Don't Buy Old Navy or Gap Clothes, Instead Try these Made in America and Sustainable Options

by - Monday, June 19, 2017

don't buy old navy and the gap clothes, Instead try... old navy storefront

When The Boy and I were living together and finally sort of had our business together, we started buying clothes at the Gap, and we felt pretty damn snazzy. Most of my life, I did shop at Old Navy with my mom, and I loved the wall of flip flops.

Seriously, if you don't love the wall of cheap flip flops, we probably just won't get eachother. A whole rainbow of barely there footwear? Just heaven.

Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic are three levels of the same company, that go from pretty damn cheap and casual to business and a little more high end (still pretty affordable). Old Navy and Gap are great at capturing that mass appeal- they have pretty useful stuff for everyone (including kids- I know lots of people who swear by Old Navy), and none of it is all that expensive (just nice enough to make 2 kids in their 20's feel on point).

So how does a mega company make enough stuff that can stay relatively on trend and still keep prices low? A rainbow of 1 dollar flip flops cheap?

Well, you send all of your manufacturing to places that can make it cheap. Sweatshop cheap.

Gap was founded by Donald and Doris Fisher in California in 1969, and their family continues to be deeply involved in the huge international company's business.

Gap especially is known for its sometimes genius branding. I mean, you can see the white background and the people in jeans, right? Though they portray an All-American image, none of their clothing is made in America. This on its own is a bummer- moving manufacturing abroad takes jobs away from American people and it adds tons of fossil fuels and other shipping waste to its process from raw materials to stores. But worst of all, in this company's case, is that their outsourcing of labor has led them (and in turn, all of us) to fund sweatshops and grossly mistreated labor.

Since 2003, there have been multiple very serious incidents where Gap was essentially caught in this mistreatment- reports showed sweatshop workers in Saipan were forced to work extreme overtime in unsafe conditions and were even subject to forced abortions.

A few years later, one of their suppliers (Western in Jordan) was caught using child labor, forcing a 109 hour work week, and even raping employees. A few years after that, an Indian factory was filmed revealing child labor. Want to read more about these situations? There is lots of information out there- start herehere, and here.

Gap did make efforts to correct these situations, but when safety proposals were attempted in India, Gap rejected it, fighting to keep unsafe factories open, to undermine inspectors, and retaining unethical labor (especially through contracting, where they benefit from super cheap labor but can turn a blind eye to working conditions) throughout their supply chain.

They refused an agreement to protect their workers from tragically unsafe working conditions. They would rather see another factory burn to the ground. Let that set in, because that's what you are getting with your rainbow flip flops and t-shirts.

Everytime we buy something, we tell the company selling it (and the larger market) "This is ok with me." So you need to ask yourself whether you want your t-shirts to come with this kind of ethical and moral baggage. We can do better for the people who make our clothes.

1. For Everyone- Buy Less and Buy Used

If you don't want to fund this fast fashion set of practices, but you need something and aren't rolling in the dough, your best bet is buying consignment. Always. But before we get to that, you might consider redefining what constitutes "need." As the fashion industry only gets faster and cheaper, there's a constant suggestion that you don't have enough, or that you have to have a MTV cribs style mega closet before you have everything you need. Just not true. You are better off taking what you already have to a tailor than buying a bunch of new stuff.

My guess is that at least half of Old Navy's income is impulse buys. You didn't need shorts, but now that you see them, they look cute (and are on sale) so why not. They make more money, you feel like you got a deal, and those shorts will be worn out in a summer or two. This is a huge waste of money that you could spend on so many other things, so why not just skip it? If you want to cut down on random spending, start making a list and then change your first stop for shopping-

Buying clothes used had a stigma around it when we were kids (it was like the bottom of the barrel, and even know people from home will talk about it only in terms of "charitable giving"), but in this world of fast fashion, people now throw away tons of clothes every year. Buying new from these companies and then donating it only deepens cycles of poverty globally and creates massive waste.

Trust me, there is enough barely used clothes being thrown away that there is enough for everyone. In fact, if you can't find things you love at your local stores (or you feel like it is a huge intimidating step to start browsing), I suggest checking out sites like Thred Up, which has a huge collection of used clothes being updated everyday.

The bright side of buying consignment is that you don't have to say goodbye to the brands you love. If saying goodbye to Old Navy is giving you pangs, you can still buy this brand, just for half the price. You lose that immediacy of trends, since most things are a season or two behind, but you can choose things that will last you longer and be a little more classic anyway.

Before my first son was born, about 96% of my wardrobe was new, with a few hand me downs and consignment pieces sprinkled in. Now that I am trying to do right as a steward of the Earth, everything I have bought is about 90% used 10% new (mostly I can't do secondhand underwear, so we do Pact). My kids' wardrobes are probably 95% used.

This works perfectly for us, and I think it would work for most people. For every 4 things you buy for your wardrobe, 3 should be used. It's a high bar, but the more you stretch to reach it, the more good you do.

