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You may not think twice about what underwear and socks you throw on in the morning. But the clothes you put on first can have the biggest impact—not just on your daily comfort, but on your long-term health. Men, if your underwear drawer is made up of polyester and spandex pieces, it’s time to rethink your basics wardrobe.
Quality, sustainable underwear and socks for men should be breathable, supportive and long-lasting. They shouldn’t come at the cost of poor labor conditions and environmental harm. That’s why you should shop for underwear made by transparent brands that use eco-friendly fabrics and manufacturing practices, plus non-toxic dyes and finishes.
Here are a few things to look for when choosing a safe and sustainable underwear supplier:
Materials: Many sustainable basics brands use a mix of natural fabrics and semi-synthetic materials, with a bit of elastane or spandex for stretch. Natural fibers are comfortable and breathable, and don’t increase your risk of contact with harmful chemicals. Try to avoid as much spandex as possible in your socks and underwear to help keep your skin safe and healthy. Otherwise, look for organic fair trade cotton or semi-synthetics like natural bamboo or Tencel that don’t include microplastics or toxic chemicals.
Be careful when buying moisture-wicking clothing, as many contain a high percentage of polyester, which is bad for both your skin and the environment. Merino wool, organic cotton, and hemp are comfortable and sustainable options that can be part of a healthy agriculture system.
Packaging: It’s also important to consider a brand’s packaging. The less plastic, the better. Many sustainable basics brands have switched to cardboard, and use biodegradable or compostable mailers made from recycled materials.
Transparency: Is the brand aware of where its factories are and what takes place in its supply chain? Responsible companies regularly audit their facilities to ensure fair labor practices.
Eco-friendly manufacturing is important as well. Sourcing materials locally and minimizing transportation between factories are just a couple of ways a brand can manufacture responsibly. The fewer facilities its products go between before it comes to you, the smaller its carbon footprint.
Now that you know the criteria for healthy, sustainable underwear and socks, here are our favorite men’s selections.
PAKA’s beautiful handmade socks are made from odor-resistant alpaca wool. Its alpacas roam free on the same land they’ve evolved on for thousands of years, so you don’t have to worry about the animals living in tiny cages. Its manufacturing uses 50% solar energy and fully biodegradable and compostable packaging. It uses all-natural dyes for its cute colors and patterns. In addition to the socks’ warmth and coziness, their durability comes with a lifetime guarantee. If you wear a pair down to threads, PAKA will provide you with a replacement.
Icebreaker is a New Zealand-based brand that specializes in quality merino wool apparel. It offers breathable underwear in a variety of comfortable cuts and bold colors. Its sock selection ranges from everyday ankle and crew styles to high-performance ski and hiking socks. The brand prioritizes workers’ rights and maps its supply chain every step of the way. Its wool is sourced in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa, and is processed in Mainland China, Germany, Italy, Romania, and Vietnam.
Patagonia fosters responsibility programs to support apparel workers, monitors its footprint, and encourages organic farming practices. Its main materials are organic cotton and recycled synthetics. It has different sock types for every outdoor adventure, including quarter-length hemp socks and knee-length performance merino wool. It also has a variety of boxer cuts in several colors and prints. We recommend natural fibers in lieu of recycled synthetics.
This carbon-neutral brand carefully measures its output, uses clean energy and applies regenerative agriculture practices. In addition to its flagship footwear, it offers two cuts of Tencel/merino wool-blended underwear in classic and limited-edition colors.
Meundies only works with factories that treat and pay workers fairly, and frequently audits them to ensure transparency. You can find its partners’ locations here (its socks are made in China and non-loungewear and t-shirts are made in Turkey and Sri Lanka). This brand specializes in a variety of novelty prints for every occasion, and carries every men’s underwear cut (with and without a fly,) in its MircoModal fabric. Its breathable cotton socks are available from no-show to crew length.
Arvin Goods’ line of “clean” socks began the brand’s goal to create the most eco-friendly basics on the planet. It uses organic cotton, hemp biofiber, and recycled fabrics. Its packaging is completely plastic-free, with recycled (and recyclable) sock wraps and paper mailers. Arvin Goods socks come in just about every cut and color you can imagine, from neutral no-shows, to colorful crews, to bold performance pairs and striped casual long socks.