The difference between hemp and linen clothing

Hemp and linen clothing

In the age of sustainable fashion, natural fabrics are becoming popular particularly if they are consciously produced. Natural fabrics like cotton, linen, hemp and wool are all biodegradable and thus don’t pollute the earth when disposed of (if they haven’t been treated with lots of chemicals). This season, we predict a big rise in the popularity of linen and hemp clothing. But even the Equilibrio team were wondering what the difference is between these two textiles and if one is better than the other.


Linen clothing has been around for centuries. One of the oldest textiles used by humans, linen is made from the Flax plant (the same one that produces seeds with healthy oils).

Linen clothing
Linen fabric is made from the fibers of the Flax plant.

Beyond its rich history and aesthetic appeal, linen is 100% biodegradable and will return to the earth in less than six months, leaving no trace behind.

Linen clothing is also water-wise, requiring very little for both growing the plant and making the fabric. It’s a hollow fibre insulator which means it thermoregulates. Linen can absorb up to 20% of its weight whilst still feeling dry to touch.

All of the linen items on Equilibrio are made in small quantities in South Africa.


Hemp textile is made using fibres from the stalks of the Cannabis sativa plant (yes, it’s legal). Over the years, two distinct strains of the Cannabis sativa plant have emerged. The plants that have been bred for textile purposes are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other psychoactive chemical constituents called cannabinoids. Only the outer layer of the plant’s stalk is used for textile purposes.

Hemp Clothing
Hemp fabric is made from the Cannabis sativa plant.

Hemp is an eco-friendly crop. It requires virtually no pesticides and needs very little water to grow and renews the soil with each growth cycle. The plant has long roots which prevent erosion and helps retain topsoil. Hemp also grows readily in most temperate regions. It is said that the textile has three times the strength of cotton.


In the past, we pushed against the propensity for these natural fabrics to crease and crumple. We now wear “our crease proudly” knowing that it’s evidence that we’re wearing natural, earth-friendly fabrics.

Linen and hemp fabrics have many positive attributes. They are virtually lint-free, non-static, non-allergenic, provide UV protection, are mould resistant and are naturally insect repellent.

Depending on the weave, hemp and linen clothing can feel scratchy at first. When washed, the fabrics do soften. Sometimes the fabrics are blended with other textiles like cotton or Rayon to give them more softness.

Hemp and linen are durable and long-lasting fabrics, and if cared for, the garments will last decades.


difference between linen, hemp and cotton
Top: Organic sateen cotton Middle: Organic natural linen Bottom: Organic natural hemp

1. The natural, un-dyed or -bleached colour of hemp ranges from light beige to grey-beige depending on climate conditions. Linen, on the other hand, is naturally consistently light grey and isn’t impacted by the weather. Organic cotton, by comparison, is naturally off-white.

2. Linen and hemp are “bast fibres”, that are extracted from stalks of flax and hemp plants. They are combed and spun into long strands and woven or knitted into fabrics. Cotton is different, yarn is spun from the cleaned fluff of cotton plant pods which is then woven into a fabric.

3. Hemp and linen have a very similar, textured look and feel where cotton (because it’s processed differently) mostly feels smoother.

4. Hemp is more versatile than linen but cotton is by far the most versatile and can be spun and woven into many different kinds of fabrics like flannel or sateen textures.

5. Thanks to the hollow cores of bast fibres, hemp and linen insulate very well and are also moisture-wicking. They are also more breathable than cotton.

6. Hemp and linen can be grown at any scale where cotton generally needs to be grown at large scale to be economical. Cotton is far more labour intensive to produce and uses more water.


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  1. Pingback: 5 LINEN STYLES FOR HOT SUMMER DAYS | Equilibrio

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