Cotton vs. Synthetics: Why All Cotton Sweatshirts Are Supreme

Anyone who has ever paid even a modicum of attention to fashion trends in clothing knows that modern consumers have a ton of choices at their disposal for how they want their clothing to look and what they want it to be made from.

In modern debate, there are two broad classes of fabrics that consumers can choose from, being natural or synthetic fibers. Here at Just Sweatshirts, we’ve taken a stand for cotton, and for many good reasons.

Here’s how the matter breaks down, and how cotton stands up.

Popular Synthetics

Over the years, a number of popular synthetic fibers have been produced. Some of the most popular of these are listed here. A quick trip to any department store or fashion outlet will reveal a number of garments or textiles woven from any of the following:

Nylon: Nylon is a synthetic polymer known as a thermoplastic. Its unique nature enables it to be crafted into solid sheets of plastic material as well as organized into thin strands. Because it consists of long strands of polymers that can easily be arranged, nylon has been widely used in the past to produce fabrics and continues to be used to do so.

Acrylic: Acrylic is actually a name that can be rightly applied to a broad set of classes of plastics. In the realm of textiles, acrylic is utilized in the form of acrylic fibers which are made from a material known as polyacrylonitrile. In this form, acrylic has been often used to create a yarn-like material known as acrylic wool. This has been widely used to make socks, gloves, hats, and other garments.

Polyester: Polyester is unique among the synthetic fibers on this list because it, unlike the others, has analogies in the natural world. As a class of materials that can be categorized as polyethylene terephthalates (better known as PET), it includes both naturally occurring and synthetic materials.

Polyesters are found naturally occurring in some plants and are actually biodegradable. However, as a synthetic fabric known as polybutyrate, polyester is much less environmentally friendly, unsustainable, and not biodegradable. This is unfortunate because polyesters have been used to make a wide range of garments, perhaps more than any other synthetic in this article.

Rayon: What is very interesting about Rayon is that it is synthesized from regenerated cellulose fibers that are found naturally occurring in plant tissues. Don’t let this fact fool you; once synthesized, rayon takes a long time to biodegrade and it is heavily implicated in ocean pollution. A significant portion of ocean-bound plastic pollution is made of rayon; it might be made from “plant materials,” but once structured it is a potentially harmful synthetic.

But Why Are They So Popular?

What makes these synthetics stand out (with the exception of rayon which is actually produced from plant fibers) is the fact that they are created from petrochemicals. Unsurprisingly, they bring along with them a whole suite of drawbacks that we will investigate in only a few moments.

If that’s the case, then, why have they been so popular throughout the years and used so heavily in the production of clothing, garments, and other textiles?

Affordability: Affordability is one of the biggest culprits here. Believe it or not, there have been times throughout history during which natural fibers and materials have commanded exorbitantly high prices. In fact, in some ways, this is still the case. Consider the sky-high costs of furs, leather, pearls, and even rare woods like ebony or teak. Because synthetic fibers can sometimes be made much more cheaply than these natural fibers (and are not subject to natural fluctuations) which leads us to the following point.

Ease of production: Synthetic fibers are also easier to manufacture than many natural fibers and are not sensitive to changes in the environment. Since they are overwhelmingly made with petrochemicals and plastics, they don’t need to be grown and the supply does not hinge on the biological needs of an organism. This also has made their use popular in times of scarcity such as during wars. In fact, during the Second World War, nylon was heavily researched, manufactured, and put into use when other materials were rationed.

Specious claims: if there’s one more thing that has made some of these synthetics popular, it has been specious marketing claims. At many points synthetic fibers have made claims that they are stronger than natural fibers, better insulators, more comfortable, or even better able to resist the ravages of rot or of the elements.

In some situations these claims are true, but far and away they are misrepresentations of reality. Even synthetics like nylon which are well known for their resistance to decay can in fact degrade over time.

Drawbacks of Synthetics

Now that you know what has made some synthetic fibers so popular, let’s get down into the weeds and figure out where their drawbacks really lie. Here are some of the top reasons that synthetic fibers fall far short of offering the benefits of natural fibers like cotton.

