The Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Tights and Socks - Good On You
24 Jul

The Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Tights and Socks

Since their inception, tights have maintained a sense of modernity, offering warmth in their functionality and appeal in their sheer and flattering finish. As the story goes, four hundred years ago Reverend Lee presented the first pair of stockings made from pure silk to Queen Elizabeth I of England. For many centuries, silk hose were exclusively sported by wealthy noblemen, as the material traversed many miles from China, making it incredibly expensive and difficult to manufacture in bulk. And sadly, the process didn’t get much easier over time, with modern tights and socks presenting their own host of issues. Read on to learn about the problems that still exist today with these essential garments, and discover our recommendations for sustainable tights and socks.

Tights through time: a revolution in the textile industry

Two developments during the 1940s made the tights we see lining our shelves today possible. Circular machines were improved so that they could knit stockings in one piece, essentially attaching the ‘panty’ to the garment and removing the need for a garter. While pantyhose were convenient for warmth, it wasn’t until the rise of the miniskirt in the mid-60’s that tights started to really become popular with the masses; the mini’s short hem rendered the old garter belt truly arbitrary. Tights, as much as the mini, were a gesture of freedom that pointed towards youthfulness. Because of this, tights became part of the message of anti-establishment and looking towards the future.

And even more significant was the DuPont Company’s invention of a problematic synthetic fibre you probably have in your sock drawer today: nylon.

So, what’s the deal with nylon?

First, the science. Nylon is the name of a family of synthetic polymers that are commonly used to make a variety of different types of apparel and consumer goods. It was the first synthetic fibre that combined extraordinary strength and elasticity. The production of nylon is generally considered to have negative environmental and human impacts. While it’s possible to make nylon with other substances, most producers use crude oil as the main constituent. The second constituent, adipic acid, releases nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide) when combined with the first!

The naughty list doesn’t stop there: in order to combine these two constituents, it takes a great deal of energy, which usually comes from non-renewable sources, depending on where it is manufactured. Unsurprisingly a great deal of water is needed throughout the process, from cooling the substance to dyeing the fabric. And because most of the textile industry is outsourced to countries with less stringent environmental regulations, it is unfortunately much easier for mills to carelessly dispose of this dirty, toxic wastewater into vital waterways.

On top of all that, since nylon tights are a type of plastic, it takes hundreds of years for them to biodegrade. The final nail in the coffin? Nylon tights aren’t very durable, typically ripping after a few wears and washes. This cycle of buy, wear, tear, and dispose leaves our landfills and oceans with an abundance of plastic that degrades our environment for many generations.

Looking towards the future

So, what can we do about it? Well, luckily there are solutions. Hosiery, like other plastics, can be recycled. In fact, ECONYL, created by Italian firm Aquafil, uses synthetic waste such as industrial plastic, waste fabric, and fishing nets from oceans, then recycles and regenerates them into a new nylon yarn that is exactly the same quality as virgin nylon.

Although ECONYL removes the need for fossil fuels in the base production process and reduces the overall production of virgin nylon, it doesn’t necessarily mitigate the release of microfibres into our oceans, as the recycled nylon fabric is still plastic. Luckily, we can always use our Guppyfriend Washing Bag to reduce microplastic pollution when we wash our favourite sustainable tights and socks.

And finally, the most important and perhaps revolutionary thing we can do is buy less! Investing in some good pairs of sustainable tights and socks will help break the ‘single use cycle,’ while keeping your legs nice and toasty during the cooler months, and your feet comfy all year round.

Tights

Swedish Stockings

Rated: Great
Sustainable Olivia Stockings in navy

Olivia Premium Stockings in Navy – Ships internationally from Sweden

Since 2013, Swedish Stockings has remained committed to changing and influencing the entire hosiery industry. The brand creates its pantyhose from both pre- and post-consumer nylon waste, saving thousands of stockings from sitting in landfill. These 100% emission free Olivia tights are no exception. Knitted in a zero waste factory in Italy, the semi-opaque lovelies are knitted in 3D and designed with a broader waistband for a more comfortable and optimal fit. While a lot of the brand’s tights are vegan-friendly like these ones, they do use exotic animal hair in some designs.

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Shop Swedish Stockings @ Rêve en Vert.

Shop Swedish Stockings.

