THTC Fuses Urban Eco-Wear with "Underground" Music

The Hemp Trading Company is the first retailer we've seen that markets hemp clothing to the music scene. The "T's", "hoodies", and sweats are 100% organic blends of hemp and cotton. And their brochure says they "work with the biggest names in the underground scene, from DJ's and MCS to Gaffers and B-Boys". Not knowing what to make of this green clothing/music scene fusion at first, we TreeHugger writers [ John & Kyeann] were offered samples of the "T" of our choice. Because we were both pretty outside the "TH-Boy" and "TH-Gurl" groove, we felt obliged to get some serious street-back about the products. Amazing to see that the UK has an "underground" music thing happening. We'd thought that became passe after Bob Dylan moved out of Big Pink. A reincarnation apparently.

John: -- Said the 17 year son old, with a wry smile: "cool..."can I wear it to school now?" And, "weird feel, made of hemp,...wow." That's pretty much emblematic of the feedback John got. Not quite up to Consumer Reports quantitative standards but telling nonetheless.

The first thought that comes to the mind of a US parent would be 'my kid will get kicked out of school for wearing a shirt with this logo or for the THC oriented prints.' Might even attract some undesired constabulatory attention at the Mall. Such concerns may seem silly in less culture-war-driven countries. But at the listed prices, it's worth considering how much wear the items will really get.

Have a down below for Kyeann's take and some marketing ideas.

Kyeann: -- I chose the shirt I was going to review, so I made my own bed. I don't know what I was thinking. The "Statue of Terror" design shows the statue of liberty holding a gun instead of a torch. Maybe I had just been watching the news, maybe the statue seemed much littler on the web site. When the shirt arrived, I couldn't imagine wearing it. First, there weren't any girlie sizes available, and I would have been dwarfed by the beefy-tee style. Second, I couldn't imagine confronting my fellow pedestrians in the Castro and Noe Valley with the image. I certainly wouldn't be shocking anyone, and imagined getting those affirmative responses from strangers that make me feel like I'm living in a little urban bubble world completely separate from the rest of the country. Clearly I'm too neurotic or old for overtly message-driven wear.

Unfortunately, I didn't know anyone with the demographic cred for street-back. I approached the closest approximation, my friend Jessie, a graphic/web designer whose clever tees generally make me touch his chest in delight. He stared blankly. "I don't get it." We discussed the statue and the torch, and it was strange how the message could seem very obscure or very obvious -- I think outside of the US the meaning is much clearer. He wasn't into it.

I went through this a couple of times before approaching Johanna, a gorgeous, tall, 23-year-old college student. She liked the color combination and the placement of the logo on the side, "it's a statement, but it takes looking at it for a second." She liked the way it hung -- a sort of casual-slim fit. "It's like your boyfriend's shirt that you like to wear because it kind of fit's you but it kind of doesn't." She didn't follow the advice about drip drying and got quite a bit of shrinkage, but now the M shirt fits much better. She got a few comments, a stranger said "whoa!" and an acquaintance said "I like your shirt." Johanna preferred the pre-wash softness of the hemp/cotton blend, but still likes the nubby feel. The wayward Statue of Terror tee has a home.

Shared positive impressions
Really great designs and plenty of prints to choose from.
The hemp-cotton blend has a unique and pleasant texture: good to the touch.
Colors all are rich and dark.
Lots of attention lavished on the wearer. Drawers are filled with t shirts; and attention getters are unusual.

Recommendation
Shrinkage was significant, as much or more than plain cotton would be. We are so used to polyester cotton blends that we forget how much cotton without any polyester shrinks. Order a size up in case a dryer is accidentally used.

Marketing Surprise
Of the dozens of people photos on the brochure, few are genuinely smiling; and one pose is that 'Hip-Hostile' thing. This somewhat startling marketing angle threatens to overwhelm the stereotypical environmental ethos. Nothing like radical pragmatism to expand green markets. At the listed prices, we'd have to guess that the Underground music scene is lucrative and culturally important. Maybe our readers can fill us in?

by: John & Kyeann

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