A few people will know what this image represents. For those who don't, I'm wringing out a white-tailed deer hide to prepare it for softening. This is part of the process of making brain-tanned hides. This fabric finishes as soft as flannel, quiet like wool in the forest, durable like denim, and prevents human scent from passing through (like modern-day hunting apparel). Variations of this process were used by many indigenous groups around the world.
Now, before any PETA members or radical vegans respond with rude comments, understand I'm more on your side (with regard to animal cruelty) than you might think. In fact, I believe the world would benefit immensely with a healthy dose of your respect and compassion for the other-than-human persons we share this world with. The hide I'm working on was discarded by the hunter who took this deer—I feel it is a greater honor to the animal to use all of its parts (including the sinew, hide, bone, fat, and others) than to take the lean cuts of meat and throw the rest away.
And, before anyone judges, let us examine the material that most clothing is made from—cotton. You may be astounded to realize that for every pound of conventionally raised cotton, it takes 1/3 pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to grow it. In fact, cotton is the most heavily sprayed crop in the world. While only 2.4% of the world's crop land is planted in cotton, this plant accounts for 24% of the world's insecticide use and 11% of the world's pesticide use. The collateral damage is immense and many studies document wildlife illness and death attributable to the chemicals used to grow this plant. And because the pesticides don't stay on the field, chemicals sprayed on cotton have been detected in human breast milk.
Brain-tanned clothing may not be something you want to wear but realize its manufacture requires no harmful chemicals, no long-distance transport of materials, and (most importantly) no forest clearing to create agricultural fields. Ancestral lifeways have something to offer us, and if we can merge the nature awareness and philosophy of the indigenous with the material knowledge of contemporary people, we could be looking at a very bright future.
Want more facts on how our modern clothing harm our health? Check out this link.