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Fave Fix: Cory Vines Essential Long Sleeve

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I may be dating myself here, but does anyone else remember the good ol’ days when putting on your “workout clothes” meant digging through those well-worn items relegated to the castoff pile, such as old t-shirts, ratty shorts, and even the occasional spandex piece?

Case in point: That time I was on the Nordic Track in my sister’s hand-me-down purple gymnastics unitard, and my dad invited the cute neighbor boy over. Fathers: As it turns out, that’s also a very effective way to ensure your daughter stays single throughout high school, FYI. But I digress…

Well, eventually technical fabric replaced 100-percent cotton, silhouettes went from baggy to form-fitting, and “yoga pants” became an acceptable — if not preferred (according to my male friends) — form of attire for the health-conscious crowd. But that evolution came at a cost to consumers and even stirred up some major controversy in the process (don’t get me started on the “thigh gap”).

Fortunately for us, however, there’s a new kid on the block with a solution to the high-quality-activewear-that-won’t-break-the-bank conundrum: Cory Vines.

Founder Daniel Lieberman started the Canada-based label after realizing that existing brands weren’t meeting the specific needs — namely, price, quality and style — of the growing group of consumers living an active lifestyle. As a fourth-generation clothing entrepreneur, Lieberman felt the industry was missing “affordable, minimalist workout clothes” and made it his company’s mission to fill the void.

The result: A purposefully-small, logo-free product line of basic tanks, tees and long-sleeve tops for both men and women, along with leggings and shorts for women only. And because the brand utilizes and online-only business model, they’re able to keep prices at a reasonable $25 for tanks and $45 for leggings, compared to Lululemon’s price points of $42 and $72, respectively.

Too good to be true? I wanted to see for myself, so I decided to put the Essential Long Sleeve($35) through its paces on several runs and group workouts.

To be honest, because the shirt was less than 50 bucks, I was expecting the material to be stiff, spongey or scratchy, like some of the less expensive activewear out there. But it’s actually a nice mix of smooth and stretchy — almost compression-like – with a silkier feel than cotton, which makes sense because it’s a nylon/polyester/spandex blend.

I wore it both as a layering piece (under a technical t-shirt) for my morning workouts as well as on its own for afternoon runs, and it worked well both ways. My pet peeve is when shirts get over-saturated with sweat and start dripping as you slog through a tough workout, but the Essential Long Sleeve wicked like a champ and felt more like a second skin than anything.

In terms of fit, I tend to run narrow up top, so I found the extra small pretty true to size — although if you’re particularly broad-shouldered and between sizes, you may want to size up due to the form fit of the piece.

The only bummer? No thumbholes in the sleeves — but skipping that extra step probably keeps production costs down, so it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make, especially since the sleeves (and body) are a generous length.

But the true test was that I found myself reaching for the Essential Long Sleeve both for working up a sweat and for wearing around town, which makes it worth its weight in gold…even though it doesn’t cost a pretty penny.

But if all else fails, I guess there’s always the unitard, right?

Thanks to the folks at Cory Vines for providing a sample for review; all opinions are my own.

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