It’s your big day, you’re accepting the award for ‘Vegan of the Year’, by ‘Wouldn’t That Be Nice’ Magazine. But there’s just one problem; your suit’s made of wool! You can’t show up to the big vegan gala wearing a suit that was born from the suffering of animals, can you?
Whether or not you’re about to win a fictional award, replacing your sharp wool suits with vegan options can be confusing, time-consuming, and all-around difficult. But it doesn’t have to be.
What’s Wrong With Wool Suits?
There is often unexpected cruelty in your wardrobe. As Australia’s RSPCA points out, sheep shearing isn’t very ethical, at all. Despite what many of us think, the wool industry isn’t just made up of sheep running around outside all day and getting haircuts when they get hot (at least that’s what I thought when I was a wee lad).
In fact, it gets pretty horrible. Lambs have to endure castration, tail docking and dehorning without anesthesia, among other horrors.
Vegan Suits: Alternatives to Wool
If you take issue with wearing a wool suit, don’t worry; there are plenty of animal-friendly alternative fabrics that are used to make suits. Some are better for the business world, others are better for a casual look or comfortable feel…and all are generally less expensive than their wool counterparts.
Rayon: Considered ‘artificial silk’, rayon is manufactured from regenerated cellulose, typically from wood pulp. Fabrics from rayon are soft, smooth, cool, comfortable, and highly absorbent; ideal for hot climates. Rayon is most commonly found in vegan suits when blended with polyester.
Viscose: A type of rayon (uses the same materials but different manufacturing processes). All that was mentioned above for rayon applies to viscose.
Polyester: Polyester is generally manufactured from acids and alcohols derived from petroleum. Suits made from polyester have many advantages: they tend to be inexpensive, wrinkle resistant, durable, and generally low-maintenance. They are not without disadvantages though: they don’t breathe very well, and they aren’t environmentally friendly. They also have a shine to them, which can be unattractive.
Cotton: Made from the cotton plant. Cotton suits are light and airy, excellent for hot climates. If looking for a close replacement for a wool suit, this won’t be a good direction to take. But for a casual or comfortable look, go nuts!
Linen: Made from the cellulose found within the stalks of the flax plant. Linen suits are similar to cotton, only thicker and stronger. Linen suits are perfectly appropriate for business-causal settings or very hot summer days, however they are not always appropriate for the business world.
Hemp: Made from, you guessed it…hemp! Similar to cotton and linen (although not as soft) suits made from hemp tend to have good absorbency and breathability. Hemp makes arguably the most rigid suits, because hemp is such a strong fibre. If you’re looking for a business-suit, this will be your worst bet, but if you’re looking for a ‘green’ suit, it will be your best bet.
Blends: We’re not talking whiskey; so blends may be preferable in some cases, particularly if you’re looking for a day-to-day business suit. In fact, some of the sharpest vegan suits are made of blends, particularly polyester/viscose blends.
Animal-Derived Materials to Avoid
Heads up! If a vegan suit is what you’re going for, be sure to avoid the animal-derived materials listed below.
Wool: Taken from sheep, wool is the primary material used to make up the pants, vests and jackets of most non-vegan suits.
Silk: Taken from silkworm cocoons, silk is often used for for the lining of jackets, as well for shirts and various accessories, such as ties, kerchiefs and others.
Leather: Primarily taken from cows leather is used as an accent to certain suits, such as for elbow patches or pockets. It is also widely used for accessories, such as belts and shoes.
Suede: A type of leather, it is used for many of the same purposes mentioned above.
Where and How to Buy Vegan Suits
That’s a lot to consider, on top of finding something that actually looks good. But it doesn’t have to be as difficult as enduring a dinner with your non-vegan in-laws, it will take just as much patience though.
The first trick, is knowing where to look.
As a former wool-suit wearer, it came as a surprise to me that many stores that regularly carry wool suits will usually have vegan-friendly alternatives. Not all of them, but a lot of them. This includes department stores, chain stores, independent shops and boutiques, thrift shops/secondhand stores, and of course, online stores.
The second trick, is knowing how to look.
The best advice I can give: take your time. Visit a lot of stores and look through their stock. Eventually you will find something made of animal-friendly materials that also achieves the look and feel you’re going for.
While visiting stores, try talking to the sales staff and managers. Just keep in mind that if you ask, “do you carry vegan suits”? you will get either a confused look, or the ol’, “what do you mean”? So, it’s best to ask something more along the lines of, “do you have any suits not made of wool? Like linen, or a poly-viscose blend”? …or something to that effect. You’ll still get a funny look in most cases, but only because they’re mentally going through their inventory.
Keep in mind that while someone who knows their store’s stock inside-out will be a rare breed, there are some terrific, knowledgeable, friendly people selling clothes out there. If they don’t have any in stock, they might know of items coming in, or be able to recommend another store (it may sound unlikely, but stranger things have happened than being referred to a competitor).
Some Final Thoughts on Buying a Vegan Suit
As you visit each store, be sure to verbalize your desire to find a vegan suit. Even if you find nothing, you’ve done the vegan world and animal kingdom a great service. The more people that ask for vegan-friendly suits, the more store managers and owners will take notice of the growing demand, which can help shape what products are carried in store; just look at how many restaurants now offer veggie burgers.
Remember, the longer it takes you to find a proper vegan suit, the more rewarding the find will be. Just don’t let that jubilation rush you into buying a bad suit; you still want something that looks right and fits well, after all.
Sharing Your Experience
If you’re able to find a great vegan suit, spread the word so others know where to look! Comment below, share your experience on social media, or just go old school and shout it from a mountain top!
Do you have any suggestions or comments for this list? We’re all ears, just leave a comment below!
Tim is the Founder of Get it Vegan. A vegan for nearly 2 years, he spends his days learning about veganism and animal welfare issues. He enjoys finding vegan friendly items and saying, "Look, this is vegan!" to anyone who will listen.