Tyvek shoes – sounds like something you’d expect to find in a Devo video, and nowhere else – right? Nope: startup shoemaker Unstitched Utilities makes a wide range of casual shoes from the material more commonly associated with envelopes and home wrap. When the company offered me a free pair of their “eco-friendly vegan sneakers” for review, I took them up on it: been looking for a pair of casual shoes, and I’m a big fan of the classic sneaker look.
I’ve been wearing the shoes on and off for a few weeks, and also digging into the company’s claims that their footwear is “eco-friendly” and “sustainable.” As with an awful lot of products, those labels simplify more complicated truths about the materials used in the shoes. But I do like the shoes, and think there are sustainability angles that Unstitched Utilities might want to consider as it moves forward with marketing its unique footwear.
Are Plastic Shoes Really Sustainable?
That’s a good question, and one my fellow IM blogger Becky Striepe covered well today at Feelgood Style. Many of Unstitched Utilities claims about the eco-friendliness of their footwear come down to the recyclability of Tyvek, and that’s a claim that many of my fellow greenies would find problematic (to say the least). Those aren’t the only “green” elements of the shoes: others include
- their vegan friendliness: no materials that come from animals;
- their use of 20% recycled rubber in the outsole;
- their use of low-toxin materials like water-based glues and plant-based dyes.
Is this enough to call them “sustainable?” Probably not. However, I do think these shoes will likely hold up for a long time… and that’s certainly a point in their favor.
Products that Last are Green(er)
Forget all the plant-based dyes and recycled rubber: these shoes strike me as incredibly durable. In that sense, they stand outside the norm of the fashion industry (which generally wants you buying new items as often as possible). Combine this with the classic styling of most Unstitched Utilities models, and you’ve got shoes that are sustainable in one sense: you’ll be able to wear them for years to come.
I do like these shoes: they’re nice looking, light weight, and comfortable. I would recommend buying a half-size up: my pair is bit tight (though not enough to make them unwearable). And they’re reasonably priced: my Next Day low sneakers normally go for $65.
So, what do you think? Does Tyvek immediately move these shoes into the greenwashed column? Or does durability plus the other green features put Unstitched Utilities on the right track? Share your thoughts with us.
I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who hesitated about the Tyvek in these shoes. I’m still torn about whether they’re sustainable or not. Virgin plastic is pretty much as unsustainable as things get. :/