What to do with old leather goods


Over on Vegan Chai, the issue of what new vegans should do with old leather shoes is addressed. This is one of those topics that seems to come up a lot, including in the new Vegan Freak book, so I figured I’d chime in.

Even before I made the full transition to veganism, I decided to start to phase out my use of leather and other animal products. That said, I was still wearing shoes with leather in them a few months after I was vegan. I had made the vow to myself that, “I’ll continue to use my animal products until they’ve worn out their welcome and then I’ll replace them with an animal-friendly product.” The thing is, around my house, shoes can end up lasting forever. Just last weekend I went to the beach and couldn’t find my flip-flops (which is OK, because I don’t really like wearing them) so I grabbed a pair of old sneakers from the basement that date back to at least college. My “lawn-mowing shoes” are an old pair of sneakers-with-leather and I even wear shoes with leather when I volunteer at the farm. I worry that the cows hate me because of this.

For everyday wear, I sport my wicked cool hemp Superstars (and my matching wallet). I’m representing veganism well now, even if most people don’t take notice. Fortunately, they also didn’t take notice when I was wearing leather for those first few months I was vegan. I lucked out because, as Bob and Jenna point out in their book, defensive people tend to try and find any sort of contradiction when they realize you’re vegan. Most of us are too polite to point out the many contradictions our detractors have in their lives as well.

Everyone has to make the choice that’s right for them. I was comfortable with the notion of explaining to people why I was wearing leather, if they asked. Some people aren’t comfortable being put on the defensive, and for them it’s probably best to donate those old leather goods and get some new stuff right away. There’s also the school of thought that says, “If you wear leather at all, you’re sending a mixed message to people about veganism.” I think there’s validity to that point, but at the same I think that very few people will even take notice. And if they do, it’s likely they’ll say something and you’ll be able to counter it with a simple explanation.

I guess I should also take a second to address the idea that wearing man-made materials that look like leather, such as pleather, also sends the wrong message to people. After all, the argument goes, shouldn’t we be working to move people away from the entire leather “look”? Probably, but to me this parallels the “why do vegans want to eat things that taste and feel like meat?” question I get all the time. Just because we don’t partake in animal products doesn’t mean we stopped doing so because we didn’t like the way they looked (or tasted or felt). Personally, I’m trying to replace leather items with things that look nothing like leather, but that’s just because I’m not a leather type of guy. I have no problem with the pushing of pleather (though I do think we need to take a closer look at the environmental affect of pleather versus other alternatives).

8 Responses to “What to do with old leather goods”

  1. Hanuman

    You make a good point about the “fake meat” thing.

    It wasn’t because I didn’t like the taste of chicken or cheese, that I became vegetarian and then vegan. It was to reduce the suffering of animals!

    It’s amazing how many people fail to understand that simple expanation…..

  2. Jon

    There’s nothing quite like the good feeling of wearing pleather and having someone try to bust you for “wearing leather”.

    Anyway, I think non-leather lookalikes are good for the movement. Same with vegetarian meat substitutes — the “i can’t believe its not flesh” reaction when someone is introduced to them. Trying to make the lifestyle change appear seamless will only draw more people to try it.

    I still wear my old leather goods from before I went cruelty-free. It makes me feel guilty for ever buying them and just reinforces the choices I’ve made.

  3. Johanna

    I will buy leather shoes if they are secondhand, because not only are they much cheaper, I’m saving that pair of shoes from going into a landfill (unless of course another thrifter w/the same size shoe & fashion sense buys them, I guess). And, uh, the animal can’t die twice, so I might as well be sure those shoes get as much use out of them as possible.

    Payless has started carrying a bunch of affordable & adorable non-leather shoes for women. But most other non-leather shoes are prohibitively expensive (Mooshoes? Love them. Out of most people’s budgets most of the time? Definitely).

  4. Johanna

    Oh yeah, & v. good point about pleather/vinyl! It’s depressing–sometimes it seems like there are v. few genuinely good choices out there.

  5. girl least likely to

    well, i guess you already know how i feel about it, so i won’t say everything all over again. but thanks for the link, yo! ;)

  6. bojangles

    I wish my mom would buy me more animal friendly products, like shoes and shampoo and stuff. I can’t even tell my mom not to buy me cereal with honey in it, she’ll think I’m insane. >

  7. consumer_q


    “why do vegans want to eat things that taste and feel like meat?”

    For me, I never cared much for the taste of meat, but I did enjoy the spices used to dress meat. I like TVP sausages because of the seasonings. I eat TVP hot dogs because of the convenience and seasoning. “Meat” used for tacos and chilli? Seasoning. Steak? Never cared for it.

    Plus, there are vegans/vegearians that eat the faux “meats” because of healh reasons. they may not care about animal rights, but care about their health. They may want foods with texure and flavour similar o mea because hey like meat.

    “And, uh, the animal can’t die twice, so I might as well be sure those shoes get as much use out of them as possible.”

    This is an excuse that a person could use to justify purchasing new leather shoes. “Well, it was killed for the meat, so it was already dead”.


  8. William from Maxwell Scott Bags

    I’m not sure if anyone is aware, but pleather is much more harmful to the environment than vegetable tanned leather. I am not arguing either or, i just think it is important to understand all the facts.

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