221B Tactical is a relatively new company in the police, law enforcement, first responder, military and tactical gear space. Founded in 2014 by veteran police officer Suresh Madhavan, it has quickly grown from his single car garage in New Jersey to burgeoning global operation. With their global headquarters based in New York City and satellite locations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, 221B gear and apparel can now be found in over 120 retails locations around the world.

The success of 221B Tactical rests in their innovations. This was evident as I perused their website and quickly realized that most everything they produce is unique to them, patented (or patent pending) and unable to be found anywhere else.

Their flagship piece of gear, The Maxx-Dri Vest for body armor ventilation, cooling and comfort was, like all of their gear, invented and designed by Madhavan himself. The Maxx-Dri Vest is a breathable cooling vest worn beneath body armor which allows excess heat and moisture to escape while allowing cooler, fresh air in. It offers 360° ventilation, meaning you get that cool rush of fresh, clean air around your entire body; everywhere your body armor covers.

When I met with Suresh he candidly opened up their books and shared some sales figures with me which were mind blowing. Most notably Maxx-Dri Vest sales which are nearing 200k units sold globally. This does take into account all models of all vests sold to date. This also includes large quantities sold to the military and police agencies across the county and around the world.

They are currently on their 3rd generation of The Maxx-Dri Vest and are preparing to launch the long-awaited Maxx-Dri Vest 4.0 this Spring. But first Madhavan gave me a behind the scenes sneak peek at his latest creation: The Maxx-Dri Silver Elite Anti-Bacterial Shirt.

Lauren Keyes: So you’re back at it again, inventing something new?

Suresh Madhavan: Back at it? I never stopped (laughs).

So tell me about this shirt. From a distance it looks like any other long sleeve base layer type shirt.

Yeah that’s the crazy thing about it. You don’t really get it until you actually hold the shirt in your hands, then you put it on and you REALLY get it.

What is it that makes it feel and fit so differently? 

I wore base layer shirts like this for 13 years as a cop. Mostly I wore Under Armour but towards the end of my career I started wearing Nike Dri-Fit. But this time of year I alway had issues with long sleeve base layer shirts being too hot and not breathable. So I wanted to develop a long sleeve shirt that was able to keep you warm and comfortable on those cool Spring mornings but was also able to keep you comfortable and dry as those cool morning turned into warm afternoons. 

I’m guessing this is something that was not just an issue for you personally.

Yeah all the guys would complain about it. It wasn’t just me. Our department has a policy that we had to all wear our long sleeve uniforms until a certain date. So no matter the weather, we weren’t able to wear short sleeves until a certain date. Same went for when it was time to go from short sleeves to long sleeves. 

So explain this material. It’s kinda cool. I’ve never seen anything like it. From afar it looked like it was a regular compression shirt, but clearly it’s not.

Yeah no, it’s the furthest thing from a compression shirt actually. The cool thing is that when it’s on, it gives that compression shirt “look.” But the fit is super light and comfortable so you don’t feel like a sausage stuffed in a skin.

So you said this shirt is anti-bacterial. Explain.

Yeah so Silver, like the element Silver (Ag) has anti-bacterial properties. I won’t go too deep into that because it could get boring. But we were able to essentially infuse Silver into the fabric, giving the entire shirt anti-bacterial properties. 

You’re technically a bio-chemist, right?

(laughs) Sorta. That’s what I studied in university to graduate Pre-Med. But I don’t work in a lab all day or anything like that.

So this isn’t anything new for you? This is what you studied and did for years before becoming a cop, right?

Yeah, in my past life. (laughs) But ironically everything comes full circle and here I am putting that knowledge to use to help police officers and military soldiers.

Incredible. So Silver gives the entire base layer shirt anti-bacterial properties. What does that mean to the average cop or first responder?

Well, odor, rashes and itchiness are borne from bacterium. If the bacteria’s growth is inhibited, the result is a decrease in odor, rash and itch.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but there is currently nothing like this for cops and soldiers?

No, not specifically. The shirt is designed with a patented micro mesh which is meant to be worn under pressure. So it’s designed to be worn beneath heavy body armor or shoulder pads like football and hockey pads.

So are you selling this to football and hockey players?

We are currently in talks with representatives from The NFL and NHL. I really can’t say more than that.

Are any professional athletes currently using this shirt?

Yes. But I can’t say much more at this time due to privacy restrictions. It will all come out soon though (laughs).

I totally understand. That’s really awesome. And what about UV protection? You mentioned that when we spoke earlier.

Oh yeah. We had a lot of police officers with tattoos below their elbow who were required to cover their tattoos while on duty wearing short sleeve uniform shirts. So I incorporated UV-A and UV-B protection into this shirt so cops could wear it year read, keep their tattoos covered and protect them from fading and not sweat to death while wearing it. The officers who tested it out loved it.

I bet. What an awesome feature to have. So I’m sure it’s a great shirt to wear to the beach or surfing too for those who want to limit their exposure to the sun.

Totally. Most long sleeve shirts are just too hot. This shirt literally keeps your skin super cool, is totally breathable and protects your skin from harmful UV rays. I tested it out on the (shooting) range in Florida in August and it worked like a charm. It’s really pretty cool technology.

So anti-bacterial? Does that mean this would be good for those in the medical field like doctors and nurses?

Of course. They are on the front lines too. Nurses and doctors need to stay safe and healthy just as much as police officers and first responders do.

One more thing. You also mentioned how you’re launching a version of this shirt for those who practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Almost like an anti-bacterial or anti-fungal rash Guard for those in the BJJ community.

Yeah I’m really excited about that. I have so many people close to me who roll in the BJJ family that have suffered from various skin rashes and infections. I saw a need in that space and decided to create a version of this shirt for martial arts; specifically Jiu Jitsu. I had a couple of black belts test it out and they came back with rave reviews. That really made me happy. So that product will be launching this Spring as well. I’m hoping to really disrupt the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu rash guard world. These guys and girls work so hard on their craft. The last thing they need to worry about is getting sick or dealing with skin rash and infections.

Is there any area that 221B isn’t getting into?

Chess (laughs). Those guys are doing just fine. But everyone else, sit tight. We’re on our way.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I know you are super busy, so I truly appreciate it.

You’re very welcome. My pleasure. Lovely to meet you.

This interview was adapted for the Web. To learn more about the items discussed in this interview, please click the links below.

Silver Elite Long Sleeve Base Layer: https://bit.ly/2ylXOO0

Maxx-Dri Vest for Body Armor Ventilation, Cooling, Comfort: https://bit.ly/3acz1sY

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