Conscious and Sustainable Tights That Last - Good On You
30 Mar

Conscious and Sustainable Tights That Last

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 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.

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

Underprotection

Rated: Good
two women wearing ethical black tights

Paula Tights – Ships internationally from Denmark

We love these classic tights, made in soft recycled polyamid in 45 denier. Underprotection is a Danish brand combining ethics and aesthetics, creating underwear, loungewear, and swimwear from sustainable materials like recycled polyester and organic cotton. All of its packaging, paper, and polybags are either recycled or biodegradable, and it only works with certified factories as it believes “fair working conditions and fair wages are human rights”. Underprotection exists to celebrate women of all kinds, and its goal is to make them feel as beautiful and comfortable as possible. You can find the full range in XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Underprotection.

Shop Underprotection @ LVR Sustainable.

Dear Denier

Rated: Good
patterned white tights by dear denier

Julia String Leaf Tights – Ships internationally from Denmark

Add a fun element to your outfit with these medium coverage tights made using only recycled materials and 3D knitting technology for durability and longevity. Dear Denier is Nordic design at its best, featuring pieces where aesthetic and functional minimalism meet without compromise. The Danish brand combines design with state-of-the-art production in sustainable factories in Italy. Using sustainable materials such as recycled nylon, recycled elastane, recycled wool, traceable natural fibres and even leftovers from other companies’ production processes. Find most items in sizes S to XL.

See the rating.

Shop Dear Denier.

Organic Basics

Rated: Great
ethical tights by organic basics

Re-Tights – Ships internationally from Denmark

Organic Basics offers high-quality sustainable tights in recycled materials. It also recently launched its first sustainable denim collection! The Denmark-based brand puts sustainable thinking at the centre of everything—it only chooses fabrics that care for our environment, and only ever partners with factories that care about their impact. Organic Basics clothes are available in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Organic Basics @ Rêve en Vert.

Shop Organic Basics @ thegreenlabels.

Shop Organic Basics.

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 cashmere in some designs. You can find the full range in XS to XL.

See the rating.

Shop Swedish Stockings.

Shop Swedish Stockings @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Swedish Stockings @ thegreenlabels.

Shop Swedish Stockings @ Rêve en Vert.

Shop Swedish Stockings @ Urbankissed.

LANIUS

Rated: Good
LANIUS tights in red and green

TIGHTS made of Econyl® – Ships to Europe from Germany

Offers

black woman wearing moss green knitted top by ethical brand LANIUS

LANIUS – Knits

Wrap yourself in the softest knitwear, perfect for relaxing at home or staying snug outside. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off knits. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

Shop now
woman wearing white denim jacket ethically made by LANIUS

LANIUS – Coats and Jackets

LANIUS creates beautiful pieces that keep you warm while making you feel good, inside and out. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off jackets and coats. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

Shop now
salmon coloured sustainable shorts with stripes by LANIUS

LANIUS – Shorts and Pants

From classy to flirty, but always responsible: LANIUS trousers fit for every occasion. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off shorts and trousers. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

Shop now
woman wearing white sustainable wrap top by LANIUS

LANIUS – Tops

Delicate, minimalist, ethical tops and t-shirts that can be combined in many ways. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off tops. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

Shop now
black woman wearing long navy ethical dress by LANIUS

LANIUS – Dresses

Fair and organic fashion with a feminine touch. Noble looks that radiate liveliness. Summer Sale! Up to 20% off dresses. (Available in the UK and Europe only) (Ends: 4 AUG)

Shop now

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. Tights come in sizes 36-46.

See the rating.

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. Find most tights in sizes S-L and XS-XL.

See the rating.

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. You can find tights in sizes XS-XL and S-XL.

See the rating.

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. Find the tights in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Living Crafts.

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 3,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

Ethical brand ratings. There’s an app for that.

Wear the change you want to see. Download our app to discover ethical brands and see how your favourites measure up.