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Hemp jeans have reemerged on the fashion scene as a trendy green alternative to a classic pair of blues. Buying hemp jeans gives you the durability and comfort of cotton jeans but with fewer negative environmental consequences related to your clothing.

Find it! Hemp jeans

Fear not, when you buy hemp jeans you aren't investing in crusty Woodstock-era threads. Ranging from Armani's hemp haute couture to Patagonia's outdoorsy chic take on traditional denim, hemp jeans are available in an increasingly wide range of looks to suit today's sundry style sensibilities. The vendors we've selected offer hemp jeans (in single or multiple styles) for both men and women unless noted otherwise.

Before you buy

Costly alternatives?: The farming of industrial hemp—a member of the cannabis family of plants—in the United States has been virtually banned by the federal government since 1957 and must be imported from countries such as England, Germany, and Canada.[1] Furthermore, due to restricted production and importation costs, hemp fabric is not inexpensive.

So take heed, even though the popularity of hemp clothing is expanding, buying hemp jeans in place of traditional denim will green your wardrobe but deduct a little extra green from your wallet. For example, Hempest sells a pair of 100% hemp jeans for $79.95 while comparable Levi's 501 Originals retail for $46.00.

Blended fibers: Not every pair of hemp jeans is exclusively made of that fiber—some may contain synthetic fibers such as spandex for stretch purposes.

Buying hemp jeans helps you go green because…

  • Most denim jeans are crafted from conventional cotton, a crop with weighty environmental drawbacks. The hemp fiber in hemp jeans is grown chemical-free in a sustainable manner.

Jeans are an $11 billion annual industry worldwide.[2] An estimated 1 billion jeans are made every year and almost half of those, some 450 million, are bought in the US.[3][4]

It is believed that the first pairs of jeans manufactured by Levi Strauss were made from hemp sailboat canvas during the California Gold Rush (the word canvas is taken from the Latin cannabis).[5] Although the iconic denim brand does not currently produce hemp jeans, it does offer premium organic cotton jeans through its Levi's ECO line.

Hemp is considered to be an earth-friendly alternative to conventional cotton, producing three times as much fiber per acre.[6] It is estimated that a 25-mile by 25-mile square area that has been planted with hemp can yield enough fiber in one year to produce 100 million pairs of jeans.[7] Like cotton, hemp requires water and fertilizer (in moderate amounts) to grow but does not need to be treated with chemical pesticides or herbicides and can be grown in a wide range of climates and terrains.[6] Around a quarter of the world's pesticides are used on cotton plants.[8] The farming of hemp also benefits overall soil conditions by adding nutrients, fostering microbial life, and eradicating weed growth. In addition to fiber for textiles, hemp provides a natural source of fuel, building materials, paper, plastic, and, as a food, contains more nutrients than the soybean.[9]

In contrast to the current dearth of industrial hemp farming in the United States, the European Union initiated a program in the 1990s that provides hemp farmers with subsidies to encourage hemp fiber production. Over the last several years, the leading exporters of processed hemp fiber to the US have been Romania, Poland, China, India, Canada, and the Philippines.[10]

Historically, hemp has been an important agricultural crop in the United States. In 1850, there were 8,327 active hemp plantations. During World War II, the American government encouraged industrial hemp production for rope and canvas to be used by the military in a campaign called "Hemp for Victory." During this time, hemp farmers were considered patriotic and were waived, along with their sons, from military service.[11]

Controversies

Hemp and marijuana are both members of the plant species Cannabis sativa and have both been considered Schedule 1 controlled substances in the United States since the late 1950s.[12] While it is a crime to grow all forms of cannabis in the United States, it is not illegal to sell hemp products such as paper and clothing. Cannabis grown for industrial purposes—hemp—and cannabis grown for recreational and medicinal uses—marijuana—have a different biological makeup. Both contain two distinct "cannabinoids": the psychoactive THC and the antipsychoactive CBD. Industrial hemp contains high levels of CBD and low levels—less than 1 percent—of THC, while the makeup of marijuana is the reverse. It is nearly impossible to achieve a narcotic high from smoking hemp.[13]

There are movements in the US on both national and state levels to reintroduce industrial hemp as an agriculturally viable crop. Hemp advocates note the plant's potential as an alternative to tree-based paper, cotton-based clothing, and other items whose production poses environmental risks. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other opposing parties believe that if the ban on hemp farming is lifted it would become easier to grow marijuana alongside it. It is also often assumed that those who support industrial hemp farming are part of a marijuana legalization subculture.[14]

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