  • Not sustainable: One of the greatest transgressions made by synthetic fibers is that they are not sustainable. Since they are almost exclusively made from petrochemicals and plastics, they cannot be made a part of a circular economy.
  • Not biodegradable: The biodegradability of all synthetic fibers is subject to doubt. They do decay over time, but much more slowly than natural fibers, and what’s worse, often the products they decay into are no better for the environment than they are. Adding them into an ecosystem is bad news, no matter how to spin it. Even materials like rayon that are made from natural fibers are heavily implicated in pollution.
  • Poor insulators: Another horrible transgression of natural fibers is that they are terrible insulators, and we mean terrible. How they ever became marketed for insulation is amazing, considering the fact that they are generally so poor at holding heat. Admittedly, an acrylic wool scarf is better than no scarf at all, but it cannot hold the humblest of candles to real wool or even cotton.
  • Not comfortable: We’ll admit that some synthetic fibers aren’t particularly uncomfortable, but none of them are as comfortable as natural fibers like wool, cotton, or even fur. This is one of the reasons that those with sensitive skin are advised to heed the recommendation to use all-cotton sheets or undergarments. On that note, consider the following.
  • Not good for sensitive skin: Synthetic fabrics are not good for sensitive skin, and for a whole host of colorful reasons at that. It’s been said that polyester is the worst of all, but what could the reason be for this? Well, one of the worst things about synthetic fibers is that they don’t breathe. In fact, they take this issue a step further by actually trapping sweat, oils, dirt and enabling bacteria a breeding ground. Over time, this irritates sensitive skin.
  • Not particularly durable: Don’t listen to whatever claims the manufacturers of synthetic fabrics make about how tough they are. Some of them really are tough; that’s true, and it’s also true that natural fibers like cotton need more care to remain strong, but there’s also the fact that there is no way to maintain synthetic fibers. When they go bad or start to wear, it’s over. At least cotton can be given proper care.
  • They trap odors: As if all of the preceding information wasn’t enough information to make you place the rayon and polyester back on the shelf, consider the fact that synthetics actually trap and hold onto odors. They even make them worse and enable bacteria to breed. With proper care and washing, that problem shouldn’t arise with cotton or other natural materials.
  • Need we go on? We’re pretty confident that we’ve made our point. We could keep enumerating some of the glaring shortcomings of synthetic fibers but we think you get our point. There’s just no need for them when you have alternatives. As you can see, all-cotton sweatshirts really are better, and we’ll even flesh out why.

The Far-Reaching Benefits of All Cotton Sweatshirts

By this point, you’re probably wondering just what exactly makes all cotton sweatshirts better than those that contain synthetic fibers. Consider some of the following arguments.

  • Sustainability: One of cotton’s biggest draws is one that isn’t even related to wearing it. It’s related to its impact on the environment. Since cotton is a crop, it can be grown, then grown, again and again, season after season. When cotton fades or falls apart, new cotton fibers can be spun, and all you need to create more is a little bit of water, sun, earth, and some seeds. You get the picture.
  • No toxic components: It should go without saying that cotton is also non-toxic since it is produced from natural fibers. This makes it superior to synthetic fibers on a number of fronts.
  • Recyclable and reproducible: Not that you would necessarily ever want to do so, but if you got it in your mind to throw away an old cotton shirt, instead of donating, recycling, or upcycling it, there’d be nothing wrong with that. A cotton t-shirt in the trash might as well be foodstuff. It will break down easily and won’t harm the environment. Also, it can be endlessly recycled and reproduced.
  • Warmth: Additionally, cotton is a much better insulator than synthetic alternatives. If you’re looking for a fiber that will keep you warm and comfortable even when the temperatures will dip cotton will serve you very well as long as you don’t get wet. Even so, no synthetics are good when wet anyway.
  • Breathability: Cotton is not just really good at keeping you warm when it gets cold out. Cotton is also excellent at keeping you cool even when it gets hot. When the temperatures reverse their trend and start an upward climb, don’t sweat it. Literally, don’t sweat it. Cotton will keep you cool in the heat. Synthetics will actually cause you to sweat more.
  • Moisture control: By the way, even if you go get hot and sweat in cotton, its breathability can help with moisture control. That way, you won’t become uncomfortable and continue to become more uncomfortable. Synthetics don’t even come close.
  • Hypo-allergenic qualities: Cotton can also be hypo-allergenic, which makes it much more suitable for use with those with allergies and other sensitivities.
  • Durable and protective: When cared for properly and maintained fastidiously, cotton makes excellent garments that will keep their shape and will last for many, many years. If that’s your only reason to get an all cotton sweatshirt, it’s still a good one.
  • Ideal for sensitive skin: Additionally, cotton is excellent for sensitive skin. Since it won’t hang onto moisture, doesn’t encourage the growth of bacteria, and is breathable, it’s one of the best natural fabrics for people with particularly sensitive skin. Few fabrics can be made as soft and comfortable as cotton can be.
  • We could go on! Just like we could keep enumerating the drawbacks of synthetic fabrics, we could continue extolling the virtues of cotton. If you want to learn more about the reasons that cotton is an amazing fabric - and really is better than synthetics - get in touch with us and we’ll shed some light on the matter.

Function and Fashion at Just Sweatshirts!

What’s great about the all cotton sweatshirts here at Just Sweatshirts, along with everything we offer, from full zip hooded sweatshirts to crewneck sweatshirts, sweatpants, and everything in between, is that we pair function with fashion effortlessly.

We’ve covered the function of cotton. Now it’s time for you to get in touch with our fashion sense. Pictures say more than words in this arena, so we welcome you to investigate our collection of sweatshirts, sweatpants, shirts, and other clothing and you’ll find plenty to love.

We have much more than just 100% cotton sweatshirts and zip hoodies. Consult our collection to find what appeals to you, and if you need a helping hand, contact us at 1-866-888-5878.

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