Hemp has slowly lost its stigma as marijuana has become legal. However it is still considered a pretty hippie dippy fabric, and definitely what you expect to see worn by your Great Aunt who owns an organic farm in Vermont.
Surprisingly enough, hemp is an amazing sustainable fabric! Probably one of the best sustainable textiles available.
I jumped into writing this blog post because I found WAMA underwear a fabulous hemp underwear company! Who doesn’t want an antibacterial, organic and environmentally friendly underwear?
(I am totally writing this in my WAMA undies right now)
Don’t get it twisted, hemp is not the same as marijuana! Hemp textile is made from the same plant, cannabis sativa, slightly different plant than marijuana, it is not going to get you high, unfortunately. The textile is created using the fibers from along the outside of the plant. It creates a durable fiber that is tough and resilient.
Hemp fabric has been around almost as long as linen! Dating back to 8,000 BC hemp was used in Asia and the Middle East in paper and thick textiles like canvas, rope, and sailcloth. How did a fabric that has been used around the world disappear around the 1800s?
Hemp became used less because of the growing cotton industry and the rise of prohibition in the 1930s. As weed has become legalized in the US and around the world, hemp textiles have resurfaced as a super crop and fiber.
Is it Sustainable?
Umm is it?! It’s like a super crop! It can be cultivated within 100 days.
First of all, hemp needs one third about the amount of water that cotton needs, and can produce two to three times more fiber than an acre of cotton. Already beating out organic cotton and most other textiles! Hemp doesn’t need herbicides or pesticides to grow, and even detoxifies the soil while adding nitrogen and oxygen.
So that is the advantages of the crop, hemp textiles themselves are pretty spectacular! Hemp is hypoallergenic. It is also UV protected, antibacterial, breathable and absorbant. It is basically all the best textiles rolled into one crop. Because it grows so easily and so fast, with little water and pollution, why has hemp not caught on yet?
Is there a Downside?
Honestly, there is no miracle crop, hemp is pretty close but nothing is perfect. Hemp can wrinkle easily, very similar to linen, and does not absorb color very well. Which is why hemp is usually blended with other textiles. If you want to keep it green look for hemp blended with certified natural textiles, like organic cotton.
Consumers also need to be aware that they should be looking for certified hemp. Like the GOTS certified hemp that WAMA uses in their underwear! This ensures that there are no nasty chemicals being used to grow your fabrics and all the natural advantages of hemp can be utilized!
Hemp has struggled to grow as a textile as it is grown only in a select few areas. As I’m sure we are all aware, marijuana is illegal and only just recently has started to be legalized around the world. This has limited where the hemp plant is allowed to be grown industrially, most hemp for clothes is grown in China or India. In the US, Colorado is just starting to grow industrial hemp as a crop, it would be a fantastic new industry for the US!
I feel like I am listing the benefits of hemp but it really is a textile crop that might be able to change the fashion industry. Look for clothes that use hemp, see how you like this miracle textile and support the hemp industry to grow!
If you want further articles about textiles, check out further articles like on bamboo, lyocell or linen.