To wear or not to wear?

So you’re experiencing a vast expansion of consciousness about all things due to your moves toward a plant based diet, and one day you decide to stop buying leather. You feel great about this decision! You’re doing good in this world! Then you pause to glance around your home.

Belts, shoes, bags, couches, car seats – these once beloved possessions suddenly become confusing. Your favorite shoes that you wear every day, that belt that makes you feel so stylish… what are you going to do now? Should you be expected to trade in that car or get new furniture? It feels unfair and frustrating to be duped for your entire life and now, awakened to the truth, you’re stuck with a collection of stuff and not sure if you can continue to use and feel good about it.

As far as my Google skills can tell, the resolution is a matter of personal preference:

  • Keep and use the items for now. Taking the step to stop buying any new leather products is an amazing choice, and you still feel comfortable using the stuff you have. Eventually everything will wear out and you will be leather-free.
  • Ditch all leather products immediately. You are feeling creeped out by the idea of having to even touch that stuff again. Ideally donate everything to thrift stores that raise money for an animal shelter, women’s shelter, homeless shelter etc. You could also give them to friends and family. Big ticket items like furniture or cars will be sold or traded as soon as possible.
  • Combination of the first two options – keep one or two items and get rid of everything else. Maybe a couple of things have sentimental value and you choose to neither part with them nor wear them.

I fall in the third category because I have a pair of sandals I have worn almost daily for 4 years, and a pair of boots I don’t want to wear or give away. Eventually I feel like the right thing to do will be to part with these possessions, but for now this is where I’m at. I think everyone has a right to make choices about what to do with their old stuff, the most important fact being the decision to not buy it anymore.

A big issue for society to me is that the word “leather” is not descriptive of what it actually is. It sounds like a high quality, expensive and fashionable material to make durable items because we have been conditioned our entire English-speaking lives to believe this. (Similar to how the words “bacon” and “meat” belie the true origins of what they describe.) Leather is actually the skin of a dead animal, no different than the skin on your arms, neck or stomach. Of course it’s a high quality material for holding our cellphones and keychains in a purse, because it’s an incredibly strong and supple material for holding in our organs and protecting our bloodstream from bacteria and disease.

We also casually think that the skin being used for shoes and purses is cow skin, but that is not always the case. Cat and dog farms in China provide cheap skin and fur so we can buy $10 “leather” shoes and purses in America. If you’re reading and you haven’t actually made the decision to stop buying animal products yet, this fact alone should be enough to start thinking about this issue.

This post was prompted by a Facebook friend of mine posting this video with fashion designer Stella McCartney explaining why she uses no leather in her designs. A warning – I couldn’t watch all of it.

Susan Nichole is a popular vegan handbag and wallet designer, and I enjoy wearing vegan TOMS.

Do right by these beautiful cows – together we can decrease the demand for these products until there is a tipping point.