Fabrics - Stretched Out

Understanding The Makeup And Machinations Of Stretch Fabrics

Golf ShirtsWhether you're sourcing activewear for an athletic audience or fashion for trend-aware youth, you'll find more options today that include stretch than ever before.

Stretch fabrics provide elasticity, meaning the fiber or fabric easily returns to its original shape and size after it has been worn. This ability to move with a user and yet continue to fit properly makes garments more comfortable and functional. Whether on the field or at the mall, garments that maintain their shape keep a person looking good.

"Stretch" first made its debut in textiles with the development of spandex by DuPont scientist Joseph Shivers in 1959 after a decade of research. Science writer Marc Reisch, detailing the fiber's history for Chemical & Engineering News, describes spandex as a "sensationally bizarre polyurethane."

The structure of the long-chain synthetic polymer fiber gives it both tremendous stretch and tensile strength. Ultimately, DuPont marketed spandex under the brand name Lycra. (In Europe, the fiber is called elastane.)

Of course, you don't need to know a chemical breakdown or specific brand name to sell garments with stretch. You just need to understand the benefits. Spandex adds a sleek, smooth quality to the fabrics it enhances. It can be combined with synthetic or natural fibers. In greater percentages, it provides a compression feature to sports apparel and improves an athlete's performance on the field or in the water, which is why the fiber is so important to swimwear.

A common application for spandex-enriched fabrics is activewear. Golfing apparel, for example, needs to fit well and provide for freedom of movement. SanMar (asi/84863) carries Nike Golf's Sphere Dry Diamond Polo, which offers the "maximum movement" value of a spandex garment. The fabrication (an 89/11 polyester/spandex blend) has a performance twist with its rich diamond texture that adds increased airflow and minimal cling to the list of benefits.

Fashion also looks to spandex – not just for better performance, but for improved style. Trendy T-shirts that cling, sleek leggings and form-fitting jeans all have spandex to thank for their superior fit and resilience. And it's that resilience – making it a wardrobe staple for years – that makes stretch fabrics so appealing to promotional buyers today.