Two of the societies in my world are supposed to be vegetarian/vegan.

Society 1 lives in a temperate climate, similar to central/eastern Europe. I've thought of cotton-like plants for clothing and high protein/high-calorie plants and mushrooms they live off of.

However I'm still stuck with materials for shoes, as well as jewelry/celebratory clothes. Other cultures make theirs from animal bones/teeth and furs, but I'm not sure what theirs would be made out of. They're vegetarian since they still use animals for riding and agricultural use (preparing the ground, in compost, etc).

Society 2 lives up in the mountains and is completely vegan. I have the same problem with the shoes, though their celebratory clothing will include gems and metals, but other ideas are welcome as well!

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jun 3 '20 at 1:47

11 Answers 11


Espadrilles are made with only vegetable fibers

Espadrilles (Spanish: alpargatas; Catalan: espardenya; Basque: espartinak), are casual, flat, but sometimes high-heeled shoes. They usually have a canvas or cotton fabric upper and a flexible sole made of esparto rope. The esparto rope sole is the defining characteristic of an espadrille; the uppers vary widely in style.

Esparto, halfah grass, or esparto grass is a fiber produced from two species of perennial grasses of north Africa and southern Europe. It is used for crafts, such as cords, basketry, and espadrilles. Stipa tenacissima and Lygeum spartum are the species used to produce esparto.

a pair of espadrilles

Though in the past they were peasants shoes, your people can use a similar approach to manufacture their shoes.

They might use vegetable fats to waterproof them.

Another approach is what Japanese do with their geta: wood and rope.

Geta (下駄) are a form of traditional Japanese footwear that resemble clogs and flip-flops. They are a kind of sandal with an elevated wooden base held onto the foot with a fabric thong to keep the foot well above the ground.

a pair of geta

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    $\begingroup$ There are also: the Indian Paduka, which were made completely from wood or metal; Bast shoes made from plant fibers, and Abaca shoes, made from pineapple leaves $\endgroup$
    – Dhara
    Jun 2 '20 at 11:58
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    $\begingroup$ Then there are dutch wooden Clogs, as mentioned in the quote... $\endgroup$ Jun 2 '20 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but clogs are not really shoes, they're more like steel-toed work boots. Their purpose is to keep cattle and other heavy hoofed animals from crushing your feet. That doesn't mean you can't have whole regions using them though. $\endgroup$
    – AI0867
    Jun 4 '20 at 13:11

Depending upon the exact ethos of your vegans, they can still use leather and bone from natural kills. They become scavengers instead of hunters. They may learn where the local predators hunt, wait for them to make a kill and eat their full, then move in to strip the carcass of remains. Such a culture would have a problem with outsiders offering them animal products and swearing that they were natural kills; so I think there would be an emphasis on such items having to be acquired by the owner themselves so the provenance is known.

Notably, they might harvest from their own kinsmen when they die — vegans largely object to taking from animals because consent cannot be obtained. But humans could leave their corpse to the next generation to use. There are several examples of this sort of practice in human history (although, all of them were religiously inspired, vegan inspired, so far as I know).

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    $\begingroup$ Similar to some Native American tribes, they could consider it a sign of respect to ensure that an animal who was killed naturally was put to maximal use and was not left to rot and decay. To maximize the amount of useful, recoverable material, you could add a natural hazard like flash floods that can sweep an animal over small cliffs and onto the rocks below. $\endgroup$
    – bta
    Jun 2 '20 at 0:33

Wood and cotton/fiber

A shoe really needs two things: a solid sole and a material to wrap around the foot. You could definitely use metal for the sole, but it would be easier to use wood. Even the mountain people should have access to enough wood to cobble shoes. Your society probably already has skilled woodworkers who could fell, cure, and carve trees.

You could use wood for the base and a plant fiber for the upper, like an English clog.

Painting showing a British clog

Or you could make the whole thing out of wood, like other types of clog. As the painting below shows, you can engage in tough manual labor wearing clogs.

Painting showing a woman wearing wooden clogs

You can still buy wooden shoes today, like the below example from here.

