Lululemon can thank chemistry for yoga pants

A smartphone with a folding screen, a street paved with plastic, a parachute that can land a rover on Mars, a box that keeps fruit fresh and protected – as you know if you follow us here, there are many wonderful things made from the plastics that are made from petrochemicals.

And then, there are yoga pants.  Sorry about that.

Not that anyone knew this was coming.  Not in 1935, when Wallace Hume Carothers invented nylon, producing it from the petrochemical, benzene.  Not in 1941, when (building on Carothers’ work), John Whinfield and James Dickson went into the lab with the petrochemical ethylene, and emerged with polyester.  Not in 1959, when Joseph Shivers came up with spandex (from the petrochemical propylene).  And certainly not two or three thousand years ago, when yoga first began.

No, we’re going to say 1998 is the year – and you can point the finger at Lululemon.  That was the year they put together nylon and Lycra (spandex) and brought forth – yoga pants.  And the rest, is part of the history of fashion over the last two decades.

So it was that in 2017, for the first time, the United States imported more pairs of women’s pants with an elastic knit, than women’s jeans (that, from the Census Bureau).  By one count, there are now more than 11,000 kinds of yoga pants on sale somewhere at this moment, around the world.

But please, don’t blame the petrochemical industry.

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