NFL Spandex: 10 Important Facts About the Fabric That Makes Watching Football Extra-Enjoyable

If you’ve been living under a rock — which, come to think of it, is probably a good idea for tri-state area residents who want to avoid unbearable traffic congestion this weekend — you may not be aware that today is Super Bowl Sunday. However, those of us who aren’t snuggled away in subterranean anti-culture chambers have been bombarded with Super Bowl advertisements since Day One. And from what I hear about the festivities, there seems to be a little something for everyone: If you’re not into the entire Super Bowl phenomenon at all, there are plenty of enticing TV alternatives to draw your attention. If you aren’t a diehard football fanatic but plan on watching the game anyway, you’re probably looking forward to the big-budgeted commercials or the Bruno Mars/Red Hot Chili Peppers halftime show.

But when the game comes back on, what will non-football nuts have to occupy our minds? With only around 11 minutes of actual playing time per every 174-minute broadcast, there isn’t a ton of time spent on high-paced, football action. But who’s paying attention to that sportsing stuff anyway when you’ve got something like this on your 100-inch HD flatscreen TV?

Spandex: The material make-up of the pillars of athletic achievement worldwide. It also, when worn by the right people, flawlessly showcases the toned musculature of our best sportsmen and women (and, of course, our superheroes).

Click to find out more about everyone’s favorite fabric.


Shorts such as the NFL Combine Authentic Coreshort Prima shorts from Under Armour are actually composed of 84% polyester and only 16% spandex.

Image: Seattle Seahawks


Spandex is a synthetic (man-made) fiber, usually mixed with cotton, rayon, polyester, or nylon fiber in clothing. Chemically, it contains long-chain polyglycol combined with a short diisocyanate and is made up of at least 85% polyurethane.

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Spandex was first developed by the fantastically named German chemist Farbenfabriken Bayer, who earned a patent for his product in 1952. Experimentation with spandex began during World War II, as chemists sought a substitute for rubber, which was needed for building construction.

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Scientists at Du Pont and the U.S. Rubber Company finalized the development of spandex and began mass-producing the fabric as Lycra, the company which is now the world leader in spandex production.

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Common Usages

Known for its elasticity and durability, spandex is used in garments such as swimsuits, leotards, wrestling wear, skating dresses, leggings, body suits, and all sorts of active-wear.

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Two Types of Stretchy

Two-way spandex can be stretched one way, length- or width-wise, whereas four-way spandex can be stretched both ways. Spandex can be stretched to nearly five-times its length.

Image: Jack Flacco.

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Tie-Dye Safe

You can use clothing articles composed of 100% spandex in your upcoming tie-dye party, but leave that aforementioned polyester blend at home if you’re hoping to actually alter its hue.

Image: Seattle Seahawks

Bring Your Own Pads

Many spandex football shorts come with internal pockets so that you can insert your own protective pads.

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Don't Sweat It

Under Armour’s NFL spandex shorts employ “sweat-wicking” technology that diverts sweat from your body to the surface of the gear in order to enable the material to dry faster.

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Hot in Here

Spandex is pretty flammable. According to this “Facts About Fabric Flammability” packet — which proves that there’s something on the Internet for the pyrophobe and the alliteration-addict in all of us! — spandex can “catch fire quickly or shrink from the flame initially, but ultimately, [it] will sputter, flame, and melt to the skin or the flaming melt will drop to the floor.” In other words, don’t forget to stop, drop, and roll!

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