These sexy, sustainable tights brands bypass the problem of creating virgin fabrics from petrochemicals – and look and feel great, too!
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Personally, one of the best parts of summer for me is baring my legs. I love how they look tanned, and I love the feeling of the sun on them. But when the autumn chill sets in, it’s time for tights.
Tights, nylons, leggings….whatever you call it, hosiery has been warming women’s legs since the times of King Henry VIII (but only if you were rich or royal). And that hosiery, usually made of silk or wool, was held up by garters, since elastic wasn’t yet a thing.
It wasn’t until the early part of the 20th century that circular machines were able to knit stockings in one piece. Attach a gusset in between two stockings, and voila! You’ve got yourself some tights. Which was perfect when mini skirts became popular. Because, you know: you wouldn’t want your garters on display, right?
The only problem? They tights were made out of something not-so-sustainable: nylon.
Image below: Swedish Stockings
Why is nylon a no-no?
We can thank the rather nefarious Dupont family for the invention of nylon.
This is one of the most unethical companies that’s ever existed. They’ve poisoned drinking water with the production of chemicals. They’ve created TEFLON, one of the most toxic substances around. And of course, they’ve also created nylon.
Nylon is a kind of synthetic fibre with much strength and elasticity. However, it’s about as far from eco-friendly as you can get! That’s mainly because crude oil and adipic acid are needed to make it, and its creation releases nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. In case you’re unaware, this is a greenhouse gas 300 times worse for the planet than carbon dioxide!
Since it’s synthetic, nylon takes centuries to biodegrade. And though we said it’s a fairly strong fabric, when it’s used in tights, it’s really thin, and tends to tear. Which means it just ends up in landfill after a few months – or even days.
Finally, nylon takes a lot of energy and water to produce. And since fabrics are usually made in countries with lax environmental regulations, it’s not uncommon for factories to dump the highly toxic water used in producing nylon into waterways.
What are sustainable tights, really?
So if we’re not going to use nylon for our nylons, how are we going to get sustainable tights?
The unexpected answer? Um, nylon.
But that’s ok! Did you know that hosiery, like other plastics, can be recycled? In fact, ECONYL was one of the first manufacturers to cotton on to this and to transform synthetic waste into new fabric. This waste includes industrial plastics, waste fabric, and fishing nets from oceans. The materials are broken down, then recycled and regenerated into a new nylon yarn, which is commonly used today in sustainable swimwear. The quality is exactly the same quality as virgin nylon – but it’s way more eco-friendly.
The bad news is: all synthetic materials share the problem of shedding microparticles of plastic when they’re washed. These weenie particles get into our drinking water, the bellies of fish and wildlife, and ultimately, make us sick. Unless, that is, we use a solution, like a microplastic filter or bag, in our washing machine.
One other element of sustainable tights – or any fashion – is, of course, buying less. Investing in a few good pairs of sustainable tights will help break the ‘single use cycle.’ Some brands below promise their tights will never get holes or ladders. Others swear they’re biodegradable.
Did you know that hosiery, like some other plastics, can actually be recycled? For example, ECONYL, the company that supplies a lot of swimwear brands, upcycles plastic, waste fabric, and ocean fishing nets from oceans. They then spin the yarns into a new kind of nylon.
It’s great that they’re getting rid of ocean plastic and such, but of course, that doesn’t stop the issue of microplastics polluting our oceans every time we wash ECONYL fabric. For that reason, it’s important to use microplastic filters in your washing machine. There ARE some sustainable stocking brands that use organic materials, as you will see below. Which is a great option. But the best option? As always: buy less!
What’s the deal with ‘denier’?
Finally, let’s talk denier.
When it comes to tights, you’ll see the word ‘denier’ thrown about quite a bit. But what does that even mean?
Well, it’s very simple. Denier just refers to the amount of transparency, which is directly related to its thickness. The range usually varies from 5 to 100, with 5 being the most see-through. Perfect for sultry nights out! If you’re living in a colder climate, look for 40 and above. And if you’re prone to tears, tugs and ladders, the higher the denier, the less likely that is to happen, and the longer they’ll last.
Usually, once you hit 40 the texture of the tights becomes opaque. The higher you go up, the thicker your sustainable tights get. With higher deniers, you’re also more likely to find control-top tights that have built-in shapewear that give you a tummy tuck and butt lift. If you’re into that kind of thing!
Ready to learn about some of the most sustainable tights brands, ever? Read on!
Main image and image below: Hedoine
Eco Friendly Tights For The Cooler Months
Hate buying a new pair of tights, only to have your manicure go through them on the first wear?
