How To Find A Decent Vegan Suit

Suits are hot, animal products are not!

Kyle Piscioniere
Jul 25 · 8 min read
Brave GentleMan

The classic suit is basically a skin-and-fur sausage. Suitmakers usually use wool, either shorn from sheep, goats, or rabbits, which is then blended with worm silk. Sew on some buffalo horn buttons, line the suit with a sheet of goathair, and garnish the look with leather boots and belts, and the suit adds up to a wearable Frankenstein’s monster.

And yet there’s just something about a well-cut suit. Maybe it’s the inner jacket pockets — are secrets sexy? Or maybe it’s the residual grasp of 20th century patriarchy we haven’t yet purged from our collective psyche.

Whatever it is, suits look hot. Here’s how to find one that won’t compromise your ethics.

H&M

The accidentally vegan suit

Used or new?

If buying new, be aware that most off-the-rack, accidentally vegan suits tend to be of poorer quality. Expect to shop in the Zara, H&M rung of retail. These suits, while cheaper, come with a hefty ecological price tag, as well as a short shelf life. H&M, for instance, confirmed that it offers a vegan suit for under $200 — but it will probably need tailoring, and it will certainly need early replacing.

Is the fabric vegan?

Any accidentally vegan suit will be made from linen, cotton, chambray, polyester, bamboo, rayon, or other synthetic materials. Of the traditional fabrics, linen and cotton tend to be far more popular — at least in the better suits. Polyester, too, is making a surprising comeback. The others, while viable options, are less popular and can tend to be cheap-looking or quick to wear out.

Of all the vegan suit fabrics, linen is my favorite. Linen is a thin, elven fabric spun from flax and light as mist. If you could spin sunlight, you’d get a linen suit. But linen’s propensity to wrinkle poses problems. McGregor J. Madden, of suitmakers Hall Madden, prefers cotton to linen for the vegan suit: “The thing with linen is, it’s very wrinkly. It might not look so good, because it’s creasing so much. With linen, you can’t really wear it day in, day out. So cotton, with a little bit of stretch, that’s going to last.”

By sourcing good cotton — Hall Madden’s supplier processes their fabric in Italian mills — cotton suits can be spun to mimic the traditional wool suit. For anyone searching for a day-to-day suit, think of cotton as linen’s responsible older sister, and probably the best way to replace wool. If linen is its own suit, cotton is a wool suit replacement, the Beyond Burger to linen’s lentil burger.

Polyester, too, may be a good starting point for vegans. The fabric has outgrown its early reputation as hot, cheap, and tacky. AJ Machete, bespoke tailor behind the vegan-friendly shop Machete and Sons’ Bespoke Denver Clothiers, admits that polyester got a bad rap “partly because of early non-breathable and badly textured versions of the fabric from the 1960s.” Machete says that’s changed: “Advancements in technology have enabled mills to produce ‘wicking’ polyesters that are as breathable as traditional wools and have the same amount of smoothness and drape.”

But fabrics don’t tell the whole story of a suit.

Is the construction vegan?

Unfortunately, most canvassed suits are not vegan. A 100% cotton suit, if lined or canvassed, usually contains animal fibers. For instance, J.Crew and SuitSupply both sell reasonably-priced 100% linen or 100% cotton suits. A hopeful vegan, perhaps one writing an article about how to find vegan suits, might be encouraged by those suits. He might have one of them in his shopping cart, ready to pull the trigger on a light blue suit for an upcoming summer wedding. And subsequent emails from both manufacturers might reveal that neither sells any vegan suits whatsoever. Men’s Wearhouse and Indochino, too, offer absolutely no vegan suits, despite selling suits made of vegan fabrics.

This issue can be (partially) avoided by searching specifically for “unconstructed” suits, but even they may incorporate animal products.

Are the details vegan?

But some details are harder to track down. It may be impossible to know if every dye and glue in a suit is vegan. It’s a little like the bone char in white sugar: so ubiquitous that it invokes the “as far as is practical” clause of veganism, and cannot be accounted for.

Ask!

With knowledge and a little luck, it’s not hard to find a vegan suit. Just take your time, know your size, understand what you want, and ask before buying.

And, if you’re feeling a bit lazy, here are some freebies: Nordstom confirmed that this windowpane Topman suit and this Bonobos chambray suit are both accidentally vegan.

The intentionally vegan suit

Most intentionally vegan suits come from made-to-measure (M2M) suit companies. M2M suppliers are a relatively booming industry, partially due to lower shipping and production costs. For buyers, the process is simple: A company will gather your measurements, then send those measurements to a factory, usually overseas, which prints a custom-sized suit.

The results are cheaper than handmade suits, but more personal than off-the-rack. And because there are so many customizable variables, vegans can usually find a decent plant-based suit in an M2M company’s offerings.

One step above M2M sits the decadent option of bespoke suiting. Bespoke, a buzzword often misapplied to made-to-measure suiting, has a strict definition: handmade for you. This is the legendary Saville Row treatment. Walk into a tailor, stand awkwardly in your underwear while a gruff connoisseur takes your measurements, and then let a team of expert tailors snip, sew, and spin a suit designed specifically for your body.

The price, though. Woof.

Still, shelling out for a higher-end suit poses a bunch of long-term advantages, even if it hammers a bank account. Higher-quality suits last longer, giving them an edge on sustainability. They fit better, saving money on tailoring costs. And there’s something powerful about a piece of clothing designed for the contours and shape of your body.

Here’s a quick, non-exhaustive list of five decent vegan suiting options:

Hangrr: ~$300

Hall Madden ~$1,000

The service is more personable than Hangrr’s. Buyers show up at a showroom in one of eight cities, where a company representative takes individual measurements, offers sample suit styles and fits, and then crafts a suit built to your specs. The suits are constructed in a factory overseas, then tailored in-house after a second fitting. Hall Madden’s business model may not be unique, but they cater to vegans in a way few other made-to-measure services do.

Currently, Hall Madden crafts traditional men’s styles. But in the fall, the company will expand its styles to include more feminine looks. It’s worth a cop for anyone with a fall wedding.

Denver Bespoke $1,000-$2,000

Working with vegan clients for over 11 years, Denver Bespoke’s AJ Machete developed a keen sense of what vegans care about in their suits: “We can make pretty much anything that a client would want and can adjust every material that goes into the suit to fit with a client’s ethical concerns.”

King & Allen UK-based, $900-$2,000

Brave Gentleman $2,500

Tenderly

A friendly + radical vegan magazine dedicated to living well with kindness towards animals, care for the planet, and justice for all.

Kyle Piscioniere

Written by

Animals, ecologies, language, persuasion. MA-PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric.

Tenderly

Tenderly

A friendly + radical vegan magazine dedicated to living well with kindness towards animals, care for the planet, and justice for all.

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