Submission FC has brought to market the first hemp BJJ gi for women, the ‘Hemp Ectasy’. Submission FC kindly sent me a pre-production model for pre-review, and I’ve enjoyed ‘test-driving’ the gi over the past 2 weeks. The gi is available in white with green and pink embroidery and is listed at $159.99USD. This review is based on the F3 top and bottoms, which weigh-in at 1.4kgs on my scales.(1)
The Hemp Ectasy sits at the more minimal end of the styling-spectrum with touches of embroidery on the epaulettes, overlap, skirt and trousers. Branded embroidery in forest green and bubblegum pink arch from the collar over each shoulder, while the name of the gi in a cursive font adornes the overlap and rear skirt of the jacket, again in green and pink. A matching bubblegum pink stitching is used throughout. The strong pink is also used with the double belt loops and the cord drawstring.
The colour scheme is an interesting choice and I’m not aware of any other women’s gi with green in the palette. I like this idea, and think that the particular shades of green and pink – a kelly green and buff pink – on the logo work really well together. We’ve had this discussion before, dear reader, about the use of pink with women’s gi and I’m keenly aware that some of you love it and some of you less-than-love it. So, what are your thoughts on this combo?
Fit and Performance
The Hemp Ectasy is a comfortable, loose-fitting gi with a conventional tailoring that has the potential to work with a variety of body types. The trousers are roomy throughout, similar to a wide leg jean, and though generously cut, they avoid the somewhat disproportionate width to length ratio of some women’s kimono such as the Black Eagle Predadora or the OTM Supa Star. The jacket too, has a good ratio of width to length and has a more conventional length and cut, rather than the shorter cropped styles of the Predadora and Supa Star. As my review specimen is a pre-production model, I can’t comment on the final fit however I can suggest that the Hemp Ectasy’s fit is similar to the Fuji Victory, though the Hemp Ectasy has a wider trouser leg.
The Hemp Ectasy performs well on the mat and in the wash. A great feature of the Hemp Ectasy is the cord drawstring and double belt loops, which keep the trousers secure and in place; with a knot in the cord, it does not loosen. The cord supplied with the trousers is very long and can be trimmed to a suitable length for you. The jacket was a good length on me and wasn’t so long as to restrict my hips or too short to ride up. As I have a pre-production model, I can’t offer measurements as these are still in development, but I can confirm that the Hemp Ectasy is true to its preshrunk credentials and shows no significant change after several warm 60° washes.
Hemp v Cotton
Pundits of hemp laud the frabic’s environmentally-friendly features and suggest it is a sustainable material at industrial levels of production. Submission FC makes the following claims about hemp fabric:
- Strength: Hemp is natures [sic] strongest fiber & is 4 times stronger than cotton
- Antimicrobial: Hemp is naturally antimicrobial so it protects you from any bacteria, fungus or mold
- Green: Hemp is natural and good for the environment
- Breathable: Hemp is much softer and breathable compared to cotton & helps air flow
- Comfort: Hemp fabric is smooth, 4 times softer than cotton & the most powerful humidity absorbing and ventilating natural fiber
There are no citations for these claims and while I’m not suggesting an intent to mislead, it would be fair to say that these are enthusiastic readings of the evidence. There is some controversy surrounding hemp’s credentials, green and otherwise, and, as it is often marketed as an ‘ethical’ choice for consumers, it is worth delving into them.
Hemp has been renowned as a strong and flexible fabric since its historical use as rope and canvas material. So while there is evidence of hemp’s toughness, my own research – limited and non-exhaustive as it was – could not find reliable confirmation of the 4x stronger than cotton claim. I did run across a Master’s thesis which investigated and compared hemp and cotton for use with furnishings, which suggested a slightly higher tear and abrasion rate for hemp over cotton, though it is unclear to me how these results may, or may not be applicable to hemp for use with clothing.
