Spandex: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Closeup of the lycra-like material of a speaker cover

Spandex, Lycra or elastane, is a synthetic fibre known for its exceptional elasticity. It is stronger and more durable than rubber, its major non-synthetic competitor.[citation needed] It is a polyurethane-polyurea copolymer that was invented in 1959 by chemist Joseph Shivers at DuPont's Benger Laboratory in Waynesboro, Virginia. When first introduced, it revolutionized many areas of the clothing industry. Spandex is not derived from the chemical name of the fibre, as are most manufactured fibres; but an anagram of the word expands.[1] Spandex is the preferred name in North America; in many European countries it is referred to as "elastane".

Other brand names associated with Spandex include Lycra (Invista, previously a part of DuPont), Elaspan (also Invista's), Creora (Hyosung), ROICA and Dorlastan (Asahi Kasei), Linel (Fillattice), and ESPA (Toyobo).


Spandex fibre production

Spandex fibres are produced in four different ways, including melt extrusion, reaction spinning, solution dry spinning, and solution wet spinning. All of these methods include the initial step of reacting monomers to produce a prepolymer. Once the prepolymer is formed, it is reacted further in various ways and drawn out to produce a long fibre. The solution dry spinning method is used to produce over 94.5% of the world's spandex fibres.[2]

Solution dry spinning

Step 1: The first step is to produce the prepolymer. This is done by mixing a macroglycol with a diisocyanate monomer. The two compounds are mixed together in a reaction vessel to produce a prepolymer. A typical ratio of glycol to diisocyanate is 1:2.[2]

Step 2: The prepolymer is further reacted with an equal amount of diamine. This reaction is known as chain extension reaction. The resulting solution is diluted with a solvent to produce the spinning solution. The solvent helps make the solution thinner and more easily handled, and then it can be pumped into the fibre production cell.

Step 3: The spinning solution is pumped into a cylindrical spinning cell where it is cured and converted into fibres. In this cell, the polymer solution is forced through a metal plate called a spinneret. This causes the solution to be aligned in strands of liquid polymer. As the strands pass through the cell, they are heated in the presence of a nitrogen and solvent gas. This process causes the liquid polymer to react chemically and form solid strands.[2]

Step 4: As the fibres exit the cell, an amount of solid strands are bundled together to produce the desired thickness. Each fibre of spandex is made up of many smaller individual fibres that adhere to one another due to the natural stickiness of their surface.[2]

Step 5: The resulting fibres are then treated with a finishing agent which can be magnesium stearate or another polymer. This treatment prevents the fibres' sticking together and aids in textile manufacture. The fibres are then transferred through a series of rollers onto a spool.

Step 6: When the spools are filled with fibre, they are put into final packaging and shipped to textile manufacturers.

Major spandex fibre uses

Girl wearing spandex trousers
Spandex leggings as casual wear
Biker wearing spandex suit

In clothing it usually appears as a small percentage of total material. In North America it is rare in men's clothing, but prevalent in women's. It is used more often in women's as their clothes are usually more form-fitting. It is usually mixed with a greater percentage of one other textile such as cotton or polyester. This reduces the reflection of light to hardly noticeable levels.

In popular culture


In comic books, superheroes and superheroines commonly wear costumes thought to be made of spandex. However, early superhero comics predate the invention of spandex (Superman: 1938; Batman: 1939; Captain America: 1941). Printing processes for early color comics only rendered images with distinctly separate solid blocks of color well, because overprinting and color mixing yielded inconsistent results and bad looking muddy colors. Because spandex is skintight, as many superhero costumes appear to be drawn, and because spandex is almost exclusively made in similarly bright solid colors, the after-the-fact assumption of spandex composition was made. The same assumption of costume composition is also made for latex and rubber garments, which are also typically solid in color and skin-tight.

In Japan, spandex is the common material for costumes used in the popular Super Sentai series. The first use of the material was in 1983's Kagaku Sentai Dynaman.

It is also used in the American adaption of Power Rangers, with which it has achieved popularity.

'70s/'80s rock/metal

Black disco jeans made from spandex

During the 1970s and 1980s, spandex leggings rose in popularity among many rock and heavy metal bands, particularly British NWOBHM and American glam metal bands. The main reasons for this massive, almost universal, embracement of spandex among rock/metal bands was because spandex retained its stretchy, tight fitting quality, even after extended wear. Denim jeans and leather strides tended to sag and wear, while spandex did not. Also, the stretchiness of the material did not constrict musicians' movement onstage, allowing them to perform high kicks, or to rest their feet on monitors. Some of the rock/metal bands who used spandex leggings included Queen, Ratt, Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Stryper, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi and Twisted Sister. By the end of the 1980s and the decline of glam metal with the advent of grunge and thrash metal, spandex fell out of fashion and many older glam bands found themselves being referred to as "spandex jockeys".

70s/80s country

While glam metal bands were getting into the spandex craze, so were many glam-oriented country stars, especially women like Dolly Parton, Margo Smith, Louise Mandrell, and Dottie West. Dottie West is perhaps the best known of any country singer for wearing spandex disco jeans on stage.[citation needed]

Science fiction

Star Trek: The Next Generation featured a wide use of spandex uniforms in its early series. Later on, those uniforms were replaced by more classical clothes.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Kadolph,Sara J., Textiles.
  2. ^ a b c d "How spandex is made" from How Products Are Made

External links

Spandex Superstar Spandy

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address