The Good Jeans Guide: Ethical and Sustainable Denim
No matter one’s size or shape, denim occupies this weird space of being both highly desirable as a component of one’s wardrobe and hopelessly difficult to find in the right fit. Even the slightest variance in waist or hip proportion can throw off an otherwise good pair of jeans. That’s why I created this guide, in the hopes that, with a little trial and error, you can find a pair of ethical and sustainable denim that makes you feel great.
I have a strong feeling that this season will mark a sartorial transition of the type of denim I – and lots of other people – prefer:
- For myself, I think I’m going to need to find more full length, rather than slightly cropped, denim options in order to stay warm on my walking commutes in the fall and winter (I actually have NO IDEA how to stay warm enough for New England winters, but surely having full length pants is a start?)
- In the fashion soup that is the internet, I’m noticing a more assertive shift from skinny jeans to bootcut, flare, and looser-fit styles. While I don’t think this is cause to throw out older styles, my ample, swelling-prone knees are very thankful for less severe options.
As always, let me throw out my disclaimer that it’s a great choice to seek out secondhand options, even of “ethical” brands, in order to find a more manageable price point and participate in the secondhand economy. Leaving my thrift shop position has made me so grateful for sites like Ebay and Poshmark, where I can usually find exactly what I need at a price point that won’t throw my very, very limited grad student budget into disarray.
Items listed were chosen for some combination of commitment to labor ethics, environmental sustainability, inclusive sizing, and accessible price point. This post contains affiliate links.
$ – Less than $100 | $$ – $100-199 | $$$ – $200+
13 Ethical and Sustainable Denim Brands to Try This Fall
$ | High end fabrics and responsibly sourced. With a wide range of styles, fits, and washes, Universal Standard is a top pick. Sizes 00-40.
2 | Boyish Jeans
$-$$ | Low waste, low water usage, ethically produced. A focus on vintage washes and cuts. Sizes 22-32”.
3 | 3×1
$$-$$$ (Find it for less at TJ Maxx, but you can’t search by brand) | Made in USA. Lots of vintage to modern style cuts in soft cotton fabric. Sizes 23-32”.
4 | Eileen Fisher
$$. Ethically produced with organic cotton, in lots of cuts and styles. Sizes 0-18.
5 | Levi’s
$-$$ | Committed to low water usage and textile innovation. You know about Levi’s. Sizes 24-34”. Plus sizes 14-26.
6 | Reformation
$-$$ | Made with cotton and sustainable tencel in figure hugging styles. Sizes 23-31”. Plus sizes 14-24.
7 | People Tree
$$ | Fair trade. A limited collection in classic weight, 100% organic cotton denim. Sizes UK 8-16.
8 | ABLE
$-$$ | Made in an ethical factory in Mexico. Sleek, “younger” styles in classic colors. Sizes 24-32”.
9 | Everlane
$ | Made in a fair trade, sustainable factory. Classic skinny jeans and more of-the-moment straight leg and bootcut styles. Sizes 23-33”.
10 | Agolde
$$. Made in USA. Perfectly worn in vintage and classic styles. Sizes 24-32”.
$-$$ | Made at the same factory Everlane and Eileen Fisher use. Easy, flattering styles. Sizes 23-37”.
12 | Kowtow
$$-$$$ | Fair trade, organic. Avant-garde for every day. Sizes XXS-XL.
13 | Monkee Jeans
$ | Organic and ethically produced. Unadorned, everyday jeans. Sizes 26-32”.
Secondhand tip: I really like vintage Lee, Wrangler, and LL Bean denim.
Though these brands don’t fit all of my ethical and sustainable criteria, they offer high quality jeans with curvy and plus size ranges
$ | Sizes 000-24 (short and tall, Curvy options) | See a review here.
$ | Sizes 24-24, and Plus Sizes 14-26 (Petite and Curvy options, too)