T-man hit a phase in third grade that was all about fitting in, a need that manifested itself mostly through clothing brands.  It took me a bit by surprise – as sexist as this sounds, I’d expected a clotheshorse phase from Bear but didn’t anticipate a stage in which boys cared all that much.  Not about clothes, anyway.

But suddenly T-man got to third grade and it was So-and-so’s got these cool Elites and All my friends are wearing Nike and Under Armour.  We spent a lot of time responding with “that’s nice” and such, but then along came Christmas.  And guess who wanted Under Armour for the holidays.

Yup.

Our families were kind enough to oblige, which marked the first Christmas I actually witnessed T-man excited to receive clothing as a gift.  No grimaces at a noiseless box from him – far from it.  There were genuinely gleeful cries of joy as he pulled out UA shirts or sweatshirts, usually followed by a dash to the closest room to try things on.

Who knew, right?

Not surprisingly the Under Armour fever was contagious, so soon enough Bear jumped on the bandwagon. She was less frenzied about it overall.  As a matter of fact, she didn’t seem to care that much about labels in relation to her peers, but if T-man liked it…well, that was enough for her.  Under Armour made the cut.

And so we made our way through the year – fall, winter, then spring – with an UA purchase here and there. I didn’t really think much about it until the following summer when we went to Myrtle Beach for BrightSide’s summer regional meeting.  Guess what Myrtle Beach has?  An Under Armour outlet.  Be still my heart.

We made it through our four days there but then caved on our way out of town, deciding we’d “pop in” before heading home to our little neck of the woods.  I’m still not sure if that was a blessing or a severe lapse in judgement.

The kids found shirts in the store they loved, ones that showed designs after they were spritzed with a nearby water bottle.  Score one for happy kids at outlet prices.  We were wrapping things up when Doug decided to look at something before checking out, which left me to stare into the distance and kill time. Which would have been fine, if there hadn’t been a table of short-sleeved shirts on clearance.

Clearance.  In an outlet store.  It was over before it even began.

Luckily they only had two in my size, but that meant when we checked out I, too, had been sucked into the Under Armour culture.  But hey, two shirts on huge discount, I figured I was still on the outskirts.

But then I started wearing them.  And I realized why the kids were so freaking stuck on the things.  There actually is a difference.

For an entire year I’d pretty much gone on the theory that a shirt’s a shirt, whatever, but it turns out Under Armour shirts are made of some kind of magic material that “breathes.”  Yes, I’d heard that spiel before and discounted it as marketing, but I’ll be darned if it isn’t true.

If you’ve never experienced “breathable” fabric I can’t really explain it, except to say that even when it’s hot you don’t feel all stuffy and stifled inside your clothes.  It’s kind of weird, frankly, but oddly addictive.

T-man now owns an extensive supply of Under Armour and Nike gear he’s accumulated over the years; Bear’s done her share of collecting and is psyched that T-man’s finally outgrowing some of his shirts so she can get her hands on those, too.  As for me?  Turns out you can order sale items online, and they’ve gone and built an Under Armour outlet about twenty minutes from here.

And that’s how our family drank the Under Armour Kool-Aid.