The history of cotton clothing goes back to around 5,000 years ago in what is known as Peru and Mexico today. In ancient Egypt, China and India it was also cultivated and used as cloth around 3,000 B.C. Since then it has been traded around the world and the industry has been improved by various countries to add to the efficiency of production to give us the affordable product we know today.
From cotton plant to cloth
Cotton itself is a shrubby plant that is intensively farmed in various ways. The soft wool-like fibres on top of the plant, that looks like a ball of cotton wool you use for cosmetic and medical purposes, is the part that gets harvested for fabric. The boll, as it is known as, gets de-seeded, cleaned, carded and spun into cotton yarn. Once it has been woven into cloth it is used in more than fifty percent of the fibre used to clothe the world. There is little to no waste as the rest of the plant is used to produce oil, cellulose products, fuel, paper products and a lot more.
The cotton industry is under constant fire for its intensive farming methods that include the excessive use of water, pesticides and other harmful chemicals that solely focus on the production of a monoculture. The industry is extremely competitive and is basically dominated by the Chinese and Indian cotton industries. Although there is a great movement towards ‘green cotton’, the production of it is extremely expensive. Cotton producers are plagued by a multitude of pests, mechanical problems and changing weather conditions, but if they do not change their farming methods, the whole industry will become environmentally unsustainable. According to https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton, it is estimated that 20,000 litres of water are used to produce one kilogram of cotton. That amounts to one T-shirt and one pair of jeans.
The fabric of choice
Ultimately, the real beauty of cotton fabric is in its practicality and wearability. It is the obvious choice in most warm climates and has great natural absorption qualities. The variety of cotton fabrics is extensive, as can be seen at stores such as https://www.higgsandhiggs.com/fabrics/plain-cotton-fabric.html.
Considering the size of the industry and the popularity of cotton itself, it is certain that in spite of all the environmental challenges, it is still going to be around for a long time.