Sunday, January 6, 2008


I'm not talking about fabric here. Cotton or bamboo are ever so much nicer than polyester or nylon. Even silk! But imagine having to do without the elastic...

Before the late 19th century, all kinds of elastic were unknown. Undergarments were simply tied on (e.g. loincloths) or held together by buttons or lacing. Then it was discovered that the latex of the South American rubber tree could be converted into a springy polymer by curing with sulfur. The availability of this new material led to the invention of many new products including jockstraps, although women's knickers didn't become widely available until the 1940s. These days, a much stronger and more durable mixture of oil-derived polymers known as spandex is used. And frankly, I have no desire to go back to the days of heavy wide natural rubber waistbands, tied on bloomers or knitted and buttoned unisex union suits (pictured)!

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