The Evolution of Spandex

Not too long ago, we released a blog on Spandex Shorts. We discovered that they are a key component of our sportswear. Now, we thought it was time to take a history lesson on the Evolution of Spandex. 

Spandex plays a very important role in our lives (keeps the jiggly bits in order, non-restrictive, durable - all the good stuff). So, let’s find out who we are to thank for the revolutionizing fiber! 

Spandex is the name given by its inventor (more on him later), and Lycra is the trading name, FYI. 

Whose brains are behind Spandex?

The man behind the fiber that “shaped America” (O'Connor, 2011) is named Joseph Shivers at Dupont (an American chemical company) in the late 1950s. The idea behind the fiber was to find a replacement of rubber threads (worn in clothing at the time) that were considerably heavier (Teegarden, 2004). Little did they know that their invention would end up in the wardrobe of every American. 

Why did it become so popular?

Spandex crept its way into people’s lives almost immediately after its invention as the fibers were adopted in swimwear to make it lighter, more flexible and very durable (Inviya, 2021). 

However, it was the 1968 Winter Olympics where Spandex made its big entrance on a global scale. The French Ski team’s kit was made from lycra, and they didn’t let anyone forget it (Clegg, 2011). In fact, France, or specifically Jean-Claude Killy (alpine skier), went on to win 3 gold medals! 

The success didn’t go unnoticed, and from then on, Spandex has been used in sportswear, namely in swimming (the next discipline to use this material in the Olympics) due to spandex’s very low water resistance (Clegg, 2011). 

Spandex and the baby boomers.

It may be stating the obvious, but Spandex crept its way into the fashion industry, and it came to stay. Having been used as an alternative to rubber in women’s undergarments because of its elasticity (it can stretch to 600X its size and back) and lightweight, Spandex, of course, became all the rave for women to look better and ‘thinner’. 

Up until the 1980s spandex had been used for functionality, durability, and enhancing one’s sports performance. Then we left the seventies, and the Spandex era began. 

Enter Madonna.

 Pop singer Madonna performs onstage in spandex and a bustier with back up dancers in September 1989 in Los Angeles

Pop singer Madonna performs onstage in spandex and a bustier with back up dancers in September 1989 in Los Angeles

Not just Madonna, but a variety of big stars rocked the Spandex look on stage. The result? The baby boomers entered a “health phase” and began to wear the stretchy material when cycling, walking, swimming, jogging (Rad History, 2019) (if there was a sport, there was room for spandex). Spandex and being cool (due to sports) became interchangeable. 

Spandex in the twenty-first century

The transformative fiber didn’t make a stop in its world domination at the turn of the millennia. Turn on any superhero movie and be prepared to watch actors twist and bend in unimaginable ways. How? Thanks to Spandex, of course! 

As sports evolve, fashion trends change (or make a comeback) one thing that has been consistent in our lives? Spandex. And we’re so here for it. 

It’s unlikely you don’t have Spandex in your wardrobe, but why not check out our site for our items that have spandex and give them a try. It’s designed to keep up with you!

Here we have linked you directly to our extensive spandex range. Happy shopping! 

Bibliography

Teegarden, D. M., 2004. Polymer Chemistry: Introduction to an Indispensable Science. s.l.:NSTA Press.

O'Connor, K., 2011. Add to Wishlist ISBN-10: 0415804361 ISBN-13: 9780415804363 Pub. Date: 02/01/2011 Publisher: Taylor & Francis Lycra: How A Fiber Shaped America. 1 ed. s.l.:Taylor & Francis.

Clegg, B., 2011. Lycra - Chemistry World. [Online]

Available at: https://www.chemistryworld.com/podcasts/lycra/3005841.article

[Accessed 24 November 2021].

Rad History, 2019. Spandex: How It Defined 80s Fashion. [Online]

Available at: https://radhistory.com/spandex-how-it-defined-80s-fashion

[Accessed 24 November 2021].

Inviya, 2021. WHAT MAKES SPANDEX THE BEST FABRIC FOR SWIMWEAR?. [Online]

Available at: https://www.inviya.com/blog/what-makes-spandex-the-best-fabric-for-swimwear/

[Accessed 24 November 2021].

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