Looking for a pair of ethical jeans or denim? I’ve found the best brands in my guide to sustainable denim that cater to men, women, and unisex styles. I also have some exclusive discount codes to help save you money.
What’s the most hardworking item in your wardrobe? For me, it’s my jeans. A true workhorse, is there anything that jeans don’t go with?
Well, actually, do jeans go with sustainability? Are the two words mutually compatible? There’s a lot wrong with a standard pair of jeans. Let’s take a brief look, before looking into my guide to ethical jeans and denim.
Quick Links To The Best Ethical Jeans
Use these quick links to jump to information about each brand, or keep scrolling for the full post:
- Beyond Retro
- The Hemp Shop Co
- Nudie Jeans
- Oxfam Online
- Thought Clothing
What’s Wrong With Conventional Denim?
Jeans are one of the most commonly bought items of clothing in the UK. However, making a pair of conventional jeans is a dirty business.
From the environmental and social impact of growing cotton inorganically to the vast amount of water that it takes to make a single pair of jeans, right through to the associated water pollution.
However, these aren’t the only impacts that the denim industry has. Sandblasting jeans, to create a lived-in look can cause the deadly lung disease silicosis in workers who are involved in sandblasting.
Meanwhile, synthetic indigo dyes use chemicals known for their toxicity. These include formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide. Conventional denim is far from ethical.
Guide To The Best Ethical Jeans and Denim In The UK
Thankfully there are better ways to shop for jeans more ethically. If you are looking to buy ethical and sustainable jeans and denim clothing then check out my top choices below. Look out for exclusive discount codes from several brands!
The price range key for this guide is:
£ = Under £50 | ££ = £50 – 100 | £££ = £100+
BAM’s supersoft jeans, for both men and women, are a great sustainable choice of jeans. Made from a blend of organic cotton and bamboo, this means its jeans are soft and comfortable to wear.
BAM says these jeans use 74% less water than the average pair of jeans to manufacture. And although producing bamboo fabric can be harmful to workers and the environment, BAM uses safer closed-loop processes. I’ve written about BAM’s careful manufacturing processes here.
Because of the rivets and hardware on conventional jeans, only the legs of conventional jeans can be recycled. What makes BAM’s jeans a great eco choice is that they’ve developed them in line with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Jeans Redesign to be environmentally friendly. Therefore, BAM’s jeans have no rivets. They also have an un-screwable button. This means that once the zip is cut out BAM jeans can be fully recycled for denim with less waste.
Get 10% off your first order when you sign up for the BAM mailing list.
Beyond Retro’s huge range of preloved denim makes it a great one-stop shop for all your sustainable denim needs. With every wash, size, colour, and style imaginable – from jeans to dungarees, as well as shorts, skirts, shirts, and jackets – you are sure to find the perfect addition to your wardrobe.
When it comes to jeans, Beyond Retro has a filter so that you can specifically look for high-waisted jeans, flared jeans, vintage Levi’s, and more. Handy!
What’s more, Beyond Retro also has dedicated plus-size sections for both men and women, catering up to size XXL. There is also the ability to search for unisex jeans.
Use the exclusive code MORALFIBRES at the checkout to receive 15% off your order at Beyond Retro.
If you are looking for other affordable ways to shop for ethical jeans, then do also check out my post on where to buy secondhand clothes online, for more budget-friendly preloved inspiration.
The Hemp Shop Co
If you are specifically looking for hemp jeans, then head to The Hemp Shop Co. Made from super sustainable hemp and certified organic cotton, these jeans also ship plastic-free.
What makes hemp a sustainable fabric choice is that hemp does not need any toxic chemicals such as fertilisers or pesticides to grow.
Hemp also returns around 60% of the nutrients it takes to the soil, helping to maintain good soil health. And hemp requires very little water to grow. It’s of little wonder why hemp is one of the most sustainable fabrics available.
The women’s range has very limited sizing available, however, the men’s range is much more accommodating. With a wider range of waist sizes and multiple leg size options, I would say The Hemp Shop is best for men looking for ethical jeans.
Check out my guide to hemp clothing brands for more hemp recommendations.
Kowtow’s denim trousers – available at Content – are made from 100% organic cotton chambray. This is dyed with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) approved inks and dyes. This means they are free from chlorine bleach, toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, and aromatic solvents.
Kowtow’s ethical denim is made in a transparent supply chain, which works with fair trade certified farmers and manufacturers from seed to garment.
And for vegans, I have good news. The trousers are finished with recycled hemp buttons made in Italy. There are no animal products here!
Fanfare uses a blend of organic cotton and recycled cotton to produce its beautiful women’s jeans that are ethically made in Portugal in a GOTS-certified factory.
The use of Post-Consumer Recycled Denim ensures that pre-existing denim that cannot be resold or repaired is worked back into the system and not headed to landfill. What’s more, these jeans are fully recyclable at the end of their life.
Available in a range of styles, washes and designs, these circular jeans are designed to stand the test of time with circularity, longevity and recycling at their core.
Fanfare only works with certified and traceable materials and with local manufacturing. Fanfare also makes its sustainable clothing using reduced water and zero toxic chemicals. Instead, ozone and laser techniques are used to eliminate the use of water and chemicals in the processing of its denim. As such, Fanfare says each pair saves 92% water compared to conventional jeans.
Get 10% off your first order when you sign up for the Fanfare mailing list.
MUD Jeans makes stylish jeans for men and women from organic cotton and recycled denim. This helps to avoid waste and cuts down on water and CO2 use. At the moment, its jeans contain 40% recycled denim. However, keep an eye out as MUD aim to launch the first jeans made from 100% post-consumer recycled denim.
