15 Best Recycled and Upcycled Clothes (2023): Leggings, Sneakers, T-shirts

15 Best Recycled and Upcycled Clothes (2023): Leggings, Sneakers, T-shirts
Written by Techbot

Our Favorite Clothing Made From Recycled Materials

Do you need new leggings, or a robe? Get ones made from recycled bottles or deadstock. 

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Featured in this article

Person's hand sorting through hanging clothes at a thrift store

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Consider Thrifting

A Lounge Set With a Mission

Pangaia Re-Color Loungewear

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Everywhere Upcycled Tshirt

Plain Tees

Recycled Shirts

A Perfect Parka

Tentree Daily Parka

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You may have noticed we’re having a bit of a climate crisis, but we’re having a trash crisis as well. Trash is polluting our oceans, lining both city and rural streets, and harming animals that are just trying to go about their day. We can reduce our own plastic usage, especially single-use plastics. But thankfully, some companies have figured out how to turn some of that trash—mostly plastic bottles and old clothes—into new clothes and accessories.

Here, we list the favorites that we’ve tried so far. Be sure to check out our other guides like the Best Recycled Bags, Best Everyday Products Made of Recycled Materials, or the Best Reusable Products.

How Plastic Becomes Thread

Most companies use post-consumer plastic, which means it comes from plastic that has been used and recycled. Pre-consumer means it comes from waste in the manufacturing process before anyone ever buys it.

Plastic bottles are collected, dried, shredded, and turned into tiny pellets. Then the plastic goes through an extruder machine, which spins and pulls it like taffy to turn it into yarn. This does still use quite a bit of energy and resources, but produces far less waste. Everyone needs clothes, so they might as well be more sustainable.

  • Person's hand sorting through hanging clothes at a thrift store

    Photograph: Britt Erlanson/Getty Images

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

    Consider Thrifting

    Unfortunately, most ethically-made, sustainable clothes are expensive. A lot of us simply can’t spend $80 to $100 on a single piece of clothing. Thrifting is the best way to get a bunch of new (to you!) clothes for cheap. While the material might not be spun from plastic bottles, you’re reusing items that would normally end up in a landfill.

    Thrifting is an art form that might include combing through the racks at the Salvation Army, clothing swaps with friends, stopping at estate and yard sales, or scouring websites like Poshmark, eBay, and ThredUp. Our guide to shopping on eBay has some useful tips to avoid upcharging and scamming. 

  • Photograph: Pangaia

    A Lounge Set With a Mission

    Pangaia Re-Color Loungewear

    Everything Pangaia makes is crafted using some sort of incredible technology. To name a few, the brand uses insulation made from wildflowers, water-based ink harvested from air pollution particles, and leather made from grapes leftover from wineries. This Re-color line is dyed using Recycrom, which comes from old textiles crushed into powder pigments. Ninety-eight percent of the brand’s pigments come from their own production leftovers. 

    Most of Pangaia’s clothes advertise the new tech prominently, which can be a little off-putting. The first T-shirt I tried from the brand had this writing very large across the front, which felt like I was screaming that I was better than everyone. However, if I saw it on someone else in the wild, it would make me ask them where I could find it. The brand has a bunch of other tees, sweaters, and even beautiful pink pants. Everything is perfectly unisex too.

  • Photograph: Everywhere

    Plain Tees

    Recycled Shirts

    • For Days Recycled Ribbed Jersey Oversized Tee for $52: We recommend For Day’s joggers and bomber jackets, and the brand also has a bunch of T-shirts made of recycled materials too. This one comes from 22 percent recycled cotton, and the colors are nice and muted.
    • Everywhere 100% Recycled T-Shirt for $36 in unisex and women’s fits: Everywhere’s recycled cotton tees are comfy, slimming, and stay put. Some unisex T-shirts are cut for men’s bodies, but this one looks good on all body types. The white version could be a bit thicker, as you can see a slight outline of a bra underneath, but it’s better than most women’s white tees.
    • 30A Shirts for $30-$40: 30A’s beachy apparel is made of recycled plastic bottles and water-based inks. The stock changes frequently, but we’ve tried a few basics and liked them all. They’re cute, comfy, and reasonably priced.
  • Photograph: Tentree

    A Perfect Parka

    Tentree Daily Parka

    Winter coats typically make me feel a little like Randy from A Christmas Story, but I actually like wearing Tentree’s parka. It’s warm and comfortable, and I feel like I look, maybe, kinda cool even. It’s made from Repreve fabric, which is spun from plastic bottles and recycled fiber—70 bottles were saved from a landfill in this one jacket’s construction. And the name Tentree comes from the fact that the brand plants 10 trees for every purchase. 