LANIUS

Rated: Good
LANIUS tights in red and green

TIGHTS made of Econyl® – Ships to Europe from Germany

LANIUS is a German brand that creates slow feminine fashion with a good feeling, focusing on sustainability and high quality. Looking for a silk companion made of recycled nylon? Look no further! Whether harmoniously matched to your outfit or simply added as a colourful accent, these 100% ECONYL® vegan tights are a must-have addition to many stunning looks, but the brand does use wool, leather, and exotic animal hair in other designs.

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Shop LANIUS.

Boob

Rated: Good
Sustainable maternity tights in black

Maternity Pants – Ships internationally from Sweden

Recycled polyamide has never been softer! Boob is a Swedish maternity and nursing clothes brand that aims to support you throughout your entire motherhood journey. These maternity tights are pretty revolutionary. Crafted with certified Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex recycled polyamide—which means the material is healthy for humans—and fitted with an extra-comfortable high waistline, these tights are sure to provide plenty of room and comfort for your growing belly. While these are vegan, the brand occasionally uses wool from non-mulesed sheep so it isn’t entirely animal-free.

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Shop Boob.

Thought

Rated: Good

Anna Recycled Nylon Tights – Ships internationally from the UK

Thought is a British brand committed to offering more considered choices. These vegan Anna recycled nylon jacquard tights are made from post-consumer recycled plastic, which helps to divert waste from landfills. This fabric also uses much fewer resources in its production than virgin nylon, making it more environmentally friendly. If jacquard isn’t your style, no biggie. Thought makes gorgeous coloured and simple semi-opaque stockings too! Just double check the materials if you’re vegan as they sometimes use wool from non-mulesed sheep.

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Shop Thought. 

Living Crafts

Rated: Good
Classic black ethical tights

FRANZISKA Tights – Ships internationally from Germany

Living Crafts is a German brand that has successfully produced high-quality natural textiles under environmentally friendly and socio-economically fair conditions for thirty years. These opaque tights come in a range of colours and are created using the brand’s innovative ‘EVO yarn’, a high quality biopolymer created using extracted oils from the castor oil plant. By eliminating the need for crude oil, these timeless women’s tights play a prominent role in the field of natural fashion in future. They are vegan, but other pieces may contain wool.

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Shop Living Crafts.

Socks

Organic Basics

Rated: Great
Black SilverTech sustainable socks

SilverTech™ Socks 2-pack – Ships internationally from Denmark

“Design everything to last”. Organic Basics believes that investing in quality fabrics and workmanship is “the only way to act”. That’s why the brand created SilverTech, a synthetic, antimicrobial thread that prevents smelly clothes, while also assisting in temperature regulation, and better blood circulation for the wearer. PETA vegan approved and ethically made, these socks are guaranteed to help you stay cooler when it’s hot and warmer when it’s chilly.

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Shop Organic Basics @ Rêve en Vert.

Shop Organic Basics.

Boody

Rated: Good
Ethical active socks in white

Women’s Active Sports Sock – Ships internationally from Australia

Boody is an Australian brand that creates beautifully soft, everyday essentials designed to deliver pure comfort while not sacrificing your values. Designed to make you push even harder, the brand’s Active Sports Sock takes you that step further. Boody’s unique bamboo blend is naturally comfortable and moisture-wicking, so you stay fresh while working out. As a bonus, the brand uses entirely animal-free materials in all its pieces!

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Shop Boody.

Woron @ Rêve En Vert

Rated: Good
Ethical light ribbed socks in grey

Grey Melange Organic Cotton Socks – Ships internationally from Denmark

Woron is a vegan underwear and fashion favourites brand that only uses GOTS certified fibres.These beautiful socks come in a variety of colours and are made from a luxurious Egyptian organic cotton, developed for an exceptionally smooth and soft fit. The cotton is grown in accordance with organic agriculture methods and is free from toxic dyes and fabric treatments including formaldehyde, heavy metals, and aromatic solvents.

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Shop Woron @ Rêve En Vert.

NAADAM

Rated: Good
Ribbed cashmere socks in white

Signature Cashmere Socks – Ships internationally from the US

NAADAM’s signature cashmere socks are perfect for a cozy day in. Ribbed along the top and made from 100% Mongolian Cashmere, they have the softest, dreamiest feel and always stay in place.

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Shop NAADAM. 

