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The inventor of nylon, Wallace Carothers, first created a polyester fiber in the 1930s. However it was the Englishman Dr. J.R. Whinfield who first supplied a commercially viable product in 1941. Still, polyester was not commercially introduced until 1953 in the U.S., and 1955 in Britain. The first British trade name (held by Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd.) was Terylene. DuPont was the first U.S. manufacturer, under the trade name Dacron. Many other manufacturers and trade names have existed and continue to exist today.

Polyester fiber is manufactured from a synthetic polymer in which the polymer units are linked by ester groups. The spun fiber makes a strong and washable, relatively inexpensive fabric— one that is abrasion-, fade-, wrinkle-, insect- and mold-resistant. Its most significant drawbacks as a finished fabric are its lack of absorption, its tendency to hold onto oil-based stains, and the difficulty to remove its pilling. Although it acquired a bad name through overuse in the 1960s and 70s, polyester fabrics can now be found with a wide range of aesthetic qualities. Frequently a component in blends, polyester is by far the most common fiber used for fabric today.