Chemists Wallace Carothers, William Hanford, Donald Holmes and Joseph C. Shivers invented the provocative blend of Lycra, polyester and spandex that define today’s yoga pants. These are the men responsible for the scientific advancements that brought us these wondrous materials and the “invention” of yoga pants. Without these guys, yoga pants designers would have nothing to work with and might as well be designing khakis. Chemist Wallace Carothers launched the “spirit of yoga pants” in the 1920s and 30s. Well, more specifically, that’s the time he was working to develop polymer fibers. In 1941, two other chemists borrowed from Carothers’ work and patented polyethylene terephthalate. This opened the gateway to synthetic fibers like terylene, Dacron and polyester as well as non fibrous materials like Mylar. Study of the specific polyurethane that became Spandex dates back to 1942 with the work of William Hanford and Donald Holmes. The term Spandex was first used in 1950 and first marketed in the US in 1959. They also marketed a very similar fabric under the name Lycra. Today many consumers spend “big bucks” on yoga pants. The Financial Post reports that Lululemon Athletica customers shell out $98 per pair, even with competition from the likes of Gap, Nordstrom, and Calvin Klein. The practice of Yoga dates back more than 5000 years. How they made it so long without synthetic fibers, we may never know.
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