Textile Comparison: Hemp Vs Cotton

Hemp clothing – a comfortable way to help the environment 

Hemp is a fantastically useful plant and although some people mistakenly confuse it with it’s more laid back cousin the marijuana plant, hemp is relatively quite the opposite. Hemp has been grown for over 5000 years for a wide range of purposes, making it one of the most useful and versatile crops in the world.

Historically hemp was used for making rope, cloth, paper and even used as food – the seeds are very high in omega 3 oils so it is very nutritious. Hemp was known to the Neolithic people, the ancient Chinese and Japanese cultures and it was one of the earliest plants to ever be cultivated.

Today industrially grown hemp is still grown worldwide and used for an astounding number of different purposes including bio fuels, paper, insulation and textiles. For clothing and textiles hemp is an excellent alternative to cotton and man made fibres.

What are the benefits of wearing hemp textiles?

Hemp is a natural fibre. Once it is made into fabric it is exceptionally strong and hard wearing and unlikely to shrink or lose its shape. It is also extremely comfortable and soft. This is because the fibres in hemp are very long and this creates a pleasing soft texture on the skin.

Hemp is also a breathable material. Unlike many synthetic fabrics that keep you warm by trapping in moisture, hemp enables your body to breath so it is ideal for warmer climates as well as good in cold weather. Hemp keeps warmth in but it does not make you sweat.

When you buy a hemp item of clothing you can be confident that it will be far longer lasting that other materials such as cotton or synthetics. The fibres do not degrade after washing so your item of clothing is more likely to keep its shape and still look good. Compared with cotton, you can expect hemp clothing to last on average three times longer.

So why aren’t we all wearing hemp?

The popularity of hemp is undoubtedly affected by its drug associations. For some people this is in a positive way but this underground association may put off people who do not necessarily see themselves in an “out there” category so it can have a negative impact on the market. Or many people view the idea of wearing hemp as being a novelty  material that is designed to appeal to those from a bohemian lifestyle.

However, this is beginning to change. Large amounts of hemp blends within clothing are becoming more mainstream now and the more that people experience the comfort and benefits of hemp clothing, the more popular it is likely to become. 

One factor that is likely to change people’s minds is the fact that hemp is far more environmentally sustainable than most other fabrics.

Hemp is environmentally sustainable.

We all know the dangers affecting our planet and the need to consume less stuff. Many people are cutting back on buying cheap throwaway clothing and plastics and for anyone trying to become more green, hemp fabric is a good solution.

One of the reasons for this is that hemp is so easy to grow. It is a tough plant that doesn’t require the use of pesticides and it does not require as much space or labour as other crops such as cotton.  And although wool is also a fantastic natural material, it is not as versatile as hemp and of course it is not suitable if you are trying to avoid animal products.

Cotton is the best known natural crop and although it is versatile and available across the world, the production is of concern to environmentalists. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, it requires 20, 000 litres of water to produce just one kilo of cotton which is sufficient for just one pair of jeans and a tee shirt.  Whereas, Hemp would require only around 2,500 litres of water produce the same amount. Most cotton is bleached at the manufacturing stage and the chemicals pollute water air and soil in the local environment. In addition there are serious issues about the conditions for workers in developing countries where much of the world’s cotton is produced.

By contrast, hemp can be grown organically fairly easily and this is a growing trend within the industry.  In 2016 legislation was passed in the USA by the department of agriculture (USDA) giving hemp growing an organic status. Within the EU there is similar legislation and bodies that certify hemp as organic following production.

So where is hemp produced?

Most of the world’s hemp is cultivated in China where it is mainly used for industrial purposes such as fuel or paper. It is also produced in vast quantities in France, in the USA, the UK and in total around 30 countries across the world including Romania, Italy and Russia.  Because of the connection with marijuana and illegal drugs, production can be problematic in some countries.

Why choose hemp?

Leaving aside the history, the connection with marijuana, the ecological and environmental benefits and everything else, hemp is just such a fantastic material that is comfortable to wear, looks good, washes well and is long lasting, you don’t need any more reasons to buy it.

Hemp fabric is perfect for being made into all types of clothing from jeans to underwear and provides comfort durability and softness.  Many people are beginning to enjoy the advantages of buying clothing and textiles manufactured from hemp material and this trend looks set to increase in the coming years.

Becoming more green and sustainable can sometimes mean that our lives are less comfortable but the great thing about hemp is that it bucks this trend. You can enjoy wearing hemp clothing without compromising on style or comfort and still have the confidence that you are doing your best for the planet!

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