Textile Industry in Greece

Weaving in fact is connected with many other types of human activity. It is clearly linked to farming and generally with all the crops from which the raw materials come (grown cotton, grown silk, etc.). By the time of turning the raw material into yarn and woven, an object is created. If the product is a kind of household can be connected to the so-called decorative arts. If the product is intended for commercial transactions it is professional work (Tsatma, 2009).

The oldest cloth found in Greece was in Lefkandi of Evvoia and dated around 1000 BC. Ιt was a linen cloth with plain weave and a more complex woven belt. The looms that time were vertical with weights. Such weights are found in Crete and probably coexisted with other flat looms definitely been in use from time to Egypt. The vertical looms weights were used possibly to stretch the vertical yarns for weaving paper sacks.

During the Greek Classical era (500 BC – 323 BC) the doric way of clothing dominates, namely a tunic worn as a veil with its endless folds arranged in an oval pulley. Villagers wore a woolen tunic that left the shoulder uncovered. The Alexandrian (323 BC – 146 BC) and the Roman era (146 BC - 330 AC) clothing appearance remained pretty much the same but changed the materials and accessories. During these periods, the use of cotton from India and silk from China spread. The costumes become more flamboyant and combined with gold carvings. In the Byzantine era (330 a.c. - 1453 a.c) and the Ottoman era (1453-1821) the way in which tunics are woven is remarkable. Clearly influenced by the Christian faith, the textiles are woven on the loom in a frame with the shape of the cross due to the religious significance of the symbol. (Papantoniou, 2000).

The history of textiles of modern Greece is connected with the first attempts in 1870 to industrialize the country, because since the establishment of the Greek state in 1830, the country grew mainly as agricultural and commercial. Until the Second World War the main centers of the textile industry were Athens, Piraeus, Lavrio, Edessa, Naoussa, Thessaloniki, Patras and Ermoupolis of Syros. Edessa and Naoussa textile industries existed since the 18th century, thanks to the waterfalls, while Piraeus and Thessaloniki have been developed thanks to their geographical position, as ports and transshipment centers between Europe and the Middle East.

The working conditions in textile factories are appalling. 80% of employees are women and children who work at least 10 hours a day and are paid by the piece. They face various health problems from the engine noise (hearing problems), the lack of illumination (vision problems), dust from raw materials (breathing problems), high temperatures and high humidity levels. Yet despite difficult and unhealthy working conditions, the wages are very low (Ntelezou, 2006).

The strong growth in the textile sector occurred after the end of World War II with the creation of large units until 1970. Due to the civil war the textile industry is limited to urban centers (Athens and Thessaloniki) and it grows in the countryside. In Thessaloniki, the largest textile factory was established in 1908 and at the begining it produced mainly fezzes. The factory, named YFANET, although initially employed about 100 workers, it grew so much that at some point the workers were more than 550. The factory made a vertical production from yarn to blanket. For twenty years YFANET took over the exclusive supply of the Greek army with clothing items. In 1951 the factory was burned down large scale. The factory rebounded, but the large loans in combination with the difficulties of the market and a number of huge strikes in 1964 led to the permanent closure of the factory in 1967. The Greek National Bank bought the factory and sold the old equipment for iron. In 1993 the factory was marked as a historical monument, example of industrial architecture from the Ministry of Culture. In 2000 became part of the “Costakis Collection” and the plans for the ruined buildings of YFANET were to become a Museum of Contemporary Art. From 20 March of 2004 until today is occupied by ananarchist group and they use it for the needs of their community.

In the 1970s and 1980s the first problems appear in the textile industry regarding the internal demand of the market, due to the change of the  habits of the consumers. Costumes cease to be manufactured from fabrics as raw materials and people prefer to buy prêt-a-porter clothing. The heavy blow to the Greek textile industry, howeve,r was given in 1995, when the World Trade Organization adopted a new "Agreement on Textiles and Clothing", which fully releases imports and prohibits barriers. The Greek Textile industry was for decades the engine of the economic development of the country. In the 1990s, the industry exported approximately 45% of all industrial exports of the country and employed nearly 170,000 workers. In 2005, according to the Association of the Textile Industry it accounts for 15% of GDP and employs 120,000 workers. The sector of textile and clothing covers 23% of total exported goods and 47% of exported industrial products and contributes 28% to the industrial production of the country (ELINYAE, 2004).

The main cause of the textile industry crisis is undoubtedly the escalating international competition. There is a decrease in exports (which absorb a significant part of domestic production) and simultaneously there is an increase of imports, mainly from developing countries, where production costs are lower. The Greek textile industry will find itself exposed to the competition of countries with huge comparative advantage of low labor costs. The situation got even worse due to the complete liberalization of trade clothing and textiles, which started in 2005.

In our days, the widespread crisis that prevails in Greece since 2009 almost leads the Greek textile industry to extinction. Specifically, the employees in the textile industry are estimated to be around seventeen thousand (17.000), and the operating companies are estimated to be more than three hundred (300). The gross output value is more than 1.4 billion Euros and represents 4.5% of the domestic industrial production. The corresponding figures at EU level are more than two million (2.000.000) workers in about one hundred thousand (100.000) enterprises involved in the sector, with the gross value of production amounting to around 3.5% of the total industrial production EU and exports close to 35 billion Euros. (Verouli I. & Pavlaki A., 2014).


