There is an emerging movement of apparel designed by and for discerning gents who like to look handsome while maintaining their love and respect for the animals with whom we share the planet. These animal-friendly collections use no leather, no wool, no alpaca and absolutely no fur.
Several years ago, top men’s designer John Bartlett stopped using leather altogether in his collections and, more recently, all other animal-born fabrics like wool and alpaca. Only cotton, recycled poly and rayon find their way into his clothes. The wonderful website The Ethical Man (@theethicalman), founded by Dan Mims, also comes to mind.
Another promising pioneer in producing men’s goods with ethical handsomeness is Joshua Katcher, author of the blog The Discerning Brute (@DiscerningBrute) and founder of Brave GentleMan, an online men’s shop that features very handsome 100% vegan items: pants, tops, outerwear, accessories, grooming products and home candles.
I’ve never worn fur (never will) and I don’t have a ton of leather goods except for one jacket and many pairs of shoes, which are at the root of my biggest question about this whole idea. Part of the inherent beauty of a well made pair of brogues is the craftsmanship with the leather. How can one make a handsome oxford or boot without leather? Well, it looks like Brave GentleMan is on the road to doing just that.
The way I (and many others) see it, part of the problem with this kind of style alternative has been the image and branding. The eco/ethical image rarely seems to stick as something rugged, handsome, masculine or “cool.” The fashion industry kicks it to the curb while pushing designers and collections featuring lots of leathers, suedes and furs in the interest of nurturing profitable relationships with leather and fur businesses. (Yes, Ms. Wintour, I’m looking at you.) I am personally guilty of thinking of eco/ethical alternatives as rather anemic in their image, style and execution. Mr. Katcher is taking that problem head-on with Brave GentleMan, which he has established as “the premiere resource for Principled Attire & Smart Supplies™, carefully curated to accomodate the most ethically handsome™ of men.”
In a collaboration with animal-friendly crafters Novacas, Brave Gentleman has started a small collection of great-looking boots and shoes, using no leather whatsoever. Instead, the shoes and boots are made of high-quality faux leather with a sturdy sole. All of them are completely vegan and made with sustainable textiles under fair labor conditions in Portugal. Vegan shoes, such as these Vessi vegan shoes, are growing in popularity all over the world. No one wants to wear clothes which have been made by an animal and vegan clothing combats this issue.
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Principled, smart and ethical indeed. Call me a fan of Mr. Katcher and his work with The Discerning Brute and Brave GentleMan. While the price point currently aspires to a fancier wallet, perhaps these goods will gain popularity and become more accessible to the rest of us who have a discerning eye for handsome goods and a discerning heart for the beautiful creatures with whom we share this place.
For now, this is a direction really worth exploring for the stylish and principled gentleman.