It Only Took 300 Years of Development

Spider Silk Is the Fabric of the Future

March 13, 2017 Briefings By Photo by Bolt Threads
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Yesterday, The New Yorker published a short article that expertly details the history of man’s attempt to harness spider silk for use in clothing. (You should read it now.) That history begins in 1709 with Louis XIV and a pair of spider silk stockings, and ends at present, with Bay Area firm Bolt Threads and a limited run of 50 spider silk ties. That may not seem like an impressive innovation for 318 years, but given the promise of the material and how many attempts have been made to realize its commercial viability, it certainly is a story that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

We’ve heard the spider silk story before (and written about it). But Bolt Threads proves more promising. Its process involves fermenting brewer’s yeast (no, the material doesn’t come from arachnids), tricking its DNA to behave like silk, turning that into a powder first and then a thicker solvent, and finally forcing it through a die in order to make the ultimate fiber. Weave that together, and voila, a necktie.

While loftier dreams of this material tend to be set on space elevators and impenetrable body armor, we’re just happy to see the development of a new fabric that has the potential to rival merino wool and polyester further down the line. Outdoor brands are essentially shackled to the garment industry and its slow, sequential developments; a new player looking to make a big leap is more than welcome.

Want to be One of the Lucky 50?
Even if the $314 price tag doesn’t scare you off, acquiring one of Bolt Threads’ new ties will be tricky given the limited run. The company has set up a lottery system for purchase, which you can enter here.

Our Gear Predictions for the Year Ahead

To kick off 2017, we compiled our predictions in the wide world of product innovation and culture in 2017. Here’s what our staff had to say. Read the Story

Tanner Bowden

Tanner Bowden is a staff writer at Gear Patrol covering all things outdoors and fitness. He is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School and a former wilderness educator. He lives in Brooklyn but will always identify as a Vermonter.

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