French Terry Fabric: The Evolution From Towels and Linens To Activewear

French Terry Fabric: The Evolution From Towels and Linens To Activewear

The history of clothing tells us that inspiration can come from anywhere. Whether in the form of ancient dyes found in the natural world, or in the use of fabrics. The basics of fabrics like wool, cotton, and polyester are known to most. 

Less well known is the specific origins of particular weaves, like French terry. French terry fabric is now widespread, particularly in the world of athletic apparel, but it didn’t use to be. The fabric actually originated for use in bath towels and home goods before it saw use in apparel. Many of these goods are soft, but using the same material in standard clothes may seem odd.

The truth is that French terry is a remarkable material whose special qualities make it ideal for multiple contexts. Olivers will be reviewing the centuries-old origins of this fabric, and why it is a major modern convenience.

Where Did French Terry Come From?

French terry is a modern type of terrycloth fabric, which itself was invented in 1841. Terrycloth is immediately recognizable for the small loops which protrude from the base of the fabric. The original terrycloth was made from silk, though other materials have been utilized. 

In 1848, Samuel Holt invented the first cotton-based terrycloth. Today, most terrycloth uses cotton, though other materials are sometimes replaced or woven into the fabric. The particular specifics of terrycloth made it highly suitable for use in home goods. 

Terrycloth is exceptionally soft, and the piles of fabric it utilizes helps with water retention. The best terrycloth has been seen to absorb up to 27 times its own weight in water. This makes it appropriate, and even ideal for use in kitchen and bath products. 

The fabric is also notably breathable due to the cotton base introduced by Holt. This saw it introduced to linens and bedsheets in the home. It would serve as a perfect midlayer in colder months and as top layers in summer months.

Terrycloth would make a solid transition into apparel starting in the 1970s through the 1980s. This transition was made possible thanks to a change in manufacturing which led to the invention of French terry.

When examining a standard piece of terrycloth, you will notice individual loops of fabric on each side of the piece. These still exist in French terry, but usually only on the inner side of the piece. The result is a soft interior and a woven matte exterior for each garment. 

Two main distinctions of terry exist today. The classic double-sided loop fabric is known as towel terry. The fabric used in apparel is known as French terry. Our next historic examination will be to reveal the special status of French terry. 

What Are French Terry’s Qualities

French terry’s unique properties come both from the weave and the effectiveness of high-quality cotton. The fabric is medium weight, thicker than a standard shirt but often lighter than heavy-duty sweats. This makes it ideal seasonal apparel in all but the coldest of weather.

It also has some moisture-wicking capabilities, especially on the inward-facing side. This is due to the preservation of the loop in the fabric. This makes it a great choice for keeping dry and sweat-proof in the hottest weather. 

The fabric is also notably easy to care for. It has a subtle stretch and extreme durability, making it effective in all manner of athletic apparel. When it comes time to wash, the fabric shrinks little compared to how other garments can. The easy drape of the fabric also helps to prevent wrinkles and other little nuisances. 

When french terry is made with pure cotton, it retains the best qualities of the material. This includes being notably breathable for workouts on hot summer days

Olivers French Terry Collection

The modern state of French terry fabric ends with its use in activewear apparel. When athletes push themselves to their limits, the moisture-wicking properties of the fabric keeps them dry. The subtle stretch of the material gives a full range of motion and long-lasting durability. The supreme comfort of the highest quality French terry makes it something to wear with pleasure when you begin relaxing.

Olivers’ understanding of activewear is that even the smallest detail matters. This is why our Classic French Terry line only uses Supima cotton, for the highest standard possible. The extra-long fibers enhance the best qualities of cotton, including longevity and luxe softness. 

The line is meant to allude to the timeless sweats we have all worn, and simply make them better. Better materials, better construction, and better ring-loop materials all go towards making the pieces something special. We’ve spent the article thus far showing how and why French terry became so exceptional. Our next goal is to prove it.

Classic Sweatpant

We start with our update on the most standard item of activewear, the sweatpant. Our Classic Sweatpant adds structure by slimming down the silhouette of a traditionally loose garment. This keeps the piece better formed to distinguish your figure. The result keeps you operating your best in the heat of a workout or on casual days. 

The fabric gives the piece a visibly soft appearance that borders on plush. It’s also made to be pill-resistant and extremely effective at retaining color. This keeps the petrol, hazelnut, indigo, grey melange and oat colorways looking richer for significantly longer. Tonal embroidery of the Olivers name on the left thigh gives the subtlest highlight, for one added component. 

Classic Sweatshort

Turn your sweats breathable and functional at home or on hiking trails with the Classic Sweatshort. A looped cotton drawcord whose color reflects on the primary and back pocket offer understated, yet practical design choices. Runners, boxers, climbers and those who push themselves to their limits can push these shorts as well. 

Sweatshorts fit best for situations where athletics shorts are needed, but an extra degree of warmth of comfort is desired. These fit easy nights at home or outdoor excursions where there’s a prevalent chill in the air. The high-performing capability of French terry fits in any weather. Rain or shine, find your next great adventure while fusing performance and style with this competitive short.

Classic Crewneck

A crewneck is defined by the beating it can take and the way it fits. Ribbing at the neck, cuffs, and waist all define the figure of this classic piece. Despite it’s full-torso and arm coverage, breathable Supima cotton keeps you comfortable, while an absorbent weave keeps you dry. In other words, it’s the piece to layer on when you want to be prepared for anything you may encounter. 

Cool and neutral colorways define the pared-down, tuned-up appearance of the Classic Crewneck. Petrol, indigo, and grey melange colors are improved by Olivers embroidery at the left chest. The first two feature tonal embroidery, while the last has a contrasting black embroidered name.

Classic Hoodie

Go to the essentials of layering with the Classic Hoodie. A good pullover is marked by its unrelenting versatility. 

You can put it on to ease into your warmup or secure heat on a crisp, cool run. You can take it off when you need to pare down for your most intense workouts. You can use it to improve your comfort, on lax days or post-activity evenings. 

A kangaroo pouch pocket and ribbed cuffs define the shape of the hoodie. The hood features a drawcord which matches directly in color in the petrol, hazelnut, and oat colorways. The grey melange colorway features a natural drawcord, pairing classic colors together. 

Classic Zip Hoodie

The last item we are going to share is an ever-popular variation of your usual structured hoodie. The Classic Zip Hoodie is easily adjusted to fit your needs at any given moment. Zip up for brisk jogs and wind protection, or zip down for a casual look and easy layering. 

The absorbent qualities of French Terry makes it an effective garment in soft rains to keep you from becoming soaked. The high quality cotton means it dries well without wrinkling, and won’t retain odors from exposure to rain or sweat. 

Consider pairing it with a like-colored Classic Sweatpant or Classic Sweatshort for a uniform appearance. Finish with a neutral color-tee, or go bold to create a pop of color in your wardrobe.

The Future of Terry

Terrycloth has been a strong part of the fashion world for close to two centuries. With the qualities listed above, there’s good reason for that reality. Absorbent, durable, soft fabrics make for desirable designs in the home or on the go.

French terry in particular takes the practical designs of terrycloth and adds uncompromising style to the mix. The interior loop maintains its practical qualities, and an exterior softness creates a recognizably soft figure. 

Terrycloth is going to remain a staple in any context where quality fabric is desirable. The only thing left is to ensure the best materials, and inventive designs go into the garments using it. Olivers has, and intends to continue, doing precisely that. 


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