Not convinced? Let me prove it-

Gap jeans are 60 to 90 dollars. In consignment, they are probably 20. 50 dollars per pair is a lot of money to save! If you need 4 pairs of jeans, you could get three 20 dollar (60 bucks) and 1 really nice pair (maybe Levi's Made in America brand or Baldwin). 4 mid-range Gap jeans would cost 300 dollars. That means just to break even, you have 240 dollars for one pair of (very fancy) jeans. So 1 pair of jeans with real value and longevity and 3 pairs of used will probably come put to be about the same or less.

So, before you brush this all off as undoable, let me say one last time that nothing is more ethical and more green than wearing used clothing instead of creating more waste. For everything you can't find used, I still have suggestions. 

For Kids and Babies

City Threads- Ever since American Apparel was sold to Gildan (a rough day in these parts), City Threads has been our go to company when we need simple kids basics. It is made in America, cotton not synthetic materials, and they have lots of cute stuff (that doesn't have dumb sayings on it- why do companies think kids need stupid nonsense written across their chest at all times?).

Winter Water FactoryThis brand, based in Brooklyn, is totally American-made and adorable. They have some of the cutest, coolest prints I have ever seen for kids clothing. It isn't cheap, but I have bought a few things from them, and they have been high quality and lasting.

Etsy- If you are looking for t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other baby and kid clothes, you can find really original and fun stuff on Etsy. You can see some of my favorites on this post.

don't buy old navy and the gap clothes, Instead try...

For Masculine Clothes

don't buy old navy and the gap clothes, Instead try...

American Giant- I love the sweatpants made by this American company. They also do simple t shirts (and basic dresses). Yes, they are more expensive, but if you buy 1 pair of great and lasting sweatpants instead of 5 over time, you will still save money.

Gustin- My husband is a huge fan of Gustin, and I would guess that is where he has spent the majority of his clothing budget since we switched to shopping ethically. The weird thing is that they make things to order, so do not order from them if you are on a time crunch! On the other hand, if you have things you know will need replaced, this is a no-waste way to get great looking and fitting

Earnest Sewn- This brand does a small number of items for both men and women, but they all look great. Cool without trying too hard. Definitely on the expensive end, but they look classic and well-made enough to last.

AG Jeans- This is another company with lots of classic basics. I'll be honest with you, I still look st sites like this and feel like I could never splurge like this, but with sales and a change in shopping, it might be within reach.

For Feminine Clothes

There are SO MANY great American-made options that you don't even know exist. Here is a list of American-made wonderfulness for more feminine and unisex stuff.

GilliThis is a great brand if you are looking for simple basics with a little style. You can find them on Amazon and they have a perfectly great website all their own (other super affordable amazon Made in America brands? Popana and M Rena). Blue Canoe is another great spot for slightly simpler dresses and cuts.

Zappos has a pretty huge Made in America Women's section. If you are looking to browse or find a specific made in America thing (including LOTS of jeans), this might be a fun place to start.

Mata Traders- This fair trade company sells really flattering dresses in great prints. Shopping fair trade will truly help women and laborers around the world, not continue their mistreatment.

Reformation- Ok, this store is cooler than I will ever be on my best day, and it's definitely more expensive than Old Navy, but it is worth checking out if you just want to see what is out there that is made in America.

For Made in America Jeans

Old Navy or the Gap your go to for jeans? Luckily, American-made jeans are actually still pretty easy to come by. They aren't as cheap, because no one was mistreated in their making. Here is an (ever-growing) list of American denim and their price range.

Roundhouse Jeans (30-70), LC King (50-130), Levi's (not all are made in America, but they do have a collection- 88-98), Rogue Territory (140-250), Ruell and Ray (175), Jean Shop (180-250), J Brand (180-280), Raleigh Denim Workshop (195-250), Rag and Bone (195-295), Tellason (200), Baldwin (200-550) Self Edge (250-350), Rising Sun Jeans (325)

Don't Buy Old Navy or Gap Clothes, Instead Try these Made in America and Sustainable Options

don't buy old navy and the gap clothes, Instead try...

Don't Buy Clothes from the Gap or Old Navy

Large companies like the Gap do employ tons of retail workers in their stores, so they definitely do some good, but that good only goes so far if their churning out of fast fashion has so many negative consequences as well. Fight back against fast fashion and stand up for American manufacturing with how you spend your money. If you want more shopping ideas, check out My Giant List of Shopping Lists.

You May Also Like


  1. Thank you for this!
    Many new moms are too busy splurging on these name brands & I don’t think it’s worth it for the price! Hand me downs and thrift stores is where I shop!!

  2. Very informative article. I've learned several new things here. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

  3. Thank you this is going to help me with my letter to to the companies.

    -12-year-old Roman Sharp

  4. THANK YOU! I have been telling friends for years that Gap and Old Navy were bad companies to support. I only buy clothing second hand. The clothing industry too environmentally unsustainable. Thank you for this article supporting my ethical and environmental beliefs!

  5. I wish I weren't so limited in my shopping options.Old Navy is one of few stores that have tall womens clothing

  6. Thank you for the information. I don't have time to do this kind of research myself. Very helpful.



Get Our Latest Posts Via Email - It's Free

Enter your email address: