No offence to eco fashion warriors, but hemp overshirts and wicker onesies are not a good look. We don’t much like rummaging through dumpsters in the name of freeganism, either. On the other hand, we’re not overly keen on the irreversible destruction of the planet just so we can keep up with the latest trends in #menswear.
According to waste advisory body WRAP, more than 350,000 tonnes of clothes were sent to landfills in the UK alone in 2016. Dying garments to the season’s trending shade is the second biggest polluter of water globally, dumping dyes, inks, bleaches and minute fibres into the water cycle. And, according to WWF, it can take up to a staggering 20,000 litres of water to produce just one T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Sobering stuff for next time you casually add to basket.
Thankfully, there are ways to remap your sartorial habits without going on an extreme menswear diet. Here’s how to (figuratively) turn your wardrobe green. Please dress responsibly, but stylishly.
Buy From Brands That Promote Sustainability
Not so fun fact: WRAP puts the average lifespan of a garment in a developed country like the UK at a paltry 3.3 years. But that statistic is easily increased by adopting a buy less, buy better approach.
“Sustainability doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as buying from a brand that guarantees its products, so you don’t have to shell out again if anything happens to them,” explains Tom Cridland, a designer known for his range of 30-year sweatshirts. “We produce garments that are backed by a three-decade repair or replacement promise. They’re staples that don’t go in or out of fashion and are cornerstones of a wardrobe.” Eco-friendly and not woven from multi-coloured wicker – ace.
It’s not just how long your clobber lasts that matters, mind. A garment’s production methods can still leave the earth looking like a post-apocalyptic hellscape. It’s for this reason that Swedish brand A Day’s March makes a substantial amount of its products from organic cotton. “It’s harder to find really good shirt fabrics in eco-cotton compared to jersey fabrics, but it’s more environmentally friendly,” says creative director Pelle Lundquist.
Other planet-pleasing brands to look out for include Weekday, which swerves harmful chemicals in all its factories; Patagonia, which pledges a percentage of its profits to environmental groups; and Paper Wallet, which specialises in 100 per cent recyclable accessories that actually look good. Don’t discount the high street, either – the likes of H&M (Conscious line) and Mango (Committed line) are now producing dedicated environmentally-friendly collections each season.
Buy Timeless Pieces
When the new season stock hits stores, it’s easy to get carried away with a scattergun approach to shopping. And while it’s fine to top up your wardrobe with a few must-have pieces, it’s worth ensuring you’ve got a solid roster of trusty staples that won’t date in place first. The environment will thank you (in its own silent way), and so will your wallet.
“It’s important to have timeless staples in your wardrobe that you know can last season after season,” says celebrity stylist Alex Longmore. “The key pieces a man should have are a white and light blue shirt, a navy and grey jumper, dark trousers, dark denim jeans, brown suede brogues or loafers, a smart winter coat, a smart belt and three block-colour T-shirts,” she adds.
Quality is another key factor in building a wardrobe that’ll go the distance and put an end to any wasteful ways. “When shopping for clients, I choose specific brands for what they do best,” says Timothy Lord, a stylist who has shaped the wardrobes of Michael Fassbender, Jude Law and James Bay.
Carry out a stock-take of your wardrobe, and for any menswear heroes that are missing, research the best available for your budget. Because such pieces are outside of the hype-cycle, it’s possible to find them all on the high street.
Buy Fabrics That Are Hard Wearing
If you’re going to buy clothes (and you’re here, so we’ll assume that you are), the easiest way to reduce your great, hulking human footprint is to take an interest in what they’re made from.
Luckily, this isn’t that difficult to get your head around as it’s primarily common sense. For example, a real leather jacket will set you back further than an imitation number, but the former will be trucking long after the latter has peeled and cracked beyond recognition.
Less obvious is fabric blends for pieces like knitwear and shirts. As a general rule, avoid combinations of natural and non-natural fibres (such as wool and acrylic or cotton and polyester), which will shrink at different rates, causing the piece to lose its shape.
Consider also the natural properties of fabrics. Acrylic, for example, while often considered cheap, is more resistant to bobbling while merino wool is anti-bacterial, so requires fewer washes after wear.
Choose Looks That Are Trend-Proof
No man is an island, and staple pieces on their own aren’t going to be a silver bullet for your inner sartorial spendthrift. What you need to look out for are tried-and-tested outfit combinations that look cool but won’t date.
“Choosing good quality staple combinations is the key to having a sustainable wardrobe,” says The Idle Man deputy editor George Nicholson. “Invest in outfits like a leather jacket, a quality white T-shirt and a pair of selvedge jeans, and you won’t need to replace the foundations of your wardrobe every year.”
Yes, the high street may be able to quickly knock up handsome wares that give you change from a tenner, but for the planet, the cost is way higher with CO2 emissions from the fast-fashion cycle expected to reach 60 per cent by 2030.
As well as staple pieces, staple colours should also be a point of focus. Neturals and versatile shades of navy, black and grey offer up the most styling combinations – maximising on the magic cost-per-wear formula.
Look Out For Products And Services That Extend Life
Like a solid marriage, it takes constant work to keep a wardrobe in good nick. Assuming you already know to spray your suede and regularly polish your leather, make time for the more advanced methods for keeping your wardrobe evergreen.
Over-washing is an easy way to reduce a garment’s longevity and waste water. To remedy this, ensure your clothes have room to air when hanging in the wardrobe, and turn to garment refresh sprays if all that’s needed is a quick spruce. When you do need to put them through a spin cycle, consider specialist cleaning brands such as Mr Black, which produces enzyme-free washes specifically formulated to keep your denim, cotton, wool and cashmere in pristine condition.
Of course, even the most cautious of men will eventually find their clothes give way. But before tossing something in the bin, inspect the damage to see if it can be repaired. Many ethical fashion brands now offer this service, from Barbour and Patagonia to Dr. Martens and Nudie Jeans.
More often than not, a good tailor can suture suit trauma, alter sizing and even update a piece of tailoring with a new lining or buttons. Beyond that, footwear care brands like Sneakers ER produce clever kits and offer in-store services to bring tatty trainers back to life, while greying whites can be revived up via non-bleach washing specialists like The Laundress.