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24 Apr

11 Conscious Swaps for Levi’s 501 Denim

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The Levi’s 501s may be classic and on-trend, but they’re not great for the planet or its inhabitants. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with some sweet swaps.

Denim woes

Take it or leave it, mainstream denim is harmful to people, the planet, and animals. The cotton-based fabric is one of the most used materials in the world but comes from a particularly thirsty crop. On top of extensive water use, the cotton industry tends to favour pesticides and synthetic chemical dyes that can lead to extensive pollution for humans and local ecosystems.

While some brands (like the ones below) are making strides to change this about denim production, others like Levi’s are doing too little. According to our most recent rating, its labour score is “Not Good Enough.” Almost none of its supply chain is certified by labour standards which ensure worker health and safety, living wages, or other labour rights. In fact, it received a score of 41-50% in the 2022 Fashion Transparency Index, and there is still no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain.

While the brand rates “It’s a Start” overall and is making some “Good” progress for the planet, it still has a way to go before it can be called a responsible brand.

So, to help you avoid the pitfalls of falling for the classic 501 style, we’ve created a special list of our eleven favourite swaps. Note that this doesn’t mean you should get rid of your Levi’s jeans. On the contrary, cherish what you already own: as we know, keeping our clothes for longer is one of the most sustainable things we can do. This being said, you should take this new information into account if you’re considering buying something new from Levi’s. If you must have them, consider second hand first.

Same style, better ethics: 11 Levi’s 501 swaps

MUD Jeans

Rated: Great
Woman wearing MUD Jeans

Piper Straight in Stone Breeze – Ships internationally from the Netherlands

Unlike Levi’s, Dutch denim brand MUD Jeans is all about better practices. These lovelies come in a fresh stone breeze wash that creates a very light worn-in look without the use of any chemicals or actual stones. MUD Jeans uses a combination of GOTS certified organic cotton and post-consumer recycled cotton.

Find the jeans in sizes 25/30-33/32 at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop MUD Jeans.

Shop MUD Jeans @ Labell-D.


Rated: Great

Straight Fit Jeans – Ships internationally from the US

unspun’s unisex loose fit style will set you free. While this style has more of a masculine fit, you can also find it in a more feminine style with room in the hip and a wider leg. unspun is an American brand, creating a denim world that reduces global carbon emissions by 1% through a zero-inventory and low-waste process.

Its product sizing is totally customisable to ensure you always find the perfect fit.

See the rating.

Shop unspun.

Shop unspun @ Cerqular.

Nudie Jeans

Rated: Great
A pair of ethical dark wash jeans by Nudie Jeans

Breezy Britt Friendly Blue – Ships internationally from Sweden

Made with organic denim, these fabulous high-waisted jeans feature a regular tapered fit in a timeless and oh-so-beautiful stone wash that has rendered a clear blue hue and marbling wash effects. Nudie Jeans designs 100% organic cotton denim and is transparent about its production. The brand also offers a free repair service, resells second hand products, and even recycles worn out items.

Find the perfect fit with the Virtual Size Guide on the product pages.

See the rating.

Shop Nudie Jeans.

Shop Nudie Jeans @ Farfetch.

Shop Nudie Jeans Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Outland Denim

Rated: Great
Boyfriend cut classic Athina denim jeans made responsibly by Outland Denim.

Athina Jeans – Ships internationally from Australia

Outland Denim makes premium denim jeans and clothes, and offers employment opportunities for women rescued from human trafficking in Cambodia. This Australian brand was founded as an avenue for the training and employment of women who have experienced sex trafficking.

The Athina Jeans present a classic boyfriend fit and are the ultimate in comfortable, conscious denim.

Find the Athina in US sizes 22-34 at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop Outland Denim.

Shop Outland Denim @ Good.


Rated: Great
Wide leg raw selvedge denim jeans by non.

Wide Jean in Eco Acid Wash – Ships internationally from the US

non is a UK-based label that offers raw selvedge denim jeans, jackets, and accessories that are designed to last. It is committed to more sustainable manufacturing principles and offers a vision of responsible design. This raw selvedge denim wide jean is no exception, crafted from 50% organic cotton grown and 50% reclaimed cotton.

The jeans are available in sizes 29-36.

See the rating.

Shop Non.


Rated: Great
A pair of light wash denim jeans similar to Levi's 501 by Triarchy.

