John Howard Company is a major supplier of elastics and elastic webbing products that are found in a wide variety of products including: athletic gear and apparel, backpacks, recreational gear and equipment, military gear, outdoor equipment, furniture, and more. Because of our extensive involvement with elastics, we thought it would be interesting to include a brief history about the fascinating world of elastics.

The First Elastics

Elastic materials have been in use since ancient times using rubber which comes from the sap of the rubber tree. Natural rubber is made by extracting a liquid sap, called latex, from certain types of trees.

Rubber tapping in rubber tree garden.

The first evidence of elastic materials can be traced back to the use of natural rubber by the ancient Mayans, who used it to create rubber balls for sports and other items such as waterproof containers. The Science Museum in the United Kingdom has an ancient rubber ball which is estimated to be 400 years old. Historians claim that humans have been creating rubber for over 3500 years.

How Rubber is Grown and Harvested from Rubber Trees

In the 18th century, the French inventor and physicist, Antoine Lavoisier, studied the properties of elastic and developed the theory of elasticity. This theory describes how materials deform under stress and how they recover their original shape when the stress is removed. In the early 19th century, the British scientist and inventor Thomas Hancock developed a process for manufacturing elastic materials from natural rubber. Hancock’s process involved heating and kneading rubber with various additives to improve its properties, such as durability and elasticity.

Later in the 19th century, the American inventor Charles Goodyear discovered the process of vulcanization, which involves treating rubber with sulfur to improve its elasticity and strength.

Charles Goodyear - inventor

This new process of vulcanization revolutionized the production of rubber products and made them more durable and resistant to temperature changes. In the 20th century, synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, and spandex were developed, which have even greater elasticity and durability than natural rubber. These materials have been used to create a wide range of products, including the stretchy webbing in clothing, elastic bands, medical devices, and sports equipment.

Today Charles Goodyear would be amazed to see how elastics are used in thousands of applications and industries from undergarments to socks, backpacks to athletic braces, shoes and boots, hair ties and wrist watch bands. Elastic materials, such as rubber or elastic cords, are used in the military for backpacks, straps and even in suspension lines of some parachutes.

Elastics are especially valuable when you’re Bungee jumping off the world’s highest “bungee bridge” in Bloukrans, South Africa…

How Elastic Webbing is Manufactured

When were elastic webbing and elastic tape invented?

Elastic webbing, also known as elastic band, is a type of material made of woven fibers that can stretch and return to its original shape. It is commonly used in clothing, furniture, and other applications where stretchability is beneficial or required. The invention of elastic webbing can be traced back to the early 20th century. In 1908, a Frenchman named Paul Dubois patented a “striated elastic band” that was made of rubber threads woven into a cotton or silk fabric. This early elastic webbing was primarily used in corsets and girdles. In the 1920s, American inventor Arthur F. Shattuck developed a process for manufacturing elastic webbing using synthetic rubber. This innovation made elastic webbing more affordable and widely available, leading to its use in a variety of products such as clothing, shoes, and furniture. Since then, elastic webbing has continued to evolve, with improvements in materials, manufacturing processes, and applications. Today, elastic webbing is a common and essential component in many products, providing comfort, flexibility, and durability.

Elastic tape is a type of narrow, flexible strip made of elastic materials such as spandex, rubber, or latex. It is commonly used in clothing, medical and athletic applications where stretchability is required.

The use of elastic tape gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in sports medicine and physical therapy. Kinesiology tape, a type of elastic tape that provides support to muscles and joints without restricting movement, was developed in the 1970s by Japanese chiropractor Dr. Kenzo Kase.

Since then, elastic tape has continued to evolve and is now used in a variety of applications, including medical, athletic, and fashion. It is now available in different materials, colors, and patterns to suit various needs and preferences.

John Howard Company is a leading supplier of elastics, elastic tape, and webbing.

Are Elastics Biodegradable?

Natural elastics, such as those made from rubber, are generally biodegradable. Rubber is a natural polymer that can be broken down by microorganisms over time. However, the rate of biodegradation can vary depending on factors such as temperature, humidity, and the presence of microorganisms. In addition, some natural elastics may be treated with chemicals or additives that can affect their biodegradability. It’s worth noting that synthetic elastics, such as those made from petroleum-based materials like nylon and polyester, are generally not biodegradable and can persist in the environment for hundreds of years.

We Can Help You with your Elastic Questions and Needs

John Howard Company offers a wonderful selection of elastics in various colors and strengths. We also offer professional elastic cutting services to cut your elastic tape or webbing to the sizes you need. If you have products that need custom elastic tape or elastic webbing or have questions about which elastics might work best for your product, we invite you to talk to our product experts about how we can help you!