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Monday, April 15, 2013

Hey, Sexypants! Top 9 List of Ethical Companies to Get Your Undies From

There are other best-of underwear lists for queer folks, but not all of these consider the rights and well-being of the workers who sewed those garments. Thanks to Autostraddle.com's recent Underwear Week, it's not hard to find pretty comprehensive lists of skivvies for many gender presentations and body types.

But those lists are mostly about fit, comfort, fashion, and gender presentation. Those are important! But we're also interested in sourcing ethically made underthings.

The last decades have seen a huge shift from union manufacturing, and its now trickier than ever to find ethically made clothing, and even harder to find clothing made in the USA or by unionized workers, or made abroad by workers who have some rights, protections and fair pay.

Without further ado, here is the Alchemist's Closet best-of list of underwear made in the US or ethically made abroad, with fit and style considerations for men and masculine, genderqueer and androgynous folks.

Note: The images for this post were lost (See Google Privacy Controls Suck: Or, Why There Are No Pictures Anymore.) Sorry! These are all great products and I hope you will still check them out. 







#1
Junk Drawers

Etsy-crafter underwear made from salvaged fabric in the US. Cute, cheap, what more can you ask for? Some of it is even made to order. The selection isn't huge, but everything they make is great.

Starts at: $22



#2
Pants to Poverty

They're awesome. They pay a living wage to Indian workers as well as doing solidarity work to improve the communities their factories are in. Their underwear for boys and girls is cute (so are their models...) The waist bands are printed with wings. Some of their underwear fitted for FAAB* bodies is boystyled.

Starts at: 15 GBP, or about $23




#3 BAM
Crazy comfortable, made of bamboo, environmentally friendly, and worker-friendly underwear! BAM makes a variety of boxer-briefs and briefs. Some boxer-briefs feature a wide waistband printed with the brand name. They're made to be comfortable for sports or exercise, but they're priced similarly to everyday underwear. Bam!

Starts at: £14.00




 #4 Body Aware

Body Aware features a variety of innovative, sexy underwear, mostly androgynous in style, with some feminine pieces as well. Their selection is huge, and it is all 100% made in the United States. This is sexy underwear that defies expectations. I like the Rayon Contrast Brief and the Let The Sun Shine In brief (above). Sizes run small to 2XL.

Starts at: $14






#5 Active Man & Go Software at Skivvies
Make no mistake, these are not everyday underwear. Skivvies sells very sexy, sexual underwear. All  of their underwear features pretty explicit contours. If you are packing, try to get an idea of how large the pouch area is; too large of a bulge or pocket in the fabric will cause some packers, especially small to medium ones, to sit incorrectly.

Active Man and Go Software are both made in the US and sold by Skivvies. My favorites are the Gameday Lace Up Jock (above) in black by Active Man and the Go Softwear Euro Mesh Bikini ($25). The Active Man Gameday Lace Up Jock Strap is meant to be sport-themed, the black version looks a little more like gothy fetishwear.

Starts at: $11





#6 City Boxers
City Boxers sells boxers--just boxers-- but they're experts in what they do. They provide the option of lots of fabrics, and one basic style of boxer-- however, you can customize virtually everything about the boxers, from the fly closure to the inseam to whether it has a built-in condom pocket. All City Boxer boxers are made in the USA, and in fact, they're made in my home state of Maine!

The sizes offered are extensive, from 23" to 55" inch waists, and the ability to customize these boxers means that they could be a very well-fitting boxer for smaller and shorter frames too. Female-assigned people may want to select a short rise.

You can customize everything about these boxers, but you can't see them laid flat on a table or on a model. The fabrics change over time. I like the batik (above) and many of the flannels are really nice.

Starts at: $23






#7 Shesho Designs
Great unisex underwear! A variety of styles, but not too many items listed (just seven as of this article's writing) and unfortunately the designer and seamstress may not have time to continue making them. As I see it, that's just one more reason to snatch up some of these handmade underpants before they possibly become much more scarce! The great thing about unisex underwear is that it has a great fit whatever equipment you have. More underwear should be unisex.

Starts at: $20


#8 Unionlabel.com
These briefs make the cut, not for their style, which is pretty standard, because they are genuinely union made in the United States! Unionlabel.com also distributes boxers and other styles-- I chose to show these briefs because they look pretty decent. However, they do look like they are fairly high-rise/high-waisted-- FAAB folks and people with small frames might find these too baggy.

With Unionlabel, we don't get the benefit of reviews, models, or much in the way of a description. What we do get is the assurance that they were made by unionized workers.

As an added plus, are available in a wide range of sizes-- small (which is probably around a 28-30" waist) through 4XL.

Starts at: $22 for a two-pack






#9 American Apparel

American Apparel would debut at a higher position, but the sexual misconduct of their CEO, their weird advertisements, and their fatphobic sizing places them at the bottom of this list, among other issues. Still, it's important to realize that AA receives such vigorous condemnation because we expect more of them, and because we have some hope of monitoring the company's behavior and responding, unlike the thousands of near-anonymous sweatshops producing the majority of the clothing consumed by the developed world.

American Apparel offers the Organic Baby Rib Brief (above) in several appealing colors. It's marketed as unisex; the waist will be a bit high for smaller people, and the crotch area a little bit tight for some male-assigned folks.

Starts at: $14 or 3 for $34





* A note on terminology
FAAB = Female assigned at birth; MAAB = Male assigned at birth. These approximate terms are only used to refer to possible differences in bone structure and "equipment" that may influence underwear fit. As with all gendery things, underwear is an inexact science.

What do we mean by "ethical" in this context? A few things! I've prioritized made-in-the-USA since I'm in the US myself, and US clothing manufacturing is growing increasingly rare. While plenty of workplaces in the US do not pay a living wage and suppress union organizing, they are less likely to be guilty of common sweatshop practices like forced and unpaid overtime, minimum wage violations, child labor, corporal punishment, and locked-in work environments-- all common conditions in sweatshops. While there are many factors that often are called on to create an "ethical" clothing list, I've selected just one as a deciding factor, which is the likelihood that workers were treated and paid decently. This is the hardest criteria to satisfy-- it would have been far easier to create a list of organic, vegan, or eco-friendly clothing-- but that is why it's so important to shine some more light on worker-friendly as an ethical criteria.

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