Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Manufactured fibers: an angry rant

My homework for textiles class yesterday was to answer four questions about natural fibers from the textbook. The first two questions were about cellulosic fibers, and the last two were about protein fibers. I had no problems with the first three questions, but the final question was quite difficult. For five products I had to describe the properties of wool and silk that some manufactured fibers attempt to duplicate. The products are carpeting, blanket, blouse, interview suit (wool), and interview suit (silk). Wool carpets and blankets along with silk blouses are clearly better than ones made from manufactured fibers, but the use of manufactured fibers to make these items is perfectly acceptable. But suits! Suits MUST be 100% natural. I hope that the purpose of this question was to demonstrate how inappropriate manufactured fibers are for suits rather than to countenance their use. I will not bore you with my answers to the first three parts of this question, but I will share with you my answers to the final two parts so that you might better understand my indignation about suits made with manufactured fibers.

(d) A suit should be 100% natural. Unfortunately, some men lack the necessary fashion sense or money, so suits made of natural/manufactured blends or even 100% manufactured fibers are available. No manufactured fiber will ever come close to matching the prestige of a 100% wool suit, but they do attempt to duplicate the luster, hand, drape, and resiliency of worsted wool. They are doomed to fail, but from a distance it may be difficult to tell the difference between wool and manufactured fiber suits.
My required uniforms for my last two jobs included 100% polyester suits. These suits looked cheap, they were uncomfortable, and I was embarrassed to be seen in them. I am pleased to say that every suit or blazer that I have purchased for myself was 100% wool.

(e) The lining of a suit should be made of silk, but silk’s high cost has made linings of manufactured fabrics acceptable. A 100% silk suit possesses aesthetic and comfort properties that cannot be matched by manufactured fibers, and the attempt should not be made. Silk suits cost thousands of dollars. Prices for wool suits start below $200. Silk suits are better than wool, but there is no situation in which an imitation silk suit made of manufactured fibers would be better than one made of wool.

One day in 1995, while I was shopping for a new blazer, I spotted a silk blazer on the rack. The moment I spotted it I knew it was better than any of the wool blazers I had already tried on. It was cheap for a silk blazer but still far beyond my price range. I had to try it on. It was the nicest, most comfortable blazer I have ever worn. Blazers made with manufactured fibers may look like wool blazers if one does not look too closely, but no manufactured fiber blazer will ever resemble a silk one. This was fifteen years ago, yet I still look back on the experience fondly. Wearing it, even for just a moment in the store, made me feel great. No manufactured fiber garment has ever engendered such a strong positive emotional response in me.

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