Cotton is one of the oldest and most popular non-food crops of the word. It has been cultivated for around 7000 years and has primarily been used as a source of fibre, which was woven to make clothing. Cotton grows in tropical regions of the world, including the United States, China, India, and several other countries. The modern cotton supply is headed by China and India, with the United States close behind. The usable part of the cotton plant is ball encasing cotton fibres in the plant. Today, cotton is one of the primary textile materials, and can be incorporated in the fashion industry in various forms. Its qualities make it a useful material for luxury textiles such as cotton maxi dresses or seasonal wear, especially for winter due to its insulating qualities. This article is a brief account of the history and nature of cotton, and its importance as a textile material.


Cotton was produced self-sufficiently in several civilisations in both the Old and New Worlds. In the Old World, it was first found in the Asian region, in Pakistan and India. Mexico was also party to the use of cotton, and it was one of the first non-food plants to be domesticated in the American region. Cotton was used to make clothing and various equipment such as fishing nets and storage bags

After the industrial revolution, cotton production became easier due to the invention of various machinery that automated much of the process. This resulted in manufacturers being able to produce cotton at much higher rates, allowing Britain to become one of the leading cotton producers in the world. United States and Europe also invented various machinery which eventually reduced the processing time of cotton to a fraction of what it initially was, including separating the seeds from the cotton.

Uses and Qualities

Cotton is one of the leading non-food crops in the world. The industry is worth billions of dollars and has close linkages to other industries which creates business activity for factories and enterprises throughout the world. The annual business revenue as a direct result of the cotton industry in the United States exceeds $120 billion.

As a textile material, cotton is used to make soft cotton products such as towels and other sanitary applications. Cotton also has a significant use in the manufacture of clothing, as jeans, dresses, sweaters, gloves, and numerous other apparel use cotton either entirely or in part.

In addition to the fibre, which is used to make cotton cloth, other parts of the cotton plant are also commercially important. Cotton linters are used to produce cellulose, which is a raw material for plastics, explosives, stationary, and even paper products such as money. Oil can be made from cotton seeds which is used as a cooking oil.

The demand for cotton has risen since the industrial revolution, and in the modern age, the main cotton production comes from India, China, and the United States. The United States is also the largest exporter of cotton, whose production is subsidised by the government.