New Sustainable Clothing: Wama Underwear

Ever since I found a pair of Wayi bamboo underwear a few years ago, I’ve been all about sustainable underwear. Really, my whole sustainable clothing interest goes even further back – all the way to the time I tested the Tasc Performance line of bamboo workout clothes.

My underwear drawer also has its fair share of bamboo socks – and other random brands of bamboo underwear (including a few pairs I picked up at a market in Hanoi, which have a fit that’s a bit more banana hammock than I’d prefer).

And now, Wama Underwear has emerged as another sustainable clothing brand. But instead of bamboo, this underwear maker focuses on hemp underwear. I am a huge fan of of hemp clothing: I’ve already abused hemp shirts from Onno and Satori. My go-to weekend pants are the unbelievable (and sadly discontinued) INI Cooperative Escargo pants.

sustainable clothing
A peek at the factory that makes Wama Underwear.

Recently, Wama Underwear got in touch with me to send a few pairs of its boxer-briefs in for testing. They also threw in a cool little drawstring bag, which you can get free if you order a 10-pack of the briefs. The briefs are $24, but first-time shoppers will be prompted to get a 20 percent discount.

The price on the 10-pack is $200, and it’s not clear if the 20-percent deal applies to that price. They’re made from 53 percent hemp, with the remainder being organic cotton and Spandex.

They also come in versions for men and women.

Sustainable Clothing – Why Bother?

Before we go any further, let me tell you why I’m so nuts about sustainable clothing like hemp and bamboo. Both seem to get softer with time, and they are both awesome at resisting stink. This is doubly important if you travel and wind up wearing the same clothes for days at a time.

I once wore a hemp t-shirt for a course at the Aboriginal Living Skills School. Despite sweat, river water, hanging around a campfire and various other stuff, the shirt didn’t stink at all after the course (I gave it a sniff once I got back to civilization and had a shower).

sustainable clothing
Thirty-six hours in that beige ONNO hemp shirt, and still no stink. But I was too low on calories to be as enthusiastic as Cody Lundin.

[UPDATE: The next few paragraphs are outdated because apparently US farmers now have the green light – no pun intended – to grow industrial hemp. Still, I’ll leave the paragraphs for context. It will be interesting to follow up on this in the future to see how many American crops have started planting hemp.]

Will wearing sustainable clothing save the planet? It’s one small choice you can make. To make a bigger difference, it would help if US farmers could grow hemp. But they can’t, as I summarized in an earlier post about hemp clothes:

They’re unbelievably comfortable and seem to resist all my attempts to make them stink while hiking, camping or traveling. Unfortunately, the U.S. government still prohibits commercial hemp growth for the moment – I suspect this is ultimately because the cotton industry and its lobbyists can’t handle the thought of any textile competing with its interests -- and I suspect the same people are behind the flat-out lies that equate hemp and marijuana (which is a subject for a different blogger to tackle). I wonder what the hemp farmers among our founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson would say about this.

Being able to source US-grown hemp would cut down on emissions from transit, which would help the sustainability cred of hemp. I can’t say I’m an expert in farming, but I wonder what rotating hemp in as a crop would do for the soil. I also am unclear on its water needs versus cotton or other textile-producing crops. But that would be an interesting bit of information.

Oh, Wama has an FAQ page that dives into questions about ethical sourcing and certifications.

Getting the Right Size

The president of Wama, Shakib Nassiri, gave me some fitting advice that I’ll pass along to you: The sizes seems to run a bit small. I’m 6’2 and about 185. He advised me to go a size larger than I normally would. So I ordered an XL instead of my usual L.

When the package from Wama Underwear arrived, I found that Shakib’s advice was spot-on. The fit was perfect.

sustainable clothing
Just in case you were wondering why there are no photos of me modeling the Wama hemp underwear … I couldn’t find my bearskin rug.

 

My first impression of the Wama Underwear was that the fabric had more heft than any of my bamboo underwear. They had a heavier weight that made me wonder if they would feel hotter or stiffer.

Nope. Once I put them on, they seemed to disappear. The fit was supportive without being annoying. Wama Underwear makes a product that is the polar opposite of some underwear that seems to have that one spot that pokes or feels to loose or itches.

Granted, I’ve worn and washed each pair just twice. It will take a few months of long-term flogging to render a definitive judgement. They’ll need to perform through the hot Arizona months. From the first impressions, though, my bet is that I’ll still like the Wama Underwear as much as I do right now.

Right off the mark, they fit considerably better than the Wayi brand I mentioned earlier, which doesn’t seem like a good choice for anyone familiar with squats or deadlifts! None of my undies from that brand gets the waist/thigh ratio right.

Rendering a Verdict

I wouldn’t mind a few more colors, but I suspect that will come in time. Personally, I’d also ditch any green leaf iconography. Hemp already has the perception problem being linked to marijuana, so I’d recommend that sustainable clothing makers stay away from the leaf symbols.

sustainable clothing
Women can have their cool Wama hemp underwear, too.

