11 Jul

9 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 is 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 far 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 2021 Fashion Transparency Index, and there is still no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain.

So, to help you avoid the pitfalls of falling for the classic 501 style, we’ve created a special list of our nine favourite swaps. First up, we’ve got MUD Jeans (Netherlands), serving subtly feminine and chic classic jeans in a cool stone colour. Also a must-see is Boyish’s (US) custom jeans. Finally, before logging off, check out Nobody Denim’s (AU) gorgeous swap that will be a timeless closet staple.

With that, happy browsing.

Same style, better ethics

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 sustainability. 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. MUD Jeans are available in a range of sizes, usually from W25 L30-W33 L32 for women and W28 L34-W36 L34 for men.

See the rating.

Shop MUD Jeans.

Shop MUD Jeans @ Labell-D.

Outland Denim

Rated: Great
A pair of ethical light wash denim by Outland Denim.

Diana Authentic – Ships internationally from Australia

Outland Denim’s Diana Jean is a ’90s-inspired straight leg fit refined for today with contemporary details. Outland Denim makes premium denim jeans and clothes and offers ethical 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. Find most of the brand’s range in US sizes 22-34.

See the rating.

Shop Outland Denim.

Shop Outland Denim @ Good.


Rated: Great
A pair of more conscious men's denim by unspun.

Masculine Organic Light Vintage Loose 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.

Nobody Denim

Rated: Good
A woman in a pair of light wash straight denim by Nobody Denim.

Bessette Jean Forever – Ships internationally from Australia

Nobody Denim has a longstanding commitment to ethical manufacturing principles and offers a unique vision of responsible design. It traces its supply chain, ensures a living wage for workers, and is accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia. The Bessette Jean is no exception, crafted from 100% cotton ethically sourced from Turkey and manufactured in Australia. Find most of the jeans in sizes 23-32.

See the rating.

Shop Nobody Denim @ Farfetch.


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 most of the jeans in US sizes 24-32.

See the rating.

Shop Triarchy.


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 is technical, tailored, and sustainable for women who mean business. Designed in London, this jean is perfect for daily movement and made from responsibly produced denim sourced from ISKO™ in Turkey. Find the pants in sizes 27-34.

See the rating.

Shop Dai.


Rated: Great

Tapered Fit Denim – Ships internationally from Germany

Affordable, ethical, and on-trend. 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 eco-friendly 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. Its products are available in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Armedangels.

Shop Armedangels @ Earthkind.

Shop Armedangels @ Veneka.


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. Find most items in sizes XS to 2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Frankie.

That’s all, folks. We hope this guide provided some insight on how to stay stylish without needing to sacrifice your morals in the process.

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 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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