Scuba fabric is a term commonly used to refer to neoprene, which is a synthetic textile. The fabric was originally developed by DuPont, which remains one of the world's largest innovators of new products. DuPont also created nylon and developed many other types of products outside of the textile industry.
Neoprene was originally created in the 1930s as an alternative to rubber. At the time, rubber could only be made by felling certain types of trees, and with the onset of World War II, the substance was in short supply. However, the war's increased demand for rubber threatened the global supply of the material, prompting DuPont and a number of other leading companies to find a solution to the problem.
Of the many synthetic textiles DuPont created, neoprene ended up being the best rubber substitute. Neoprene is DuPont's trademark for this substance, chemically known as polychloroprene. This substance is also known as neoprene due to its ability to replace rubber in many cases.
After the war, neoprene was found to have multiple uses beyond military equipment. For example, manufacturers started using the material to make wetsuits, and neoprene became very popular with surfers and divers.
One of the problems with scuba diving at the time was that most other fabrics from which scuba diving suits were made were permeable. Neoprene, however, creates a completely waterproof barrier between the skin and the surrounding environment, which makes it ideal for scuba diving gear.
While neoprene may be a scuba diver's dream come true, this water-repellent quality undercuts its performance in the wider world of clothing. Neoprene is not breathable at all; when you wear this scuba diving material, any perspiration you do stays between your skin and the material until you remove the neoprene suit.
This factor makes neoprene only really suitable for loose clothing or clothing that doesn't cover most of the body. While its stretch makes it an ideal material for tight-fitting activewear, its lack of breathability can greatly diminish that advantage.
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