 

Conscious Step

Rated: Great

SOCKS THAT GIVE WATER – Ships internationally from the US

Socks with a cause. Conscious Step is an American brand that offers premium fair trade, organic, vegan socks matched to a direct charitable impact. Choose from several causes including protecting our oceans, planting trees, and providing safe drinking water so you can have perfect, low-cut warm weather socks and give back to the community.

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Shop Conscious Step. 

A-dam

Rated: Good

Dorien Socks – Ships to Europe from the Netherlands

Socks that clean oceans? Yep, that’s right. Made with 15% ECONYL® for flexibility and 84% GOTS organic cotton, these vegan-friendly socks remove harmful plastics from the ocean and are regenerated for a fresh pair of socks. Not a fan of this embroidered fish? Pick your favorite high-end embroidered character or even just stick to a solid coloured sock for everyday wear.

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Shop A-dam.

PACT

Rated: Great
Sustainable green pact socks

Premium Crew Socks 3-Pack – Ships internationally from the US

PACT is a brand that is passionate about being part of a movement that’s transforming the way apparel is made. All of its clothing is sweatshop and child-labour free, ensuring that you can ‘tread lightly’ while sporting its apparel. This one size fits all hits mid-calf and is sewn from premium organic cotton yarn, meaning it’s suitable for vegans, too.

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Shop PACT. 

 

Girlfriend Collective

Rated: Good
Ethical everyday socks in pine color

Pine Quarter Crew Sock – Ships to Australia, the US, and the UK from the US

 

Known for its minimal, luxury women’s activewear, Girlfriend Collective recently launched ‘Everyday GF’ —a collection of sustainable everyday staples, featured on women who champion equality, opportunity, and access for BIPOC communities, today and every day. Beautifully crafted in a range of colours, the quarter crew socks work to increase circulation and reduce swelling. The brand uses recycled polyester as well as low-impact non-toxic dyes and is fully Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, which means it’s good for your body as well as the planet.

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Shop Girlfriend Collective. 

NICO

Rated: Good
3 pack of sustainable socks

Recycled Cotton Long Socks Mixed 3 Pack – Ships internationally from Australia

Established in 2012 by Lis Harvey, NICO celebrates minimalism and understated luxury. The brand brings high quality basics and underwear to the Australian fashion landscape featuring clean lines, luxe fabrics, and the styles and colours needed for everyday. The clever people who made these socks are working to solve the problem of textile waste in Bangladesh by creating yarns out of recycled cotton, saving water and drastically reducing CO2 emissions in comparison to conventional cotton. NICO’s factories are signatories to The Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord and are compliant with BSCI and certified with WRAP. The brand occasionally uses wool from non-mulesed sheep.

See the rating.

Shop NICO.

Asket

Rated: Good
Men's socks in ribbed gray

The Ribbed Cotton Sock 3-Pack – Ships internationally from Sweden

ASKET has been creating timeless wardrobe essentials since 2015 with revolutionary sizing and fair pricing. These vegan ribbed cotton socks provide comfort and elevation in all the right places. Crafted from long staple Egyptian cotton, they’re reinforced at the toe and the heel to make sure comfort is combined with durability.

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Shop ASKET.

NIKIN

Rated: Good
Sustainable socks in navy

TreeSocks Standard Allover – Ships internationally from Germany

If you’re the kind of person who wears their morals look no further. Not only is a tree planted every time you purchase a pair of these lovelies, you also get to show your tree pride! The ultra-comfortable TreeSocks will complement your look perfectly and accompany you every step of the way, and are vegan-friendly, too!

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Shop NIKIN.

Harvest & Mill

Rated: Good
Harvest & Mill sustainable socks pack in ivory

Women’s Organic Cotton Socks Natural – Ships internationally from the US

Harvest & Mill pieces are grown, milled, and sewn exclusively in the US, supporting American organic cotton farmers and local sewing communities. The brand makes socks for men and women, always ensuring they are not dyed or bleached, greatly reducing the use of water, energy, and dye materials. Even better, by cultivating different varieties of cotton, the brand is able to bolster biodiversity, which is essential for ensuring healthy ecosystems and keeping our planet resilient in the face of climate change. Neat!

See the rating.

Shop Harvest & Mill. 

And that’s a wrap! We hope that this guide gave you confidence that you can still look slick and stay warm while keeping nylons in the lab and out of our homes.

 

Editor's note

Feature image via Swedish Stockings, 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. Use our Directory to search more than 2,500 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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