Veganism doesn’t just begin and end with what you eat; it also extends to what you wear. Sadly, many textiles used for clothing are the direct result of animal exploitation: items like wool, down, leather, silk, and fur. As vegans, we do not buy articles of clothing made from these things because we know they come from cruelty.
Don’t believe me about the cruelty? Do a quick google search for how any of these items are produced and prepare to be horrified. No, leather is not just a byproduct of the meat industry. No, feathers used for down do not just gently fall off geese. No, wool is not just like giving a sheep a haircut. And fur? Are you fucking kidding me?
Thankfully, you can find vegan versions of all this stuff that look fierce and fabulous. And there’s more and more of it every year as designers continue to innovate. In fact, H&M just introduced Piñatex, a vegan leather made from pineapple leaves, in its latest collection. Doc Martens has an entire vegan line of shoes and boots. And faux fur these days is indistinguishable from the real thing and promoted by celebrities like Ariana Grande and Mariah Carey.
So why do some vegans still wear real leather, wool, etc.?
The fact is that when we go vegan, even though our intention is to not buy or promote animal products, replacing all our shoes, jackets, and clothes at once can be extremely expensive. Not everyone can simply afford to immediately buy new vegan versions of all these things. If you have the extra cash and want to do that, good for you. But if you don’t, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing the clothes/shoes/accessories you have until you wear them out and then just replacing them with vegan versions at that point. The only exception I would make to this is fur. Fur is a “luxury” item and no one needs to be wearing that shit. If you own a fur coat, donate it to an org that helps homeless people or to an animal shelter so they can make beds out of it. For heaven’s sake, don’t wear real fur. It’s egregious.
Now, when you tell people you’re vegan, you’ll undoubtedly find that there are going to be those who just want to try to poke holes in your vegan ethics, call you a hypocrite, etc. Don’t play into that game.
For example, if someone challenges you about wearing leather shoes, explain to them that you’re working on veganizing your wardrobe – and that veganism is about progress, not perfection. It’s about doing the best we can. And that yes, when it’s time to replace your shoes, you’ll get vegan ones. If the person continues to challenge you or is just looking to be a dick (it happens), you are no under no obligation to continue the conversation. If someone who proudly eats meat has a problem with a vegan who still wears leather shoes, maybe they should first look at the cruelty on their plate before trying to drag anyone else. You don’t have to justify yourself to this person or anyone else. And if it’s a vegan who’s picking a fight with you, shame on them.
The world is not a perfect place and no one should be putting pressure on themselves or anyone else to be perfect. For me, veganism is about trying to reduce the unimaginable suffering we cause animals by exploiting them. It’s about boycotting animal cruelty. If you’re a new vegan, welcome to the family! And if you’re still wearing leather, I get it.