These ‘unbreakable’ tights by Sheertex are the result of an innovative technology. The lightweight, ultra strong yarns spare the wearer from ladders, runs or holes. Unlike conventional nylon, it’s almost impossible for you to poke your nail through these! What that ultimately adds up to is less waste. Plus, you’ll have your legs protected from winter drafts in style.
Sustainable because: These last for ages and are pretty much unbreakable
Price: Around $75. But they might last a lifetime!
Based: UK, but delivers internationally
What we love: The sizing for these babies is completely inclusive
Denier: 80 (opaque)
Wood cellulose-based TENCEL in tights? What a great idea! I’m surprised it’s only a few brands doing this, as far as I know.
These sustainable stockings consist of 71% natural plant cellulose fibres. They have a porous structure that allows for easy breathing. This means they’ll make you feel cool and refreshed in summer, but warm in winter. Like almost all sustainable tights, these are not purely organic, though. They do contain a bit of polyamide and/or spandex, for elasticity and shape retention.
Sustainable because: These are made from TENCEL. I mean, what’s more eco-friendly than that?
Price: From around $25
Based: USA. Free shipping in America, but ships worldwide
What we love: These are those basic black tights you need to wear with literally everything in winter.
Denier: From around 40 to 80.
Based in Germany, Living Crafts combines organic cotton with ethically sourced wool to make warm, sustainable tights for winter. Their opaque, eco friendly tights come in a rainbow of hues to match any outfit. Though they’re not suitable for vegans, you can at least sigh with relief that washing these won’t release any microplastics!
Sustainable because: Renewable, organic fibres are at the heart of these sustainable stockings.
Price: Around $40
Based: Germany, but ships all around the world
What we love: These feel great on your legs
Hedoine might make the most sustainable tights, ever. In fact, they’re biodegradable! The brand has come up with a kind of eco-nylon that’s capable of breaking down into organic matter, thanks to the natural functioning of bacteria in anaerobic conditions. This process takes between three to five years, during the course of which you can wear these sag-free and super-soft stockings multiple times. Eco friendly tights don’t get better than this!
Sustainable because: They decompose after five years!
Price: Around $40
Based: UK, but deliver globally.
What we love: Hedoine’s styles are super sexy
Denier: From 10-30
As the name gives it away! Underprotection is dedicated to producing items that guarantee ethical standards. This is done through the brand’s exclusive use of certified materials such as TENCEL lyocell, recycled polyester, recycled nylon, recycled wool, banana fibres and organic cotton.
Their sustainable tights are ethically produced in Italy and vegan approved by PETA. Their recycled Q-nova yarns are also OEKO-TEX certified – and simply look so chic!
Sustainable because: They use state-of-the-art eco-materials
Price: Around $20
Based: Denmark, but ships internationally.
What we love: The brand’s patterned tights
Denier: An average of around 45
6. Dear Denier
Dear Denier is on a mission to show how fashion can be a powerful to tool for change. Their sustainable tights are made using an innovative mix of recycled nylon and recycled elastane. But that’s not all! The production of these eco friendly tights is emissions-and-waste free, too.
Sustainable because: Eco-certifications attest their green production processes
Price: Around $25
Based: Sweden but delivers worldwide.
What we love: That high waistband really gives you a great silhouette!
Denier: From 10 to 80
This popular Swedish brand makes 100% eco friendly tights, with net zero emissions. They’re knitted from recycled yarn in a zero-waste, emission free Italian facility. Further sustainable practises by this sustainable tights brand include the use of environmentally friendly dyes, post-dyeing water treatment and the use of solar power in their factory.
And did I mention: these eco friendly Swedish stockings are super sexy?
Sustainable because: They use recycled materials and factories that engage in sustainable practices.
Price: From around $25
Based: Sweden, but ships worldwide, except to these countries.
Denier: From 10-40
Ranging from XS to XXL, Seasalt Cornwall’s sustainable tights come in two main categories.
Their Leven Tights are made with organic cotton, whilst their Recycled Tights are made of 95% recycled nylon. But that’s not the only way they’re eco-friendly! The brand boasts sustainability initiatives, such as using renewable energy across their direct operations and sourcing from factories that follow the standards set forth by Ethical Trading Initiative.
This is one of the best sustainable tights brands for those on a budget, too: if you tend to go through a lot of tights, they offer a 3-for-2 deal.
Sustainable because: They use recycled and/or organic materials.
Price: From around $15
Based: UK, but ships worldwide, except to these countries.
Denier: From 40 up.
Do you know of any other eco friendly tights brands? Let us know in the comments, below!