1989 TODAY show story marks the 50th anniversary of the first recorded sale of nylon stockings, the first article of clothing made from synthetic materials, not wool, silk or cotton.
The 50th Anniversary of the Nylon Stocking
JANE PAULEY, anchor: On Cross Country this morning, Today correspondent Mike Leonard takes us back in time, half a century, to commemorate an event that ushered what might be called the age of synthetics.
MIKE LEONARD, reporting: I’ve got some information to pass along today, but frankly I am concerned that the real message of this report will get lost in the hysteria of the moment.
DAVID BRAUNSTEIN: It was a hysteria. No question of that.
LEONARD: And it was caused fifty years ago by the first recorded sale of nylon stockings. David Braunstein was there, then a 19-year-old boy helping out his father in their Wilmington, Delaware store.
BRAUNSTEIN: We just had a mob scene and the crowd rushed into the store and they just pushed the counter. They were so anxious to get this new miracle hose, you see.
LEONARD: A miracle hose made out of the miracle fabric discovered right across town from Braunstein’s store in a DuPont laboratory. Soon after it’s Wilmington debut, the nylon stocking went national hitting the stores exactly fifty years ago. Should they have created such a fuss? Absolutely, says Joel Mokyr, professor of economics and history at Northwestern University.
JOEL MOKYR: Nylon stockings is the first example of people making a piece of clothing out of synthetic materials. Before that we were completely confined to materials that were provided to us by Mother Nature whether it’s wool or silk or linen or cotton.
LEONARD: During the War years, they were almost impossible to buy. The country needed parachutes more than it needed stockings. Still they were worth the wait. The old silk stocking were elegant, but…
BRAUNSTEIN: You couldn’t wear it very long. One or two times. Sometimes you’d be lucky. You could wear a pair for a week, but usually you only got a few wears so it was expensive.
LEONARD: Today nylons only look expensive. Bastioned with bows and beads, dots and spots, they blend in with whatever is fashionable. In fact, the blend of the nylon itself has changed. Approximately fifty percent of the pantyhose sold in this country contains a combination of nylon and lycra, another DuPont discovery.
For Today, Mike Leonard, NBC NEWS, Winnetka, Illinois.
The silk of the humble spider has some pretty impressive properties. It’s one of the sturdiest materials found in nature, stronger than steel and tougher than Kevlar.