Last Updated on October 21, 2022 by Shariful Alam
Simply said, cotton is a soft and fluffy natural fiber derived from the cotton plant. The fiber is almost pure cellulose (87-90%), contains water (5-8%) and natural impurities (4-6%). It is grown in nearly every tropical and subtropical region, including the United States, China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Brazil, and other countries.
In this article, I will tell you all the basics about Cotton fiber with a few interesting facts you will be surprised to know! A Design student with an extreme passion for Fashion compels me to write about this great fiber to give a clear view.
Types of Cotton Fiber
The scientific name of cotton is “Gossypium”, and there are four different types of cotton, each with its own characteristics.
- Upland Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum)
Upland cotton is the type of cotton it is most likely to see in shops. It’s characterized with short cotton fibers, which is perfect for making quality everyday products that are very affordable. This type of cotton is also known as “Mexican Cotton”, because it is mainly produced in Central Africa, Mexico and the Caribbean. About 90% of today’s cotton production is from this type of cotton.
- Egyptian Cotton (Gossypium barbadense)
Egyptian cotton is an exceptionally soft and vibrant cotton fabric. It has extra long fibers that make this plant special. It is also known as the highest quality cotton available anywhere in the world. It’s grown in South Africa, and is the second most popular in the world, even though it only accounts for 8% of the world’s cotton production.
- Tree cotton (Gossypium arboretum)
Tree Cotton, Accounting for about 2% of the world’s cotton production, is native to India and Pakistan. It can grow to 2 meters in height. It’s commonly used as a cooking filter, and it’s also known for its medical use as gauze.
- Levant cotton (Gossypium herbaceum)
Levant cotton is an effective remedy for ailments related to the female reproductive system. It can be very useful for regulating irregular periods and helps retain the uterus’s normal size post-delivery. It compromises less than 2% of the world’s production, and it is native to the semi-arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa and Arabia.
There are many theories about how or where cotton originated. The name “cotton” came from the Arabic word “qutun”, which means staple fiber.
When searching caves in Mexico, scientists have found cotton cloth remains that are 7,000 years old. Cotton was first found in India, approximately 4,000 BC, as a textile. Cotton was massively produced in the Indus Valley civilization as well. America started using this fiber for textiles in 5,500 BC.
Europeans, on the other hand, believed that cotton was a mysterious fabric that only grew in India. From Europe, the first ones who had the honor to get to know cotton were people from the Arab world and Iran. By the late 1,600, cotton has become famous in Europe and Britain.
By 1721, Britain has built their textile empire by using raw cotton. The massive manufacturing in the country led to increasing wealth, and further, it led to the colonization of India. The wealth started to grow, one thing led to another, and the Industrial Revolution knocked on the door. With the revolution, many new types of machinery helped massive cotton production around England. However, the success of the British industrial revolution resulted in child labor, low wages and fatal working conditions.
The American inventor, Eli Whitney, invented the cotton gin (meaning “cotton engine”, it is the machine that separates cotton fibers from their seeds quickly and easily). This invention led to increased cotton manufacturing in the United States and Europe. In addition, the machine cut down the labor hours, doing the same amount of work in 12 hours instead of 600 hours. Meanwhile, in the Southern states of America, more high-quality cotton was produced from the longer and stronger fibers.
Today, America is still one of the most important cotton producers in the world, right behind China and India.
I bet you did not think that something simple and pure as cotton had that much history!
As we learned, cotton is one versatile, fluffy, soft, and unique plant. With its long history, it is very sure that many countries and continents wanted to produce and grow it. But why? Now we will see the many ways we can use cotton.
- The most common use of cotton is in clothing.
Forex. One 227kg bale of cotton can produce:
– 2,100 pairs of boxer shorts
– 3,000 nappies
– 215 pairs of jeans
– 1,200 t-shirts
– 4,300 pairs of socks
– 250 single bedsheets
From that perspective, It is apparent why this plant was so important throughout history and today.
- Industrial products
– Army uniforms
– Astronauts clothing
– Coffee filters etc.
- Home décor
– Bed sheets
Facts you didn’t know about cotton
You came this far with the reading, so I have prepared some interesting facts for you! Did you know that?
The U.S paper currency is made with 75% cotton because the banknotes need to follow a few criteria, such as lifespan and circulation.
- Adidas, Nike, H&M, and GAP are the top brands marching for sustainability, and they are trying to help people understand how important recycling is.
- Climate change is not necessarily too bad for cotton crops because this plant thrives in the sun.
- Cotton is not white! Yes, you have heard that right. Natural cotton has a tarnish color that becomes white after processing. There are naturally colored cotton plants that vary from brown, green and even red.
Final Words :
Now you know the story of cotton fiber, types, uses. I hope that the next time cotton products surround you, you will admire, feel, and cherish these items more. Now you know that they hold firm and very long history behind them!
Shariful Alam Pavel, A fashion lover, passionate marketer. Love to share wisdom based on real life experience to enrich knowledge.
Founder of Muslin Dhaka, a brand, speaks the truth about royal muslin and fashion. Explore the digital fashion universe with organic cotton muslin and much more!