From t-shirts to suits, antiballistic
garments go high-fashion.
By Janet Preus, senior editor
When President Barack Obama strolled down the street following his inauguration in 2009, it was a bold move in the eyes of many. Although details of the President’s attire were not made available to the press, we do know that he was wearing a bullet-proof suit by Colombian clothing company Miguel Caballero. Curious about how he made ballistic protection into high fashion, I was pleased to have the opportunity to interview CEO and founder Miguel Caballero and ask specific questions about his clothes and the technology he uses. The company offers a full line of apparel, from leather jackets and polo shirts to tailored business suits. All garments are fire and water resistant and extremely lightweight.
Q: If I understand correctly, these garments contain ballistic panels, and that’s where your special para-aramid technology is used. Do you need to design your clothes with fabrics that may not typically be used in dress or sport clothing, or do you use fabrics that are commonly used in high-quality apparel?
A: Yes, you are correct. Without the ballistic panels the garment won’t have any protection. But you have to remember the real innovation is in the industrial secret of how each manufacturer combines different ballistic materials, using hybrids or material mixtures that help reduce weight and offer more comfort. With a special design it is possible to adapt a specific garment and make the armor totally discreet and comfortable.
I can also tell you that our technology goes far beyond only offering ballistic protection. We specialize in making our products as comfortable as possible, which is done by providing special characteristics to each garment. For example, included in our garments are materials with technology similar to the one used by NASA’s spacesuits to control body temperature when changes in the environment around us occur, being able to maintain the human body between 13 and 17 degrees C.
We also include materials that have special components such as bamboo fibers, which act as a deodorant, mixed with silver filaments to achieve an antibacterial effect, combining everything in a special 3D net that increases the air flow and the garment’s ventilation.
In brief, we use certified materials with the latest technology that offer added value in our products. As a philosophy, this company doesn’t work with common materials. Our company’s goal is and will always be to innovate and develop different products from the beginning.
Q: Teijin Aramid has a high-performance, lightweight aramid yarn, Twaron 550f1000. It was touted as a product that could provide better ballistic protection in body armor, and still be flexible and lightweight. Is this the sort of technology (or is it, in fact, the same yarn?) used in your products?
A: Our company will use a variety of different materials; we do not promote a specific brand. We search for high technology with low-weight solutions, high flexibility, and resistance. The utmost discretion is needed to fuse the ballistic panel to another part of the garment that will go unnoticed and is adapted to the body’s ergonomics or efficiency, adding comfort for the person wearing it but without compromising protection.
Q: Can you tell me again the comparison you gave me in weight vs. protection? You mentioned “the same level of protection with only 800 grams.” The same level as what other product, and how heavy or lightweight is that one? Also, are you comparing a vest to a vest or another garment?
A: In the ballistic industry both protection and weight are directly related. The goal of each manufacturer is to achieve the lowest possible weight while maintaining the highest protection level. This is why research and development are key factors. Threats evolve, and therefore better levels of protection are required without sacrificing the comfort of the person.
One example is in comparing an armor vest used by policemen to a VIP garment. Both can offer the same ballistic protection level, NIJ 06, II, which generally protects against handguns. But the weight in the first case would be about 800 grams and in the second one, around 2.8 grams.
This radical difference in terms of final user is why the VIP consumer demands a higher level of comfort, ergonomics and discretion—at a higher price.
Q: You mentioned the expense of your products compared to the commonly used anti-ballistic garments. Do you think your products are cost-effective for use by soldiers and police forces?
A: Everything is designed and developed according to the final user’s needs. We have VIP products that are beginning to be used by the military and police around the world. For example, the Armor-T Shirt, our best seller, is a t-shirt you can wear under sweaters, blouses and uniforms, among other garments. It offers users the best breathability and antibacterial/deodorizing effect. In addition, the garments include our system of bodily temperature regulation and special ergonomic systems for a better fit to the body.