Cotton Up

Miscellaneous What to Wear


While we've been focused on the glamour and glitz of the new spring collections, trouble has been developing elsewhere in the clothing world: costs are going up, and how.

Case in point, cotton... that fiber we use to dress men, women and children in everything from diapers to denim jeans to men's elegant evening shirts. Shockingly, the price of cotton has nearly doubled since this time last year. Suddenly it's no longer politically incorrect to be singing "I wish I was in the land of cotton", at least into the ear of your broker.

So, what happened? Basically, when the economy took a dive so did the demand for cotton which caused many growers to change to crops for which demand stayed high. Result? Less cotton.

Then, too, this year's floods and droughts have been unusually brutal worldwide. Result? Less cotton.

But surprise, surprise: the economic climate has begun to improve and demand for cotton has bounced back much more quickly than anyone predicted. Result? Prices have skyrocketed. Suddenly cotton costs more than it has since Reconstruction. (If you don't know what that is, you must not be a Southerner.)

Textile and clothing manufacturers are having to hunker down and figure out ways to cope. Most likely we'll soon be seeing fewer 100% cotton fabrics and more blends instead. And don't be surprised if you see synthetics suddenly being touted as "new" or "better than ever".

Remember the last time synthetics were center stage? It was the '70s, the heyday of the polyester leisure suit. Do you suppose that's what's ahead? A new and updated synthetic microfiber suit from Brooks Brothers or Ralph Lauren, maybe?

Ouch. We hope not. But we do look forward to seeing what kind of new ideas emerge from this crisis. And we're not just whistling "Dixie".

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