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Spandex was created as a man-made substance to supplement and replace scarce rubber. The name spandex is an anagram of expands, and the fiber is known for its rubber-like stretch and recovery, and better-than-rubber-like flexibility, strength and resistance to perspiration. In textile yarns, spandex is often covered by other fibers, as rubber would be.

Spandex was invented by DuPont chemists in 1959, first produced in 1960, and by early 1961 it was in full-scale production under the trade name Lycra. Spandex is still its generic name with the unbranded name of elastane used in Europe; Lycra is the main name used in the U.K.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission defines spandex as “a manufactured fiber in which the fiber-forming substance is a long-chain synthetic polymer composed of at least 85% of a segmented polyurethane.”