Hemp seems to be making strides, in more ways than one.
The age-old industrial crop is now capturing the attention of the most forward-thinking clothing manufacturers, including footwear company Vibram FiveFingers.
While the FiveFingers may not look like the most hi-tech pair of sneakers, the concept behind its minimalist design is. The idea is that running barefoot is actually better for your joints and muscles. Introduced by the company in 2005, the shoes quickly took off among the most serious of runners.
So it’s no surprise that Vibram FiveFingers is now one of the first companies to use hemp in a modern running shoe. According to Outside Online, the CVT Hemp – technically a trail shoe – is made from a blend of hemp and polyester that is “breathable, durable and sustainable.” It will hit store shelves this August.
While lifestyle shoe brands, like Vans and Toms, have already set foot in the hemp arena, there’s no doubt that marketing has played a significant factor.
But Justin Petty of Recreator, a start-up out of Los Angeles that describes itself on Kickstarter as “an active lifestyle brand specializing in hemp,” says the decision to use hemp fiber in their clothing was more based on performance than it was on lifestyle.“It’s second to none in the performance fiber world”“The main reason we chose hemp to work with is because it’s so versatile,” explains Petty, who adds that hemp fiber is both antimicrobial and incredibly strong.
“The hemp fiber itself has these hexagon chambers that run along it, almost like a little catacomb system, and that allows more air to run through, so you get increased breathability. It also absorbs more water and it dries faster… really, it’s second to none in the performance fiber world.”
And then there’s the environmental sustainability of the crop. Hemp requires far less pesticides and water than cotton, Petty notes.
The only problem is sourcing the material, which remains illegal to grow in the U.S. The lack of availability has kept hemp fiber in an “infantile stage,” Petty says, considering where other textiles are with modern technology.
But as brands begin to look to hemp fiber as a clothing material, there’s no doubt that more benefits of the plant will surface. With car companies like BMW now choosing hemp over carbon fiber, performance apparel seems like a logical next step.