You might think theres not much to say about socks. Theyre almost purely functional, and perhaps one of the more boring aspects of fashion. And yet, how annoying it is when a sock keeps getting clumped up inside your shoe, or when you end up with a pinky toe poking out a fresh hole in the middle of the day!
Some of the brands below are far from boring too. One of them supports biodiversity by using different colors of natural cotton. Another brands socks have been tested by world-class athletes. Keep reading to discover our recommendations for the best ethical and eco-friendly socks. But first:
What to Look for in Sustainable Socks
Natural Fabrics: The brands below use natural, low-impact fabrics like organic cotton and closed-loop bamboo. These natural fibers dont wreak as much havoc on the environment when theyre washed or thrown out at the end of their life.
Recycled Materials: Fabric made from recycled material has its pros and cons. On one hand, it keeps trash from our landfills and saves on all kinds of resources needed to make virgin materials. Using recycled synthetics also allows eco-conscious brands to compete with conventional brands in terms of stretch, longevity, and performance. On the other hand, when we wash synthetic fabric (recycled or virgin), microscopic pieces break off and lead to our huge microplastic problem. So scroll to the bottom to find out about three great resources for helping to reduce the amount of microplastics that get washed down the drain.
Environmentally-conscious manufacturing: The processes involved in creating textiles, especially high-performing ones, are often pretty harsh on the environment, using lots of water, chemicals, and energy, and leaving behind waste. Look for brands that are using more earth-friendly processes that reduce their impact.
Fair labor and transparency: As with everything you buy, check for fair labor practices. Look for brands that prioritize transparency and third-partycertifications like Fair Trade and SA8000.
Your personal priorities: What do you need new socks for and what will you actually be doing in them? Do you need high performance socks for running or sports? Should you get something antibacterial since you walk to work every day? Do you want something comfy to just lounge around the house? Patterns or solid colors? And what length do you want?
To help you find socks you can feel good about wearing, weve rounded up some of our favorite sustainable and ethical sock brands:
PACTs socks are made out of mostly certified organic and Fair Trade materials and low-impact dyes. They carry a wide variety of patterned and solid colored socks for men, women, and kids, with a focus on affordability. They use processes that cut down on water use too.
Organic Basics uses eco-friendly materials like GOTS certified organic cotton and Tencel, as well as recycled wool and nylon. Everything is made transparently in certified factory partners around the world, where workers are ensured safe conditions and are paid a living wage with benefits. They also have an impact index, which measures the amount of waste, chemicals, energy, emissions, and water that are utilized in their production process.
Teddy Locks recycles used plastic bottles and fiber scraps collected from the east coast of the US and transforms this waste into socks. They also design their socks as collections to help avoid lonely socks being tossed out. This further prevents materials from ending up in landfills but also means their socks will last you longer. Plus, all of their packaging materials are 100% recycled and recyclable. From fiber to finishing, all of their socks are made in the USA.
Harvest and Mills socks are made from organic cotton and completely undyedthe color of the sock is the color of the plant fiber! By growing and utilizing different colors of cotton, the brand and its customers are supporting biodiversity, which is essential for ensuring healthy ecosystems and keeping our planet resilient in the face of climate change. Dye-free socks dont use dye chemicals, which can be toxic to our bodies and ecosystems. All their organic cotton is grown and sewn in the US, which means these socks support USA organic farmers, American heritage mills and their local sewing community. Plus, Harvest & Mills signature supply chain has a low-carbon impact because the materials travel far less than most supply chains. All their packaging is plastic free and compostable.
These socks are extra unique because theyre infused with silver! In 2013, Laurie Gonyea teamed up with North Carolina State University to produce the first hand knitting yarn in the US using US-grown cotton and pure silver. Silver is antibacterial and antimicrobial and has thermal properties to keep your feet extra warm. All of the cotton is grown in the US and dyed with non-toxic, all-natural dyes. (Read more about silver as an anti-odor technology here.)
This brand started out catering to men with a monthly shipment of underwear, but theyve since expanded their offerings to also include socks in men and womens sizes. Theyre sticking with black, white, and grey for now, and theyre made from ethically-sourced Supima cotton and low-impact dyes.
