As you peruse this article's title, you might initially suspect a hint of bias. After all, hemp clothing stands at the core of THTC's mission. Nevertheless, we prefer to view ourselves as rooted in knowledge. We've been well-acquainted with the facts about hemp since our inception, and these facts underpin our unwavering commitment.
Hemp apparel is no longer merely a credible alternative to cotton; it's increasingly being recognized as a superior choice. In a direct comparison of these two textiles, the verdict is clear - hemp triumphs on nearly every front. However, it wouldn't be entirely equitable to end our discourse here. We owe it to you to meticulously dissect, present the facts, and invite you to draw your own conclusions.
Cotton: A Concise Historical Overview
Unless you've been a devoted advocate of organic living for quite some time, it's almost certain that cotton products have permeated your life. From clothing and bedding to towels and washcloths, cotton has remained a bedrock of the textile industry for millennia—roughly around 7,000 years, to be more precise. As far back as the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans, cotton held a pivotal place in the realm of fabrics, particularly for clothing.
Cotton's astonishing historical ubiquity extends beyond Europe; it also had significant importance in the Middle East, the Far East, and South America. The value of cotton was so substantial that the Aztecs employed it as currency—a practice that persisted into modern times, with numerous countries printing their currency on cotton paper or cotton-linen blends. According to the United States Federal Bureau of Engraving and Printing, U.S. 'paper' money is composed of about 75% cotton and 25% linen.
Just like cannabis, hemp, and various other plants, cotton underwent selective breeding to become even more suited to the demands of the modern textile industry. Domesticated cotton boasts long fibers that can be efficiently separated from the seeds in comparison to wild cotton variants. To this day, cotton remains an indispensable pillar of the global textile industry, accounting for an estimated 30-40% of fiber needs.
Hemp: A Brief Historical Overview
Hemp's historical pedigree easily rivals that of cotton, with records tracing its cultivation back to ancient civilizations in Northern China as far back as 10,000 BC. During those times, hemp fibers were primarily employed to enhance pottery. Its utilization as a textile fiber is believed to precede cotton by over a millennium, presenting a significant head start.
Hemp embarked on a global odyssey, finding applications in paper, textiles, construction, and even medicine. If versatility were the criterion for a contest, hemp would undoubtedly secure a first-round knockout.
In terms of heritage and sustained utilization, hemp takes the lead. But how do these two fabrics compare when considering their roles in modern-day clothing?
Hemp vs. Cotton: Sustainability
When it comes to making an ecologically sound choice, hemp unquestionably takes the crown. Let's delve into the environmental consequences of cultivating each:
While organic cotton is an option, it exerts a more significant environmental toll during cultivation than hemp. To yield the same volume, one must plant substantially more cotton than hemp, given cotton's lower yield per acre. For the data enthusiasts, one acre of hemp generates approximately 700kg of fiber—nearly three times the output of an acre of cotton.
Water consumption stands as another critical factor. Producing a single kilogram of cotton demands between two to five times more water than required for a kilogram of hemp. Hemp proves to be a hardier plant, demanding less attention, care, water, and pesticide usage during its growth. Moreover, it matures much faster, within four to twelve weeks, in stark contrast to cotton, which necessitates a lengthier gestation period of 21 to 25 weeks. It's safe to say that hemp grows like a...weed.
Beyond environmental considerations, hemp outpaces organic cotton in durability and strength. It ranks as one of the most robust natural fabrics, with long, resilient fibers resistant to wear and tear. Hemp's strength bests that of organic cotton by approximately four times, and it retains its shape without stretching. The pilling that often affects cotton garments is absent in hemp, as is the propensity to fall apart after multiple washes. In terms of tensile strength and durability, hemp firmly secures the victory.
Hemp: Comfort Personified
Some individuals might argue that comfort is a matter of personal preference, and that's entirely valid. Initially, cotton is the softer of the two fabrics, making it the preferred choice for t-shirts, hoodies, and other skin-worn garments. This is where cotton initially carved its niche as a clothing fabric due to its soft, refined nature.
Indeed, hemp begins as a slightly stiffer fabric, but its true brilliance emerges over time. Hemp softens with each use, evolving into a more comfortable and worn-in garment that retains its shape. Unlike cotton, which gradually succumbs to wear and tear, hemp retains its integrity, making it the long-term comfort champion.
Hemp: Moisture Management Maestro
Hemp excels in moisture-wicking, the capacity to absorb and release moisture, drawing it away from the skin to the fabric's surface, where it can evaporate. This attribute proves especially valuable when dealing with perspiration. A fabric that retains less moisture is less likely to lead to unpleasant sweat accumulation.
Hemp's superior breathability results from its porous fibers, allowing it to excel at moisture-wicking. Conversely, cotton acts like a sponge, soaking up moisture and becoming more prone to decay. The natural antibacterial properties of hemp further reduce the risk of perspiration and odors, as well as the potential for mold and mildew during extended periods of storage. Cotton, on the other hand, traps odors within its fibers.
Hemp: A Shield Against UV Rays
Here, hemp boasts a substantial advantage. Independent testing by SGS Testing has demonstrated that hemp fabric is 99.9% effective in blocking UVA and UVB rays, earning it an 'excellent' rating for sun protection. Even when wet, hemp fabric remains steadfast in safeguarding the wearer from harmful rays. It's important to note that sunscreen is still advisable when venturing into the sun.
In a head-to-head comparison against cotton, hemp outperforms by blocking 50.9% more rays. This UV resistance not only protects you but also preserves the vibrancy of hemp clothing, as it's less prone to fading compared to cotton. The scales are tipping heavily in favor of hemp clothing.
Hemp Clothing: Hypoallergenic and Long-Lasting
An erroneous assumption that often surfaces in discussions about hemp clothing pertains to itchiness. In reality, hemp is naturally hypoallergenic, devoid of chemicals or proteins that can incite allergic reactions, rendering it suitable for even the most sensitive skin types. This contrasts with cotton, which undergoes various chemical treatments during processing and is susceptible to different forms of mold in cotton crops, such as Alternalia and Aspergillus.
In summary, it's nearly self-evident: hemp clothing lasts longer, is kinder to the environment, and offers a comfortable, durable, and sustainable alternative to cotton. It's a choice that's not just beneficial for the planet but for your personal well-being as well.