My paternal grandfather was a farmer in Maine with a sixth-grade education. He wore copper bracelets because he swore they helped cut his arthritis pain. A 2013 study in the U.K. published in PLOS ONE found no “meaningful therapeutic effect,” other than use as a placebo, from wearing copper or magnetic bracelets to alleviate arthritis symptoms. Other studies, such as this one published in HERD and one sponsored by Copper Clothing Ltd. found that copper alloy and copper-infused textiles do have anti-microbial properties that can significantly reduce bacteria count and even destroy MRSA.

Vollebak is a London-based company that specializes in using science and technology to create clothing for the future. Vollebak constructs its Full Metal Jacket with 65% copper fabric (the remainder is 23% polyamide and 12% polyurethane). The Full Metal Jacket is Vollebak’s flagship product in the company’s mission to “pioneer the future of intelligent and disease-resistant clothing.”

Vollebak’s enthusiastic description of the Full Metal Jacket suggests the potential use of copper as a “base on which to build intelligent clothing” in addition to the element’s disease-resistant properties. Vollebak mentions NASA’s interest in new medical tools built with copper nanotubes.

Copper clothing is indeed a wearable technology with the added benefits of being completely passive with no sensors, electronics, or power required. However, it’s not clear that clothing is a major vector for infection since many microbes are transmitted in the air, in food, or on surfaces that come into contact with people’s skin. We look forward to reading studies that can verify that an antibacterial garment would have any useful effect in preventing disease transmission. Until then, we’ll remain skeptical about the cost effectiveness of this solution.