The Good Jeans Guide: Ethical and Sustainable Denim
I’m in one of those creativity ruts where my brain is simply not functioning at the pace I’m accustomed to. I mean, I’ve endured a disruptive, identity-altering, ethics-questioning life change in my recent move, so it’s not surprising. But when creating features and writing think pieces have become a kind of hobby - a way to let off some steam - and it’s just. not. coming to you, things begin to compound.
Sooooo, I looked back over my blog drafts and found an empty post with some iteration of the above title and thought: Hey! Why not? We’re approaching full length pants season, especially here in New England (I am told this, but it’s been in the high 80s and even 90s since I arrived), and I have a strong feeling that this season will mark a sartorial transition of the type of denim I - and lots of other people - prefer:
For myself, I think I’m going to need to find more full length, rather than slightly cropped, denim options in order to stay warm on my walking commutes in the fall and winter (I actually have NO IDEA how to stay warm enough for New England winters, but surely having full length pants is a start?)
In the fashion soup that is the internet, I’m noticing a more assertive shift from skinny jeans to bootcut, flare, and looser-fit styles. While I don’t think this is cause to throw out older styles, my ample, swelling-prone knees are very thankful for less severe options.
As always, let me throw out my disclaimer that it’s a great choice to seek out secondhand options, even of “ethical” brands, in order to find a more manageable price point and participate in the secondhand economy. Leaving my thrift shop position has made me so grateful for sites like Ebay and Poshmark, where I can usually find exactly what I need at a price point that won’t throw my very, very limited grad student budget into disarray.
Items listed were chosen for some combination of commitment to labor ethics, environmental sustainability, inclusive sizing, and accessible price point. This post contains affiliate links.
$ - Less than $100 | $$ - $100-199 | $$$ - $200+
13 Ethical and Sustainable Denim Brands to Try This Fall
$ | High end fabrics and responsibly sourced. With a wide range of styles, fits, and washes, Universal Standard is a top pick. Sizes 00-40.
2 | Boyish Jeans
$-$$ | Low waste, low water usage, ethically produced. A focus on vintage washes and cuts. Sizes 22-32”.
3 | 3x1
$$-$$$ (Find it for less at TJ Maxx, but you can’t search by brand) | Made in USA. Lots of vintage to modern style cuts in soft cotton fabric. Sizes 23-32”.
4 | Eileen Fisher
$$. Ethically produced with organic cotton, in lots of cuts and styles. Sizes 0-18.
5 | Levi’s
$-$$ | Committed to low water usage and textile innovation. You know about Levi’s. Sizes 24-34”. Plus sizes 14-26.
6 | Reformation
$-$$ | Made with cotton and sustainable tencel in figure hugging styles. Sizes 23-31”. Plus sizes 14-24.
7 | People Tree
$$ | Fair trade. A limited collection in classic weight, 100% organic cotton denim. Sizes UK 8-16.
8 | ABLE
$-$$ | Made in an ethical factory in Mexico. Sleek, “younger” styles in classic colors. Sizes 24-32”.
9 | Everlane
$ | Made in a fair trade, sustainable factory. Classic skinny jeans and more of-the-moment straight leg and bootcut styles. Sizes 23-33”.
10 | Agolde
$$. Made in USA. Perfectly worn in vintage and classic styles. Sizes 24-32”.
$-$$ | Made at the same factory Everlane and Eileen Fisher use. Easy, flattering styles. Sizes 23-37”.
12 | Kowtow
$$-$$$ | Fair trade, organic. Avant-garde for every day. Sizes XXS-XL.
13 | Monkee Jeans
$ | Organic and ethically produced. Unadorned, everyday jeans. Sizes 26-32”.
Secondhand tip: I really like vintage Lee, Wrangler, and LL Bean denim.