Humans often like to speculate what the future will be like; what kind of vehicles we might drive, what kind of food will we eat, and what will our clothes look like? Ideas for what our future fashion will be have littered popular culture for decades. “The Jetsons” portrays people wearing pointy outfits with strange geometric designs and irregular figures. Science fiction movies show us wearing everything from practical silver bodysuits to bright orange colored suspenders made out of rubber paired with equally glaring spandex pants (The Fifth Element). Well, now even the entomologists are getting in on the action and coming up with their own predictions. What do they believe our future apparel will be like? For starters, everything will be made of spider silk.
One of the first garments made from spider silk was a pair of silver stockings that the president of the Court of Accounts, Aides, and Finances in Montpellier, France, François Xavier Bon de Saint Hilaire, presented to the Sun King, Louis XIV. The stockings had been painstakingly woven from the hundreds of egg sacs required to make even a smaller garment like stockings. At the time clothing made of such precious materials was only available to rich guys in charge like royalty. Now, over three centuries later, the difficulty involved in collecting hundreds of spider eggs to weave together one sock has been overcome. No longer are these silky smooth items of fashion available to solely the rich and elite of this world. Spider-silk apparel is now available for all who lust after this fabric of the future. Specifically, you can find such items as a “woven tie, dyed petrol blue and produced in a limited edition of fifty” by the Bay Area-based biotechnology company, Bolt Threads.
Humans have been trying to gain control over this material for hundreds of years, and the reason isn’t hard to understand. Spider silk is like the superhero of clothing materials. It is incredibly durable and tough; famously stronger than steel and able to protect you from a bullet even better than Kevlar. Now you may be wondering why it is so easy for us humans to tear through spider webs, but the answer is simple. One strand is only three-thousandths of a millimeter in diameter. If you made that an entire millimeter, that same spider web would be able to trap helicopters as easily as flies.
It is with the advent of being able to genetically engineer a material that is essentially identical to real spider silk that has made spider silk clothing for the masses a reality. This new material will change not only our daily fashion, but military armor as well as better pharmaceutical packaging, just to name a few. Spider silk is clearly the material of the future.
Do you think this mass produced spider silk material will revolutionize the world of fashion, and perhaps much more? What kind of changes could it bring about?