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K celebrates its 65th anniversary

Anyone who is looking for a symbol of the “economic miracle” period in the 1950s ends up sooner or later with two pleasantly shaped women’s legs, which are enclosed in thin, transparent nylon stockings. Or should they be called perlon stockings? The difference between nylon and perlon is marginal and impossible to identify when they are in use anyway. Although both materials are polyamides and both are equally tear-resistant, stretchable and temperature-resistant, they are fundamentally different all the same: while the polymer chains of nylon, which is known chemically as polyamide 6,6, consist alternately of molecules of hexamethyldiamine and adipic acid, the same molecules are linked together in perlon (polycaprolactam or polyamide 6).

Nylon stockings – symbol of the economic miracle period in the 1950s

It is important in this context to remember the historical background, which – more precisely – is the period before the beginning of the Second World War: nylon was an invention made by the American Wallace Hume Carothers in 1935; DuPont owned the patent. Perlon, on the other hand, was developed in 1937 by Paul Schlack, a German chemist who had studied the patent documentation compiled by his colleague Carothers about the production of nylon, the first completely synthetic fibre.

Whether nylon or perlon was used to make them, stocking advertising in the 1950s came to be more or less the embodiment of economic miracle aesthetics. It visualised beauty and elegance as dictated by the high society of the time, epitomised by such women as Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot or the Persian Empress Soraya. The latter had to bear a heavy burden in this context, when she was forced – at the age of just 19 years – to become Chairwoman of the Teheran women’s league for boycotting nylon stockings. Her husband Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Persia, was unable to prevent this. The idea of a nylon boycott came from Mohammed Mossadegh, who was Prime Minister of Iran at the time and hoped that this move – which he considered to be a clever one – would make the country’s foreign currency reserves, which were practically exhausted, last a little longer.

Nylons were definitely not cheap at the time. In Germany, they cost between DEM 5.90 and 12.90 per pair in 1950 – quite a luxury when the average hourly wage was only DEM 1.50 – 2. So it is no surprise that a black market developed: on 8. December 1952, one day before smog in England was to take the lives of 4,000 people, customs investigators in Lübeck exposed a smuggling ring, which was planning to supply German retailers with about 400,000 pairs of illegal nylon stockings.

K – an unparalleled trade event at all times

The selection of products and services exhibited at K has changed drastically in what is in the meantime its 65-year history: whereas the focus at K in 1952 was primarily on consumer goods, the range now extends from machines for the production and processing of plastics and rubber to raw and auxiliary materials, semi-finished products and technical components made from plastic and rubber as well as various services for the industry. A trade fair with exhibitors that were exclusively German at the start has developed into a major multicultural event with exhibitors from about 60 different countries. In 2019, i.e. in two years’ time, the industry is meeting again in Düsseldorf – for the most important showcase for the plastics and rubber industry in the world.

Guido Deußing
Source: k-online
Photo: Messe Duesseldorf