Back in the summertime I stumbled upon a store in downtown Toronto that specialized in socks. It was a small boutique shop with wall-to-wall socks of colours and styles for all types of situations, from business to hiking. It was there that I discovered bamboo fabric.
For $15 I bought three pairs of bamboo ankle socks. Immediately upon wearing them, I noticed their unsurpassed comfort and quality. They kept my feet dry in the muggy July weather even after biking around town all afternoon. They also looked really cool with intricate patterns woven into them.
It might seem crazy that you can make clothing out of a type of wood. After all, we don’t wear maple shirts or redwood sweaters. But, as it happens, the cellulose in bamboo can be turned into soft, pliable fibres that make excellent clothing. At first, bamboo fabric was mostly used for things like bed linens and towels. Now you can find just about any article of clothing made with bamboo from underwear to hoodie sweaters.
Here are a few reasons why bamboo is an awesome clothing material:
It’s like a second skin
My bamboo socks are light and soft, yet durable and comfortable. Bamboo is often mixed with other fabrics like cotton or polyester to make it stronger and enhance its properties, but it’s always supremely comfortable and hugs close to your body like a second skin. Imagine spandex, but more breathable and porous. It’s also won’t make you look like a dork, as spandex will.
It stays dry and fresh
Bamboo possesses natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that keep it from accumulating funky odours. You can wear a piece of bamboo clothing day in and day out for over a week and it won’t stink like a typical cotton garment does. It wicks away moisture, keeping you dry, and this makes it great for gym clothes. The fabric has great thermal properties, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer due to the breathability of its porous structure. As if that isn’t enough, it also provides some UV protection—bamboo can do it all.
It’s environmentally friendly
Bamboo is also renowned for being a green fabric. Farmers don’t need to cultivate it and the shoots grow quickly and easily without fertilizers or insecticides. They also don’t need to clear massive tracts of land to plant it like they would with cotton because bamboo only needs sunlight and water with minimal nutrients to grow. Crops turnover fast due to its short grow time. It has little environmental impact, and thanks to its high sustainability is also a good moneymaker for developing nations where it grows naturally. Processing the cellulose into threads can be done without any chemicals, unlike other materials.
Cotton is becoming unsustainable as demand increases, farming land becomes scarce, and people become more environmentally conscious. Bamboo could be just the thing to replace more impactful and costly fabrics that are becoming increasingly expensive to harvest and process. So try on some bamboo. I think you’ll like it.
Chris Riddell is a freelance writer from Toronto who covers art, business, and urban life for various fine publications. Also a poet and aspiring novelist, he’s busting his butt trying to get his name into a few literary magazines these days. He encourages you to check out his website for a look at what he’s been working on lately.
Photo courtesy of Henry Burrows.