Hemp fibres have served us to produce hemp clothing for centuries. And in contrast to earlier times, when hemp clothing was inconvenient and coarse, the technological advancements of the industrial revolution made hemp clothing much more soft and comfortable. Despite the fact that hemp clothing is superior to any other clothing material, it is still little established, with cotton and synthetic fibres remaining the main materials that are used in textile production.
The history of hemp
Hemp is possibly one of the earliest cultivated crops in the history of humankind, yet it lost its role as an environmentally friendly material for hemp clothing, hemp plastic, hemp paper, hemp building elements, cordage, jewellery and even biodiesel due to the negative stigma which came along with the nation-wide prohibition of hemp and marijuana that came into force amidst the twentieth century. However, it didn’t prevent the United States from extensively using hemp during World War II to make uniforms, canvasses and ropes.
The environmental harm of cotton
Hemp could make a perfect, environmentally friendly and sustainable substitute for cotton and synthetic fibres, which both shelter several hazards. Cotton, for example, is frequently grown in monoculture and is a very pesticide-intensive crop. Despite the fact that cotton is only grown on 2.5 percent of the world’s agricultural land, it uses up 16 percent of all the insecticides and 6.8 percent of all herbicides used worldwide, according to the organic cotton organization.
The main dangers lie in the pollution of rivers and groundwater and the arising of resistances by the pests. What’s more, the chemicals also interfere significantly with the ecosystem and kill the natural enemies of the pests. As a consequence, minor pests can become major, as has already happened in China. But not only that, cotton cultivation requires immense amounts of water irrigation, which leads to soil salinization and degradation of soil fertility in dry areas. Aral Lake in Central Asia is already continuously drying up, although it is one of the largest inland waters of the world.
Today’s world is facing major challenges in regard to environmental issues such as climate change. Nevertheless, the clothing industry still sticks to cotton production which also contributes to climate change. The production of industrial fertilizers releases big amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Additionally, the excessive use of nitrates on agricultural land leads to nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more frightful than CO2 when it comes to global warming.
Alternative clothes such as polyester, nylon, acryl, etc are synthetic fibres which are not biodegradable. The mass-produced, synthetic products of today’s capitalistic and consumerist world are accompanied by too little concern for the consequences for the home to all of the known living beings: the earth.
Related: Hemp Use-Cases: Unlimited?
Therefore, it is even odder that hemp was abolished as an environmentally friendly, biodegradable, cheap, organic and easily cultivated crop, which could reduce the negative effects of the main parts of the global industry. In fact, hemp can be used for several clothes and accessories, such as shirts, pants, trousers, jackets, dresses, hats, shoes, flip-flops, bags, belts, wallets and even ski goggles and sunglasses.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg, as hemp apparel brings numerous benefits with it. This makes it extremely interesting for many consumers, even for those who are not seeking out chemical-free, organic hemp because of their chemical sensitivities.
In particular, hemp clothing naturally possesses many other excellent qualities that people seek out when purchasing clothing, such as versatility, long-lasting colour, durability, a high comfort level and even wrinkle-free perks.
Hemp apparel is not subject to colour loss
The content of hemp fibre absorbs water easily due to its porous nature. Therefore the colours are less likely to dry out, which, in turn, creates long-lasting colours for long-lasting wear. Cross your heart, what’s worse than a good looking print falling apart?
Hemp is a multifaceted material
Hemp might not be the softest material, but it can still be sewn together with other materials to make it more comfortable. Furthermore, hemp can be worn conveniently in both winter and summer due to the fact that it is breathable in the summer and insulating in the winter. This makes hemp apparel an all-season preferred choice.
Hemp clothes soften over time
As the hemp material softens as it gets washed due to its water absorbing characteristics, the clothes are less likely to wrinkle, which makes it especially great for travelling.
What else makes hemp a better alternative?
In contrast to synthetic fibres and cotton, hemp is way less harmful to our environment. Regular clothes contain micro-plastics, which are very dangerous for the environment since they contain toxic chemicals. According to the Guardian, a study found that a single clothes wash may release 700,000 microplastic fibres. This contaminates and pollutes the oceans’ water. Tiny plastic particles released by synthetic fabrics can be a serious threat to marine life when they infiltrate rivers and oceans. Recent studies found that these microplastics are even found in our food, especially in seafood.
To make matters worse, the most common used cloth, cotton, requires the largest amount of water for its preparation, followed by different synthetic fibres. The cotton plant needs about 50 percent more water per season than hemp, which can grow with little irrigation. Additionally, if you add processing into the equation, cotton requires more than four times as much water as hemp.
Contrary to hemp, whose farmers do not have to spray their hemp crops with pesticides, insecticides or synthetic fertilizers, the global cotton industry accounts for 5.6 percent of global pesticide sales.
What’s more, cotton is said to need approximately twice as much territory as hemp per ton of finished textile. In fact, one acre of hemp generally produces around 1500 pounds of fibre, which is more than three times the amount of cotton that can be grown in the same space. Hemp crops are also fast-growing and can be cultivated on the same ground for many years in a row without depleting the soil or reducing the yield of the crop.
Hemp fabric is a natural antimicrobial
Hemp fibre is naturally antibacterial and mould resistant. In fact, Hemp fibre is highly resistant to rotting, and its resistance to mildew, mould and salt water led to its premier use in marine fittings: the majority of all twine, rope, sails, rigging and nets up to the late 19th century were made from hemp. The word canvas itself is derived from cannabis. Hemp clothes are also said to be resistant to moths and other insects.
A 2014 review done by the North Carolina State University addressed the conclusion of a 2008 study which revealed that certain cannabinoids found in hemp fibres effectively fought a ‘variety of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains’. This same NCSU review went on to examine another 2009 study that tested the same hemp cannabinoids against E. coli and microflora and discovered the same anti-bacterial effect.
Thus, hemp attire can have natural antimicrobial properties, which can significantly reduce unpleasant body odour that gets released when sweat breaks out of the skin.
Hemp cloth is very durable
Hemp cloth is very resilient to long-term use due to the robust and strong nature of the fibres. When buying clothes, you want to have long-lasting items which are not getting thinner with each washing. Hemp provides long-lasting and quality-maintaining attire.
But there is more to this. Hemp clothing becomes more convenient over time so that it is even more comfortable than when first purchased.
Hemp is superior to commonly used cotton and synthetic fibres in many ways, but especially in regard to the ecological footprint. Hemp deserves more attention when it comes to our fashion industry. As the cannabis industry matures, we might see more textile fabrics jumping on the bandwagon and making the world a better place with hemp.