MESH: The New Cool in the Shoe World

MESH: The New Cool in the Shoe World

For a major part of the history of shoes, there have been two choices for uppers: leather or canvas. Each offers obvious advantages and disadvantages. While Leather is durable, it’s also heavy and doesn’t offer much in the way of ventilation. Canvas, on the other hand, breathes but doesn’t offer the same structural advantages as leather.  Somewhere down the line, the industry felt the need for some other options for making of uppers that can bring out the best of both worlds. The footwear industries needed something that incorporates the durability of leather and the breathability of the canvas.

In search of this new alternative, the direction of shoe evolution took a turn and moved towards the growing textile industry. In 1935, a group of scientists at DuPont discovered something that would change the way the world thought about fabric. Led by a man named Wallace Carothers, the team discovered a new plastic polymer by combining hexamet hylenediamine and adipic acid. They named it ‘fiber 6-6.’ Next step was to pull fiber 6-6 into strands by using a process known as cold drawing and spin the strands into the thread. This new product was named as nylon. The world’s first synthetic fiber, however, still had some way to go before it was ready for the footwear world.

By 1941, DuPont’s manufacturing efforts were entirely dedicated to the military as the US jumped into the Second World War. This new focus enabled the company to develop their fiber into all manner of new applications, including rip stop fabric for parachutes. After the war, their attention turned back to the civilian market, which had developed a taste for all things futuristic, and by the 60s nylon was well on trend.

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Towards the end of the 60s, the shoe world was witnessing the rise of Blue Ribbon Sports, now Nike. Its founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman focused their efforts for the time being on improving the shoe design. Bowerman, in particular, was focused on redesigning shoes themselves, and as an athletic coach, he was obsessed with reducing their weight. Nylon made its athletic debut on one of the coach’s earliest designs, the TG-24, now known as the Cortez. The material in question was a kind of woven nylon here. The yarns are kept straight in a tight-latticed structure and was marketed as ‘Swoosh Fiber’. With time the material became an integral element in Nike’s formula. The fabric produced by weaving the synthetic yarns was strong, breathable, didn’t stretch, and above all, weighed a fraction of its predecessors.

While woven nylon was becoming a rage, another biggie, Adidas came up with a new method of turning nylon into sneakers i.e. knitting. In this case, the yarns are formed into a series of interlocking loops.  It’s this looped structure that makes the end product stretchy and able to be structured with large gaps – and that’s how we get the material that we generically refer to as MESH.

One of the first sneakers to use the air-permeable, breathable yet long-term durable textile was the Adidas Americana in 1971. To reduce multi-directional stretch and instability, mesh generally needs to be backed by a woven material and works best with an overlying structure made from leather or suede.

For the first few years, the knitted synthetic fabric was suitable mainly for use in bulkier shoes, such as basketball and tennis, and not for sleek runners, as woven material works best with an overlying structure made from leather or suede.

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A lot of credit for the endless supply of synthetic fibers from spandex to Kevlar, through to Dyneema and more recently created formulas such as PLA, goes to this trail blazed by nylon.

Now we even have fibers having tensile strength five times higher than that of steel.

Those early forays into knitted nylon mesh have slowly morphed to allow brands to produce single-piece uppers.

Now-a-days mesh is being considered as a good to go material for making uppers for shoe designs by many shoemakers. Some of Tracer’s very own best-selling shoes such as TR Axe, TR Mesh Maze and TR Grit are some examples of this trendy yet lasting material, as upper of these shoes are made up of synthetic PU with mesh knitted of GSM-380 fiber which is one of the heaviest and strongest fibers used.

Coming with different variants that are strong yet vibrant by doing innovation in not only producing new forms of fibers but also in designing the shoes with changing times, a path-breaking contribution from Tracer comes in the form of TR Axe having printed mesh as its upper gives this pair of shoes an obvious edge in terms of design.

Meeting the growing demands of the sports industry and changing market trends, these materials allowed shoes to be both durable and stylish for long periods of time without opening them up to wear and tear. With the introduction of Protestants, the durability they had only allowed them to be more durable than before. Once this perforated material got introduced into the industry, things got switched up totally. This material was both lightweight and durable; it has all the good qualities of the traditional materials but hardly any of the unwanted ones. It will not be wrong to say that this material or the concept of mesh is nothing short of a game changer. Mesh opened new possibilities, gave many new options to consumers and extended the lifetime of shoes.

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