Hemp is one of the world's strongest, most durable fibers that has been used for millennia, is easily grown, cultivated, and significantly more sustainable than any other fabric used in the fashion industry today. In this blog we look into why so many brands are transitioning to hemp fabrics and clothing, and how this one small plant is making big changes towards a brighter future.
Hemp - What is it? Where did it come from?
Hemp is a sturdy plant that is part of the Cannabaceae family, that originated in ancient China. While other plants in this family are infamous for their mind-altering properties through the content of THC, the hemp plants used for fibers do not contain the same chemical, yet are rich in CBD, which is another type of Cannabinoid that is not psycho-active, yet is extremely useful for its health benefits. The main aspect of the Hemp plant that we are looking into however, is the stalks, which contain some of the most durable and strong fibers on the planet.
Archaeologists found a remnant of hemp cloth in ancient Mesopotamia (currently Iran and Iraq) which dates back to 8,000 BC. Hemp is also believed to be the oldest example of human industry. In the Lu Shi, a Chinese work of the Sung dynasty (500 AD), we find reference to the Emperor Shen Nung (28th century BC) who taught his people to cultivate hemp for cloth. Hemp's uses over these ancient years ranged from simple things such as Paper, Cloths, Blankets, Rugs, Ropes and Bags, eventually being used to create Canvases, Paints, Oils, and Textiles. The fact that Hemp fibers can be used to create anything and everything that is made with Fossil Fuels shows that the ability of this plant far exceeds that of any other fibre used in the industry.
So where did it go?
The downfall of hemp began in the 1920's as Marijuana started to become a popular recreational drug. While from the same family of plant, smoking Hemp won't get you anywhere as it contains little to no THC. Unfortunately, due to large propaganda campaigns from the government (sponsored mainly by huge cotton corporations), and the creation of films such as "Reefer Madness", Marijuana (and by association Hemp) became linked with violence, crime, drug addiction and being a 'menace to society'.
And although it stuck around for a while, and was even encouraged to be grown on U.S Soil during WW2 when their main overseas supplier of the much needed material was cut off, the use of Hemp disappeared and was eventually banned by governments around the world, carrying heavy fines and jail time for growing, possessing or using either Marijuana or Hemp.
The resurgence of hemp
As with any banned substance, after a long period of misinformation, propaganda, and underground culture forming around it, Marijuana and Hemp eventually returned into the limelight once enough scientific studies had been conducted into its properties and uses. In 1996 Canada, California, and several other areas legalized the medicinal use of Marijuana. This was the first turning point in the cultivation of hemp once again. From here on out Hemp became slowly accepted again in mainstream society, being used in many medicines, food products and eventually textiles and clothing.
Why use Hemp?
So after using cotton for generations, why has Hemp suddenly become so popular? Well, other than the fact it is comfortable and durable, Hemp is one of the most sustainable fabrics. In a world where we have been ignorant for so long with the usage of fossil fuels, oils, plastics and other environment harming means of production, the next step towards saving the planet is changing the industry for the better. This means utilising greener and more carbon-efficient methods of production, reducing our carbon footprint and reducing the output of waste products. Thankfully, Hemp is a literal miracle fiber:
- In comparison to Cotton, Hemp uses around 4 times less the amount of water required to create the same amount of fabric
- Hemp requires only 50% of the land area to grow the same amount of fibre as Cotton
- Hemp does not require pesticides. Cotton requires a lot, which ends up damaging both crops, soil, root systems, and leaks into waterways, potentially harming wildlife
- Hemp grows much quicker than Cotton, allowing for shorter production times to create many more garments.
- Hemp is three times more tensile and flexible than Cotton
- Hemp is more breathable, more moisture-absorbant and more sun protective than Cotton
- Hemp is even antibacterial
The fact that Hemp can entirely replace Cotton is such a huge step forward in creating a more environmentally friendly and renewable fashion industry. Hemp is now also capable of being turned into bio-plastics and so many other products due to the advancements in technology and agriculture, and it is definitely leading a path to reducing carbon emissions in every aspect if the industrial world. It's not just Hemp that is running the show either. Many brands, like locals Thrills and Afends, are moving into various new sustainable fabrics such as recycled cotton, rayon, linen blends and more.
If you would like to read more you can learn about how Afends are changing their entire structure to be eco-friendly through their For The Planet Initiative.
Here you can also see how Thrills have moved into environmentally conscious fashion through their Sustainable Future Program.
We have also compiled our favourite Hemp garments into our online store which you can shop here.
Stay Healthy, Stay Happy, Stay Hemp.