The History of Hemp
Almost everyone owns a pair of jeans. But if you were to ask a person what the original Levi Strauss jeans were made of, most would get it wrong. While cotton may be your first thought that’s incorrect. The first pair of iconic Levi’s were actually made from a long-forgotten fiber: hemp.
Yes, hemp used to be mainstream. Durable and sturdy garments were made with thick hemp canvas until the 1930s. Hemp production was banned throughout the United States in 1937, with the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act. Largely spurred by an anti-Mexican sentiment spurred by racism against Mexican immigrants who brought Marijuana with them to the US.
Marijuana and hemp are varieties of cannabis that developed due to selective breeding: Hemp for its fiber and marijuana for its narcotic components. While the two look and smell-alike, they are chemically and structurally different.
Despite this, this led to the spread of Anti-Hemp propaganda in the US. The result was a freeze on hemp farms for decades. Only recently has hemp come back into circulation, thanks to the Farm Bill of 2018, which lifted the ban on the plant. That’s right around when the fashion industry started taking action to improve its disastrous effect on the environment.
This was no coincidence. Considered by Mara Hoffman to be “one of the most environmentally friendly fabrics,” hemp’s comeback was just in time. A natural, biodegradable fiber that has been around for centuries, hemp has been a recurring material in the brand’s product assortments since its first introduction in their Spring 2018 collection, thanks to its environmental advantages compared to other natural fibers.
What’s so great about hemp
“Hemp is naturally resistant to pests, requires relatively little water, and grows quickly. Hemp is a sister plant, meaning it replenishes the soil for the crops around it and is ideal for crop rotation” – Mara Hoffman shared. It also has a high yield, meaning it can produce more fiber per acre than other crops.
It’s amazing how a plant that takes so few natural resources can provide so much use. Every part of the plant has potential market value. The stalk’s fiber can make textiles, insulation, and ropes; its hurds can create papers and boards. Hemp seeds are a great source of nutrition that comes in various forms, from cooking oil and salad dressings to protein powder. The plant’s roots, leaves, and flowers are also suitable for compost and have been known and cultivated for their medicinal properties for centuries.
When it comes to hemp fashion, there is no compromise. At first, hemp clothes may feel rough. But they soften with each wash and wear and eventually feel like new linen. They wrinkle less and last longer than any other natural fibers. Lastly, hemp is also more accessible and affordable because it is such a low-maintenance plant. It also means that hemp is a good first introduction if you want to convert a friend into an ally for sustainable fashion.
Here are seven hemp Fashion alternatives that you can consider swapping now
While the rest of this list is more “essential” items, Mara Hoffman proves that hemp can give us a WOW moment as well!
This decorated top from Mara Hoffman makes the perfect all-purpose top for those more formal events. The slight stiffness of the hemp canvas gives the top form and poise.
Can hemp make good undies? 27-year-old UK activist Nergiz De Baere, who vows to “make hemp cool again” with her brand “Magi the label”, will convince you that yes, it can. Not only are hemp underwears more breathable, they also come with anti-bacterial properties, too.
It’s almost guaranteed that Patagonia will make the list in any sustainable fashion “editor’s choice”. This dress can be a summer mainstay. A mix of lightweight 55% hemp/45% TENCEL™ lyocell plain-weave fabric for hot-weather conditions. And Fair Trade Certified sewn.
ONNO’s hemp t-shirt is warm, tough and gets softer with time – a well-made blend of cotton and hemp for added softness.
US brand Jungmaven is making hemp more versatile. They create clothes with different blends of hemp. Their Venice shorts, which are made of equal parts hemp and cotton, make a good wardrobe staple for trips and vacations.
The durable foundation of their Workwear line, these heavy-duty, double-knee work pants are made from our innovative 12.9-oz Iron Forge Hemp™ canvas, which is 25% more abrasion resistant than conventional cotton duck canvas and needs no break-in.
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