In the fashion industry, one trend that is making a significant and lasting impact is the use of hemp in clothing. In response to the environmental crisis fueled by the fashion industry, which was reported to be responsible for 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions in 2019, designers and consumers are increasingly turning to hemp as a sustainable alternative to traditional fabrics.
Hemp, a crop with deep historical roots and recent technological transformation, is now re-emerging as a key player in the quest for eco-friendly fashion alternatives. It requires less water and land to grow than cotton, and it doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides. Additionally, the fibers are stronger and more durable than cotton fibers, making hemp clothing more long-lasting and less likely to end up in landfills.
The Historical Context of Hemp Clothing
Hemp’s journey in clothing dates back thousands of years, making it one of the earliest materials used by humans. However, its decline in the fashion industry was the result of various factors, including legal restrictions, competition from synthetic fibers and cotton, and a general shift away from natural fibers.
The recent resurgence in hemp clothing is a welcome development. This revival can be attributed to a number of factors, including a greater awareness of sustainable practices, a reevaluation of its benefits as a textile, and a growing recognition of the fashion industry’s environmental impact.
Modern fashion brands are finding a viable solution in hemp, a material that marries sustainability with functionality. It is a strong, durable, and breathable fiber that can be used to create a wide variety of clothing items. But why now?
Why Hemp is Gaining Popularity Now
The revival of hemp in the fashion industry is not a mere coincidence. It’s a result of several converging factors, each playing a crucial role in re-establishing it as a preferred material for clothing.
- Environmental Awareness: Consumers are now more conscious than ever about the ecological footprint of their clothing choices. Hemp offers an attractive solution due to its minimal environmental impact, which positions it as an ideal choice for environmentally conscious consumers.
- Technological Advancements: Early on, hemp fabrics were often criticized for their roughness and lack of comfort. However, recent innovations have led to the development of hemp fabrics that are not only soft and comfortable but also stylish and versatile. These technological improvements have broadened its appeal, making it a popular choice for a wide range of consumers.
- Celebrity Influence: The role of celebrities in popularizing hemp clothing cannot be understated. High-profile endorsements have played a significant role in bringing it into the mainstream fashion consciousness.
There are major benefits to hemp that make it a stand-out option among other fabrics, and while it is not as widely adopted as some other materials, it is growing in popularity. However, there are both pros and cons to clothing made out of the material.
The Pros and Cons of Hemp Clothing
Hemp clothing comes with its set of advantages and disadvantages, and a proper understanding is required for consumers to make informed decisions about their fashion (and sustainability) choices. Advantages include:
- Sustainability: As a crop, it’s incredibly efficient, requiring less water and land than cotton. It also grows rapidly and produces a high yield of fiber per acre, making it an environmentally friendly choice for clothing.
- Durability: It is stronger than cotton and more resistant to wear and tear. This natural strength extends the lifespan of hemp clothing, making it a smart investment for consumers looking for long-lasting apparel.
- Comfort and Versatility: The comfort provided by hemp clothing, thanks to its breathability and moisture-wicking properties, is ideal for a variety of climates and activities. Furthermore, its hypoallergenic nature makes it suitable for sensitive skin.
Hemp also exhibits versatility due to its ability to blend with other fabrics, creating a range of textures and styles for diverse fashion needs. However, there are also disadvantages to this fabric, including:
- Cost Considerations: Hemp apparel tends to be more expensive than cotton counterparts due to its limited production and processing. As the demand increases and the market expands, the cost is likely to go down.
- Wrinkling Tendency: It tends to wrinkle more easily compared to other fabrics.
- Comfort: Hemp clothing can be rough to the touch, especially when it is new. It does become softer with each wash.
- Availability: It is not as widely available as clothing made from other materials since it is a relatively new crop in the fashion industry.
Hemp clothing can also have some specific disadvantages depending on the way it is processed. For example, some hemp fabrics are treated with harsh chemicals to make them softer and more wrinkle-resistant. These chemicals can be harmful to the environment and your health.
It is important to choose hemp clothing that has been processed in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. Below are some trusted brands to start your journey.
Spotlight on Brands Championing Hemp
The increasing use of hemp in clothing is not just a trend among small, niche brands. Major players in the fashion industry are also embracing this sustainable material. Several brands are at the forefront of integrating hemp into their products, each contributing to the material’s growing popularity in unique ways.
WAMA Underwear is one example. The brand focuses on creating comfortable, stylish underwear from hemp and other materials, such as its mens boxer briefs. The latest version of the brand’s Hemp Boxer Briefs are made with 53% hemp, 44% organic cotton, and 3% spandex for a comfortable fit and feel.
In the case of WAMA, it’s not just adding hemp to say they did. It creates a product that is not only soft but durable, with a high-quality feel that is made to last. Just make sure to get something a bit on the larger side of things.
Outdoor apparel giant Patagonia incorporates hemp into its Workwear and other clothing lines, emphasizing both sustainability and durability. Meanwhile, Levi’s, a household name in denim, has introduced Cottonized Hemp into its products.
Other brands include ONNO’s hemp T-shirts, Sanuk’s hemp-infused footwear, and many others. As the fabric becomes more mainstream, expect to see more small and large brands alike utilizing the durable, sustainable material.
Spencer Hulse is the Editorial Director at Grit Daily. He is responsible for overseeing other editors and writers, day-to-day operations, and covering breaking news.