1 Feb 2014
US based 93 Brand with two of their latest gi releases. The Charlie is an ultra lightweight black dyed pearlweave gi while the Tau is a super soft white goldweave gi. Both gis offer differing levels of fit, comfort and aesthetics with the Charlie gi being fairly stable after several washes and the Tau shrinking in some regions by a large margin.
Charlie retails for $139.99
Tau retails for $139.99
Available via: www.rollmore.com
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/93brand
93 Brand is the fightwear brand owned by the company that operates BJJHQ.com and Rollmore.com. The latter offers an unusual guarantee - they offer a 60 day money backno-quibble guarantee if a gi bought through their site experiences any problems, including shrinkage out of fit or even if the customer simply didn't like it. As long as the gi hasn't been altered or patched.
I have worked as a freelance designer for 93 Brand on several projects. I have had no involvement with either the Charlie or Tau gi models.
93 Brand first burst onto the gi scene in late 2012. I reviewed one of their earliest offerings - the Goose. Since that time they have released a number of high quality, well priced, fightwear products. The Charlie and Tau were released around the same time as each other though judging by the visual appearance (and later you'll find, by the physical differences) you could not get two wildly opposing gi models. This review compares the two side by side, both models being an A1F (F = fitted, ie a skinny version of their regular A1 size)
Size in centimetres and weight in kilograms. For reference, I am 59-60Kg in weight and 167cm in height. I am used to wearing A1 or A1L size gis though I do have long arms. First figure brand new, second figure after x3 mild temperature washes and then air dried.
CHARLIE......TAU (both A1F size)
A: 163/160 ... 160/151
B: 73/73 ... 72/72
C: 58/61 ... 59/56
D: 16.5/16 ... 16.5/15
E: 53/47 ... 51/50
F: 98/96 ... 95/93
G: 21/20 ... 22/21
Jacket = 0.9kg ... 1.0
Trousers = 0.5Kg ... 0.6
Based on the above figures, the standout stats relate to the wingspan shrinkage. The Tau begins with a wingspan already shorter than the Charlie. After washing the wingspan shrunk a lot more than the Charlie, ending up at 151cm wide - too short for my long arms.
The jacket lengths of both did not shrink though the jacket widths did bring up some surprise results. The Charlie appears to have expanded - from 58 to 61cm wide. My guess is this is due to the particular properties of a super thin, light pearlweave. The last gi that I observed this happen with was the Black Eagle Predator gi. The Tau on the other hand shrank in size.
Shrinkage of the trousers on both models were within expected limits though again, the starting length of the Tau was much smaller than the Charlie. The Tau is a much heavier material however and looking at the width measurements at the waist it is obvious the Charlie suffers a little worse when it comes to shrinkage.
The two models differed in weight. The Charlie coming in at 1.4Kg and the Tau a slightly heavier 1.6Kg - not a big variation in weight which is surprising given the very different weaves both are made from.
The Charlie is made from 350gsm pearlweave cotton while the Tau is made form a slightly chunkier feeling 450gsm goldweave fabric.
Both gis are actually very minimal in terms of patches and embroidery - compare these to the gi I designed for them, the Mandrill, which is clearly a lot louder. The Charlie features chocolate coloured contrast stitching, trim and emblems. It is clearly a tribute to the Roald Dahl book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was adapted into a classic film starring Gene Wilder and a more faithful film version made by Tim Burton. The Tau is inspired by its use in physics as a unit of measurement for torque. Though to me I immediately think of the tau lepton in particle physics, what with it being fairly light in weight. - More information on tau here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tau
The Charlie has a ripstop cotton covered lapel which the Tau opts for drill cotton.
Both cuffs are lined with comfortable, seam tape with edges folded to avoid scratchy-edge-syndrome.
Patch embroidery on both items are stylish and placed discretely. The Charlie offers a chocolate themed palette while the Tau sticks with just one contrasting colour. Embroidery on both is high quality.
Reinforcements on both models are excellent with protective seam tape along the base of the jacket and reinforcement patches on the side vents, although there is no extra patch under the armpits as is normally found on some gi designs.
The trousers of the Charlie are made from 8oz cotton while the Tau is made from a much thicker feeling 12oz brushed cotton. Both offer six belt loops, stretchy rope and contrast stitching. Knee layers extend all the way to the bottom on the Charlie but on the Tau, they extend down to the lower shin. The Charlie has a lycra style gusset panel while the Tau has a pearlweave gi material gusset.
The Charlie is a very light gi. I must admit, the first couple of sessions I didn't like it. The gi jacket is really thin, something I am not used to, and it stretches a lot as it accumulates sweat and gets tugged and pulled during sparring. But over a period of a few weeks, the thinness didn't bother me as much.
The Tau on the other hand was wonderful to wear first time. A really soft material that feels great on the skin. The pants are a bit thicker than I would normally like but it didn't concern me - mind you I tested it during the cold winter season. After one wash however, the Tau gi jacket shrank out of fit. The sleeves, as you can see in the photo, are much too short. I stopped wearing it after the second session as it was not usable for me.
93 Brand make really good high quality, well priced gis. What is most interesting are the added benefits. If you purchase through their Rollmore website, there is the 60 day guarantee - if I was a customer, I would definitely have used that guarantee due to the excessive shrinkage of the Tau. There is also a huge range of sizes - an unusual commitment that only the biggest gi brands can afford to offer.
These two gi models are very different from one another. I love the softness and comfort of the Tau and would have loved to have trained in it more. One day I guess someone will make a goldweave that doesn't shrink...or make one that shrinks to fit perfectly. The Charlie takes a little more getting used to if, like me, you prefer more substantial gi jacket weights, but it's perfect for travelling and for comp weight cutting. Both gis are decorated sensibly, with light touches of individualism without going too overboard.