Without delving too deeply into the science, nylon can be classified as a polyamide. While some polyamides can occur naturally (silk and wool for example), the structure can also be artificially made. Because nylon is made from polymers via a chemical process, it’s considered to be a synthetic material.
Originally called a “synthetic silk,” it’s no wonder that nylon has found its way into much of our clothing. Nyon was invented by DuPont in 1935 and was introduced in nylon stockings in 1939. While nylon was later diverted due to World War II, nylon stockings enjoyed a major comeback in the late 1940s. This popularity allowed nylon to integrate into athleticwear, shoes, accessories, and even high-end clothing.
While nylon is made of purely synthetic materials, it’s frequently paired with other fabrics that are natural or semi-synthetic, such as cotton and rayon. One of the major benefits of nylon is that it won’t stretch or shrink when washed, and is highly durable. However, when blended with other materials, more delicate fabric blends are created. These include silkier, more flexible materials, which often call for special laundering techniques like hand-washing or dry cleaning.
Combined with other fabrics, nylon can be found in everything from designer blouses to evening dresses and everyday apparel. On its own, nylon isn’t the softest fabric, which makes it a better choice for stiffer items like athletic shoes and bomber jackets. Because it’s tough and water-resistant, it’s also a popular material for handbags. To discover just how ubiquitous nylon really is, take a look through the labels in your closet—the results may surprise you.