The Most Influential Gear of All Time: DuPont Spandex

1959

Women in spandex

Women working out in spandex via Shutterstock     Photo: Edw

Building on the work of William Hanford who, in 1942, discovered a process for synthesizing polyurethane, two DuPont scientists figured out how to create a new polymer that would eventually revolutionize exercise clothing. Seventeen years after Hanford’s discovery C.L. Sandquist and Joseph Shivers found that they could spin complex molecules comprised of polyurethane and polyurea, resulting in a fabric that could stretch up to 100 percent of its resting size yet snap back to normal. The new material was dubbed spandex, an anagram of expands. Textile manufacturers proceeded to combine it with practically every other fabric, from cotton and wool to silk and nylon. To this day, many blame the fabric for single handedly ruining fashion in the 1980s, but others celebrate it for making both outdoor and lifestyle apparel more comfortable and flattering.

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