As we’re in the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight, we thought it an apt time to publish a list of our favourite ethical clothing brands for guys. Why just the focus on men? From my very limited experience, I’ve found that most of these lists tend to be geared towards women’s fashion. I guess that makes sense when womenswear market sales in the UK in 2015 amounted to £27 billion compared to the £14 billion generated by menswear (sources, because I’m legit).
As a man who appreciates dressing well – cue a reem of comments from my friends and family – I have a bunch of brands and shops that I follow. I’m not here to convince you to dress well, but Mark Twain is. “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
threads have covered – so many puns – ethical clothing a number of times; and rightly so. Our generation is bored and sick of a faith that is kept in a box between Sunday mornings and a weekly evening Bible study. If the Bible is true – and we believe this to be the case – then how we live in the here and now becomes as, if not more important, than our afterlife. As representatives of God’s kingdom, our whole lives are to be subject to His lordship, including our consumption habits. Quite quickly we realise that it’s uncomfortable because it comes into conflict with how society tells us we should live. Consumerism is one of the strongest narratives of our time and it’s one that shapes us more than we probably even realise.
For many Christians in the West, bringing the ‘how’ and ‘what’ we buy isn’t often an area we think about submitting to the lordship of Jesus. Clothing in particular can seem rather trivial. When we explore the issue, we quickly realise just how much our faith has to say about what we buy and what we wear. Are the things we buy being made by people – divine image-bearers, remember – in exploitative ways? Are the owners of our favourite brands supporting systemic inequality?
Convenience, it seems, doesn’t line up with the kingdom of God. Convenience is not a spiritual discipline.
The good news is that the internet has made it a lot easier to discover brands and shops that do value ethics. We’ve drawn up a list of some of our favourites for you to explore.
One final note about money. You may notice that some of these brands and shops have prices that are much higher than you may be used to paying. Unfortunately, what you may be used to paying might not be fair. There’s also a strong case buying well and buying less often. There is, however, more work to be done on making high-quality brands accessible to lower-income households; reducing consumption and buying less shouldn’t be restricted to the middle-classes. Finally, I’ve focussed on new items but a massive part of ethical shopping is in buying second-hand. In that regard, eBay and charity shops are great. I’ve recently discovered that the charity shops in a more affluent part of my city are goldmines.
On with the list. We’ve gone for a toe-to-top approach, starting at footwear and working upwards.
Highlighted brand: Nisolo
When Patrick and Zoe took development jobs in Peru and met a community of talented shoemakers with no means to reach global markets, Nisolo was born. The level of care and value placed on the Peruvian shoemakers is incredible. And the shoes the make are beautiful. They make women’s footwear too!
Highlighted brand: Hiut Denim
All of the brands mentioned above are worthy of attention. Personally, I own a pair of Hiuts that should last me for another decade or so. They are expensive, though. Do have a look at the work of Gustin and Taylor & Stitch, though. Both are based in the USA, so shipping must be considered. But the concept is brilliant. Gustin crowdsource all of their products, which means zero waste. If someone in the UK wants to set up a similar store (or knows of one that exists already!) creating a range of beautiful clothes sourcing high-quality materials and treating staff well, I’ll be your first customer.
Highlighted shop: Brothers We Stand
We have a lot of time for the BWS team – read our conversation with them from last year. They’ve done a stellar job at scouring the market for ethically produced men’s clothing; I love their t-shirt selection in particular. Some are crafted in a workshop set up by Franciscan nuns, others were cut and sewn in a wind-powered factory. Each tee has a story. And they look great. The BWS team have even made a few themselves!
Highlighted brand: Howies
Organic cotton, Merino wool and recycled cotton are the name of the game here with this company based in south Wales. Just go have a look at their site, they do everything.
Jumpers / Hoodies
Highlighted brand: Tom Cridland
The jumper is a staple in any man’s wardrobe. But the problem with poorly-made tops is that they fall apart after only a few washes. Tom Cridland’s ’30 Year Sweatshirt’ is where it’s at. It’s only been made for a few years so there’s no exact telling what it might look like in 2047. I’m stubborn enough to give it a go, though. My grandkids will hopefully think I’m awesome.
Highlighted brand: Trakke
My previous bag was one bought for me from Etsy, but didn’t last too long before it was being supported through the addition of climbing carabiners. I was chuffed to be given a Trakke backpack for Christmas last year. Designed and built in Scotland out of British materials such as waxed cotton and Harris Tweed. Buy one of these and it will probably last longer than you.
There we have it. Please contribute in the comments section below… what are your favourite ethical clothing brands for gents?