If you didn’t catch our newsletter this month and you're not already in the know it is Hemp History Month. In honor of Hemp History Month Anna and I are gearing a few our our posts to educating about hemp history. This is our second post in the series and we are covering Hemp History within the Textile and Fashion Industry.
If you missed Anna's first post in the series with some great, fast facts about the history of industrial hemp in our country Check it here………..
You wouldn’t know by the lack of hemp used in the textile industry, but Hemp was at one time the preferred fiber used for clothing and various other textile applications. Starting with the Chinese as early as 150 B.C. the hemp plant is believed to be the first plant cultivated as a textile fiber. The crop reigned supreme through the Middle Ages when it provided huge economic and social value by accommodating the food and fiber demand throughout the world. Hemp served most cultures throughout the world as a leading textile up until the end of the 18th century.
The bad ass things the hemp textiles have been used for…..
The oldest piece of hemp cloth found found dates back to 8,000 B.C and found in the region of ancient Mesopotamia.
The sails and ropes used on most ships carrying European explorers all over the the world were made from hemp.
Betsy Ross made the first flag using hemp and the Declaration of Independence was drafted onto hemp paper.
The paintings of all there greats came to life onto of Hemp Canvas! Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Gainsborough.
Industrial Hemp was critical to our success during WWII. The majority of U.S. military uniforms, canvas, and rope was made from the fiber. The U.S. lifted the ban on Industrial Hemp during the war and launched the Hemp For Victory Campaign.
The first pair of Levi’s were made from Hemp.
So Hemp was a major major textile player throughout the world so what the hell happened?
Well the fiber’s fall from the top began with the growth of the cotton industry. At the end of the 18th century the invention of the mechanical cotton gin made it far easier to harvest and produce cotton fibers. The very suspect part of it all was that by 1917 an American by the name of George W. Schlichten invented and patented a machine that would allow hemp to to rival the cost and yield of cotton. Mysteriously George Schlichten and his machine vanished.
The nail in the coffin for industrial hemp was the propaganda put out by large companies with a vested interest in petroleum based synthetic fibers. At this point many machines existed making hemp production more affordable and big business viewed hemp production as a major threat to their profit margin. By 1983 both the United States and Canada, under the influence of lobbyist from synthetic textile companies (DuPont being one of the biggest players), banned the production of industrial hemp under the Opium and Narcotics Act. ASSHOLES!!!!!!
Our Future Lies In Hemp
There is a reason why industrial hemp was so prominent throughout history and that is because the fiber is BADASS! So let me count for you the ways this fiber kicks ass.
Hemp actually absorbs CO2 making it a carbon negative crop from the start
Hemp can pretty much be used for anything cotton can and the plants require half as much water and land to yield the same quantity of fiber.
Hemp is literally a weed and so it grows easily and successfully without the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers.
Hemp is versatile and has a drape similar and hand feel similar to linen. The fiber can easily be blended with other fibers to achieve a wider variety textile properties.
The hemp plant doesn’t strip the soil of nutrients. The plant actually returns 60 to 70% of all nutrients back to the soil.
Hemp fiber is one of the strongest and most durable of all natural textile fibers. Clothing made from hemp will outlast clothing made from more conventional fibers by many years.
Hemp fiber is strong and will hold its shape, stretching less than other natural fiber. This keeps the garment from stretching out or distorting with use.
Hemp gets softer with use and wears in, rather than out, beautifully. It is also naturally resistant to mold and ultraviolet light.
Hemp is porous and absorbs well therefore when dyed it retains its vibrant color.
The porous nature of hemp allows the fabric to breathe making it cool in warm weather. The same principal applies to cooler weather. Air trapped in the fibers is naturally warmed by the body keeping you warm in the garment.
Fight For A Change
Currently industrial hemp is legal to grow in more than 30 countries. The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that does not currently allow the cultivation of hemp. Millions of dollars worth of hemp is imported into the United States each year in order to fulfill the growing demand for hemp products. When it comes to cannabis, laws vary from state to state and continue to change as new legislation is passed. Currently there are thirteen states with statutes establishing commercial industrial hemp programs.......
CA, CO, IN, KY, MA, MO, ND, OR, SC, TN, VT, VA, NC and WV.
Seven other states have also passed laws establishing industrial hemp programs, they are limited to agricultural or academic research purposes only.
Industrial hemp growing has been banned for over 80 years and there are many obstacles to cross in order for the crop to be legalized. We want to see more of this fiber used in the fashion cycle designers and clothing companies need more reliable sources of domestically grown hemp. Visit VoteHemp.Org to see how you can get involved!
Changing The Face Of Hemp Clothing
We’ve seen hemp around before — as rugs, bags, even as shoes. But it’s not too often that you come across stylish hemp duds. Don’t let hemp’s granola-y, pass-it-to-the-left reputation fool you. Discover the brands and designers who are changing the crunchy image of hemp fashion.
The People's History. N.p., Sept. 2000. Web. 20 June 2017.
Ashoka. "Industrial Hemp: A Win-Win For The Economy And The Environment." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 09 Aug. 2013. Web. 20 June 2017.
Matthew Horne for the Guardian Professional Network. "Move over Cotton, Hello Hemp." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 17 Apr. 2012. Web. 20 June 2017.