Published on October 29th, 2015 | by Becky Striepe
How to Be Vegan: What is vegan clothing?
You don’t eat your clothes so what is vegan clothing about? Here’s how and why to choose vegan clothing, shoes, and accessories.
This is the third installment in our How to be Vegan series here at Green Living Ideas. We are going through some common areas of your life and showing you how to identify and ditch animal products.
Veganism is not a crash diet or cleanse. It’s a lifestyle choice that’s all about protecting animals by avoiding animal products. Eating vegan food is definitely a great first step toward better animal welfare, but vegans also avoid cosmetics, clothing, and household products that contain animal products. We’ve got one more installment planned in this series about kicking animal products to the curb, so stay tuned!
What is vegan clothing?
Vegan clothing is any garment made without animal products. Some animal products, like leather, are pretty obvious, but others might be a little harder to spot. Here’s a list of things to avoid, if you want to keep dead animals out of your closet:
- suede (microsuede is animal free, though)
Animal products can hide in unexpected places, so read your clothing’s labels before you buy. If you want some help, Happy Cow has a handy guide to common alternatives to leather, fur, wool, down, and silk.
Why buy vegan clothing?
Because veganism is about protecting animals, vegans don’t buy clothing made from materials that exploit animals. According to PETA, animal products used in clothing manufacture aren’t just byproducts, as I’ve heard people argue. They point out, for example, that leather sales help support slaughterhouses by providing extra income.
Like factory farming in the food industry, raising animals for clothing and accessories is often cruel to the animals and harmful to the environment. Even “humanely raised” animals are kept in captivity and slaughtered years before they would have died naturally, so it’s hard to argue that any animal-based material is truly humane.
Ditching all animal materials might feel extreme, and I think that wool is a good example of how different reality is from our vision of animal agriculture. Sheep have been bred for decades to grow more and more skin, so that farmers can shear more wool from a single sheep. That selective breeding means that modern sheep are miserable. Jill Ettinger at Feelgood Style describes what real life is like for a modern sheep, “Mulesing is the practice of removing this excess skin around a sheep’s backside. To leave it there can allow feces to build up and (gross alert), maggots to literally infest and even kill the sheep. So mulesing is a practice of cutting off the wool and skin of young sheep’s behinds. This is almost always done without painkillers. Raw tissue is exposed and the injury can cause a lifetime of pain.
This isn’t a rare occurrence in wool production. It’s the norm, just like tail-docking pigs or beak-searing young chickens in factory farming. It’s part of industrial fashion.”
If we want to protect animals, we need to stop exploiting them, and what we put in our closets has as much power to change that as what’s on our plates.
Where can I find vegan clothing?
Shopping for vegan clothing doesn’t have to be difficult. Just look for natural, plant-based fabrics like cotton, linen, and hemp. Synthetics are also animal-friendly alternatives to materials like leather, wool, and silk. Many mainstream brands have vegan clothes, shoes, and accessories – just keep an eye on the label when you’re shopping.
Target and Payless actually have a great selection of accidentally vegan shoes and accessories. Look for “all manmade materials” on the label, and you’re good to go. If you want to make your search even easier, I recommend checking out Mooshoes, the vegan section of Planet Shoes, or Zappos’ vegan selection for vegan shoes, bags, belts, and other accessories.
Vegan clothing is very easy to find, as long as you’re willing to check the tags for animal products. Farm Sanctuary has a long list of vegan and vegan-friendly clothing brands that’s worth checking out. I also recommend perusing my friend Ashlee’s blog, The Little Foxes, for the latest and hippest in the vegan fashion world.
What about the animal products already in your closet?
This is a controversial topic in the vegan community, and I’ve seen discussions about it get pretty heated. Below are your two basic options; you decide what feels like the best choice for you!
Some vegans can’t bring themselves to wear the leather, silk, and wool clothing they owned in their pregan (pre-vegan) days. Others decide to stop buying new animal products but use what they have, since throwing those things away feels wasteful to them.
I can really understand either mindset. If every time you look at a pair of leather shoes, you see leather industry cruelty, I can sympathise with wanting to give them the boot. If throwing away wearable clothing and accessories doesn’t fit into your personal ethics, you might want to keep your old wool sweaters and just not buy any new animal-derived clothing or accessories.
Whichever option you choose for you old clothes is up to you. Go with your gut. At the end of the day, it’s about living your beliefs as best you can.