A question we don’t ask ourselves or even think to ask ourselves! Once we added our Men’s Leisure Underwear to our line last year we dove deep into what kind of fabric we’d want to use for our Best Men's Boxer Briefs. Come to find out as we researched.. most boxers are made out of polyester. But why? This type of fabric wasn't even common 30 years ago. Come to find out.. polyester is not the best option for boxers. We will tell you why!
Why Are Most Clothes Made out of Polyester Fabric?
First, go into your closet and see how many of your clothes are made with polyester. Probably most of them! When I went to my closet it was around 75% of them... so don't get discouraged. It is a fabric that was introduced to the American public in 1951. It was introduced as a 'miracle fabric' that could be pulled, worn & washed without wear-and-tear, stretching, and wrinkling. But at what cost are we getting fabrics that lay & wash well?
How is Polyester Fabric made?
Polyester is a synthetic material - meaning it is not a natural fabric. Therefore; polyester is made by a chemical reaction using petroleum, air, water, and coal. Yes, Petroleum and Coal! Most of the clothes that are going on your body are made of oil and coal. Let's also keep in mind that our skin is the largest organ in our body, so whatever we put on it, lotion, clothes, etc. will be absorbed into our bodies and any toxins or chemicals on our clothes will be as well.
"Your Skin is an Investment Not an Expense"
What are the Common Chemicals on Polyester Fabric?
Polyester not only is a chemical itself but has added chemicals used in the dyeing process. Fabric does not come out black or white.. natural fabrics are a tan color and you have to dye them. So think how hard it would be to dye a plastic bottle? That is essentially what you are doing to dye polyester since it is plastic. Which needs lots of chemicals to dye. You can't dye a chemical with a natural dye process... it wouldn't work very well.
Benzothiazoles & Benzotriazoles are both common chemicals used in the dying process for clothing. Both widely found on Polyester Fabric. A study we found is here. Not to mention these chemicals are widely found even on infant clothing that uses polyester fabric.
Both of those chemicals are also proven carcinogens. yikes!
Is Polyester Really a Miracle Fabric?
Now that we know how polyester is made - the outcome of the fabric is essentially plastic. Yes, plastic. Call us crazy, but check out the chart below of the increase in plastic production related to a sperm count decrease. Polyester doesn’t need to be ironed, doesn’t wrinkle and doesn’t show any signs of wear and tear. Basically a perfect fabric for boxers, so they say.
We came across a study that showed that polyester boxers are assumed to decrease sperm count! As a reminder - polyester is made from plastic by a chemical reaction, using petroleum and coal. Honestly, it doesn't sound like I'd want either of those things near these organs of mine, would you?
I would assume this is contributing to the difficulty to have children along with many other things. Polyester also disrupts your endocrine system in many ways. Your skin is your largest organ, so what you put on it matters!
Why Viscose Fabric?
We choose Viscose as our fabric of choice for our leisure underwear. We used to make our boxers our of cotton but found they stretched too easily and didn't last as long. We pride ourselves on our Lifelong Warranty, so we wanted a fabric we knew would last.
Viscose is a plant-based fiber. Meaning it is not a synthetic fiber like polyester, nylon, etc. Our viscose fabric is made from bamboo tree pulp and spun into a thread. I would be careful not to go buy anything viscose. It can be chemical-filled depending on the chemicals they put on the fabric through the dye process. If you know where you are purchasing your clothes and are aware they use low-impact dyes, then you are probably OK. Just like any fabric, even cotton can have chemical-filled dyes.
Our Viscose is sustainably made from bamboo trees. We have found that viscose has a lot of the same properties as polyester, doesn't wrinkle, can stretch, and wash easily without stretching out. Viscose is very light and airy and keeps its shape well like polyester, but without the harmful effects! We keep our dyes to low-impact, meaning you will not find Benzothiazoles or Benzotriazoles or any carcinogen proven chemicals on our clothes. Definitely a better option in our opinion!!
More Viscose Properties:
- Breathable - you want a fabric for boxers that is breathable, just like cotton.
- Drapes well - fits your body shape well and isn't 'bulky'
- Excellent color retention - you want fabrics that have great color retention in your natural fibered clothes that are made with low-impact dyes! Low-impact dyes will not last as long as chemical dyes, naturally. So fabrics that retain the color better are best!
- Smooth - feels great for boxers!
- Viscose does not trap body heat - another great property, which is connected to sperm loss with the polyester fabric.
- Very light and airy-feeling - always a plus!
Take a look for yourself! Below you will find our Men's Boxer Brief Underwear! Free of any form of polyester. We may be biased but we do truly believe they are the best pairs out there. Not convinced? Click on the link and read the reviews! We are so convinced that we also offer a Lifetime Warranty on all our clothing!
LEISURE of NYC Men's Boxer Briefs
Is Recycled Polyester Sustainable?
This is a huge topic right now... lots and lots of companies are making clothes with recycled polyester and marketing it as sustainable and eco-friendly. There are two parts to this topic. One - is it eco-friendly? The short answer is no. Even though you are essentially taking plastic bottles and reusing them - every time you wash a garment with recycled polyester you are contributing microplastics into the ocean. I will talk more about this later. Recycled Polyester is not eco-friendly for your body either - You are still wearing plastic!
Why are Brands Using Recycled Polyester?
How is Recycled Polyester Made?
“Inconsistency of dye uptake makes it hard to get good batch-to-batch color consistency and this can lead to high levels of re-dyeing, which requires high water, energy, and chemical use.” -
Patty Grossman, co-founder of Two Sisters Ecotextiles
Can Polyester be Recycled Forever?
Clothes that are 100% polyester can not be recycled forever.
“Most people believe that plastics can be infinitely recycled, but each time plastic is heated it degenerates, so the subsequent iteration of the polymer is degraded and the plastic must be used to make lower quality products,” said Patty Grossman, co-founder of Two Sisters Ecotextiles, in an email to FashionUnited.
Textile Exchange, however, states on its website that rPET can be recycled for many years: “garments from recycled polyester aim to be continuously recycled without degradation of quality”, wrote the organization, adding that the polyester garment cycle has the potential to become “a closed-loop system” someday.
Through the process of reusing polyester, the fibers will get weaker and weaker - not to mention the chemicals that are used for this process. Reusing polyester can either be done mechanically or chemically.
“Mechanical recycling is taking a plastic bottle, washing it, shredding it and then turning it back into a polyester chip, which then goes through the traditional fiber making process. Chemical recycling is taking a waste plastic product and returning it to its original monomers, which are indistinguishable from virgin polyester. Those can then go back into the regular polyester manufacturing system,” explained Magruder to FashionUnited.
I could argue this idea of making more plastic, just because you can recycle it is not sustainable. Recycled polyester will have to be broken down with chemicals and can not be reused forever. Although recycled polyester is helping with the landfills and being able to re-use plastic bottles (at a small 9%) it will not help our bodies our organs and eventually even our environment.
How Much Energy Does it Take to Make rPET?
It actually takes less energy to make rPET than virgin polyester - 58% less energy in-fact. However, it is still not as good as your leading natural fibers. See Chart Below:
As promised, I said I would touch base on microplastics. Even though recycled polyester is diminishing the number of plastic bottles in the ocean - you are still contributing to ocean waste by washing your polyester clothes, whether virgin polyester or rPET polyester.
A paper published in 2011 in the journal Environmental Science Technology found that microfibers made up 85 percent of human-made debris on shorelines around the world.