Today the New York Times published an entertaining investigation into the history and secrets of glitter. A holiday staple since at least 1942, glitter is, technically, “aluminum metalized polyethylene terephthalate,” it takes 1,000 years to biodegrade, and most of the world’s supply is produced in New Jersey, at two different glitter-manufacturing companies. And although reporter Caity Weaver tried to visit each of these companies, only one — grudgingly — allowed her inside. The company (Glitterex) was secretive about its numbers, but it did reveal that the most popular glitter color “by far” is silver. (And, to remove glitter, the company’s CEO suggests using soap and water — or fabric softener sheets, “to combat the plastic’s static cling.”)
The story’s most tantalizing detail, however, is that one of the glitter industry’s biggest clients doesn’t want the public to know that it’s using glitter in the first place. Why?
As Weaver reports:
When I asked Ms. Dyer if she could tell me which industry served as Glitterex’s biggest market, her answer was instant: “No, I absolutely know that I can’t.”
I was taken aback. “But you know what it is?”
“Oh, God, yes,” she said, and laughed. “And you would never guess it. Let’s just leave it at that.” I asked if she could tell me why she couldn’t tell me. “Because they don’t want anyone to know that it’s glitter.”
“If I looked at it, I wouldn’t know it was glitter?”
“No, not really.”
“Would I be able to see the glitter?”
“Oh, you’d be able to see something. But it’s — yeah, I can’t.”
Weaver went on to ask the glitter representative if she would tell her who the client was off the record (she wouldn’t), or even off the record after the story’s publication (also no), at which point the representative leads her (unrelatedly?) to the automotive-grade pigments. Later in the piece, Weaver notes that glitter appears in items like N.F.L. helmets, credit cards, and jet ski paint jobs — and that researchers sometimes feed glitter to animals to track them “via sparkly feces.” Who isn’t using glitter?
My first guesses as to what might secretly call for massive amounts of glitter were “weapons” and “flooring.” I opened it up to Cut staff for further speculation. Who is this mysterious glitter buyer and what don’t they want us to know?
Katie Heaney, senior writer: Jewelry? Tiles? Cars? But why would cars care if we knew they had glitter?
Ella Ceron, writer: It has to be explosives.
Ruth Spencer, deputy editor: Cher.
Kelly Conaboy, writer-at-large: Maybe the moon, or God. Or hospitals. It could be NASA.
Madeleine Aggeler, staff writer: Is it a food thing?
Stella Bugbee, editor-in-chief: Toothpaste.
Emilia Petrarca, fashion news writer: Maybe it’s Elon Musk and Grimes.
KH: Computers? I still think it might be tiles.
Lisa Ryan, senior writer: I agree that computers are glittery.
KH: I think we forgot too quickly that the New York Times said that UFOs are real, and that we have their technology in our possession.
KC: Maybe the government is using glitter to build like a big mirror, and behind the mirror are all the UFOs.
I asked Weaver if she had any guesses, and she DMed me her personal theory, which honestly I also now feel obliged to keep secret, for security.