    The parka has soft cuffs that keep the cold air from breezing up your arms, it’s long enough to cover your bum (why are there so many cropped winter coats?), and the insulation doesn’t come from animals. There are plenty of pockets, too, including softly-lined ones for your hands and a zipper pocket up at the breast. The only thing I don’t like is the awkwardly shaped hood. Senior reviews associate editor Adrienne So also likes Tentree’s Bentley trousers ($88). They are also made from a fabric blend using Repreve and feel basically like work-appropriate pajama pants. 

  • Photograph: Saalt

    For Periods

    Saalt Period Underwear

    Period underwear is my favorite invention. I’ve tried a bunch of brands, and all of them absorb blood quickly, so you won’t feel like you’re stewing in dampness. While Knix is my favorite brand, Saalt’s pretty lace and mesh designs are made of post-consumer recycled water bottles. There’s light, regular, and heavy absorbency, costing somewhere between $29 and $39 for single pairs.

    Alternative: If you don’t like these styles, the brand has cotton and seamless pairs too, however, those ones aren’t recycled—there are some Tencel options, which is a fiber made from renewable beech wood. Modbodi now has recycled and biodegradable pairs too, so hopefully our skivvies won’t live forever in a landfill. It’s worth noting here that the popular brand Thinx has recently settled a lawsuit over the presence of toxic PFAS in their underwear; we do not recommend them in our guides. 

  • Photograph: Fair Harbor

    Comfortably Lined Swim Trunks

    Fair Harbor Anchor Swim Trunks

    WIRED senior writer Scott Gilbertson loves these Fair Harbor trunks made of 12 recycled plastic bottles and 88 percent recycled polyester. Instead of the scratchy mesh interior you might be used to, these have a soft, quick-drying liner similar to a boxer brief—the liner is made from recycled bottles as well. The Anchor shorts have an 8-inch inseam, but the brand has a bunch of other lengths.

    More board shorts: We previously recommended surfer Kelly Slater’s Outerknown Evolution Pocket Shorts, but they aren’t currently available. We’ll try some other options from that brand, but we’re pretty confident in their entire lineup. Outerknown uses Econyl, a nylon that’s made from abandoned fishing nets, to make its board shorts and jackets.

  • Photograph: Wolven

    The Softest Joggers

    Wolven Joggers

    These might be the most comfortable pants my legs have ever had the pleasure of touching. They feel like suede butter. I usually find joggers to be a bit annoying around the ankles, but these ones aren’t tight. Better yet, they’re made from 51.8 recycled plastic bottles. I tried them in the turmeric color, but I’m already eyeing the rest of the shades for the other six days of the week.

    Wolven has a list of other products, like matching tops and bathing suits, as well as a men’s shop. All are made from recycled bottles—you can find out exactly how many in the product description.

  • Photograph: Hippy Feet

    Recycled Socks

    Hippy Feet Socks

    Hippy Feet is a Minneapolis-based company that crafts its socks (and other apparel!) using mainly recycled cotton and polyester, plus some organic cotton, too. The result is comfy and fun covers for your dogs. My favorites are the checkered linen and vintagey Vikings pair, but my one regret is I missed these cowboy frog bad boys. 50 percent of the company’s profits goes to organizations and services to help homeless youth.

  • Photograph: Verloop

    And Slippers

    Verloop Slippers

    I like Hippy Feet’s socks for wearing with shoes, but I’m not really a socks at home gal. That’s why I’m happy to have found these Verloop slippers (I have the yin yang pair). They’re cushiony and warm, but not foot saunas, and some designs come in extended sizes.

    Verloop uses deadstock yarn to create the cutest accessories, from dog sweaters to vase covers and bucket hats. I’m mere minutes away from turning my entire house into a Verloop showroom. 

  • Photograph: Bret Lemke/Girlfriend

    The Best High-Rise Leggings 

    Girlfriend Collective Compressive High-Rise Legging

    Once I tried these leggings from Girlfriend Collective, I realized what I’d been missing in my cheap leggings. They aren’t see-through and stay put when you move around—there is little worse than having to hike up leggings that have rolled down below your underwear line while you’re just trying to shop at Target. Despite the fact that they’re called Compressive, they don’t squeeze you into discomfort—sometimes I find leggings to be so tight they make me itchy. 

