Chico Company Creates Mens Stylish Hemp Clothing

Men’s fashion, especially men’s shirts, has evolved more slowly than the eclectic, often frenetic world of women’s fashion. Chico-based company Parallel Revolution is leading the way with changes men can feel good about.

Jake Wade and Andrew Schrage co-founded the company in 2010. Schrage was, according to Wade, an eco-driven guy, so the idea of making sustainable men’s clothing was a natural fit.

When Schrage proposed the idea, Wade had two conditions – that their products should be made of hemp and made in the USA. Schrage agreed and the company was born.

Parallel Revolution denotes a revolution, of doing the opposite of what men’s fashion has done for over 30 years, and, said Wade, of doing things correctly. That meant figuring out where the raw material was coming from, who was going to cut and sew it, who’d make the packaging, who would do the design work, the embroidery, etc.

“(We) were pretty ambitious in the beginning,” Wade said, who was going to college when they formulated their plans.

During their first year (Wade’s sophmore year), they created their logo and a trademark. Year two, things opened up.

The partners decided to aim high and not do cheap products. For their signature clothing, they wanted quality, style and biodegradability. They connected with a textile and design graduate who created two designs for them., then led them to a a sample maker in Los Angeles.

They also experimented with different buttons made from:

  • bamboo
  • coconut
  • river shell
  • corozo (also known as tagua palm nut)

They decided to go with the corozo, which they get from a 3rd generation family in Ecuador that”s been in the button-making business for over 100 years.

“(The buttons are) probably the most sustainble piece of the shirt,” said Wade.

When these egg-size nuts fall from gigantic trees in the mountains, they crack open. Once they’re dry enough, the locals collect them, then sell them for buttons. Each nut seed produces 4 to 7 buttons.

Completely biodegradable and harder than ivory, these nuts can be made into jewelry and chess pieces.

Parallel Revolution sourced its hemp material through a vertically integrated company from Colorado that’s worked with them ever since. The raw hemp comes from approximately 1,800 small farmers in China who are part owners of the processing, dye and other factories.

“The hemp is certified organic,” said Wade. The dye is low impact and their YSO blend – one of their flagship shirts – is made from cellulose from eucalyptus trees. Their 158 shirts are made of this.

They use what Wade terms “no harm silk.”

Many companies incenerate or poison the silkworms while still in the cocooon when they’ve almost hatched. This produces the longest, strongest piece of silk. Parallel Revolution waits for the moths to leave the cocoon, then harvests the silk.

It has a unique feel and look to it, Wade says. “It’s perfectly imperfect.”

Their final products are around 97 percent biodegradable and “green”.

Single or double orders are shipped in a recycled reusable plastic bag. The fabric and the buttons are biodegradable. Even their finished hang tag, made by a family-owned San Diego company, is handmade with California wildflowers. The string is biodegradable hemp. Simply remove the tag and plant it in your garden.

The only things not biodegradable are their polyester thread – cotton thread snaps too easily – and some of the label’s backing is poly-cotton blend.

Concerning biodegradability, Wade says the majority of their blends will start biodegrading within 1 year. The lighter blends will be non-existant in 3½ years and all their products will completely biodegrade in 5 years.

But no need to worry. Biodegradability means these clothes must be left in the elements – rain, sun.

“(They) will not fall apart in your closet,” he said.

Wade says they plan to eventually offer a full men’s and women’s line of clothing.

Their design is innovative for the industry.

They’ve adjusted the neck and sleeve opening length..The top two buttons are spaced out approximately every two inches.

“That’s the right amount of chest,” said Wade. “It fits well in the shoulders and arms, it’s professional and it’s beter looking,” he said. “It increases how comfortable it is.”

“That’s the level of detail you’re really paying for,” Wade said.

These shirts aren’t inexpensive. But, says Wade, “at the end of the day you can’t build the best without starting with quality materials and that isn’t cheap.”

Wade pulls inspiration from Sierra Nevada and Tesla.

His shirts “are our Tesla Roadster,” he said. “Give us some time and we’ll make a $60,000 car and in a little more time we’ll make something for $30,000.”

Parallel Revolution is based around ethics and making a positive impact.

“We can open a lot of doors and educate people that it’s not gunnysack material and it’s not marijuana,” said Wade. “People can see how handsome it is, how long it lasts and how sustainable (and) biodegradable it is.”

Wade’s personal mission is to rebuild the “American Hemp-ire.”

Schrage emphasized their business model. “(It’s) profit via ethics and quality, not at the expense of people, the environment and our own values.”

You’ll find these stylish eco-friendly shirts online at www.pararev.com.

Interested in expanding your green culture? Contact Debra at debraatlas@gmail.com or via her blog at www.Envirothink.wordpress.com

Avatar
A former long-term resident of Redding who loves its natural wonders, journalist and blogger Debra Atlas is reachable www.Eco-hub.com or debraatlas@gmail.com
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24 Responses

  1. Avatar Lori says:

    Looks like they have the style part down. Product made in America but the materials are not. I like the concept, but to really make a difference the materials should also be produced in the USA. Maybe they will get there someday.

    • Avatar A Brady says:

      Lots of legal ramifications for hemp farmers in U.S.

    • Avatar Jake Wade says:

      Hi Lori,

      Unfortunately industrial hemp has not been legal to grow in the USA since a few years after WWII. Not only that, but I believe the hemp processing equipment was melted down for ammunition during that time as well. Does anyone else know for sure?

