Throughout the early industrial era, textiles and their raw materials occupied much the same economic role as petroleum today. Historical events like the American Civil War and the colonization of India would have played out very differently if people were happy to run around naked.
Fabrics are no longer the pillar of the global economy, but they're still a major industry. In addition to finding ways of making them cheaper, more durable, more attractive, and so forth, textile engineers work to create advanced materials. Nanotechnology and bioengineering both intersect with textile engineering. Another field that's gaining increasing attention is the recycling of garments: "fashion waste" is a surprisingly huge problem that some textile engineers are endeavoring to solve.
A bachelor's degree in textile engineering typically includes foundational courses in science and mathematics. Specialist subjects, including production engineering, material science, biomedical engineering, and textile chemical engineering build on these.
Students are encouraged to specialize, as textile engineering is a broad, multidisciplinary field with applications in numerous industries. If you study this as a major, you may end up working on "smart" fabrics, renewable energy sources, advanced filtration systems, or business analytics with a focus on process improvements.
Though textile engineers are certainly valued in the workplace, they generally aren't considered to be "real" engineers like those working in civil, mechanical, and other more traditional disciplines. Undergraduate textile engineering courses recognized by ABET (the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) are few and far in between, both in the U.S. and Europe. This may make it difficult to obtain a state license as a professional engineer or apply for an advanced degree in some other field of engineering.