We Are Living in a Material World

July 23, 2017

We Are Living in a Material World

Well we certainly know that vegan shoes are NOT made of any kind of animal product, from the upper to the soles, to the glues, and dyes. So WHAT are they made of? Well, the answer is not so straightforward in that there are a lot of different materials used. 

To help navigate this, I thought I’d put together a guide of typical materials used in vegan footwear. And I’ve included the materials used in the shoes carried at SOULiers Studio

First of all, let’s decode the symbols that sometimes appear on a sticker on the soles of your shoes. The sticker on the bottom of the shoe above shows three images with arrows. The top image refers to the materials of the upper part of the shoe, the middle image refers to the materials of the inside part of the shoe/the lining, and the bottom image refers to the materials used in the sole of the shoe. The type of material is indicated in the inset image. 

If you’re looking for vegan shoes, avoid shoes that carry the animal pelt outline (quite an evocative image, isn’t it?!). Just follow the square or diamond to know that it’s vegan. The square on the left denotes textile materials and means that some kind of fabric has been used, which can be either a natural fabric (like hemp, cotton, or cork), or a man-made fabric (like PVC, PU, or polyester). The diamond on the right usually refers to materials used for the sole of the shoe. Again, these can be man-made like PVC or can be made from natural materials like wood and rubber (all of the shoes carried at SOULiers Studio have either wood or rubber souls). While this isn't entirely foolproof, it's a pretty good guide.

If you want to take the guess work out of it entirely, then I'd I'd suggest buying brands that are dedicated to offering vegan footwear.

Man-Made Materials 

PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride), PU (Polyurethane), and polyester are synthetic materials.

PVC is an oil-based product which makes it especially undesirable as a non-renewable resource. That said, it is durable and has the ability to be recycled several times which means it can be repurposed and can therefore be kept out of landfills. 

PU is made from a mix of chemicals in reaction (I won’t go into more detail here for fear of boring you!). Here again, look for recycled PU like in the Susi Studio oxfords and Matilda t-strap flats that we carry which are made from recycled PU. Additionally, PU is a very durable material meaning that your shoes, if well made like those we carry at SOULiers Studio, will stand the test of time! 

Natural Materials 

Natural materials are those that come from natural resources such as cotton, cork, waxed canvas, rubber, or wood. In this case of cork, it’s actually the bark of the “cork oak” that’s used, leaving the tree unharmed. The cork bark will renew naturally every nine years. This doesn’t always make them environmentally-preferable choices, however, since it depends on the agricultural practices employed. Whenever possible, look for materials that are ‘organic’ meaning that they are grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Further, growing materials like cotton can use a lot of water in processing. 

At SOULiers Studio, we try our very best to find shoes that are, in addition to being vegan and made exclusively in settings where fair labour and wage practices are being employed, made of environmentally preferable materials. Like we’ve said before, there are always trade-offs (sadly) and every product inevitably has some environmental and societal impacts. That said, there are products that have less impact. My simple advice is to stay informed, to ask questions about where, how, and with what your products were made. And buy quality, classic pieces that will stand the test of time so you’re consuming less. The slow fashion movement can be very rewarding. 

I hope this has been helpful and hasn’t further ‘muddied’ the already murky waters of responsible consumerism. 

Stay tuned because in an upcoming blog post, I’ll cover glues, dyes, and the manufacturing process to explore what goes into the making of a beautiful shoe!

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