Can stockings be sustainable?

A responsible guide to buying hosiery

Tights are annoying even before we delve into what they’re made from and why it’s harmful for the environment. This week I stayed with a friend in London, and when we both got back to her house and took off our boots (me – Shoe The Bear Agda, her – Grenson Nanette, since you ask), we both had multiple toes poking through the ends of our nylons. Neither of our pairs of tights are long for this world, and the really irritating thing is that there’s nothing wrong with the rest of them – the legs are all perfectly intact. It’s a problem I’m sure any other fans of black opaques will be familiar with.

So tights seem pretty wasteful from the get-go. But it gets worse. Tights are often made from nylon (plastic), which uses a lot of energy to produce, is complicated to recycle, and also releases microplastics into the water with every wash. But tights are undoubtedly an incredibly useful thing to have in your wardrobe; I tend to wear the same skirts and dresses year round, switching my summer bare legs and Birkenstocks for tights and ankle boots when the mercury drops, so in many ways, they make my wardrobe more responsible because I can get more wear out of these items. For me, though, it’s important to find the most sustainable options out there. And that, my friends, is no easy task – you can’t opt for pre-loved, obviously! – so I thought I would share my findings with you.

Swedish Stockings

Swedish Stockings

Swedish Stockings ribbed tights, £24 (buymeonce.com)

This amazing company was the first in the world to make opaques from recycled materials. The yarn it uses is made from recycled polyamide, which is a very hardwearing material and, relatively speaking, pretty snag-proof. The styling in this picture from the brand’s Instagram account is also giving me all the feels! You can buy direct in Euros from their website, which has the biggest selection, but the best place to buy in the UK is the brilliant website Buy Me Once, which is also a great place to pick up a Guppyfriend bag if you don’t already have one – this will catch the microplastics from your tights and other synthetic clothing in the bag, rather than releasing them into the water system from your washing machine. One last word on Swedish Stockings – there is a brilliant recycling scheme where you can send in your old tights. They get recycled into an industrial material rather than new tights, but that’s still much better than them ending up in landfill.

Heist

Heist fishnets

Heist ‘The Fishnet’, £22 (heist-studios.com)

I love Heist’s opaque tights. They’re not made from recycled materials, but they’re incredibly flattering and they last absolutely ages. I have two pairs that are around three years old and they’re still going strong – obviously buying a high quality pair of tights that lasts as long as possible is one of the best ways of being more responsible with your hosiery choices. However, Heist has just released its first recycled tights, which are fishnets made from, appropriately, old fishing nets, and their creation also has a smaller carbon footprint than a regular pair of tights. It’s step in the right direction, and I’m looking forward to seeing whether they roll out the recycling to the rest of the range.

Seasalt Cornwall

Seasalt

Seasalt Cornwall recycled tights, £17.50 (seasaltcornwall.co.uk)

This lovely British brand is quietly doing lots of great things, such as using organic cotton and using a fabric called Tidecycle, made from recycled plastic bottles, for its raincoats. So it came as no surprise to me when a reader pointed out that they do recycled tights, too. These are 95% recycled nylon (the other 5% is elastane) and they’re considerable more reasonably priced than some of the sustainable stocking options out there.

Hedoine

Hedoine

Hedoine luxury 50 denier tights, £22 (hedoine.com)

Ever noticed that the more responsible the fashion brand, the more inclusive they are with their choice of model?! I haven’t tried Hedoine’s tights personally, but I’m already on board if this is the marketing involved. These tights aren’t recycled but they come with a ladder-free guarantee; if it lives up to the hype, that’s got to be a good thing as you’ll get through fewer pairs in your lifetime, which sort of makes up for the fact that sustainable tights are much more expensive than bog standard ones. Well engineered groundbreaking stuff always starts off being pricey, but my hope is that the more demand there is for it, the less it will cost to produce, and ultimately, the lower the price will become.

Kunert

Screen Shot 2019-11-30 at 16.11.02

Kunert Blue 50 tights, €20 (kunert.de)

ECONYL® is a fibre to bookmark in your brain; it’s another recycled fishing net yarn which is favoured by many, from the London fashion week sustainable designer Richard Malone and Free People – which uses it for an eco-fitness range – to this new discovery for me, Kunert. I haven’t been able to find a UK stockist, but it looks like you can buy these direct online and have them shipped. I love that they come in 9 different colours and 6 different sizes. Lindex has some similar tights to these which are made from a 68% TENCEL mix (Tencel is a fabric made from renewable resources). They come in 5 colours for £12.99 but do be aware that there are some non-sustainable tights on this website too!

Charnos

Charnos

Charnos recycled tights, £5.99 (uktights.com)

The cheapest pair by far that I’ve found are these from Charnos. I haven’t tried them, personally, but the message is certainly on brand with this paper packaging. These are made from recycled materials and offcuts, which are made into a new yarn.

That’s it for now because there really isn’t very much out there! But I will keep looking and continue to update this article when I discover anything new.