It makes up a significant percentage of most wardrobes and is downright essential for making jeans - but how much do you really know about cotton? This natural fiber has an interesting history, and its current role in fashion is far more nuanced than you might think. Here are six interesting facts about cotton.
1. Cotton Came to Europe Around 800 A.D.
Cotton grew in the Middle East for thousands of years, and in 800 A.D., Arab merchants brought it to Europe, where it became an increasingly popular crop over the coming centuries.
Cotton was known worldwide by the 1500s, with European colonists planting it in North America as they settled the colonies. As the United States developed, cotton was one of the primary crops that fueled the trade economy.
2. The Cotton Gin Propelled the Cotton Industry Forward
Up until the late 1700s, spinning cotton was quite time-consuming, and the fabric industry's use of cotton was limited by the speed at which they could spin the raw fibers. That all changed when Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin in 1794. This machine removed the seeds from cotton, which sped up the spinning process considerably. As a result, the demand for cotton increased dramatically.
Sadly, Eli Whitney himself did not earn a lot of money from the cotton gin as there were numerous patent infringement issues with competing products.
3. The United States Is Still a Major Cotton-Producing Nation
As of 2015, the United States produces about 18 million bales of cotton per year, making the country the third leading producer of cotton worldwide. Only China and India produce more cotton than the USA. Other large producers of cotton include Pakistan, Brazil, and Uzbekistan. Worldwide, more than 100 nations grow cotton.
4. Cotton Is a Sustainable Crop
Cotton might still be so popular, in spite of the invention of synthetic fibers, because of its sustainable qualities. Many synthetic fibers are made from non-renewable resources, such as petroleum products. Cotton, on the other hand, is a natural plant. Cotton grows from a seed to a mature plant in about six months, and then it's ready for harvest.
There have been rumors that cotton requires a lot of pesticides to grow, but these claims have been exaggerated. Only 8.5 percent of all pesticides are used on cotton. New technologies have allowed growers to dramatically decrease their use of pesticides in recent years. Furthermore, studies have shown that there are no chemical pesticide residues on the textile products made from cotton.
5. Canvas, Corduroy, Denim, and Poplin Are All Made From Cotton
In fact, many of your other favorite fabrics are probably made from cotton too. Even velvet, a fabric with a densely woven pile and soft, lush texture, is woven from cotton fibers. So is terry cloth, which is used to make towels. Flannel, used to make shirts and nightgowns, is also cotton.
Each cotton fabric is made with a different style of weave and fibers of various thicknesses to give it a unique texture and appearance.
6. All Organic Cotton Sold in the USA Must Meet USDA Standards
You may have heard the myth that organic cotton produced outside of the USA isn't actually organic. However, the USDA closely regulates all cotton sold as organic in the United States. Even if it is grown in another country, the cotton has to meet USDA guidelines regarding pesticide use. The USDA sends out inspectors to make sure the growing processes meet the standards to be sold in the USA.
Now that you know a bit more about cotton, are you ready to build your collection of cotton attire? Visit Over Under to find T-shirts, outerwear, and other fine apparel - much of which is made from cotton, and all of which is made in the USA.