Nylon is a versatile engineered material, used in stockings and clothing of all types. The fabric is recognized for being thin and flexible, but also valued for its durability and toughness. Its properties make it the first choice over many natural fabric options, such as cotton and wool — even though it’s really a plastic-based synthetic.
Nylon was originally made as a cheaper, more durable alternative to silk. A happy result of this effort was that nylon was found to be more resilient than silk, as well as cotton and wool. Nylon is a sturdy material, resistant to abrasion and fire-retardant. In fact, during World War II, the material was reserved solely for the war effort because it was found to be so useful.
Nylon is inherently water-resistant. Instead of absorbing and retaining moisture like natural fibers, nylon tends to push it to the surface, where it more readily evaporates. This pays dividends in mold and mildew buildup, with nylon far less likely to develop these fungi when the material gets wet. It’s a top choice for use in everything from hiking apparel to shower curtains.
Great for Athletes
Nylon is often incorporated into moisture-wicking athletic apparel, such as compression shirts and shorts. Cotton fabrics absorb and retain moisture, and take far more time to dry out than synthetics. This creates additional weight for an athlete to carry, prevents further absorption and fosters chafing. Nylon, on the other hand, wicks moisture up and away from the body. Compression gear works because it fits so tightly, providing a virtual second skin. Also, unlike other synthetic fabrics, nylon is easy to dye to match team colors.
Given that nylon is a man-made synthetic rather than a natural fabric that must be farmed or harvested from animals, the material is inherently less expensive. Although it may not carry the same aura as merino wool or cashmere, for example, nylon may be woven to achieve a similar feel. As a result, clothes made from nylon generally cost less than items made from comparable natural sources.
References and ResourcesNew York Fashion Center Fabrics: Nylon Fabric Information
Japan Chemical Fibers Association: Nylon Fibers
University of Tennessee, Knoxville: Nylon Fibers