Cotton is a fluffy, soft staple fibre that grows around the seeds of cotton plants. The fibre is almost pure cellulose and can contain minor percentages of waxes, fats, pectins, and water. The fibre is most often spun into yarn or thread and used to make a soft, breathable, and durable textile. It is also currently the most widely used raw material in the whole world.
No one can tell exactly how old cotton really is. The oldest recorded cotton found is expected to be 7000 years old in the caves of Mexico, where cotton fibre and cloth were found. What is known for sure is that cotton began being cultivated as a fabric in the early 3000 BC in the Indus River Valley (Indus Valley Civilisation). A few hundred years later, Egyptian, Chinese, and South American civilisations also began to weave cotton fabrics. In the 1700s, cotton replaced wool and flax to become the most popular fabric in Europe. Cotton also had a huge part in the Industrial Revolution by being the main raw material. Since then, its value has appreciated and continues to do so at a steady incline.
What it is
Cotton fibre’s value can be ascertained from the fact that it was often carried over by traders all across the globe, and also by kings and monarchs back to their countries as exploits. (Alexander the Great’s army brought cotton goods into Europe following the conquest of the Persian Empire, and the East India Company brought rare cotton fabrics to Europe after conquering India). This goes to show that cotton was always seen as a valuable resource. Currently, cotton is the world’s favourite natural fibre and hence is expensive when compared to polyester and rayon, which are synthetically made.
Who doesn’t like an environmentally friendly person? The current population is growing increasingly concerned about the environment, and this affects what they eat, where they stay, and what they wear. Cotton has become a popular choice among the public due to its natural occurrence and feel. Its demand has been steadily increasing over the last few years, and thus its value has risen as well.
Types of cotton fibre
Cotton has many types of species, with the rarest type (Supima) accounting for less than 1% of all the cotton grown in the world. But based on thread type, cotton can be classified into 3 different varieties
This is the most common form of cotton fibre available and is used by the majority of us. Its quality, however, is not the best. It is quicker to grow and cheaper in comparison to other types. This type is mostly used in making fabrics such as flannel sweatshirts or denim, which do not need a lot of maintenance.
Unlike short-staple cotton, long-staple cotton is used to make articles of clothing of high quality. It should feel silky, smooth, and soft, like towels and sheets. The longer the fibre, the better the quality of cotton is. Hence, it takes longer to grow and is also more expensive.
The luxurious, super-soft, and rare Egyptian cotton is an extra-long-staple cotton fibre along with Pima and Supima cotton. Supima can only be grown in the U.S. and via organic harvesting. It is quite challenging to grow extra-long-staple cotton for farmers owing to its high maintenance. However, its value is much higher compared to the short and long staples.
Why Cotton fibre
Cotton fibre, when not blended in with any synthetic material, is one of the most sustainable materials that can be found in the current market. In a world that is becoming more and more concerned about sustainability, cotton proves to be an important component of the clothing industry. Organic cotton, i.e., cotton grown without the use of pesticides, is far more sustainable because it preserves the soil and makes it easy to produce more. This, and the fact that the fibre itself has so many uses, like making clothes and sheets, and its seed’s oil being used in cosmetics and food, makes it more expensive.
The question that arises is why you should pay more for cotton products when polyester and rayon exist, and the answer is simple. Natural, natural, natural! Not only does cotton give you a natural feel, it is also extremely comfortable and light. It is far more breathable than polyester and remarkably hypoallergenic. This means that people with sensitive skin would be able to tolerate 100% cotton compared to polyester or rayon.
It is often said that if you feel comfortable, you feel confident, and comfort with cotton is almost a guarantee. Good clothes and good fabrics can make you feel at ease. Hence, just looking at the monetary benefit doesn’t do it justice. Compared to some other fabrics, cotton is relatively more expensive, but rightly so. Its fabric can be woven together to create completely new fabrics such as velvet, corduroy, flannel, jersey, and denim. It is also biodegradable, making it environmentally friendly. The purchase of cotton products should be seen as an investment due to their numerous benefits and their high sustainability. One can feel good about themselves as well as have a positive impact on the environment.
When selecting what to wear, just the look of the fabric isn’t enough. One must also consider things like feel, sustainability, and durability. While there are other fabrics like polyester which are far more durable than cotton. But, once you take a step back and look at all the aspects together, not only does going with cotton fibre seem worth it, it comes off as being an absolute bargain.