Tuesday, 30th march 2021 | History
Marco Arezio - Consulente materie plastiche - History of Women's Socks: from Silk to Nylon to Recycled PET

1935 was an important date for women's fashion but it was also an important date for the research done on plastic polymers and especially in the field of polyamide.

You may wonder what fashion has to do with plastic, actually it has a lot to do with it, as the stockings for well-off women were made of silk, a very expensive garment that was intended for a narrow market.

Wallace Hume Carothers discovered naylon in 1935 and filed the patent in 1937, without perhaps imagining how successful this type of material could have in the following years.

The name nylon, which derives from the word no-run, was well thought out by the DuPount company, which on 24 October 1939 began distribution on the market of a batch of 4,000 socks, with the intention of carrying out a test to see if the product was liked by women.

The socks were sold in three hours then, on the strength of this success, on March 15, 1940, official distribution began throughout the United States of America. with a sales result of around 4 million pairs in the first four days of sales.

After 1942, ie after the United States entered the Second World War, nylon took on a new role. Thanks to its resistance, it aroused the interest of the American armed forces, so much so that nylon was used almost exclusively for the production of socks, thus becoming a rare commodity, used on the black market as a bargaining chip.

In Europe, during the Second World War, the socks were produced by a German company under the trade name of Perlon, but after the fall of the Third Reich, the Americans dismantled the IG Farben factories that produced the precious yarn.

Since the end of the Second World War, in the United States, the fashion of nylon stockings has exploded, also following the progressive reduction in prices that increased the female audience who could afford such a refined garment, but also for the undoubted charm that women's legs, through nylon stockings, gave them.

From a technical point of view, the thickness of the socks went from 70 denier to 40, and then further reduced in the 50s to 10 deniers.

Around 1960 there was a double revolution, on the one hand the industrial sector produced machines that allowed the production of tubular socks, without therefore the unmistakable stitching and, from the point of view of chemical research, DuPont patented elastane under the name of Lycra.

The main feature of this new fabric was the ability to stretch the garment up to four times its length.

It can be said that, indirectly, there was a third revolution in women's underwear following the spread of lycra stockings, which was that of the disappearance of suspenders, up to that moment indispensable.

From the seventies the importance of nylon stockings diminished due to the change in the costumes of women who moved towards more masculine clothing, through the use pants with which it was no longer important to show off the legs wrapped in nylon stockings.

Today we are experiencing a return of the thin and snug fit, as an object of seduction and elegance, but at the same time we are looking for garments that have a limited environmental impact. Hence, the socks were created whose thread is made of recycled PET, making it possible to create a 50-denier black garment, fully compatible with the circular economy.

The production of this recycled yarn reduces CO2 emissions by 45% and water consumption by 90% compared to production with virgin raw material.

Automatic translation. We apologize for any inaccuracies. Original article in Italian

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