Blair Braverman’s Favorite Hemp Apparel
Breathable, stink-free, and softer with wear. What's not to love?
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As someone obsessed with wool, I’m intrigued by natural fibers, but hemp is new to me. The hype seems almost too good to be true: that it breathes like linen and stays stink-free like wool, is many times stronger than cotton, and gets softer with each wear. Plus it’s a naturally insect-resistant crop that needs very little water, a.k.a. it’s basically the future and we should all be wearing it yesterday.
For this review, I tested a selection of hemp clothing over some extended camping, which really put the stink-free claim to the test—and I gotta say, when I saw how much less the hemp clothes smelled than cotton, I was amazed. The downsides? The hemp clothing tended to be slightly rough, which I actually like, but if you have sensitive skin it might be irritating—and it’s also relatively pricy, on par with, say, merino. But with industrial hemp newly legalized in the United States (as of 2018), you should expect to see more of it, and I’d highly recommend checking it out. Here are my favorite pieces from the test.
Jungmaven Peaches Tahoe Sweatshirt ($128)
Since I started wearing this sweatshirt, three different strangers have pointed at me and said “peaches,” which is about the level of social interaction I’m emotionally prepared for after a year of social distancing in the woods, so I consider it a success. Also, it reminds me of growing up in northern California, and I’m endlessly charmed that tie-dye has become popular again beyond the excellent hippies of my youth. The familiarity is no coincidence; these sweatshirts are made in the USA and hand-dyed by artists in Los Angeles. The fit is unisex; the material (55 percent hemp, 45 percent organic cotton) is slightly weighty, which makes it feel luxurious; the inside is more like a towel than a brushed cotton or poly hoodie. I also love that the style is bold enough to make the rest of your outfit seem intentional—even if you’ve just come out of the woods long enough to refill your water jugs at a gas station, and feel vaguely self-conscious in your camping clothes compared to the well-dressed people waiting at a food truck nearby.
Note: The Peaches Tahoe sweatshirt is no longer available, but Jungmaven sells an un-tie-dyed version, as well as another tie-dyed sweatshirt in a different cut.
Wama Triangle Bralette ($38)
Since it’s breathable and antimicrobial, hemp seems like a natural fit for undies, and I was excited to test bikini and boy shorts underwear from Wama, which sets out to make the “best hemp undies in the world.” I didn’t love the cut of either underwear (although of course everyone’s butt is different), but their bralette was a surprise hit—genuinely surprising, because as someone who wears a 36D, I usually find bralettes unsupportive and therefore pointless. The material (54 percent hemp, 44 percent organic cotton, 3 percent spandex) is really nice— not as silky as cotton, but a bit more substantial-feeling, and though it’s definitely best, at least in my case, for low-impact activities, I’ve found myself reaching for it several times a week. The elastic band is thick enough to provide some support. Plus it’s green on the inside, which is cute and makes it easy to spot in a basket of (let’s say clean) laundry. It’s a handy liminal garment for transitioning out of quarantine bralessness, and if you’re a bralette person, I could see this becoming a go-to.
Patagonia Island Hemp Beach Pants ($79)
These pants don’t seem like they should work, at least for my usual purposes (outdoor chores; moseying through thick brush). The material is airy to the point of flimsiness; you can literally feel a breeze. I kept expecting to find holes in the pants after getting jumped on by sharp-toed dogs. But here, maybe, is where I began to realize the true potential of hemp: the pants keep not tearing, long after cotton or linen pants of similar weight would look like Swiss cheese. Now, I’m not recommending these pants as workwear. They’re extremely light and thin, but that’s also what makes them great. They’re perfect for when you wish you were wearing shorts, and/or for any outdoor activity that involves the confluence of heat and annoying bugs. They’d also be good travel pants: the style is versatile, and they fold up small. I appreciate the deep pockets and cinched ankles, which are easy to pull up over your calves or tuck into high socks if you’re worried about ticks. They do tend to stretch with wear and shrink back when you wash them, although the loose cut means that stretching isn’t super noticeable. Overall, these are excellent warm-weather pants, and it’s clear that the hemp makes a huge difference in performance. If Patagonia made coveralls in this fabric, I would buy them too—just to spite the mosquitos.