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What is Polyester - History of Polyester


crunch it, pull it, wash it – without any wear and wrinkles. That’s what polyester became famous for. Polyester was the fabric of choice in a changing economy of speed, efficiency and convenience. If the food industry produced fries and coke, the textile industry supplemented it with Polyester – quick, cheap and easy.

Carothers’ Work

It was W.H.Carothers who discovered that alcohols and carboxyl acids could be successfully mixed to create fibers. Carothers was working for duPont at the time and unfortunately when he discovered Nylon, polyester took a back seat.

PET & Terylene

Carother’s incomplete research had not advanced to investigating the polyester formed from mixing ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. It was British scientists – Whinfield and Dickson who patented PET or PETE in 1941. Polyethylene terephthalate forms the basis for synthetic fibers like Dacron, Terylene and polyester.

In 1950, the Dealware property of duPont manufactured another polyester fiber, which they named Dacron.

Later that year, the first polyester fiber – Terylene – was created by Whinfield and Dickson along with Birtwhistle and Ritchiethey. Terylene was first manufactured by Imperial Chemical Industries or ICI.

DuPont’s Role

It was in 1946 that duPont bought all legal rights from ICI. In 1950, the Dealware property of duPont manufactured another polyester fiber, which they named Dacron. Mylar was introduced in 1952. Polyester was first introduced to the American public in 1951 as the magical fabric that needed no ironing! PET and PEN are duPont trademarks that have turned the use and consumption of Polyester around.

Polyester Becomes Popular

Subsequent to the development of Terylene and Dacron, Kodel was developed by Eastman Chemical Products, Inc in 1958.

The polyester market underwent rapid expansion and textile mills emerged everywhere. Many of the mills were located at small gas stations and produced cheap polyester apparel. The inexpensive and durable fiber became very popular and the industry expanded rapidly till the 1970s. Unfortunately, the infamous double-knit polyester image hit the industry and polyester soon came to be known as the uncomfortable fabric.

The Phoenix Rises

Today, polyester is largely regarded as a cheap fabric that is rather uncomfortable for sensitive human skin to wear.

However, the emergence of luxury fibers like polyester microfiber and various polyester blends the industry is experiencing resurgence. The Tennessee Eastman Company and the Man-Made Fiber Producers’ Association’s (MMFPA) Polyester Fashion Council played a significant role in the revival of polyester. The Tennessee Eastman Company started a YES campaign for polYESter and popularized it via radio and television. The idea was to focus on the wash and go properties of polyester rather than sell it as a cheap fabric.

Hoechst Fibers Industries also played a part. They conducted various studies from 1981 to 1983 and found that 89% of people could not distinguish between polyester and other natural fibers like cotton, wool and silk. Also, it was found that people were more interested in the appearance of the apparel than the fabric it was made of.

Today, the biggest contributor to the appeal of polyester is the discovery of microfibers. Microfibers give polyester the feel of silk and are rapidly becoming the choice of fabric. With an expensive tag to match, the cheap image of polyester seems to be on it’s way out. Here’s to heralding a new era in the history of polyester!

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