From your jeans, to your t-shirt, to your jacket, many items you wear daily are made at least partially from cotton. This material is soft, easily laundered, and comes in an array of colors. But how much do you really know about cotton?
Here are some interesting facts about America's favorite clothing material.
Cotton Comes in Several Varieties
Just as there are various cultivars of peas, tomatoes, and lettuce, there are multiple varieties of cotton. All belong to the genus Gossypium.
When cotton was first grown in India and Pakistan, the two species G. arboreum and G. herbaceum were used. These varieties are now known collectively as Old Word cotton. Although they are still grown in some areas, they proved unsuitable for mass production.
The two varieties of cotton cultivated in the Americas are G. hirsutum and G. barbadenese, which are collectively known as New World cotton. The former, G. hirsutum, was valuable to the Mayan and Aztec civilizations in Central America. The latter, G. barbadense, is the cotton species grown commercially today. It goes by several names, including Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton.
Cotton Grows All Over the World
Cotton is a warm-climate crop. It grows all over the world in nations such as China, India, Brazil, and Turkey. However, the U.S. produces most of the world's cotton.
High-producing states include Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Production has approximately doubled since 1950, thanks to improved pest management, irrigation, and fertilization practices.
The cotton grown in the U.S. is mainly Pima cotton. It is known for its long strands, which make for easy spinning and weaving.
Cotton Fabric Comes in Many Types
You may have noticed that cotton items have a wide array of textures and thicknesses. That's because cotton can be woven in many different ways to create different fabrics. Here are a few examples.
Used to make tents, curtains, and drop clothes, canvas is a thick and rugged material made from coarse cotton yarn.
Soft with a somewhat nappy surface, flannel is often woven in a checkered pattern. It's a common choice for button-down shirts and pajamas.
If you've ever worn blue jeans, you know how tough and durable denim is. It's usually dyed blue with indigo dye.
Poplin is a thin fabric with horizontal ribs, and it's often used to make high-quality dress shirts.
Did you know that ultra-soft velvet, with its shiny finish, is actually made from cotton? It’s used to make luxury clothing, drapes, furniture, and more.
Cotton Is More Eco-Friendly Than You Think
Proponents of artificial fabrics sometimes claim that cotton is bad for the environment because it requires so many pesticides to grow. But in reality, only 8.5 percent of all pesticides used on crops are used on cotton. In recent years, new technology has allowed U.S. cotton farmers to reduce their use of pesticides.
Cotton also has a few other qualities that make it an eco-friendly choice. It is a renewable resource, unlike artificial fabrics that are made from petroleum — a limited resource.
As a crop, it is drought- and heat-tolerant, so it does not require a lot of water to produce. Cotton is also biodegradable, so when you are done with your cotton t-shirt or jeans, they will break down naturally, rather than lingering in a landfill for centuries.
Now that you know a bit more about cotton, you can feel confident and informed when you buy products made from U.S. grown cotton.
Are you looking for new t-shirts, outerwear, or casual apparel? Check out the selections at Over Under Clothing. Our fine clothing is deeply rooted in American tradition and made from high-quality materials, like Pima cotton.