Jonathan Field - Maker of Random Stuff

Ethical Underwear

So I just watched the John Oliver show on sweatshops (Season 2 Episode 11), and I decided I’d like to make it a priority in my life to reduce support for unethical labor in my clothing. I’ll leave the other thousand ways in which I support unethical labor for another day.

So I poked around a bit. Turns out even this small step is not easy. I hoped to find a list of brands or shops that have an ethical supply chain, but there’s little guidance to be found.

For example, I came across one website that offered the following as their first three pieces of advice:

  1. Buy Less
  2. Go Used
  3. Make Your Own

I think that while this advice may technically reduce the support of sweatshop labor, it doesn’t actually have any positive impact on the exploited laborors at all.

They go on to suggest looking at the label and researching companies. And while that is a good idea, it sort of indicates that nobody has done the work yet to make this simple for the vast majority of people. I guess it’s too much to expect that some known brand at a local store would actually be doing things ethically.

So where does one start? At the moment, I am in the market for some new socks and underwear, ignoring the #2 and #3 bits of advice from the aforementioned website. And I’m going to test a few companies, ignoring their #1 bit of advice. I’m going to try out PACT and Maggie’s Organics.

Judging by these two, it seems that women are more the intended market for ethical clothing purchases than men. Also it seems that environmental concerns go along with, and perhaps supercede, workplace concerns. I can live with that, though I have to admit the non-GMO part makes me sigh. If it’s in the interest of reducing pesticides, fine, but if it’s a knee-jerk reaction to a misunderstanding of what GMO is in farming technology (targeted rather than random mutations), I’m sorry to support that bit of foolishness.

It’s also interesting and a bit disappointing that basically I have to take these companies at their word. There’s no certification that I could find that ensured a minimum standard.

We’ll see what shows up and if I like it enough to stop searching and stock up. In any case, I hope to soon have my undergarments produced by humans living in human conditions. We’ll see what I can work on after that.

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