Tools & Technology

The Yoga Pant Problem

The rise of synthetic fibers and the war on cotton.

Episode 228 | February 12, 2018
Women wearing orange yoga pants and yellow sneakers

Yoga pants are having a moment. And while they’re not new, they’ve moved beyond the gym and yoga studio into nearly every corner of our lives.

This so-called athleisure wear trend has made a lot of people happy. “Once I wore [yoga pants], I never wore jeans again if I could help it,” says Sage Roundtree, a yoga instructor from North Carolina. But as comfy as the trend is, it has made a lot of people very unhappy—including the entire cotton industry. That’s because performance athletic wear isn’t made out of cotton. It’s made of synthetic fibers such as Lycra, polyester, and spandex. As demand for athleisure wear grows, demand for cotton shrinks.

Luckily, cotton has a few tricks up its sleeve to keep consumers interested—because this is only the latest episode in a decades-long rivalry between cotton and synthetic fibers.


Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elizabeth Berry Drago
Reporter and producer: James Morrison
Senior ProducerMariel Carr
ProducerRigoberto Hernandez


Our theme music was composed by Zach Young. 

Additional music courtesy of the Audio Network