For over a century, every last bit of paper money that's circulated around the United States has come from just one single supplier, Crane & Co. But as The Washington Post found out, that century of loyalty was almost for naught when the 90s came along and brought with it a new menace to American currency; Crane had to overhaul their entire production process thanks to none other than lycra-laced, skin-tight denim.
Since the late 1800s, when Crane came on as the go-to paper money supplier for the US, the company had been depending on unwanted scraps of denim sold in bulk by manufacturers in the garment industry. To turn that denim into the cotton-blend paper we stick in our wallets, the company would bleach and process the discarded scraps, ultimately getting about 30 percent of the fibers needed from that denim. Now, thirty percent may not sound like that much, but those scraps were the single largest source of cotton for Crane. Until the hipster descended upon the country, that is.
As soon as designers realized that you could blend spandex and denim to create skin-tight jeans that held up and had some give where it counts (re: American waistlines), they took the new technique and ran with it. Today, it's incredibly rare to find jeans anywhere that are actually 100 percent pure Grade A denim.
As The Washington Post learned from Jerry Rudd, managing director of global sourcing for Crane:
Even a single fiber of spandex can ruin a batch of currency paper, degrading the strength of the material. But separating the spandex from the cotton would be a Herculean task, Rudd said. By the early 2000s, almost every pair of jeans contained at least a hint of stretch — rendering them useless to Crane.
Now, instead of reusing scrapped denim, the (literal) money makers have to go straight to "the natural fiber" itself. No longer able to purchase recyclable bits, Crane now has to buy their cotton from raw distributors. Still, it's too bad they couldn't find a way to incorporate a bit of spandex into our currency. In this economy, you've got to stretch a dollar any way you can. [The Washington Post]