Sportswear Textile Industry

The history of sports probably coincides with the military training existence, which aimed in keeping fit and in good fighting condition. The earliest signs (15.000 BC approx.) of sport activity (sprinting and wrestling) have been found in the Lascaux caves in France. In Egypt, 4000 year-old monuments indicate that a number of sports activities (wrestling, long jump, swimming, rowing, shooting, fishing, ball games, athletics etc) had already been developed and regulated. The first time in history that sports were formally instituted was in 776BC in Olympia and the games were called Olympiads (also known today as Olympic Games). The games took place in Olympia every four years and they lasted until 393AD. In the first Olympiad consisted of a unique sprinting game.  More sport events like wrestling, long jump, javelin throw, discus and many others were added shortly afterwards. In the middle age entire villages and towns were competing to each other in rough and sometimes violent ball games like Shrovetide and mob football in England, caid in Ireland, calcio Fiorentino in Italy and many others (Wikipedia, 2016).

In each period of time and each region the sports clothing varied, for example the clothing was sometimes fancy, as “kariginu” for the ball game kemari in Japan, or very light, as in the ancient Egypt. In the early Olympic Games the athletes were wearing a light type of loincloth held up by a band that went around the athlete's waist. It is not known for sure how it is started but it is known for sure that from 720BC the athletes in Olympic Games were competing naked, as an expression of their masculinity and their strength (Swaddling, 1999). 

  In 1896 the International Olympic Committee revives the ancient Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Since then, the Olympic Games are organized every four years with a few exceptions. Olympic Games was the first global sport event and we can investigate the evolution in sportswear clothing by following the sportswear in the Olympic Games.

In the first modern Olympic Games only men could take part while women starting taking part a few years later, in the second modern Olympic Games. The outfit for men at that time was shorts and short-sleeved cotton shirts, while women wore something more “formal” and less “convenient” due to the social position of women at that time. In 1904 the usual apparel was thigh-length baggy shorts and cotton vest and in 1908 the specific apparel is part of the rules. For the marathon, competitors “must wear complete clothing from the shoulder to the knees”. In the Olympic Games of Stockholm in 1912 some women competitors demonstrate a controversial short knee-length skirt in gymnastics and women swimming events become part of the Olympic program.


 The heroism of women in World War I puts pressure to accept female competitors with respect. In 1922 the Fédération Sportive Feminine International is established and Suzanne Lenglen, a French tennis player, innovates by wearing a knee-length skirt at Wimbledon tournament. In the Olympic Games of Paris the traditional wool fabric starts to be replaced by lighter and cooler fabrics such as satin, silk and jersey cotton. Sportswear becomes fashionable and women swimsuits get more practical.

In the Australian Olympic Team in 1932 both women and men demonstrate tracksuits as patriotic official uniforms. In 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, Dassler Brothers persuade Jesse Owens to wear a pair of their track spikes. Jesse Owens won four gold medals in front of the eyes of Adolf Hitler and created a lot of attention not only for his “fist” in the medal ceremony but for his new spike-shoes. In the World War II, Dassler Brothers join the Nazi Party and after its end each brother followed his own career. The oldest brother (Adolf) creates the Adidas brand and the youngest brother (Rudolf) creates Puma brand. After World War II stretch jersey fabrics are more widely used and female sportswear converges very much to the male sportswear. 

In 50s and in 60s the rise of synthetic fabrics like elastane, spandex and lycra allows the competitors to wear more functional and fashionable sportswear. The next decade leotard shows up in women’s gymnastics and trousers begins to be the outfit for women on and off-duty. In 80s, men shorts are high-cut revealing hips and slightly baggier compared to 70s tight hotpants. Yet, elastane and spandex is used by almost all sportsmen and sportswomen. Although sponsors exist since the ancient Olympic Games, the Olympic Games in 1984 in Los Angeles were the first to be fully funded by corporations such as Puma, Nike, Adidas, Reebok etc. Teams and individuals are wearing uniforms emblazoned with their sponsors.


In 90s technology starts to get involved in athletes clothing. In 1992 in Barcelona Olympic Games trendy tracksuits are manufactured in order to keep athletes warm between their races. Yet, the athletes apparel is particularly the same for both men and women. In Sydney 2000 we see the futuristic “swiftsuit” for sprinters and “fastskin” for swimmers. The technological innovations allows greater ease of movement through the air and water, respectively. In Athens 2004 we see high-tech streamline zip-up bodysuits and in London 2012 we see huge corporations competing in sportswear. For example, Nike introduces the super aerodynamic suit for athletics “Pro TurboSpeed”. Adidas and Puma produce superlight with breathable hi-tech material running shoes specialized for each running event and Speedo creates a swimming suit which reduces drag in the water even more (Julie, 2013).

Overall we may say that in our days, sportswear is a combination of technological innovation, stylish fashionable outfit and, for a lot of people, a way of life.


Wikipedia. (2016). History of sport. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016].

Swaddling, J. (1999). The Ancient Olympic Games, 2nd edn. London.

Julie, (2013). History of Olympic Sportswear [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016].