8 Sustainable Menswear Brands That Are Combating Fast Fashion

These forward-thinking companies are changing the way your clothing is made – and discarded.

Even if you care about the planet – and you should – it seems like every big brand is jumping on the sustainability bandwagon.

There’s a term for this (it’s called green-washing) and after a decade of “going green” it can be kind of grating …and scan as fake.

But here’s the thing: brands that truly use sustainable manufacturing methods often make better clothing … and do it without sweatshops or tons of industrial waste. The result? Clothing that will last longer and use fewer resources along the way.

Why Do We Need “Sustainable” Style?

The fashion industry is incredibly, fantastically wasteful.

From water usage (it takes over 700 gallons of water to make one t-shirt) to greenhouse gas release (1.5 trillion pounds in 2015 just for polyester production alone), the modern system of “fast fashion” is hugely resource intensive.

And its impact is expanding.

As the global middle class grows from 3 billion today to 5+ billion in 2030, the demand for cheap, quickly-made clothing will only increase.

And get this: post-WWII, the clothing industry had two seasons, fall/winter and spring/summer. In the 21st century, the number of so-called “microseasons” has grown to over 50.

That’s a clothing “season” for every week of the year.

According to the McKinsey consulting firm, consumers in 2014 bought 60% more clothing than in 2000 and kept their purchases just half as long. 85% of clothing ends up in landfills – including the clothes that are donated to places like Goodwill.

It all points to one glaring need: style that’s less costly in resources and waste. Enter: sustainable style.

sustainable men's clothing brands

nothing new logoWe're excited to collaborate with Nothing New on this guide, a company proving it's possible to create stylish (and affordable) clothing without creating any new waste in the process. See how their line will change the way you wear sneakers. 

What is this?

What Is Sustainable Style?

Sustainable style is actually a complex interdisciplinary field of study. Don’t believe me? Just check out the Wikipedia page – one of the most comprehensive Wikipedia pages I've ever seen.

Here’s what you need to know: “sustainable” clothing generally encompasses three things: materials, manufacturing, and workforce.

When it comes to materials, most clothing uses a huge amount of resources. Cotton requires thousands of gallons of water to go from a plant in a field somewhere to a finished product. Synthetic fabrics utilize petroleum and highly toxic chemicals.

Organic cotton is better – it uses fewer chemicals to grow – but only accounts for about 1% of worldwide production. The gold standard in sustainable clothing is to use recycled, reclaimed, and re-purposed materials.

Sustainable manufacturing means shifting from fossil fuels to clean energy at the factory and using fewer chemicals on the clothes themselves (inexpensive denim, for example, is made with a toxic mixture of over 25 industrial solvents, fixaters, and resins). It’s also about making sure producing clothing doesn’t trash the surrounding ecosystems.

Treating your workforce fairly is also hugely important. Many of the brands we selected are partly or wholly made in the USA, which helps ensure fair labor standards.

Sustainable Style Is Quality Style

By looking out for brands committed to sustainable style, you know you’re getting a higher baseline of quality, from materials to workmanship.

High quality, classic pieces that will last years equals savings for you and a win for the planet because you’ll throw away fewer things and buy new pieces less often.

Here are our top picks for stylish clothing with intentional practices.

8 Sustainable Men's Clothing Brands Changing the Game

Nothing New

Visit Nothing New

Based in: New York
Ethics: 100% recycled materials in their products, carbon neutral production, pays you for old shoes
Product Range: Canvas sneakers
Size Range: 7-13

The recycled plastic that Nothing New uses for their low key, stylish sneakers gets converted to a canvas-like material that is both ultra comfortable and ultra durable (and looks nothing like rope sandals). Each pair recycles the plastic of 5.6 plastic water bottles.

They use some more familiar materials like recycled industrial cork and rubber for the outsoles and recycled cardboard for packaging, but they also use old fishing nets for the heel counters and recycled cotton for the labels, and their process is carbon neutral.

By using techniques like strobel stitch for the uppers, they avoid using toxic glues and end up with a much more durable product than your average cap-toed sneaker.

They are literally trying to add no new raw materials to the fashion market, and saving 160 gallons of water per pair in the process. On average, it takes 30 years for a pair of shoes to decompose in a landfill – and 300 million pairs are thrown out every year.

One way of addressing that? When you're ready for a new pair, you can ship it back to them for a $20 credit towards a new pair so that the old ones can be recycled and don't end up in landfill.

The boot-like high top sneaker in the Field Tan colorway shown here is a collaboration with Thursday Boots, with a few other exclusive colors also in the collection.

todd-shelton

Todd Shelton

Visit Todd Shelton

Based in: East Rutherford, New Jersey
Ethics: Made in the USA with fair labor practices
Product Range: Jeans, pants, shirts, and sweatshirts in neutral colors
Size Range: s-2xl; 28-40

The first thing you notice about Todd Shelton is their super clean, pared-down collection of shirts and pants that can all be worn with any of the other pieces in the collection. It’s like a pre-curated capsule wardrobe.

It’s also bespoke-lite. Everything is made to order from a comprehensive set of measurement options. Such a considered, cohesive line comes at a serious pricepoint, however – you’ve been warned.

