Back to the Future? Milk Fibers in the 21st Century

A cow, a milkmaid, and a chemist walk into a bar… or a laboratory? Not quite the typical start to a joke, but this is how a 1950s brochure described a then-popular—and somewhat revolutionary—milk fiber textile called Aralac. Between World Wars I and II, wool was scarce and this milk fiber-blended fabric was becoming a go-to substitute for shirts, ties, and other accessories and clothing in the U.S. and Europe. For a moment in time, it seemed that the future of fabrics was milk-based. So why are we not wearing—and maybe not even aware of the existence of—milk fiber clothing now? The answer lies where economics and science intersected in the mid-twentieth century. But like so many things, it seems that history is bringing us full-circle, and the interest in milk fibers has been rekindled in recent years.