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    Prized Ingredients

    Prized Ingredients

    Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective case, around the seeds of the cotton plants of the genus Gossypium in the mallow family Malvaceae. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. Under natural conditions, the cotton bolls will increase the dispersal of the seeds.

    The plant is a shrub native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the Americas, Africa, Egypt and India. The greatest diversity of wild cotton species is found in Mexico, followed by Australia and Africa. Cotton was independently domesticated in the Old and New Worlds.

    The fiber is most often spun into yarn or thread and used to make a soft, breathable textile. The use of cotton for fabric is known to date to prehistoric times; fragments of cotton fabric dated to the fifth millennium BC have been found in the Indus Valley Civilization. Although cultivated since antiquity, it was the invention of the cotton gin that lowered the cost of production that led to its widespread use, and it is the most widely used natural fiber cloth in clothing today.

    Current estimates for world production are about 25 million tonnes or 110 million bales annually, accounting for 2.5% of the world's arable land. China is the world's largest producer of cotton, but most of this is used domestically. The United States has been the largest exporter for many years. In the United States, cotton is usually measured in bales, which measure approximately 0.48 cubic meters (17 cubic feet) and weigh 226.8 kilograms (500 pounds).

    The Process

    The Process

    Thread is made from a wide variety of materials. Where a thread is stronger than the material that it is being used to join, if seams are placed under strain the material may tear before the thread breaks. Garments are usually sewn with threads of lesser strength than the fabric so that if stressed the seam will break before the garment. Heavy goods that must withstand considerable stresses such as upholstery, car seating, tarpaulins, tents, and saddlery require very strong threads. Attempting repairs with light weight thread will usually result in rapid failure, though again, using a thread that is stronger than the material being sewn can end up causing rips in that material before the thread itself gives way.

    The Result

    The Result

    The T-shirt evolved from undergarments used in the 19th century. First, the one-piece union suit underwear was cut into separate top and bottom garments, with the top long enough to tuck under the waistband of the bottoms. With and without buttons, they were adopted by miners and stevedores during the late 19th century as a convenient covering for hot environments.

    As slip-on garments without buttons, the earliest T-shirt dates back to sometime between the 1898 Spanish–American War and 1913, when the U.S. Navy first issued them as undergarments. These were a crew-necked, short-sleeved, white cotton undershirt to be worn under a uniform. It became common for sailors and Marines in work parties, the early submarines, and tropical climates to remove their uniform jacket, wearing (and soiling) only the undershirt. They soon became popular as a bottom layer of clothing for workers in various industries, including agriculture. The T-shirt was easily fitted, easily cleaned, and inexpensive, and for those reasons, it became the shirt of choice for young boys. Boys' shirts were made in various colors and patterns. The word T-shirt became part of American English by the 1920s, and appeared in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

    By the Great Depression, the T-shirt was often the default garment to be worn when doing farm or ranch chores, as well as other times when modesty called for a torso covering but conditions called for lightweight fabrics. Following World War II, it was worn by Navy men as undergarments and slowly became common to see veterans wearing their uniform trousers with their T-shirts as casual clothing. The shirts became even more popular in the 1950s after Marlon Brando wore one in A Streetcar Named Desire, finally achieving status as fashionable, stand-alone, outerwear garments. Often boys wore them while doing chores and playing outside, eventually opening up the idea of wearing them as general-purpose casual clothing.

    Printed T-shirts were in limited use by 1942 when an Air Corps Gunnery School T-shirt appeared on the cover of Life magazine. In the 1960s, printed T-shirts gained popularity for self-expression as well for advertisements, protests, and souvenirs.

    Current versions are available in many different designs and fabrics, and styles include crew-neck and V-neck shirts. T-shirts are among the most worn garments of clothing used today. T-shirts are especially popular with branding for companies or merchandise, as they are inexpensive to make and purchase.