Men's fashion is a funny old thing. Traditional and hard-wearing, like an old tweed coat, with a fringe movement of colourful out-there brands at its periphery. But what's that in the distance? It's Change, and it's fast approaching. The great green beast that is Sustainability is coming for your wardrobe and it'll rip up everything you've got and replace it (neatly folded of course) with new shiny clothes that may appear a little different from what you owned before.
Please excuse our dip into the fantastical, but we hope it illustrates the point that fashion is changing. The fashion industry is a dirty player in the grand scheme of things, often ranked second to oil as the greatest polluter, depending on what metrics you go by. A way out has been explored many times, but as clothing has become a fundamental part of our consumer culture the ability to incite mass change really lies with us.
So, where to begin? Well, ultimately, the most sustainable thing to do would be to not wear any clothes. This is far from ideal for self-explanatory reasons. The next step is to buy (or rent) second-hand clothing. There are some great places to start, such as Marrkt, but despite being second-hand the price can still be prohibitive. Alternatively, your local neighbourhood vintage store will have some choice picks, but that musty smell isn't coming out anytime soon.
You're left with a third option, buy less and buy quality. By quality, we mean pieces that last a long time (ideally a lifetime), can be repaired and get better with age. To approach this you need to think of your wardrobe as whole. You don't necessarily need to be as extreme as The Minimalists, but their method is a good place to start. Taking a holistic view will help you breakout of the cycle of replacing with equally poor quality products.
Now you've identified a couple of pieces that you need, you need to find a replacement that works for you and the planet. Here are some of things Coalo suggests looking out for:
- Organic Cotton (there are various bodies that certify this like the BCI and GOTS
- Linen or Flax
- Recycled Polyester
- Recycled Nylon
Supply Chain (potentially dull, but necessary)
Here at Coalo, we're not suggesting you spend any time researching a brands supply chain, because we imagine you have much better things to be doing. However, here are some things to look out for when a brand is describing themselves:
- Carbon neutral/positive - if they mention this then you can take that as a good sign that they're offsetting emissions and being mindful of the miles that their products travel during manufacture
- Local Production - are they sourcing material and manufacturing close to each other? If so then they're cutting miles and therefore emissions
- Ethical working practices - the brand may be supporting local production forces with a higher wage, better working conditions or some other positive, helping to move the needle and support the communities they work with
The brand should deliver in recyclable or reusable packaging at all costs. There are so many options out there now that there is really no excuse to not be doing it.
Where are they based? Always opt for the option that's closest to cut emissions in the delivery process.
At Coalo, we do all the research for you. Our range of brands has been vetted for the above already so you can rest easy that what's you're buying is good for the planet. To help you on you way here are some to start looking at:
For comfortable underwear try Rozenbroek.
For minimally inspired footwear there's Elliott.
And for shirts you can't go wrong with this fine selection from Carpasus.
This is by no means an exhaustive guide, the topic is in flux as new developments are made and new brands launched, but hopefully this provides a taster for you to get started on building a more sustainable wardrobe.