But on pure merit, Wama Underwear has a sustainable clothing winner. It’s a product that proves that sustainability doesn’t mean sacrifice – it’s better than any of the non-sustainable products I own. At this point, I recommend picking up some Wama Underwear if you needs some boxer-briefs.

They’re comfortable, and they’re a little something you can do to show your support for sustainable options. And that could be the catalyst that prompts more companies to offer greener, cleaner products. All of this can add up.

DISCLAIMER: Wama Underwear sent me two free pairs of boxer briefs and a drawstring bag. As usual, free stuff doesn’t equal positive reviews. I won’t recommend anything that I wouldn’t buy myself. And I always buy items that I recommend. 

Hemp Clothing For Urban and Outdoor Adventures

I love hemp clothing. They’re unbelievably comfortable and seem to resist all my attempts to make them stink while hiking, camping or traveling. Right now, I have a pretty wide variety of hemp clothing that I put through the ringer, even some hemp underwear that get a blog post of their own. I hope with the updated laws about growing hemp in the U.S. that we’ll start seeing more options from this sustainable material. I’ll test more hemp as I get my hands on it!

Here’s what I’ve learned about the various brands of hemp clothing I’ve tried -- and FYI, everything I have is a hemp/cotton blend.

hemp clothing
INI Cooperative Escargo pants … a fine piece of hemp clothing.

ONNO Hemp T-shirts

I wore one of my ONNO hemp t-shirts for 36 hours. During that time, I hiked, pooped in the wild, chopped wood, made fires, dunked myself in a river -- the list goes on. When I emerged back into civilization, I was coated in dirt. When I jumped in the shower, the water soon ran brown.

But that ONNO shirt didn’t have a trace of nasty odor. Apparently, hemp clothing has antibacterial properties, much like bamboo (which I also love). I found my ONNO t-shirts at a store in Prescott, Ariz., called Man At Leisure. I bought one, wore it, loved it, went back to Prescott and bought two more -- the staff there is also incredibly nice; somehow, they remembered me from my months-earlier visit. If you can’t get an ONNO hemp t-shirt at Man At Leisure, get one somewhere.

The downside? It’ll make you hate almost all your other t-shirts. I seriously dare anyone out there to make a better hemp t-shirt.

INI Cooperative Hemp Clothing

I went on an online hemp hunt for women’s clothing. My wife was wicked-jealous of my ONNO shirt. I stumbled across INI Cooperative’s Escargo pants (Oh, and here’s what I got for the wife, if you’re curious). The problem is, I’m pretty sure they’re discontinuing these pants. That’s a shame because they’re on the verge of awesome.

I picked up two pairs half-off the normal price starting with a 34-inch waist. These run small, I can tell you for certain. Not just in the waist, either. If squats and deadlifts are part of your workout routine, the INI Escargo pants will feel hipster-tight in your legs. I ordered the 36-inch pair in camouflage hoping they would be just-right. They are in the waist, but the range of movement in the legs is still not what I’d want for outdoor use.


On the plus side, the hemp-cotton ripstock fabric is unbelievably soft. The zipper is serious quality, and there’s a well-placed cell phone pocket on the right thigh. I’d love to see INI bring these back using dudes who do lower-body exercises and eat steaks as fit models rather than Ichabod Crane vegans. So close to being a gold-standard example of hemp clothing.

I also picked up an INI Cooperative hemp button-down shirt called the Cole Slaw (don’t ask me to explain that name). I ordered my usual extra-large size -- and it’s a perfect fit in length. But I have to assume INI has a customer in mind who hates lifting weights. This shirt is really tight in the shoulders. It’s also going to require a bit more washing too soften up. But it looks cool as hell, which counts for something.

REI Hemp Shirt (Discontinued)

Oh, REI -- what have you done? You made me my original hemp clothing in the form of these button-down shirts, and then you took them away. Oh, well, I still have like four of them.

You probably missed out on these. They were perfect for my casual workplace as well as nights out. They are practically indestructible aside from buttons popping off occasionally. I have the very first one I ever bought, and it does not look worse for wear at all.

sustainable clothing
Women can have their cool Wama hemp underwear, too.

Royal Robbins Green Jean

My pair of hemp-blend Royal Robbins pants are grey, but the model is called the Green Jean because of all the recycled bits in them. And they fit perfectly, feel great and look pretty darn good.

If I’m gonna complain about anything, it’s this: How ‘bout a nice pocket somewhere to stash a smart phone? My INI pants have them, as do my Kuhl pants. There’s really no reason for anyone to make pants missing this feature.

Now, these pants are meant more for urbane, civilized duty. I won’t take these to my next Aboriginal Living Skills School course or on my next camping trip. Great for work, excellent for the brewery -- but I can’t see treating them too mean.