If you want to know about the history of seat covers, you just need to look at the evolution of cars themselves. As automobiles have advanced, their styles have changed considerably. Not only have the mechanics of the seat changed, but so did their shape and the style. Rather than bench seats that are little more than thin foam on top of wood, we now have sophisticated seats that are made to hug your body and offer multiple points of support.
Here’s a look at how seat covers have changed with the history of cars over the last century:
1920s and 1930s
Early cars were very basic. They had plain seats with square backs and square bottoms. There was no tapering, and there were no special mechanisms for adjusting the seats. That made them easier to cover, for sure.
The earliest car seat covers were basic pieces of fabric that had buckles on the sides. The cover folded over the seat and buckled at the bottom or the back. They didn’t offer full coverage, and they were very basic in their design. You wouldn’t have found a lot of colors, let alone any patterns or fabric choices. The first seat-cushion cover was patented in the United States in 1927 by Maurice Aaron. The first genuine seat cover was invented just five years later in 1932.
1940s to 1960s
After World War II, cars finally got bucket seats, which were a bit more comfortable and a lot more stylish. The seat covers that were made for bucket seats had a heavy, cloth-like fabric that was designed to protect the seat fabric from wear and tear. The covers basically wrapped around the seat bottom and back, and they buckled in the same way as previous covers. However, they did get more choices in terms of both color and pattern. Gingham and plaid car seat covers were especially popular.
In 1969, pockets were added to automobiles, and thus, to seat covers. The covers had pockets on the seat backs, giving rear passengers space to store things like books, flashlights, sunglasses, or maps.
Automotive design and technology saw some advancements in the 1970s, including the introduction of the reclining seat. The seats also had more contours for greater comfort and support. Car seat cover desigs evolved to strap snugly to the seat and remain wrinkle-free during reclining seat movements.
Towards the end of the decade, it was popular for luxury cars to have plush, tufted interiors or patent leather. Bright colors were preferred, no matter the fabric choice, and the same held true for car seat covers.
In the 1980s, seat covers finally got away from the buckles and straps that sometimes limited their ease of use or hampered their fit. The first car seat cover made with elastic was introduced in 1983, and it provided a tighter fit on a variety of seat styles. Perhaps coincidentally, seat covers also became much more popular during this decade.
As seat covers became more popular, it also became more common for people to show off their unique sense of style. There were so many colors and patterns available, but bright colors continued to be popular. Neon colors and animal prints were especially popular. However, a subset of people were also embracing cloth covers in neutral colors.
The popularity of car seat covers exploded during the 1990s. Either in response to this popularity or fueling it, a number of changes were made to car seat covers to improve their design and use. For example, covers included adjustments for seat back supports. They had attachable beach towels. There were even custom fasteners on some seat covers, which could be chosen to suit your lifestyle.
Adjustable fabrics were also introduced in the 1990s, but no matter the fabric used, car seat covers had a number of design choices. Particularly popular were beaded seat covers, which were more stylish than protective or comfortable. Corduroy was also a popular fabric choice during this decade.
Fabric choices for car seat covers advanced considerably in the 2000s. Car seat cover fabrics could be chosen for comfort or functionality, including the ability to protect seats from spills and stains. Both hydrophobic and waterproof fabrics were introduced for car seat covers in this decade.
Leather saw a resurgence of popularity for car seat covers during this time. Many enjoyed its sophisticated yet timeless look. Car interiors also saw the return of high-back seats with wings for a sportier style, so car seat covers that could fit these seats well returned also.
In the current decade, we are seeing the most advanced technology and design for car seat covers, which matches the changes we’re seeing in the automotive industry, as well. Some of the most recent developments for car seat covers include temperature-controlled fabrics and covers that have their own lumbar support, independent of what the car’s own seating offers.
Neutral colors are very popular for seat covers today, as many people want the covers for practical reasons and not style. In keeping with that trend, neoprene and waterproof fabrics are also popular. However, seats with dual tones or other racing-inspired themes are also popular, giving some people a bit of room for expression while still sticking to a practical orientation.
Whatever type of car seat cover you need, and whatever style you like, you can find it at Seat Covers Unlimited. We have seat covers for just about every type of seat, and we have hundreds of colors and patterns in all types of fabric choices. We’ve got popular choices like neoprene, sheepskin, tweed, and more. Browse our online gallery to find the perfect seat covers for your vehicle. You may even decide to order a few sets so you have some flexibility when you want to change your style.