What is Hemp?
The hemp plant is a strain of the cannabis sativa plant that is typically grown for industrial purposes. There are many uses for the hemp plant, including the production of the following materials: paper, textiles, oils, clothing, biodegradable plastics, biofuel, insulation, paint, food, animal food, and more. The hemp plant is one of the oldest plants to ever be cultivated, with archeological discoveries tracing back to 5,000 BC. In ancient China, people used hemp to make pottery, clothing, paper, and rope. George Washington grew hemp for industrial purposes and pushed for its use as a cash crop. In fact, many former presidents, including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, grew hemp!
Is Hemp the same as Marijuana?
No. Although hemp and marijuana both derive from the cannabis sativa family, they are two very different plants. Hemp has leaves that appear shiny and lean compared to marijuana leaves. The biggest difference between the two is chemical composition – – specifically levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana contains levels of up to 30% of the psychoactive chemical THC, while the hemp plant contains less than .3%. In other words, hemp won’t get you high. However, hemp does contain high amounts of CBD. Hemp-CBD concentrates have grown highly in popularity lately due to their medical benefits.
Despite these differences, the hemp plant was banned from commercial cultivation in the 1950’s by the United States federal government. The ban has been attributed mainly to the anti-marijuana craze of the 1950’s. People in the United States were allowed to make things out of hemp, but they would have to import the raw materials from other countries where growth was legal. In 2019, it is legal to grow hemp in 36 states. As federal regulations loosen and state laws change, the increase in United States hemp cultivation is rising every year.
What are the benefits of using the hemp plant to make clothing?
As laws continue to change and hemp cultivation continues to grow, there is no doubt that the fashion industry will be affected. Hemp has been used to make clothing since before the Bible was written (in fact, some of the oldest and finest Bible paper we have today is hemp-based). Federal law has been the only barrier between clothing production and the hemp plant. However, now that legalization is widely-spreading, will clothing manufacturers turn back to the hemp plant? The answer is yes. There are many significant benefits to creating clothing out of hemp.
#1. Hemp Clothing is Comfortable
Hemp clothing has a very soft feel to it, yet it is a very durable fabric. Are you sick of your clothes being ruined after a few trips through the washer and dryer? Hemp clothing tends to get softer after many trips through the washer and dryer. Therefore, hemp clothing actually gets more comfortable over time! Hemp clothing is ideal for both summer and winter wear. The long, tough fibers of hemp stalk provides an excellent insulation property while retaining breathability, keeping wearers warm in cold weather, yet cool in warm weather.
#2. Hemp Clothing is Durable and Protective
Hemp fibers are actually three times stronger than cotton fibers. This means that a T-shirt or a pair of pants made from hemp fibers is very likely to last longer than a T-shirt or a pair of pants made from cotton fibers. While cotton clothing weakens in the wash, hemp clothing does not. Hemp clothing is more practical to wear than other types of clothing while working tough jobs or playing sports because it is durable and tough. It is a fabric that will withstand wear and tear like no other fabric.
Hemp clothing also protects the skin from harmful UV-rays. Even the thinnest layers of hemp will protect your skin from the sun. Hemp’s tough fibers resist bacterial growth, which eliminates unwanted odors. The tough fibers of the hemp plant also absorb water very easily. This means hemp clothing will dry faster. It also means that hemp clothing will retain its colors better than any other types of clothing. So, the colors of your hemp clothing won’t fade so easily in the wash. Also, hemp makes for great tye dye material!
#3. Hemp is Eco-friendly
Hemp has the rare quality of being pest-resistant. This means that no pesticides are needed in order to cultivate hemp. This is huge! Pesticides are poisons that damage more than just the pests they are designed to repel. They contaminate water, soil, and vegetation, killing many undesired victims such as beneficial insects, birds, fish, and other plants. Pesticides have been linked to diseases such as respiratory problems and cancer. Growing cotton requires the use of pesticides. Why not switch to hemp and eliminate the use of poisons? People who are sensitive to chemicals might find great utility in switching to hemp clothing.
Hemp also uses very little water. Cotton uses about 50% more water per season than hemp in the growth process. When you include the processing aspect of the equation into the mix, cotton requires approximately four times the amount of water that hemp requires. Hemp can generally just grow from rainfall (depending on the area) and requires no additional water.
Magically, hemp actually returns about 65-70% of the nutrients it takes from soil. Cotton, on the other hand, depletes nutrients from its soil rather rapidly.
Hemp actually eliminates large amounts of carbon dioxide per acre. Proponents of global warming favor the hemp plant for this reason.
#4. Hemp is Sustainable
Hemp can be grown in a wide variety of climates and soil types. In other words, hemp can be grown just about anywhere in the world. Also, farmers can grow large amounts of hemp in very small spaces. Why is this important? Well, it is just more proof that hemp is a logical and beneficial alternative to clothing production. As our world population rises, we have more people that need to be clothed. Cotton production, which requires the use of pesticides, continues to do more and more damage to the environment. Whether you believe in global warming or not, I think it is agreeable that damage to the environment is not good. So why not use a plant that actually eliminates carbon dioxide? We can grow large amounts of hemp all over the world and actually benefit the environment for a change!
#5. Hemp Clothing is Fashionable and Trendy
The hippies have made a comeback! Go to areas like Seattle, San Francisco, or Portland, and you will see a large culture, filled with people wearing hemp clothing. The truth is, these days, caring about the environment is cool. Caring about your own personal health is trendy. This is why we see gluten-free, organic, low-sugar, and low-fat options on the shelves of our grocery stores for higher prices.
Hemp is associated with good personal health. Dietary supplements containing hemp extracts promote solid protein sources, unsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids), fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Hemp is associated with CBD, which is vastly growing in popularity due to its many health benefits. Hemp is also associated with a healthy environment.
Hemp clothing is no different and is very trendy right now for these same reasons. Clothing manufacturers have noticed this trend, and they are capitalizing on it! These days, we see more and more clothing companies selling hemp clothing. As legalization spreads and hemp clothing becomes cheaper to produce, this trend will only continue to rise!