This is a 100% made in the USA tee...from fiber to dyeing to seams.
A soft tee is a true basic in many of our wardrobes. A tried + true tee thrown on with a pair of jeans, shorts or a skirt = the easiest type of dressing. I'd love to have a simple list of go-to spots to find fair basics, so here we go with some truly innovative, thoughtful t-shirts.
As usual, we start with these reminders:
-The most ethical t-shirt is most often the one that we don't buy. :)
-When we find ourselves in need of a new-to-us t-shirt, a thrift store is a great place to start the search for a sturdy 100% cotton one.
Two billion t-shirts are sold every year. I dare say most of them are not well thought out or even desired purchases (why all the free event t-shirts?). As we thoughtfully consider the fairness of t-shirts here, we'll focus in on three things: fiber, fair labor + cost.
The most common fibers used in tees today are polyester + cotton. Even recycled polyester is non-biodegradable plastic. Cotton is often sprayed with chemicals that directly effect the land + the farmers that grow it. Thankfully organic cotton has grown in popularity in recent years. Growing organic cotton, however, is not easy...and it demands a lot of water.
Organic cotton can be sourced in one country, spun in another + milled in a third. By the time an organic tee is sewn, transported to the warehouse + shipped to the store or our house...it is probably better travelled than we are. It's exciting to see people care about how + where the fibers in the clothing they design are grown, processed + sewn. It's hard work to trace the journey, since the bulk of the industry has moved overseas. Many brands just don't seem that in touch with the fluctuations in the supply chain. Both Pansy + Industry of Nations are great examples of brands who take the time to know the places, people + conditions a tee comes from...from seed to finished product.
Industry of Nations is unique in that it focuses on local products from around the world. These tees, for example, are a product of India. The organic cotton, sewing, + natural dying are all done in India. Skilled farmers + garment workers are valued with living wages.
Growing new organic cotton for each new tee is a resource heavy endeavor involving water, land + labor resources. Innovations in recycled cotton are exciting...and the fact that a tee can be made with 100% recycled cotton (no new fibers added) is a breakthrough. Everybody World is bringing us these innovative tees.
Hemp is another fiber focus for sustainable t-shirt makers. Hemp is a more naturally resilient crop than cotton requiring less water, chemicals + fertilizers. Hemp restores soil health rather than depleting it. It makes a sturdy, long-lasting fiber as well. A few brands are bringing us hemp/organic cotton tees.
The working conditions of the garment workers who put together our clothing are of great importance. We know that our purchases factor into the paychecks of all the hands who touched that t-shirt. It's exciting to know that there are people designing clothes with the entire process in focus. Fair-trade certifications bring credibility to ethical labor claims.
While all of these factors are wonderful, we can't lose sight of the fact that even organic cotton, hemp + recycled cotton require land + power + water + transportation + human resources. These processes create waste too. Just how many t-shirts does one person need? Can we find a second-hand tee that suits? Can we wear the ones we have longer + wash them less? Just a few things to consider before going any further. :)
At the rate we go through t-shirts, recycled cotton is an exciting innovation. The fact that a tee can be made with 100% recycled cotton (no new fibers added) is important.
There are lots more fair brands that offer tees on the ethical brands page. These are a few that stand out for the reasons below. Many offer both men's + women's styles/sizes. The criteria for making the list this time around was (at least):
-organic or recycled cotton or hemp
-under $50 (with one exception)
Amour Vert :: organic cotton :: made in USA
Back Beat Rags :: hemp/organic cotton :: made in USA
Brook There :: USA milled organic cotton :: sewn in Massachusetts
Dazey LA :: organic cotton :: made in USA
Everybody World :: 100% recycled cotton :: made in an ethical factory in Los Angeles
For Days :: organic cotton :: made in Los Angeles :: recycled :: closed loop
Freeset :: fair-trade, organic cotton :: fair-trade labor
Harvest + Mill :: organic cotton grown, spun + knit in USA :: sewn in San Francisco
Industry of Nations :: locally grown, organic cotton :: natural dyes :: fair wages
Industry Standard :: organic cotton :: made in Los Angeles
Jungmaven :: hemp/organic cotton :: made in USA
Know the Origin :: organic cotton :: fair-trade certified :: UK based
Loomstate :: organic cotton :: GOTS certified factory
Outerknown :: organic cotton :: fair-trade certified sewn
Organic Basics :: organic cotton :: living wages :: Denmark based
Pact :: GOTS organic cotton :: fair-trade labor
Pansy :: USA grown, organic cotton :: sewn in San Leandro, CA :: non-toxic dyes ($58)
Patagonia :: organic cotton :: fair-trade certified sewn
Reformation :: organic cotton :: made in Los Angeles
Richer Poorer :: organic cotton :: made in Los Angeles
Slumlove :: organic cotton :: carbon neutral facility :: fair wages
I want to wear clothes from brands that value people over scale or profits. Thank you to all the people who make that possible!
All lovely photos via links.