hot climates.
Back to VelSys’ fabric and you can guess from the Lycra content that it’s stretchy (and it really is) but with excellent recovery.
It’s also highly wicking, which means moisture (sweat) is transported away from the wearer to the garment’s surface where it evaporates. This is important in keeping the wearer cool, but also means there’s no detrimental cool down and chilling effect between cycles of intense exercise – with saturated clothing, and sweat left on skin.
Also aiding transport and evaporation – as well as cooling during activity – are the fabric’s ventilating perforations. These run throughout the shirt.
Interestingly, given its cooling abilities, the fabric feels quite thick. In that way it reminds me very much of my set of Lululemon polos which I wear to work in summer and are a godsend in humidity. It follows then that the Rugby shirt isn’t hugely insulating, being designed for warm weather.
That said I run hot, so for me the item has year round use. If I need a degree of insulation, I wear a Brynje base layer below (a great bit of kit in its own right; again a synthetic), as can be seen in some of the accompanying pics. This is a great combination in cold conditions, where high intensity activity is followed by periods of inaction.
Now, with any technical fabric you’re not going to get the resilience of something harder wearing like Fjällräven’s G1000; like all performance apparel this shirt is a consumable. My experience with technical fabrics and also the evidence of RedBeard’s long term review suggests that some face piling is inevitable, as the surface undergoes abrasion. So if it’s a super tough shirt you’re looking for, this isn’t it. Although RedBeard’s evidence also suggests it’ll take more than I’d otherwise expect.
The Feature Set
Aside from the incredible technical fabric VelSys uses, the shirt’s collar is pretty unique. It’s kind of a V-neck nehru collar and it’s apparently this which gives the shirt its ‘Rugby’ name. Who knew?
Whereas the lightly plunging V-portion provides ventilation, the stand-up nehru element of the collar protects from chafing when using a sling. The whole ensemble is really comfortable.
Inside the collar (or any other part of the garment for that matter) there are no labels with which to irritate the wearer; VelSys’ branding and other information (made in the USA) applied via heat transfer. I speak to a lot of people who really value an item being made domestically, so the origins of this shirt will surely speak volumes to those of such a disposition in the US.
As it happens, the stitching is neat and professional throughout. I always turn stitched items inside-out to check this (even in bricks and mortar shops – I have no shame when quality is in question).
The shoulder seam has been moved from the top of the shirt, so as not to cause discomfort when a plate carrier or pack is worn. This is a feature often seen in well designed outdoors kit and it’s refreshing to see it here.
Moving down the arm, each bicep features a pocket composed of loop fabric that’s a tiny bit like One-Wrap; though much more malleable and with a velvet hand. These pockets are evidently coyote brown, so not colour matched, but actually look all the better for it. If it’s not obvious, you can stick patches here.
The pocket is a simple enveloping but unsecured design, which works for gels or a Clif Bar.
The sleeves are athletically cut – like the body – and terminate in finished cuffs of the same fabric as the rest of the garment; retaining stretch and elasticity even when pushed up the wearer’s arms.
There’s also something special at the body’s hem: a drop tail to the rear.
The VelSys Rugby shirt is something of a Tier 1 favourite, with both CAG and the SAS being pictured wearing variants. I can’t say that didn’t twist my arm in trying it again, but the thing which really sold it this time was getting the size right for me. Fit is self-evidently a personal thing, but I’m highly intolerant of poorly fitting apparel.
By sizing down the fit is athletic, but because of the immense mechanical stretch and excellent recovery of the fabric, the shirt is never constrictive. I also believe that wearing the shirt closer to the skin better leverages its technical abilities – like wicking.
I strongly suspect, however, that most people will prefer a looser fit – in which case just stick with your usual size.
Shrinkage isn’t generally expected with synthetics and I’m happy to report the shirt washes fine and dries incredibly fast.