After a summer no one expected, it is cheering to think of the new season ahead: drifting autumn leaves, sparkling morning frosts and, best of all, tights. Comfortable, forgiving, smooth-it-out tights.
The only problem is cheap tights are the plastic cutlery of fashion. Not only does producing stretchy nylon gobble up huge amounts of energy and water — there’s the throwaway nature of hosiery, thanks to poor-quality pairs, usually sold in multi-packs, that seem to ladder or snag almost immediately.
To make matters worse, nylon tights are complicated (but not impossible) to recycle, so the majority end up joining the 330,000 tonnes of textiles dumped in UK landfill each year.
But if you’re averse to bare legs, and cannot countenance giving up your opaques, fear not. There’s a new wave of more sustainable hosiery options, using innovative environmentally-friendly yarns and designed to be more durable, less snaggable and, ultimately, built to have a longer lifespan.
While tights are a staple in many wardrobes it seems the nylon creations we are used to may be causing long lasting damage to the environment
Tights are enjoying a fashion moment, too, as evidenced on the autumn-winter 2020 catwalks at Erdem (sheer black), Shrimps (cool grey), Gucci (fire engine red) and Max Mara (black opaques).
Back in the real world, to maximise their longevity, most quality tights should be hand-washed in cold water. Alternatively, use a mesh laundry bag (John Lewis, three for £10) and machine wash on a cool cycle.
Next time you sort out the tangled mess in your tights drawer, here are six eco-friendly alternatives to consider that don’t make sacrifices on comfort, quality or style.
Eco-Friendly Opaque Tights, boots.com
Sometimes you just need to grab a pair of black tights, and being able to pop into Boots is as convenient as it gets. Each pair of the 80-denier opaques is made from four recycled plastic bottles (the bottles are shredded into micro-particles, melted down and then spun into yarn). Boots predicts that about 86,000 plastic bottles will be reborn as eco-tights each year.
Lovely and soft, and sold in minimal cardboard packaging, they do the job for less than a tenner, are sturdy and properly opaque. They sit fairly low on the hips, so be warned if you prefer a high-rise style.
The Fishnet, heist-studios.com
Heist make arguably the most comfortable tights, thanks to the game-changing extra-wide waistbands, which never roll down or dig in, whatever shape you are.
The same hand-sewn waistband is used on its fishnet tights, made from 85 per cent Q-Nova, a sustainable nylon created with waste materials from other textile production.
Even the elastane used is partially recycled, using yarn from Japanese brand Roica, which produces sustainable elastane.
Being super-stretchy, the fishnets seem almost child-sized fresh out the packet — but a sticker reassures: ‘I may look small but I’ve got a lot of stretch.’ They do, indeed, accommodate even the curviest of thighs.
Forgiving and flexible, they’ve got that second-skin feel. Like any fishnets, you have to be gentle taking them on and off to avoid rips.
Solid-Colour Tights, £13, gudrunsjoden.com
Who says tights have to be black or nude? If you fancy embracing colour-clashing legs, as seen in Prada’s autumn-winter show at Milan Fashion Week, Scandi eco-label Gudrun Sjoden offers a 40-denier style made from 90 per cent recycled polyamide in heather, ochre, red and green (much nicer than it sounds).
Generously sized (they go up to XXL, which is the equivalent of a UK size 24), they are also very comfortable.
They look particularly great with a midi dress and a pair of ankle boots for a flash of colour.
Charnos Re,Cycled 15 Denier Tights, houseoffraser.co.uk
Heritage British brand Charnos does a super-smooth yet super-matte 15-denier style made from luxury Italian yarn, spun from offcuts.
The process means they cut their emissions by 80 per cent and reduce water consumption by 90 per cent. These tights glide on beautifully. They feel like they could cost five times the price.
They are impressively strong and snag-resistant. If you like the look of sheer tights but find they last 30 seconds, you will love these.
The sheer black looks very chic but there is only one nude shade available — a shame because it won’t suit many skin tones.
In the same Re,Cycled range there are plain black 40 and 70 denier styles available, too.
And they all come in recyclable paper bag packaging.
Micro Fish Scale Tights, £39; socks, £19, wolfordshop.co.uk
Considered the crème de la crème of hosiery purveyors, Wolford’s eco offering is an unusual twist on your average fishnets.
The larger, irregular weave is reminiscent of an actual fishing net — and the yarn, a regenerated nylon called Econyl, is partly made from old nets littering the ocean.
Using a closed loop model, Econyl takes discarded nylon waste then purifies it for reuse.
Available in black or deep ocean (a dark teal), the tights might look dangerously delicate but the fabric is surprisingly robust, and is more densely woven at the toes. If the tights are a little too much for you — and they do need a certain confidence to pull off — Wolford does ankle socks in the same weave.
Swedish Stockings, swedish stockings.com
Polka dots? Leopard print? A little sparkle? You can bet Swedish Stockings will do a sustainable version, along with eco-friendly neutrals, control top and maternity tights.
The range is exceptional, but it’s worth highlighting the Polly, if you prefer a cosier, old-school knitted style of tights.
Made from upcycled cotton, where the yarn is taken from old cotton clothes, it gets bonus points for the flat seams that don’t show through tighter clothes.
Beyond using sustainable materials, the Swedish brand’s production processes are as eco as possible.
It uses vegan dyes at a facility with zero carbon emissions, and its knitting factory is powered by renewable energy.
You can also send the company old tights — from any brand — which will be recycled. (They are melted down and used as filler in fibreglass.)