A couple of years ago, Cotton Incorporated started noticing negative comments on Web sites of apparel brands and retailers.  Not only were apparel products not meeting customer expectations in several categories, but they were costing more too.

Cotton Incorporated compiled and quantified the comments and determined that much of the customer dissatisfaction could be explained by fiber substitution– cotton fiber was being replaced by polyester and other fibers after cotton prices spiked to historically high levels in 2010-11.

Consumers not happy with non-cotton fibers in denim

Most of the complaints were focused on denim jeans. Here is a sampling of the comments. For more on fiber substitution, visit www.cottonornothing.com. Customers also rated the product between 1 and 5, where 5 is the highest degree of satisfaction.

Men’s denim jeans, $58, cotton and polyester, February 2011, customer rating, 1 out of 5.“I’ve been buying this style jean for years, but the two I just bought (one black and one blue) were terrible. The denim was as thin as paper. And I don't mean it was light weight denim for the summer; I mean it was so thin that I think elevated cotton prices have forced (the brand) to cut quality to save money. My bed sheets are thicker. Also, the legs were cut much narrower than the normal style has ever been and the waist band in the back was way too big. Horrible quality and badly cut. Stay away from these.”

Women’s denim jeans, $10.80, 68 percent cotton, 19 percent polyester, 12 percent rayon and 1 percent spandex. May 2012, customer rating, 1 out of 5. “I purchased, washed and then wore these jeans and kept wondering while I was in my car and on my way to work “what is that smell?” I was mortified when a coworker told me flat out, ‘you stink!’ Went out on my break and bought a pair of pants and threw the stinky jeans in the trash.”

Women’s denim jeans, $40, 88 percent cotton, 10 percent polyester, 2 percent spandex, March 2012, customer rating, 1 out of 5. “I’m thinking of writing a real letter on paper to express my disappointment in these jeans. I tried them on immediately and they fit beautifully, just like (the brand) of years’ past. They are really nicely cut, although way too long. I washed and dried them as directed, put them on feeling really good, and within an hour they had stretched out to ridiculous proportions. I could take them off and put them back on without undoing the fly! They were huge and baggy, and I felt like a rodeo clown by the end of the day. Maybe a size smaller would have worked better, but I doubt it. It surprises me that (the retailer) has turned such a blind ear to this problem. I won’t be buying any more until they return to 100 percent cotton. I would return them if I could, but because they fooled me out of the package I doubt I’ll get my money back. I’ll send them back anyway. I can’t possibly wear them.”

Women’s denim jeans, $49.99, 42 percent Tencel (lyocell), 33 percent cotton, 15 percent rayon, 1 percent lycra, January 2013, customer rating, 1 out of 5. “I loved these jeans, probably too much. I bought one pair and upon putting them on, I noticed the back of them had shredded. Thank goodness I noticed this before I left home. I returned them, and the second pair did the exact same thing. I am most unhappy about this problem as they were my favorite pair of jeans and the color was perfect.”

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