If slavery was the corner stone of the Confederacy, cotton was its foundation. At home its social and economic institutions rested upon cotton; abroad its diplomacy centered around the well-known dependence of Europe…upon an uninterrupted supply of cotton from the southern states.
Frank L. Owsley Jr
Cotton holds a unique place in history, evolving from being more highly valued than silk and wool in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to becoming an everyday, comfort-oriented textile in contemporary apparel worldwide.
Eli Whitney revolutionized the efficiency of cotton production through the invention of the cotton gin.
All parts of the cotton plant are useful. . Linters, the short fuzz on the seed, provide cellulose for making plastics, explosives and other products. Linters can also be used in high quality paper products and processed into batting for padding mattresses, furniture and automobile cushions.
Cottonseed oil is used primarily for shortening, cooking oil and salad dressing. The meal and hulls that remain are used either separately or in combination as livestock, poultry and fish feed and as fertilizer. The stalks and leaves of the cotton plant are plowed under to enrich the soil.
How did cotton change fashion forever?
Cotton fibre can be woven or knitted into fabrics such as velvet, corduroy, chambray, velour, jersey and flannel. In addition to textile products like underwear, socks and t-shirts, cotton is also used in fishnets, coffee filters, book binding and archival paper. Cotton is a food AND a fibre crop. Cotton seed is fed to cattle and crushed to make oil. This cottonseed oil is used for cooking and in products like soap, margarine, emulsifiers, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, rubber and plastics.
The word ‘cotton’ is derived from ‘qutun’ or ‘kutun’, an Arabic word used to describe any fine textile.
Every decade since the 1970s has returned faded cotton to current fashion. While synthetic fibers can achieve the aesthetics of cotton, they only very recently came close to both the feel and the comfort of cotton with the advent of microfiber polyester. The widespread adoption of "casual Friday" dress codes by much of corporate America in the 1990s continued to make cotton an important element in the fashion aesthetic. Cotton has also achieved a good reputation as a "green" textile, because it is biodegradable.