If you’ve ever worn a wetsuit, used rubber-like oven mitts and hot pads, or put on sports equipment like knee or elbow pads, you’re probably already familiar with neoprene.
Known as the first synthetic rubber, neoprene was created in 1930 by a team of DuPont scientists, led by chemist Wallace Carothers, in response to a rising demand (and a rising cost) of rubber products.
The technical name for neoprene is polychloroprene, which is an organic compound composed mostly of hydrogen and carbon atoms. DuPont’s version was originally dubbed DuPrene. The material entered the market in 1931 for industrial use in telephone wires, insulation, hoses for vehicles, etc. DuPrene was a good alternative to natural rubber because it maintained its flexibility while also being more resistant to water, oils, and heat. There was just one problem—it smelled bad.
Throughout the 1930s, DuPont worked to eliminate the bad odor and improve the manufacturing process. By 1937, DuPont discontinued the name DuPrene, in favor of the generic name of neoprene, signifying it as a mass material rather than a branded product.
Introduction of the Neoprene Wetsuit
It wasn’t until the 1950s when companies first starting discovering the possibilities of using neoprene in wetsuits. There’s some debate over who first invented the neoprene wetsuit, but three Californians played prominent roles:
- Physicist Hugh Bradner of the University of California, Berkeley, discovered in 1951 that a suit didn’t need to be dry to offer thermal insulation.
- Jack O’Neill, founder of his Santa Cruz–based surf wear and surfboard brand O’Neill in 1952, was considered the pioneer of the wetsuit when his friend introduced him to neoprene foam.
- Twin brothers Bill and Bob Meistrell co-founded Body Glove in 1953, after designing “the first practical wetsuit.” They discovered the insulating material of neoprene as used in the back of refrigerators.
By the early 2000s, more than 300,000 tons of neoprene was manufactured every year. Today, you’ll find neoprene used in everything from wetsuits to seat covers to sports and medical equipment. Although the manufacturing process has evolved over the years—from oil-based to limestone-based rubber chips—the popularity of neoprene has remained strong.
Car Seat Covers: Neoprene vs. Neosupreme
When deciding on the best wetsuit-like material for your vehicle’s interior, there are a few considerations to take into account, with the biggest factor being your budget. Just as neoprene served as an alternative to natural rubber, neosupreme is yet another more affordable option. Both CalTrend NeoPrene and NeoSupreme car seat covers offer flexible material similar to that of a wetsuit and are water-resistant.
Neoprene is a thicker fabric that requires industrial sewing machines to stitch together. For car seat covers, this can make it more costly because of the amount of material required to properly cover all seats. The flexibility and durability of neoprene makes it the perfect material for car seat covers, offering the following characteristics:
- Strong and resistant to tears
- Water-resistant and repels spills
- Comfortable and does not irritate the skin
Neosupreme is a more affordable fabric that mimics neoprene in both aesthetics and functionality. It also offers better UV protection than neoprene. Some of its benefits include:
- Lower initial cost for the material
- Fabric has a backing making it easier to create durable stitches
- Covers have a fitted look with minimal wrinkles caused by stretching
Find the Perfect Covers
At CalTrend, we offer our customers a large variety of custom-fit seat covers to match every budget. Our products are 100% made in the U.S.A., and will fit perfectly on your vehicle’s seats. Shop by Vehicle. Neoprene is a premium-grade fabric that has a luxury and sporty feel to it.