While hemp fibres may well have great antimicrobial properties, it is difficult to find quantified discussion of this from reliable online sources. There has been some work on the antimicrobial properties of hemp’s essential oils, but it is unclear if these properties are present in all hemp cloths. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note Georgette Oden’s review of the Datsusara Hemp Gi includes an non-scientific though intriguing experiment of ‘baking’ a wet post-training gi in the truck of a car in the Texas heat, a basic wash and voila, clean, fresh smelling gi.
Claims of hemp’s comfort, breathability and absorption are also hard to substantiate. While it may well be the case that hemp is more breathable and softer than cotton, quantified supporting evidence is hard to come by. Certainly, the gi behaves very much like a conventional cotton gi, as both hemp and cotton are natural fibres, and it breathes and absorbs well. Though it wouldn’t be possible for me to verify if this is to a greater degree than a 100% cotton gi (versus the 70/30 hemp/cotton blend of the ‘Hemp Ectasy’). Interestingly, there is some anecdotal evidence online to say that hemp diapers are more absorbant than cotton, so perhaps this fabric has better sweat-soaking potential than cotton, though it is unclear to what extent this can be proved and if it applies to blends.
The green credentials of hemp have been most thoroughly investigated and there is some evidence to suggest that industrial hemp production can be less harmful to the environment than industrial cotton growing, though to suggest that industrial hemp farming is actively beneficial to the environment is probably a bit out of step with the evidence. Hemp out-performs cotton on water consumption, acreage, and – when compared with non-organic cotton – pesticides and herbicides. So, if you’re looking for a more sustainable fabric for your gi, hemp is a good choice, though its advantages are largely negated when blended with conventionally produced silk or cotton; most hemp fabrics are a blend as 100% hemp tends to be rather rough on the skin. In the case of the Hemp Ectasy, which uses a bleached hemp/cotton blend, therefore, the environmental advantages of choosing hemp may be rather minimal.
By questioning some of the advantages of choosing hemp, I don’t wish to suggest that the gi isn’t a great serviceable piece of kit. The fabric of the Hemp Ectasy is comfortable, breathable, absorptive and in the short time I’ve been wearing it, performs well on the mats and handles washing well. My only point, and it is not specific only to this product, is that if your main interest as a consumer is sustainability, it is right to question the hyperbole around hemp and important to recognise that not all ‘hemp’ is equally sustainable or equally advantageous over all ‘cotton’. If you’re also interested in sourcing gi with guaranteed ethical labour practices, you’ve got a whole other set of concerns and barriers. In the final analysis, to me, Submission FC has used one of the new family of potentially more sustainable fabrics – such as bamboo, organic cotton and similar – to offer a unique product to the women’s BJJ gi marketplace, so even if the advantages of hemp are not fully recognised in this particular item, this is a positive step in the right direction and Submission FC should be recognised for that.
Cherrett, Nia et al. ‘Ecological Footprint and Water Analysis of
Cotton, Hemp and Polyester’. BioRegional Development Group
and World Wide Fund for Nature – Cymru, Stockholm Environmental Institute, 2005. PDF. 22 May 2013.
Miranda, DeeDee De. ‘An Evaluation of Hemp Fibre for Furnishing Applications’. Digital Collections of Colorado, Colorado State University, 2011. PDF. 22 May 2013.
Palmer, Brian. ‘High on Environmentalism: Can hemp clothing save the planet?’. Slate.Com, 12 Apr 2011. Web. 22 May 2013.
Style, Ruth. ‘Ask the Ecologist: cotton, hemp and bamboo – which is the green choice?’. The Ecologist.Org, 22 Jun 2011. Web. 22 May 2013.
All reviews are based on my independent observations. I have no formal qualifications, I am not sponsored by any company and I do not endorse any one brand. If you chose a gi based on my review, please let the manufacturer know that MegJitsu persuaded you. This will not benefit me financially, but can help me to get more gi to review.
Thanks to Submission FC for offering me a gi to test and review.
(1) For reference, I am 166cm/5’4.5″, 70kgs/150lbs and have bust, waist and hip measurements of 96cm/37″, 86cm/34″ and 100cm/39″; this review is of the F3.