Todd Shelton is committed to only sourcing materials from areas with upstanding human rights records, and to manufacturing entirely in the USA.

We also enjoyed their “7 Rules for Clothing,” an intriguing conversation-starter about how and why we wear clothes, with an emphasis on simplicity and intentionality.

dearborn-denim

Dearborn Denim

Visit Dearborn Denim

Based in: Chicago
Ethics: Made in the USA to support a struggling industry
Product Range: Jeans, belts, t-shirts, and sweatshirts
Size Range: s-xl; 28-44

There are only a few denim mills still producing in the U.S.A., and Dearborn sources from all of them. This means that your jeans will be milled, cut, sewn, and crafted here, and each worker along the way will be paid a fair wage.

The company is focused on fit: each pair is hemmed to length and comes in a wide range of sizes. You can also get free custom hems at their store in Chicago. The result is lightly tailored at an extremely reasonable price-point.

In his explanation of what makes their jeans especially comfortable, founder Rob McMillan boils it down to three factors: type of cotton, type of yarn, and weave method. Spoiler: being exceptionally thoughtful about method apparently results in a better product.

american-giant

American Giant

Visit American Giant

Based in: San Francisco
Ethics: Direct relationships with their cotton farmers
Product Range: Full line of casual shirts, pants, jeans, and outerwear
Size Range: s-xxxl; 30-38

Known for making “the greatest hoodie of all time,” and for making people wait months for said hoodie, American Giant has expanded their line to include shirts, pants, sweaters, and jackets that are all built with the same care and attention that the first hoodie has been so loved for.

And yes, it’s all made in the U.S. from stem to stern.

American Giant’s founder Bayard Winthrop explains that knowing the farmers who grow the cotton makes the product better because there’s a drive to make something worthy of that relationship.

This is a brand that seems truly dedicated to fighting fast fashion. Yes, you will pay $28 for a t-shirt, but it will last hundreds of washes and look even better over time.

outerknown

Outerknown

Visit Outerknown

Based in: Culver City, CA
Ethics: Radical transparency in an opaque industry
Product Range: Full line of casual shirts, pants, jeans, and outerwear
Size Range: xs-xl; 28-38

With Outerknown, pro surfer Kelly Slater and designer John Moore offer a Code of Conduct that covers environmental impact, employee working conditions, and the community impact of production. There’s also a frankness about not having it all figured out that’s refreshing.

Outerknown has one of the biggest collections listed here, and there’s a bit more variety due to the many suppliers they use (which are all listed on the website – transparency!)

It’s already winter where I live and I’m eyeing the Blanket Shirt. It’s soft, durable, and the patterns are like the stylish older cousin of the flannel shirts you wore in college.

taylor-stitch

Taylor Stitch

Visit Taylor Stitch

Based in: San Francisco
Ethics: Using regenerative fabrics to eliminate waste; buy back, repair, and resell garments
Product Range: Full line of casual shirts, pants, jeans, and outerwear
Size Range: xs-xxl; 29-38

Taylor Stitch wants your old shirts. And jeans. And workwear.

Through their Restitch program, they buy back old clothing to repair and resell, which reduces waste and encourages thoughtful purchases. Their system also promotes the idea that clothing can be worn-in and still be attractive, even elegant.

Taylor Stitch also makes brand new clothing using small batch techniques and renewable materials like wool and recycled polyester to further prevent waste.

We particularly like the handsome dark olive Camp pants that look like they could handle both a day of ranching and an evening winery tour.

sustainable mens socks arvin

Arvin Goods

Visit Arvin Goods

Based in: Seattle, WA
Ethics: Using reclaimed cotton and alternative fabrics in pursuit of carbon neutral
Product Range: Socks, underwear, headwear

Arvin Goods takes sustainability to a new level in their commitment to being 100% carbon neutral (imagine trying to make yourself carbon neutral?).

They use all-recycled material from other clothing manufacturers to make socks, underwear, and headwear, as well as a few collaborative collections with indie designers.

They come in a range of bright colors, and are entirely reasonably priced.

sustainable brands alternative apparel

Alternative Apparel

Visit Alternative Apparel

Based in: Norcross, GA
Ethics: (more) sustainable materials and methods with better transparency
Product Range: T-shirts, sweatshirts, joggers, outerwear, accessories
Size Range: s-xl

An eco-conscious subsidiary of Hanes, Alternative Apparel makes a wide range of basics using low-impact dyes and reclaimed water for washes. For a satellite of a mega-company, they’re also making an admirable effort at transparency about where the clothing is made.

The effort to be more socially and ecologically mindful can be seen in their WRAP-certified factories and biodegradable packaging.

In The End, It’s Still All About Quality

These brands are all doing different things but sending a similar message.

Use fewer resources, make less waste.

Be aware of the humanity behind the clothes you choose.

Buy classic pieces, not trends that will be garbage within the year.

All those things add up to quality, which is always on-trend, better for the planet, and better on you.

Have a great pick for eco-conscious clothing? Let us know in the comments!

Stillman Brown is a writer and TV producer who has created prime time content for National Geographic, Discovery, Travel Channel and many others. His interests span science & the natural world, personal growth, and food. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.