A sustainable fashion pioneer, People Tree has been partnering with Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco fashion collections for over 25 years. People Trees socks are made from mostly organic cotton.
Rockay was created by an ultra runner from Copenhagen when he wanted to combine his passion for sport with his love for the environment. These performance socks are made from 100% recycled materials and have been tested by world-class athletes. They have a wide variety of running and fitness socks, from ankle socks to compression socks and sleeves. Plus, they come with a lifetime guarantee!
Taylor Stitchs mens socks are made from Mercerized Merino. The mercerization process strengthens the Merino fibers and makes them even softer to the touch, which means you get all the natural performance benefits of Merino with none of the itch. These socks are made in Italy out of mostly deadstock materials.
You probably know about Allbirds sneakers, but they make socks too! Their Hiders, Quarters, and Tubers are made from a material they call Trino, which is a combination of ZQ Merino wool and eucalyptus from sustainably managed forests. Its soft, moisture-wicking, and odor-minimizing.
REI carries several sock brands like Smartwool, Darn Tough, and their own REI Co-op brand, and most of them are best for outdoor and activewear. Every brand that REI carries meets a minimum standard of ethical and sustainable operation. Although not every single item is made out of recycled and/or natural materials, they have a really wide variety of apparel to choose from thats not only made in a conscious way, but also really high quality. For more about REIs sustainability initiatives in depth, read this.
A leader in sustainability for the past four decades, Patagonia carries performance and everyday socks for men and women that are made of sustainable and Fair Trade components.
Harvested in FSC-certified fields in the Sichuan Province of China, Boodys organically grown bamboo is used to create their signature soft and durable fabric out of which they make their socks. ItsECOCERT certified, which is processed in a closed-loop, non-toxic system. So unlike regular bamboo rayon clothing, which requires intense chemical processing, Boodywear manufacturing doesnt discharge toxic chemicals into the environment. And bamboo is a highly renewable resource it quickly regenerates after being cut. Plus, its naturally breathable, antibacterial, thermo-regulating, and hypoallergenicwhich makes for a great sock!
Conscious Step socks are made out of GOTS certified organic cotton thats sourced from small farmers in India. They are Fair Trade Certified, which means theyre sewn by people who are being paid a fair wage and working in safe conditions. Each pair of socks supports a different causeyour purchase might benefit anything from ocean conservation to disaster relief to LGBTQ rights.
Many of these brands are using recycled plastic to make their socks, which is amazing because it means less virgin plastic being introduced into the world. However, it doesnt keep microplastics from gradually breaking off and getting into our waterways. Washing your socks (or any of your synthetic clothing) in a Guppyfriend filter bag, with a Cora Ball, or in a Microfiber Filter washing machine attachment helps to decrease the amount of microplastic shedding from your suit polluting the water.
These luxe slippers are handmade from ethically-sourced baby alpaca fur by local artisans in underdeveloped communities in the Andes Mountains.
These super hygge wool slippers are slow-made with centuries-old heritage techniques by the best wool felters in the worldwomen artisans in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. All of the artisans are paid a living wage in their women-run factory. Each pair of Kyrgies is constructed from wet felted wool that keeps your feet the perfect temperature year-round, is odor resistant, breathable and exceptionally durable. The sheep who provide the wool live in open pastures from spring to autumn and move to the yards of Kyrgyz villagers during the winter months. Kyrgies uses all-natural, vegetable-tanned leather that is tanned without chrome or chromium in their leather-soled shoes.
Closer to a shoe than a slipper, Allbirds cozy loungers can be worn around the house or to run errands. As a certified B Corp, Allbirds makes their shoes out of sustainably sourced wool, FSC-certified Tencel, sugarcane for the soles, and natural castor bean oil for the insoles. They also give shoes to those in need through Soles4Souls and use 90% post-consumer recycled packaging, without plastic.
These slippers arehygge personified, modest, cozy, and well made. Composed simply of locally sourced upcycled salmon skin leather and natural Patagonia sheeps wool, they are handmade by independent female artisans in Patagonia through a co-op system, so that the artisans arent forced to work in a factory. Each pair comes rolled up in an eco-friendly, reusable shipping tube, no plastic included, with additional wool thread and salmon skin for personalizing or repairing them, and a QR code so you can learn more about the artisan group that made them. Read more here!
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