Spandex was invented in 1959 by chemist Joseph Shivers while working at Benger Laboratory in Waynseboro, VA., a facility owned and operated by DuPont. DuPont and the U.S. Rubber Company finished development. Spandex is chemically classified as a polyurethane-polyurea copolymer. While Spandex is being made, it requires constant inspection because of the intense chemical process involved. The name Spandex is derived from an anagram for the word 'expands'.
The synthetic fabric had an immediate and major effect on the clothing and fashion industry.
Properties and Benefits
In a competitive world, superheros
and supervillans alike need to stand out from the crowd. A flashy, skin-tight costume has often been the choice for its balance of style and mobility. While it is not often specified what a particular costume is made of, if it shows the properties of being both destructible and form-fitting, it is safe to assume that it contains an elastic fabric. Not to mention spandex makes everyone look cooler...sometimes.
While many characters may wear a fabric leotard or unitard under their normal outfit or armor, the spandex does not make up a significant visible portion of the outfit. Some costumes may also be skin-tight, but not made of normal fabric. For instance The Fantastic Four has wardrobe made from unstable molecules that adjust to their powers, instead of disintegrating; and the Venom symbiote acts as a suit, but is really a living organism.
Given the evolution of a character, their costume may have once been Spandex, but is now made of other materials; for instance the basic version of the Batsuit has evolved into a flexible Kevlar armor with more advanced composites and polymers, augmenting Batman's offense and defense. Many Superheros came before the invention of Spandex. Later in comic book history, bright spandex is what began to sell comics. The 1960's version of the X-Men wasn't selling and was later revamped with bright spandex costumes all around. Needless to say, X-Men is now very popular.
Although spandex sounds very goofy, real people seriously wear it. For instance there is a real-life, Justice League-esque team of do-gooders in D.C. who help with the community and dress like superheroes. Another time spandex is used, is during cosplay at many conventions. Spandex is also the clothing of choice for professional bicycle racers and bicycling enthusiasts alike, as it reduces drag and wind resistance thus allowing for an improvement of performance, especially over long distances.
Spandex can strech up to 5 times it's length at rest (more stretchy than rubber) and retains it's shape. People wear it because it's lightwieght, comfortable though tight, and breathes well. Used in ski pants, lingerie, diapers, and so many other things it's impossible to list. It's also blended into other materials to make them more stretchy.