Rather than washing the jeans to create the wash, MUD uses innovative ozone and laser processes. This cleverly reduces the amount of water used to manufacture a pair of jeans by up to 75%. This also helps to reduce water pollution.
What’s also to love about MUD, is that jeans labels are printed instead of using leather. This means that its entire jeans range is cruelty-free and suitable for vegans.
What’s more, MUD takes back your old jeans once you are done. Here MUD will sell them if they are in good condition. If they are no longer wearable, MUD will recycle them by blending them with organic cotton to create new jeans for a more circular approach to denim.
Nudie’s 100% organic and vegan-friendly jeans are made ethically in Italy with sustainability in mind. From the use of Fairtrade organic cotton and its commitment to paying a living wage to its stance on the use of harmful chemicals and water, there’s a lot to love about Nudie.
What I especially love about Nudie jeans is that Nudie is all about longevity. So if your jeans need mending you can pop into their London shop to take advantage of their free repair service. And don’t worry if you are not London-based, look out for one of its pop-up repair events, or request a repair kit free of charge.
Once your jeans are worn out to the point of no return, you can send them back to Nudie and it will recycle them into new jeans. You’ll also get 20% off your next order.
Want to shop for affordable ethical and sustainable jeans and support a charity at the same time? Then look no further than Oxfam Online. Here you’ll find a fantastic range of more affordable pre-loved denim, for men and women, in a vast array of sizes, styles, and colours.
Find a whole of brands – from designer to high street – at more affordable prices. Delivery is also just £3.95, no matter how many items you order. For extra peace of mind, returns are free.
You also get the added bonus that your purchase is supporting a good cause – all profits go to supporting Oxfam’s work in alleviating global poverty.
|Price range||££ – £££|
|Caters for||Men, women and gender-neutral styles|
|Sizes||Waist sizes 26″ – 40″|
|Best for||Fairtrade-certified jeans|
|Vegan-friendly?||Awaiting clarification from Patagonia|
Patagonia’s ethical jeans – available from Alpinetrek – are Fairtrade certified. This means that as well as paying the Fairtrade premium, to ensure producers are paid a fair price, Patagonia pays an additional premium for every Patagonia item that carries the Fair Trade Certified™ sewn label. That extra money goes directly to the workers at the factory, and they decide how to spend it.
Here workers have chosen to use the premiums to fund community projects, like health-care programmes or a child-care centre, or to purchase products they could not otherwise afford, like a laptop computer or a stove; or to take a cash bonus.
What’s more, Patagonia’s ethical denim is designed to last and be repairable. Its website also gives advice on how to repair all Patagonia items, which is seriously useful. And for any clothing that can’t be repaired then you can drop it off at a Patagonia store for recycling or repurposing.
Get £5 off your first order when you sign up for the Alpinetrek newsletter.
For preloved ethical denim, Rokit is another great online retailer to check out.
From the 1930s to 2010s vintage denim, Rokit stocks a wide range of styles, colours, and washes of jeans for men, women, and children, as well as unisex styles. And with a vast inventory (at the time of writing there were 963 pairs of jeans listed), covering sizes XXS to XXL, Rokit’s size inclusivity is something to applaud.
Never bought preloved jeans? Don’t worry, every item is cleaned and pressed before being added to Rokit’s webshop. This means you won’t get any nasty surprises when your jeans arrive.
Get 10% off at Rokit by using the discount code TAKE10 at the checkout.
Thought’s range of eco-friendly jeans and denim are ethically made in Turkey from GOTS-certified organic cotton.
What’s more, all of their denim is also OEKO-TEX® certified. This means that every component of their jeans – right down to the thread and buttons – has been tested and is free from harmful substances. So you can be assured that Thought’s jeans are made in a chlorine and toxic chemical-free wash.
Even the patch is leather-free, making these jeans vegan-friendly.
How to Make Your Jeans Last Longer
The most sustainable and ethical jeans are the jeans you already own. Thankfully there are some useful tips to keep your jeans in wearable condition for longer.
How you wash and dry your jeans can make a huge difference to how long your jeans last. Here’s my laundry best practice for jeans.
Try to wash your jeans only when they need washing. In my guide to how often should you wash your clothes, it’s recommended that jeans should be washed after 4 to 5 wears. Minimum!
Of course, if they are dirty or smelly, then wash them. But if not, and you are not used to washing jeans so infrequently, and are self-conscious about smelling, then do so incrementally. After day 2, see how you feel about stretching to day 3. And so forth. You can do it, I believe in you!
When you do wash your jeans, wash them inside out. Turning jeans inside out when you wash them helps protect the outside of the jeans from friction and direct exposure to detergent. Both of these actions help prevent fading, making your jeans look better for longer.
Avoid the tumble dryer if you can. Heat can shrink or fade denim, and it can also cause damage to stretch denim fabrics. The best way to dry jeans is by hanging them up to air dry. If you do need to use a dryer, select a low or no heat cycle and use dryer balls to keep your jeans tumbling. Remove the jeans while they’re still slightly damp, then stretch the seams and hang them up to finish drying. By not over-drying jeans, you help avoid shrinkage and damage to the fabric.
In A Fix
Life happens. Your jeans might develop a rip or a tear. Instead of binning them, you can leave the rip or tear as is, and allow your jeans to develop a bit of character. The alternative is to fix your jeans.
If you’re not handy with a needle and thread, a tailor will be able to mend your jeans for you. If you do know your way around a sewing kit, then jeans can be patched up in a variety of ways. From patches and visible mending to invisible mending. YouTube has a great selection of ways to mend your jeans.
For more ideas, do see my guide on what to do with old jeans. This includes some clever upcycling and recycling tips for jeans that have come to the end of their life.
If you have any other tips on ethical jeans manufacturers or ways to prolong the life of your jeans, then do drop me a line!