    The best part, though, is that a pair of leggings is made from 25 plastic bottles and 79 percent recycled polyester. The packaging you get them in is also made from 100 percent recycled materials and is recyclable. The brand’s Paloma Bra ($46) completes this athleisure outfit and is made from 11 plastic bottles. When you’ve outgrown or no longer wear these items, you can send them back to Girlfriend Collective to be recycled again and get a $15 gift card in return.

  • Photograph: JENNY COLLEN/Camas Lilly Co.

    A Gorgeous Robe

    Camas Lilly Co Heron Robe

    I consider myself a bit of a robe connoisseur, and would very much like to look like The Haunting of Hill House‘s Olivia Crain at all times. The Camas Lilly Co. Heron robe gets me a little closer. It’s beautiful and adorned with fringe—you could absolutely wear this out of the house without looking like you’re in a housecoat—but it’s also made of upcycled fabrics.

    The brand has ready-to-ship and made-to-order versions, all of which are made from dead stock sourced from Los Angeles suppliers. These fabrics, coming from large brands, fashion houses, and textile mills, might have minor flaws that the brands can’t sell or are simply a result of overproduction—either way, they’d typically be on their way to the landfill. Once the robe is made, the leftover scraps are turned into accessories like scrunchies and headbands. The brand offers two sizes. One size fits an extra small to an extra large, and one-size plus fits 1X to 3X.

  • Photograph: Girlfriend Collective

    To Keep Your Head Warm

    Girlfriend Collective Recycled Beanie

    Girlfriend Collective doesn’t just make fantastic workout wear. Senior digital producer Pia Ceres included the brand’s beanie in her gift guide for the perpetually chilly. It’s the softest thing on earth, Ceres says, and it’s made from 100 percent recycled water bottles.

  • Photograph: Patagonia

    A Warm, but Thin Puffer

    Patagonia Nano Puff

    Patagonia has been recycling plastic soda bottles into fleece since 1993, so it’s been at this longer than most companies. Today most of its Capilene base layers, shell jackets, board shorts, and fleece incorporate recycled polyester. The iconic Nano Puff—aka the most useful jacket you will ever own, according to senior associate editor Adrienne So—has a 100 percent recycled polyester shell, with PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco that is made up of 55 percent recycled content. Once you’re ready to upgrade, you can trade it in at a Patagonia location, where it will be sold through the company’s Worn Wear program.

  • Photograph: Cariuma

    Shoes on Shoes on Shoes

    Recycled Shoes

    • Cariuma the Vallely Vegan Sneaker for $89: We love Cariuma’s Catiba Pros already, so we were pumped to hear about this Mike Vallely collab. Vallely is a lot of things: famous skateboarder, skate industry entrepreneur, lead singer of the punk band Black Flag (yes, really), and outspoken animal rights activist. The vegan suede will withstand the rigors of skateboarding, and even the webbing, mesh lining, laces, threading, and logo labels are recycled. There’s also natural rubber and bio-based foam, as well as cork. Gear editor Michael Calore says they’re comfy and fit him true to size. Reviews editor Adrienne So loves these for skateboarding and biking as well.
    • Munjoi All-Dai Shoe for $98: I’m a Vans girl, but these shoes are so comfy they’ve become a part of my regular rotation. These transition from sneakers to slides to mules to peep-toe sandals in a second—remove the insole, push the toe and/or heel down, put the insole back in. The foam cushioning in these convertible shoes is made with polluted algae collected from waterways, combined with sugarcane-based EVA.
    • Sanuk Nopal x Grateful Dead Sustainasole Sneaker for $75: These sneakers are really cushiony and look cool too. Their soles are made with pre-consumer recycled rubber and ground waste foam, and the rest of the shoe is made of recycled cotton, polyester, and repurposed suede. The soles are grippy and squishy, but also extremely squeaky, so you may need to wear them in a bit before you venture into a quiet library.
    • Rothy’s Copper Flat for $129: Rothy’s shoes are a WIRED staff favorite. They’re lightweight, comfortable, and come in a bewildering variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. The knit uppers are made of 100 percent post-consumer plastic bottles, and the foam components are made from other recycled shoes. The shoeboxes are also made from 85 percent recycled materials, and the boxes are 100 percent recyclable.

Medea Giordano turned her shopping problem into a career as a product writer for WIRED. She covers a little bit of everything but loves health, beauty, and pet tech. Prior to WIRED, she was an assistant editor at Wirecutter and an assistant in the newsroom of The New York Times…. Read more

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