Plastic-coated collars and cuffs were a major use for the plastic 'Xylonite' in the late 1880s

The Impermeable Collar and Cuff Company had its factory on Bower Road in Hackney Wick – and in October 1887 signed an agreement with Homerton-based British Xylonite Company to use their new plastic ‘Xylonite’ or cellulose nitrate in the production of collars and cuffs.

At the time the numbers of office workers in London was growing rapidly and shirts with detachable collars and cuffs were common work wear – the detachable collars/cuffs meant that these items could be laundered separately, and the shirt body could have more uses before cleaning. Some companies innovated with coating fabric collars and cuffs in ‘Xylonite’, the first plastic; the plasticised collars were easier to clean – possibly even ‘wipe-clean’. However, as it was also extremely flammable it would have been risky for smokers!

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