What is Nylon?

What is Nylon?

The Rise & Fall of the "New Silk"

Nylon is an entirely synthetic fabric that was originally intended to be a cheaper, man-made alternative to silk.

It is a strong & stretchy fabric that has many uses - most famously it was used to make women’s stockings or ‘nylons’ as they were once referred. But it’s use is no longer contained to hosiery. Today nylon is used in a variety of garments.

Nylon is a laundry minimalist's dream. It can be washed & worn without the need for ironing. It’s also durable & resistant to mold & mildew.

During WW2 men purchased nylons for ladies. Then it was viewed as a luxury item, but now nylon is viewed as the enemy. What changed the perception??

Like many things the downfall of Nylon began when it started to become a mass market item.

In the early days “nylons” were viewed as luxury items, only afforded by a few. But as manufacturing capabilities expanded nylon moved from the high street to the mass market. Nylon started to lose it’s shine so to speak, as people started to associate the high shine of nylon as a sign of “cheap” or “tacky”.

Consumers also started to consider environmental impacts & started to seek more sustainable alternatives. Natural fibres started to increase in popularity.

When Nylon launched in the early 1930’s, it was a huge success, mainly underpinned by uniqueness & low supply / high demand. Sales continued to surge until the early 1960’s when it started to become regarded as a mass market fabric.

In the early 1960’s nylon accounted for around 63% of all textiles but by the 70’s this had declined to around 45%. By the early 2000’s this number had dropped even more, to around 12%.

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  • Selena Kemp