Above is a nice ad by Tide on Independence Day. Think about it. Almost all detergent ads have a picture of gleaming white garments. In small print, they do mention that coloured clothes retain their colours. But there is always the image of white vs off white.
It is unfortunate that almost all schools have white in their prescribed uniform for the children, and keeping them looking new is no joke. Then of course the white socks, the white handkerchiefs, bed linen, the white formal shirts, the new white kurta…..
While the detergent industry makes money beaming ads at how their product scores over the rest, the truth is the fault most times, is in the fabric itself.
Some facts I found interesting in this article. India is the third largest producer of cotton in the world. Yet, it is expensive to make 'white' Indian cotton. The fibres are contaminated because of our poor harvesting techniques. And millions of dollars are spent combing out dirt from the cotton every year. It requires a high dose of chemical treatment and faces risk of damage at the same time. The fabric thus produced turns drab and dingy after a few washes, the fibre too fragile to bleach and its brightness too quick to fade.
While we ( or maybe it was just me) thought that only Coke keeps their ‘composition’ under wraps,I was surprised that the chemistry that imparts the strength and whiteness of a fabric in the textile industry is a closely guarded secret!
While all fabrics of different colours have their problems, white is most difficult to stabilize. And a lot of research and technology goes into their making. If you have wondered why the white shirt is more expensive than most other clothing, it is becase the mills in India depend on American and Egyptian cotton to manufacture the pristine white for their brands. On the international standard for whiteness, our cotton ranks 145, American and Egyptian fabric 155 and 160 respectively. The gap may not seem large, but visually the difference is huge and the whiteness in their fabrics remain longer.
While we still go and choose the colour of our toothbrush with a lot of thought and care ( who ever buys a plain white toothbrush?), we do overlook brighter colours and still go in for the white in our wardrobe. Rave and rant when it gets dull with wash. Blame the dhobi, blame the detergent, blame the brand, blame the hard water.
Therefore, if you ever receive a mail from your cousin in the US who is on his way to India, asking you what you want, don't hesitate, it makes sense to ask for a white shirt!