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Not Your Mama’s Jumpsuit: The History and Use of Tyvek®

Tyvek® is the trademark name for a brand of high-density polyethylene fibers that have been flashspun (that’s a fancy way to say non-woven fabric). The trademark was registered by the company DuPont in 1965, ten years after Jim White, a DuPont researcher, discovered the material and 2 years later it was introduced for commercial purposes. The material is very strong; it is difficult to tear but can easily be cut with scissors or a knife. Water vapor can pass through Tyvek®, but liquid water cannot. These properties make Tyvek® useful in a variety of applications. While most people are most familiar with Tyvek® suit, it has been used for many other applications such as, it is an extremely versatile material

Licenses and Currency, and Mail

  • Tyvek® has been used to create banknotes in Haiti and Costa Rica.
  • From 1986-1999, New Zealand incorporated Tyvek® material in their licenses.
  • In the US, Tyvek® was used in envelopes by the postal service as well as Fedex.

Construction and Space Shuttles

Housewrap, which is a material used in construction to form an air barrier between various components of buildings during the construction period, is often made of large sheets of Tyvek®.

The material was even used as part of the Space Shuttle program as a cover for the RCS thruster ports in the program’s later years.

Clothing and Accessories

  • Because of its durability, Tyvek® has been used in textile and clothing labels as well as shoes. The fashion industry has experimented with Tyvek®. In 1976, fashion house Fiorucci made an entire collection out of Tyvek®. More recently fashion retailer and manufacturer American Apparel has included white Tyvek® shorts.
  • Rock band Devo is known for wearing large, two-piece Tyvek® suits with black elastic belts and 3-D glasses. In 1979, Devo appeared with Tyvek® leisure suits and shirts made specifically for the band, with the band’s own designs and images. In 2005,
  • Dynomighty Design introduced a Tyvek® wallet made from a single sheet of Tyvek®.
  • The ultralight backpacking community has begun to use Tyvek® for the construction of extremely light yet durable backpacks. In 2012,
  • The Open Company released a foldable city map made of one of the stiffer variants of Tyvek®

It is also used to make coveralls used by mechanics and those who work with hazardous materials. Tyvek® can even be seen in the form of wristbands used at concerts, fairs, and other public events where people must prove that they paid for admission.

Since its discovery Tyvek® has proven itself to be extremely versatile, and remains a key component in the manufacture of materials and products across the globe.

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