Tights Are The Plastic Straws Of Fashion – Here Are 6 Sustainable Options

Of the many milestones that mark our transition to autumn – the first brown leaves, the first crumble, the first "Shall we put the heating on?" – there is perhaps none as significant as First Tights Day. It’s simultaneously comforting and discombobulating, the first time you give in and pull on a pair of black opaques in the morning – 'bobulating' being the operative part of that word, since it’s what all your tights have been doing since you shoved them away in a drawer back in March.
 
After years of the truly chic shivering their way through winter in bare legs and hiking socks, hosiery's finally back on the fashion menu too. And it's making up for those wilderness years; tights were splashed with logos at Fendi, Gucci and Saks Potts, spotted in Crayola-bright shades on the cobbles of fashion week and in lacy, netted swirls on the pins of influencers not old enough to have worn them during the Great Goth Revival of 2002. Even white tights, once the preserve of unlucky bridesmaids and sexy nurse costumes, suddenly look modishly cool again.
 
But there’s a catch, and not just the snaggy-toenail kind. Fashion might be conspiring with the weather to tell us that it’s time to put our tights back on, but our growing environmental anxiety is saying the opposite.
 
Tights are mostly made from nylon, a plastic-based synthetic fibre derived from coal and crude oil. You don’t need to know much about climate science to know that lots of the words in that last sentence are Not Good Things. Nylon production is thirsty, energy-hungry and generates nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO2. It takes at least 30 years to decompose, often longer, meaning every single pair of laddered pantyhose we’ve thrown in the bin will still be sitting in landfill somewhere.
 
While the durability of synthetic fibres can sometimes be a point in their favour, we can hardly argue that tights are made to last. In excess of 103,000 kg of hosiery waste is created worldwide every year, with that stubbornly linear lifespan – buy, wear, rip, repeat – earning it a reputation as the single-use plastic of the fashion industry. And we all know how we feel about straws these days.   
 
Does this mean cold legs are the only option for a clear conscience? Thankfully, no. We can do our bit to prolong our tights by washing them less (oh yes) and using a delicates bag like Guppyfriend to keep bobbles at bay. Meanwhile brands both new and established are doing the legwork to make tights in a more sustainable way. Here are six of the best.

Swedish Stockings

Made with nylon and polyamide recycled from sportswear production, Swedish Stockings operates zero-waste factories powered by renewable solar and wind energy, and uses only vegan dyes, reusing 50% of its water and purifying the remainder. Styles run the gamut from basic sheers to dusty pastels, shimmer, fishnet, ribbed and a wardrobe-defining collab with Ganni.
 
Most excitingly, Swedish Stockings operates a recycling club where they’ll take used tights by any brand off your hands (in exchange for a discount on future purchases), melt them down and use them as filling in fibreglass tanks. So much better than landfill or shoving your holey pairs to the back of a drawer to ruin another morning. Your future self will thank you.
swedish stockings Ganni Egret Tights$40.45 Buy
swedish stockings Svea Premium Tights Dusty Blue$17.21 Buy
swedish stockings Alma Rib Tights Wine$23.24 Buy
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Charnos RE, CYCLED
 
Proof that even the old-school hosiery brands can change their ways, the RE, CYCLED range from British stocking stalwart Charnos is a stride in the right direction. Made using offcuts from current tights production, the company claims its repurposing method cuts emissions by 80% and reduces water consumption by 90%. They’re available in a sheeny 15 denier, an opaque 40 and a cosy 70, all packaged in recycled, recyclable brown paper – and at £5.99 or £6.99 a pair, it’s not too big a stretch for your bank balance either.
Charnos Re Cycled Opaque 70 Tights$6.99 Buy
Charnos Re Cycled Opaque 40 Tights$6.99 Buy
Charnos Re Cycled Sheer 15 Tights$5.99 Buy
Gudrun Sjoden

This Swedish brand’s homespun hippie aesthetic might not be for everyone, but its tights (almost) are. Made from 90% recycled polyamide, it's the only offering we’ve found that's available up to a size XXL (UK 24). In bold shades like olive green, damson and mustard, they’re the best way to dip a toe into the coloured tights trend without feeling like you’re appearing in the local panto.
Gudrun Sjoden Tights In Recycled Polyamide$12.00 Buy
Gudrun Sjoden Tights In Recycled Polyamide$12.00 Buy
Gudrun Sjoden Tights In Recycled Polyamide$12.00 Buy
The Legwear Co.

The technology to recycle old tights into new tights has long eluded the textile industry, but The Legwear Company might be closest to closing the loop. The Aussie brand has found a way to melt and extract the elastane from the nylon fibre blend, meaning it can be used to create other plastic-based products. With its Sustainable Hosiery Initiative, all customers get a prepaid returns label to send back tights of any brand to be given this born-again treatment.
 
The brand’s 50 denier ECO tights, meanwhile, are made from entirely recycled materials – and while basically every manufacturer will tell you their products are designed to last, The Legwear Co. goes one better and gives you a 60-day warranty on all tights, even if you’ve snagged or laddered them. You need never fear a splintery bench in a coffee shop again.
The Legwear Co. 60 Denier - 2 Pack$28.00 Buy
The Legwear Co. 120 Denier - 2 Pack$28.00 Buy
The Legwear Co. 50 Denier ECO - 2 Pack$28.00 Buy
Wolford
 
Let’s not get too excited; the fancy-pants tights purveyor has only one sustainable pair in its range so far – but it's a talking point. The pleasingly irregular Micro Fish Scale tights are woven from ECONYL, a repurposed nylon made from, fittingly, old fishing nets and other plastic waste dumped in the ocean. Seam-free with a smooth waistband and tighter weave on the toe, they won’t pinch your flesh any more than your conscience. Just your purse, then.
Wolford Micro Fish Scale Tights$39.00 Buy
Thought

Spun from super soft bamboo yarn and recycled polyester, Thought’s tights are a luxe evolution of the woolly version we knew and loved at school – minus the droopy crotch. The jury is out on whether bamboo’s 'antibacterial properties' are all they purport to be, but this much we do know: toffee-brown polka dot couldn’t be more autumnal if it came with a side of custard.
Thought Spot Bamboo Tights$18.00 Buy
Thought Elgin Bamboo Tights$18.00 Buy
Thought Elgin Super Soft Bamboo Tights$18.00 Buy
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