Being vegan doesn’t start and end with food. Care and respect for animals does extend to the other products they give us besides just eating them; vegan fabrics are just some of them.
With the belief that whenever an animal is exploited for profit, the chance of abuse multiplies greatly. Thus sheering sheep for wool does fall under practices that are considered cruel to the sheep, hence vegan clothing. Vegan clothing basically is the concept of avoiding anything that bears animal DNA in it; leather belts, woolen clothing, bone and tooth ornaments and such.
What is fleece?
Fleece, also called polar fleece is a soft synthetic material manufactured from recycled plastics. The result is a soft, fuzzy material that feels like the fluffy woolen fleece found on sheep. This makes them warm and very popular with coats, hats and other warm outdoor clothing.
Fleece is created from polyester, with the best source being recyclable plastics. This makes polar fleece surprisingly inexpensive. It can be combined with other natural fiber such as hemp, and the fabric is brushed to increase its volume.
Polar fleece is light, soft and easy to wash. And as with any synthetic material, it’s hydrophobic – meaning it will hold less than 1% of its body weight in moisture, thus making it the best warm material after wool. Therefore, for any vegan dresser, fleece is the perfect alternative to woolen linings or hats.
Polar fleece originated from Polartec LLC (formerly known as Maiden Mills), which also developed the Synchilla – synthetic chinchilla. The material was designed to mimic and surpass wool, being a strong but light fabric. Thanks to them declining to patent the new fabric, it found its way in many millers across the world, paving the way for synthetic and affordable fleece.
Fleece is a great material to help keep warm while being active at the same time. This is due to the pile surface on both sides, that is, both sides have cut fiber. The cut fiber trap air pockets that insulate the skin, keeping the wearer perfectly warm. The cut fiber doesn’t necessarily feel itchy against the skin; another reason fleece is popular.
Polar fleece is also durable and water resistant, as stated above. This makes it much lighter for sporting garments as the fabric doesn’t absorb a lot of sweat.
As with all inventions, fleece comes with its own unique drawbacks. Like all synthetic fabric generated from plastic sources, fleece generates static electricity. This makes it a magnet for accumulating lint, fur, and dust. Thus regular cleaning is recommended (or vacuuming for upholstery). Fleece also can’t survive hot temperatures from washing machines and tumble dryers, and it definitely cannot be ironed. The upside is that the synthetic nature makes it much harder to crease. Lower quality fleece is also prone to pilling.
From the above information alone, it’s safe to declare fleece partially vegan. In the event that its fiber is made by interweaving wool, then you will have to give it a wide berth. Thankfully, there are tons of fleece products that don’t incorporate animal products in any way, like fleece combined with hemp. If the label doesn’t mention wool, feel free to rock that fleece garment.