For nearly 10,000 years hemp has been used as a fiber for clothing. Did you know that the first Levi Strauss jeans were made from hemp?
Hemp fabric is stronger, lasts longer, and just as soft as cotton! Hemp fibers do not break down as quickly and easily as cotton when exposed to sunlight, weather, and washing.
Hemp is one of the world’s strongest natural fibers. The oldest hemp fabric was found in tombs dated to approximately 8000 years ago.
Hemp prohibition had a hand in allowing hemp to fall to the wayside. It was replaced with chemical-based synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester. So, why did cotton, a natural fiber itself, continue to be popular? Two reasons : it did not have the negative stigma attached to it like hemp did (it was less controversial), and it was a well-established industry.
Cotton is a very water-intensive and chemical-intensive crop. Cotton is one of the dirtiest crops grown today. When I say ‘dirty’, I mean it uses huge amounts of pesticides (nearly 20% of the chemical pesticides used on the earth is used on cotton).
“Cotton growers typically use many of the most hazardous pesticides on the market including aldicarb, phorate, methamidophos and endosulfan. Cotton pesticides are often broad spectrum organophosphates–pesticides originally developed as toxic nerve agents during World War II–and carbamate pesticides.
Pesticides used on cotton– even when used according to instructions– harm people, wildlife and the environment. These pesticides can poison farm workers, drift into neighboring communities, contaminate ground and surface water and kill beneficial insects and soil micro-organisms.” (www.panna.org)
“Aldicarb, parathion, and methamidopho, three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides to human health as determined by the World Health Organization, rank in the top ten most commonly used in cotton production. All but one of the remaining seven most commonly used are classified as moderately to highly hazardous (1).
Aldicarb, cotton’s second best selling insecticide and most acutely poisonous to humans, can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin, yet it is still used in 25 countries and the US, where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater (1)” (www.ota.com)
Cotton is also water intensive, depending on the area that it is grown in.
Hemp, however, is a clean crop. It does not require pesticides and herbicides, and demands less water than cotton.
Hemp fibers are as soft, or softer than cotton, warmer, more absorbent, and more durable.
“As a fabric, hemp provides all the warmth and softness of other natural textiles but with a superior durability seldom found in other materials. Natural organic hemp fiber ‘breathes’ and is biodegradable.” (organicclothingblogs.com)
Hemp is also a natural choice for people who have problems with chemical sensitivity.
“A new fiber derived from the part of hemp plants typically discarded offers numerous environmental and performance benefits over cotton and is being tested by Hanesbrands.
The Crailar fibers look, fit, dye, wash and are soft like cotton, but they also shrink less, are stronger and hold dyes longer, said Ken Barker, CEO of Naturally Advanced Technology (NAT). Yarns and fabrics made from the fibers can even be processed on existing cotton machines.” (greenbiz.com)
Will Hanes and other companies include hemp in their clothing products? That remains to be seen. But the great thing is that hemp fiber is being considered.
Perhaps one day hemp fabrics will be back in the mainstream again, along with hemp farming.