      Anyhow, that covers why we have to import our hemp fabric from China (which is where the highest quality hemp textiles are produced). As far as the buttons go, tagua palm trees do not grow indigenously anywhere in the United States. More specifically, the largest seeds (yielding the most buttons per seed) are from Tagua palms in Ecuador.

      Hope this helps.

      Sincerely,
      Jake Wade

    • Avatar Linda Delair says:

      When Hemp becomes de-criminalized and is once again legal to grow in America, small farmers produce this wonderful plant for buyers such as these ecopreneurs, and your wish will come true Lori. This won’t happen until people understand that these men chose hemp for it’s small environmental footprint, durability, it’s many many uses, and the determination to open an industry which supports American farmers, and puts people to work in earth honoring ways.

  2. Avatar Terry says:

    Before we made and imported jewelry, now we dismantle electronic waste and send the recycled material back into the market for repurposing. The FTC is holding everyone hostage in requiring anyone who labels there products ” Made in the USA” to have EVERYTHING supplied domestically (Natural Resource), of course none of the other countries importing to the US are held to that standard BUT, now with advent of recycling we have that opportunity to roll back into the market place. Love your concept, it was executable and hopefully it will encourage more businesses to invest and entertain the fact that Organic, Biodegradable, Recycled sells.

    Great Testimony.

    Terry
    PMI

    • Avatar Jake Wade says:

      Hello Terry,

      You’re quite right! That being said, we have found that customers resonate with “Made in USA” more so than “Manufactured in the United States,” which is how our labels read.

      Thank you for the love and we’d be thrilled if our practices encouraged more businesses to hop on board. The more the merrier!

      Sincerely,
      Jake Wade

  3. Avatar A Brady says:

    My husband has had several hemp shirts for years. The material gets very soft after many washings and he likes how breathable they are. Yet, the fabric is close-knit enough to be a good sun-screen.

  4. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    There are several groups of people in Northern California who are raising sheep and alpacas, carding, spinning, weaving and knitting wool and cotton. And there are people with sheep and alpacas who bundle up the wool and put it in the barn because they don’t know what to do with it.
    I LOVE the idea of quality clothing. Good design and fabrics. Attention to detail. I so hope this venture does well…..because that is exactly the kind of of venture that we need in the U.S.

    • Avatar Pamela says:

      Yes, we certainly do need alternatives to current methods of doing business.

    • Avatar Jake Wade says:

      Hi Joanne,

      Who are the groups of people/companies producing wool textiles? I’d love to connect with them for future projects.

      Thank you so much for the compliments and kind wishes, it means a lot to us. Hopefully we’ll be able to grow and continue to offer clothing we can all be proud of.

      Sincerely,
      Jake Wade

  5. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Hemp farms have been growing hemp in southeastern Colorado for two years. All the information can be found on the website of the Colorado Dept of Agriculture.

    • Avatar Jake Wade says:

      Hi Cheyenne,

      Thanks for the comment. We’ve been following the news on Colorado’s pilot project, we’re excited to see it succeed.

      Can you put me in contact with the folks running it? We’d love to talk with them.

      Sincerely,
      Jake Wade

  6. Avatar Ginny says:

    What about using bone, horn, and antler buttons made right here in the USA? There are American Indians who have these products.

    • Avatar Jake Wade says:

      Hi Ginny,

      We’re not opposed to using bone/horn buttons, we use tagua currently for it’s strength and ability to be shaped and dyed into so many options.

      Do you have the contact information for the American Indians who supply these buttons?

      Sincerely,
      Jake Wade

  7. Avatar Mark says:

    Thanks, Debra, for this great press on a wonderful service to sustainable fashion!

    Hey, Jake and Andrew: for us casual dressers, what kind of time frame is likely for the transition in the country of manufacture of your t-shirt line from China to the U.S.? I’m especially in the market for long-sleeved, just in case that style’s not yet on-the-table…
    although I can definitely find hemp/OG cotton blend shirts made in U.S., I suspect that yours are created with more care and style than most of the others, so it’s be great to give yours a try after that ‘transition’ occurs. Cheers!

  8. Avatar Jake Wade says:

    Hi Mark,

    I wish I could give you a time frame for this, but I can’t say for certain. All of our efforts and resources are directed at woven garments for the time being. We simply have more interest and requests for jackets, pants and accessories like ties and pocket squares.

    Thank you for your confidence in our care/style, I wish we could make something for everyone but we’re just too small at the moment. That being said, I know Recreator is making some great hemp t-shirts in LA and Fed By Threads has some awesome options as well.

    Shoot me an email I’ll put you on a notification list for new product releases.

    Sincerely,
    Jake Wade
    jake@pararev.com

  9. Avatar doug okun says:

    where can I but a black mens shirt ??? (boston,ma)

    • Avatar Mark says:

      Hey, Doug.
      If you don’t know of a group of shops called the Hempest, then it’s a great idea to get to know it by visiting their site on hempest.com. There you’ll find the brick&mortar store locations, a few in the greater Boston area! They oughta be able to hook you up with a nice hemp-based blackie, though it won’t be made by ParaRev 🙂 You’ll be able to try it on at the shop and leave a mighty small footprint in the process…

    • Avatar Jake Wade says:

      Hey Doug,

      We have quite a few black shirting options on our website (https://www.pararev.com) you might like to check out.

      And as Mark mentioned, the Hempest is also a great option if you’re looking for something at a lower price point — and they’re local in your case!

      Hope you find what you’re looking for and don’t hesitate to shoot me an email if you have any questions.

      Cheers,
      Jake