High Rise Relaxed Straight Jean – Ships internationally from the US

The high-tech, conscious alternative to 501’s. Triarchy’s swap gets its gorgeous medium blue wash via state-of-the-art technology where the brand uses ozone washing and nanobubbles so that no one and no part of the environment is harmed in the process. The brand’s production system uses 85% recycled water by consistently reusing the “thick indigo laden sludge” that unmonitored factories dump into water systems.

Find the jeans in US sizes 24-32 at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop Triarchy.

Shop Triarchy @ LVRSustainable.


Rated: Good
Plain blue recycled organic denim jeans by Fanfare.

High Waisted Organic & Recycled Plain Blue Jeans – Ships internationally from the UK


Female presenting person posing in fanfare shirt and jeans

Fanfare – t-shirts, Jeans (UK, US)

Fanfare's t-shirts are anything but basic. Made from 100% organic cotton, these tops will elevate the classic plain white tee and jeans outfit. 15% off when you buy a t-shirt and pair of jeans with code BUNDLE15 (Available in the UK and the US only) (Ends: 5 JUN)

Checkout code: BUNDLE15
Shop now
Someone wearing upcycled jeans and someone wearing an upcycled tote bag by Fanfare.

Fanfare – Site-wide

Take a look at the newest upcycled creation from Fanfare: the denim tote bag. Exclusive 20% off with code FAN20. (Ends: 31 MAY)

Checkout code: FAN20
Shop now

Fanfare is a UK-based more sustainable brand that creates modern, contemporary womenswear and unisex clothing with a purpose that aims to bring change to the fashion industry. As a leading circular label, it transforms vintage pieces into unique designs using recycled materials promoting slow fashion with its repair services, take-back scheme, and lifetime guarantee.

Our editors love the brand’s artful upcycled jean designs, but for a classic plain blue jean like the Levi’s 501, they have you covered as well.

Find the jeans in sizes 26-36 at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop Fanfare.

Shop Fanfare @ Earthkind.


Rated: Good
A pair of ethical dark wash denim by DAI

The Straight Leg Jean – Ships internationally from the UK

Dai is a UK performance brand that creates technical, tailored, and more sustainable garments for women who mean business. Designed in London, this jean is perfect for daily movement and made from more responsibly produced denim sourced from ISKO™ in Turkey.

Find the pants in sizes 26-34 at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop Dai.


Rated: Great

Tapered Fit Denim – Ships internationally from Germany

Germany’s Armedangels gets a “Great” rating overall from us. The brand covers all the basics for women, men, and kids. These tapered jeans are a must-have closet staple for our menswear sporting readers. Armedangels’ quality and long-lasting pieces are made from lower-impact and certified materials, like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton. The brand also adopted the Fair Wear Foundation Code of Conduct to protect its workers abroad.

The jeans are sold in sizes 29/30-38/34 at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop Armedangels.

Shop Armedangels @ Earthkind.


Rated: Good
A pair of vintage Carhartt denim by Frankie.

Vintage Carhartt Denim Pants – Ships internationally from Canada

For our vintage lovers, Frankie houses a sweet collection of vintage denim, including these denim pants by Carhartt. Along with these, Canadian brand Frankie Collective is dedicated to innovating women’s streetwear while setting a standard for sustainability in the fashion industry. It takes inspiration from ‘90s staples and reworks vintage garments to push the boundaries of contemporary style.

Sizes vary.

See the rating.

Shop Frankie.

Kings of Indigo

Rated: Good
Classic fit TENCEL Lyocell menswear jeans like Levi's 501s by Kings of Indigo.

Ryan Jeans – Ships internationally from the Netherlands

Kings of Indigo makes quality denims, tops, and accessories inspired by American classics with a Japanese eye for detail. The brand uses GOTS organic cotton as well as recycled cotton and wool, and avoids all chemicals from the REACH chemical list.

These TENCEL™ Lyocell and recycled cotton classic cut menswear jeans are a great responsible alternative to the Levi’s 501s.

Offered in sizes 28/32-40/34 at the time of writing.

See the rating.

Shop Kings of Indigo.

Editor's note

Feature image via MUD Jeans, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. We love to recommend some of the best more sustainable brands, rated “Good” or “Great”. We also encourage shopping pre-owned as another great way to reduce the impact of our fashion choices. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands.

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