“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires Kourage.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Well, OK … that’s not precisely the way Emerson wrote it, but that’s the way the quote reads on the website of the company in question today.
The quote itself is pretty cool, though; it certainly sounds like something an ultrarunner can identify with. However, in this context we’re not talking about ultras or epic adventures – not directly, anyway – we’re talking about a brand of clothing.
Kourage Athletics is a Kenyan company that exists for two primary purposes: to make high-quality performance apparel, and more importantly, to reduce poverty through creating jobs in Kenya. According to the company website, the name reflects “A choice to be kind and compassionate and to do the best to make the world a better place. Kourage is making the daily attempt to become a better individual. There is no better agent for improving ourselves and the world than Kourage.” So now the intro quote makes perfect sense, right? The final word is courage, but spelled with a capital K for Kenya. See? Clever.
|Kourage factory; photo from Kourage Athletics website|
As for the product itself: all Kourage apparel is designed and manufactured in Kenya by Kenyans, then exported and sold to developed countries, with revenues reinvested into the Kenyan economy. The production factory is in the Rift Valley, otherwise known as home to the highest concentration of elite distance runners the world has ever seen. It currently employs over 200 Kenyans where each employee works 45 hours per week at national wage standards in a comfortable work setting. For most workers, employment at Kourage makes the difference in their families’ ability to afford school, medical care, meals, and enjoy a meaningful quality of life. You get the idea: it’s a good company to support.
Their product inventory is quite limited, with only 6 shirts in either male or female cuts. They are built as performance shirts, reportedly tested by Kenyan runners at the top of 15,000’ Mt Kenya and in the scorching plains of the African desert. However, they are also extremely comfortable and somewhat stylish, and would be perfectly passable as casual wear as well.
I’ve worn mine in both casual and athletic capacities; when I first received mine (the Stripes model here), I wore it around the house and as an everyday shirt. I also happened to wear it to Disneyland on a day in October when the temperature topped 100 degrees, and the shirt remained very comfortable even while worn underneath a backpack for most of the day.
Lately I’ve used my Kourage shirt strictly for running, and it works as effectively as any other moisture-wicking garment I have. It dries quickly and feels silky soft against my ski - in fact, it feels nearly as comfortable as Patagonia’s Capilene material, which as you’ll recall just landed on my Gear of the Year list for 2011. It’s also a nice change of pace from my standard race-or-company-logo shirts; I like the colorful print, and the slight V-neck offers more cooling than a traditional crew collar on hot days. It has also held up well after multiple trips through the washer and dryer.
The company rep explained to me that with their initial offerings, the Kourage product line was kept intentionally small, so they could focus on quality manufacturing and performance. More products will be introduced as the company grows in years to come; in the meantime, their shirts are definitely one of the most comfortable and versatile garments I’ve tested in quite a while.
Kourage shirts retail for $39 from the company website, which offers free shipping to customers in the United States. If you can’t run like a Kenyan, perhaps dressing like one while supporting their culture would be the next best thing.
*Product provided by Kourage Athletics.
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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