Throughout all the major civilizations in history over the past 7,000 years, cotton has been cultivated for textile production. Even in the 21st century, cotton is by far the most common natural fiber used in the production of clothing. The fiber is sourced from a leafy shrub from the Hibiscus family, while bare pink and cream flowers that once pollinated produce fruit called cotton bolls.
Advantages for the Wearer
As a natural fiber, cotton is hypoallergenic and therefore suitable for people with allergies, asthma and sensitive skin. It is also breathable, making cotton cool to wear in summer yet warm during winter. Wearing cotton is comfortable because the fiber is soft and because it is usually spun tightly; the fabric won't irritate the wearer's skin or generate static electricity. Cotton garments are also an excellent investment because the fiber is long-lasting when properly cared for.
Advantages for Manufacturers
One of the benefits for manufacturers of fabrics is that cotton can be blended easily with other fibers, including synthetic ones like polyester. The fiber is also highly absorbent, making it easy to dye. Cotton can tolerate high temperatures, which means it can be sterilized by manufacturers to produce products used in health and medicine, sanitary care and for cosmetic purposes. Furthermore, once picked cotton is suitable for processing unlike synthetics, which require chemical treatment.
Advantages for Designers
Cotton is a versatile fiber that can be used by designers in many ways. Any type of garments, of any colors and all looks ranging from casual to formal, can be produced from cotton, cotton blends and particularly knitted cottons, which have a capacity to stretch. Antimicrobial, flame-retardant, UV-resistant and other protective coatings or finishes can be applied to cotton, making them useful in the production of uniforms for occupations such as firefighters, electricians and lifeguards.
Advantages for the Environment
Having been derived from plants, cotton boasts the environmental benefits of being a renewable resource, sustainable and 100 percent biodegradable. Processing the crop itself is also efficient because only 10 percent of its raw weight is wasted in the production process. Also, because cotton is ready to process following picking, fewer chemicals are used in the production process when compared to synthetic materials.