It seems like only a few short years ago, most brands focused on putting out as much clothing as possible with little or no focus on the impact of that "quantity over quality" approach.
Fortunately, consumer demand forced most brands to take a hard look at their environmental and social impact and now "sustainability" is where the conversation starts. Not only is eco-friendly clothing becoming the norm, but it’s taking on a variety of shapes and styles with something suitable for every need and season.
Of course, there are brands that claim to be "sustainable," and then there are the brands actually doing good work to help reduce the impact of their business and climate change as a whole.
The following ten men’s clothing brands are all great choices if you’re looking to support a company putting in the hard, necessary work to be better stewards of the planet.
Houdini Sportswear has its roots high up in the peaks of Scandinavia and spent the better part of 20 years becoming a cult favorite in the mountaineering community. Along the way, the brand made a serious commitment to durable, long-lasting technical gear and was one of the first to use recycled polyester in 2005. Since then, they’ve grown into one of the most transparent brands in the business, focusing on circularity and using only 100% recycled, recyclable, renewable, biodegradable or Bluesign-certified fabrics.
Since the winter gear-focused company opened its doors in 2008, they’ve maintained a serious commitment to making high-performance gear out of less-impactful materials. Among their biggest releases was a snow jacket made from a base material using sugarcane instead of traditional petroleum-based textiles. The French brand also supports minimal packaging and a host of other environmentally positive initiatives.
You can’t really talk about sustainability without mentioning Patagonia. The outdoor brand’s commitment to environmental and social issues starts at the top with founder Yvon Chouinard’s planet-first approach to not only his policies but just about everything the company does. The brand highlights the impact of each of its products and even self-imposes an “Earth Tax,” which is essentially a direct donation to environmental non-profits meant to offset some of the impacts the company’s products have on the planet.
For a long time, “sustainable” clothing was largely thought of as outdoors-only and technical in nature - clothing that had all the function but lacked serious style. In 2009, that changed with the launch of Spanish brand Ecoalf. Many of the brand’s releases look right at home in the city and often include environmental messaging right on the product. The company was also an early adopter of plastic waste removal from the oceans (transforming that plastic into usable clothing fabric) with their Upcycling the Oceans initiative.
“Sustainable” footwear had a similar crunchy, granola image problem where the most planet-positive kicks were largely confined to the beach. Saola Shoes solved that problem in a big way, not only embracing recycled plastic, algae soles, and organic cotton but continually working on ways to reduce their overall impact. Above all, their entire line is built to perform and meant to last.
When professional surfer Kelly Slater started Outerknown in 2015, sustainability was central to everything he hoped the brand could achieve. Six years later, it’s fair to say Outerknown is a leader in menswear, working with a variety of renewable materials and a commitment towards 100% product circularity by 2030 (along with a highly-detailed plan of how they’ll get there). It also helps that much of Outerknown’s gear is ultra-comfortable with just enough style to head from the beach to the bar.
Marine Layer is all about comfort and softness with a signature fabric made from recycled beechwood. The SF-based brand’s environmental commitment include the standard renewable materials, but also partnerships with ethical, upstanding manufacturers and upcycling leftover or used fabric into new garments. The brand’s style is certainly more understated, focusing on proven looks that work and will stand the test of time.
Darn Tough Vermont
Perhaps the original sustainability “strategy” was to make your gear last as long as possible, and that’s exactly what Darn Tough socks are known for. There isn’t much more to say about Darn Tough than that their socks are built for years of intensive use, and there’s a reason why so many hikers trust nothing besides a pair made in their Vermont mill. The brand is also an ardent supporter of the Responsible Wool Standard, ensuring that 100% of the wool they use is certified and traceable. Should the socks ever fail, they’ll replace them for life, no questions asked.
The eyewear industry inherently produces a lot of waste, but companies like Costa are doing their part to help offset and perhaps reverse some of the impacts of their products. Beyond using bio-based resins and recycled plastics in certain lines, Costa’s real impact comes through their environmental work, focusing on plastic removal in a variety of waterways and community-empowering conservation efforts in sensitive marine environments around the world.
Industry of All Nations
What’s most interesting about Industry of All Nations is their intense focus on transparency. Not does the brand detail the textiles used in each garment, but specifically the entire production process with location information along the way. Each product is produced entirely at the material source, reducing the shipping impact between locations, and IOAN also helps lift these communities through the reintroduction of local fabric techniques coupled with appropriate modern advances.