Modern wooden shoe

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    $\begingroup$ you can engage in tough manual labor wearing clogs This isn't really a choice in such a society - you either wear what's available or go without, but either way the work has to be done. What, by the way, are the paintings ? $\endgroup$
    – StephenG
    Jun 1 '20 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenG the paintings are from the linked Wikipedia articles above each image $\endgroup$ Jun 1 '20 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ These seem to be The Dinner Hour, Wigan by Eyre Crowe and the other is one version of In the Pasture by Julien Dupre. As you can probably guess these styles and subject combinations appeal to me. $\endgroup$
    – StephenG
    Jun 1 '20 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding wooden clogs, there's one point which is often missed about them. There's a reason manual workers today are required to wear safety shoes - one slip of a hammer or axe, one dropped load, or in the case of that picture one hoof in the wrong place - and you lose your foot. Go back to even the mid-20th century, and the chances were good you'd be looking at amputation. Go back to the mid-19th century or earlier, and the chances were good you'd be looking at sepsis and death. Carving your safety shoes from wood was a good practical solution. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Jun 2 '20 at 10:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Graham I'd never thought of that, it's a good point $\endgroup$ Jun 2 '20 at 18:51

A classic footwear in central/eastern Europe was lapti (I intentionally link the Russian wiki, because it is much more informative than an English one). They are made from a bark (particularly birch), or bast (particularly linden), or straw. That said, I don't think that lapti would perform well in a mountainous (especially rocky) terrain.

As for jewelry, consider nuts (especially walnut), and certain woods. A Google search for walnut jewelry is a good place to start.

A word of warning: cotton does not grow in that climate. They used flax fiber for clothing.

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    $\begingroup$ Flax, and hemp. And, first and foremost, throughout Europe, from the deepest antiquity up to well into the age of machines, wool. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 1 '20 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ Flax is extremely durable. I have some growing in my yard, and it can jam up my lawnmower if I'm not careful. $\endgroup$
    – Wossname
    Jun 2 '20 at 23:12

Vegetarianism doesn't prevent the use of animal products - it would only suggest that the materials we obtain do not cause unnecessary pain/suffering/killing. From the animal kingdom, using wool or equivalent for clothes. Similarly hide from dead animals (not killed) should be morally OK - this happened in India, I believe (the protagonist in R.K. Narayan's Vendor of Sweets, a strict Gandhian, gets his footwear made from leather of dead cows, that he ascertains were not killed). Then you also have rubber that could be useful. Jewellery could be made of shells (if near sea shore), pebbles(?), bones (again from dead animals) and wood (not including the obvious precious metals), colored wooden pieces, glass.



If you are interested in a different look for your people, latex has been used by humans for thousands of years. Latex can be made into provocative and practical clothing.

latex clothing


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    $\begingroup$ That's vulcanized latex. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 2 '20 at 7:30
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP - I do not have your connoisseurs eye but I am sure you are correct. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jun 2 '20 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ Two problems with this - latex is vegan in its constituents, but the manufacturing processes may use casein which is not vegan. Plus it requires heat and pressure etc, which may not be possible given the implied simple technology levels. $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Jun 3 '20 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Criggie - I was thinking of using latex like the pre-Columbus South Americans did. If not catsuits they made boots, at least. There was some plant sap they used instead of casein to coagulate the rubber, $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jun 3 '20 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk good idea - can you find a more illustrative picture of the kind of thing they would have been able to make ? $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Jun 3 '20 at 20:34


A real life substitute for leather is actually called cork leather.

It has similiar characteristics as regular leather and has seen some wide use in the vegan community for purses, wallets, belts, etc.


There are already some excellent answers for shoe materials. I focus on clothing. The OP specifically asked about celebratory clothing. In most cultures, celebratory, ceremonial, and ritual clothing are luxury items, i.e. expensive. In this answer, I explore some expensive vegetarian and vegan fabrics and fabric art techniques that could be used to make luxury clothing.


This was already mentioned by the OP, but there are a lot of decorative uses of metal, jewels, glass, and semi-precious stones.

In addition to jewelry, these materials can also be added to clothing as metal embroidery (Such as goldwork or Assuit), beading, or as woven threads (lamé and cloth of gold).


Rayon was invented in the 1890s and uses plant material to make a fabric with a smooth texture similar to silk. At the time, it was called artificial silk. Depending on the technology of your civilizations, this might be an option.

Just for fun, I also looked into how hard it is to make synthetic fabrics like nylon. I'm not a chemist, so I was surprised to find out that you can make nylon in a beaker at home if you have sebacoyl chloride and hexanediame. More research is needed for a full Andy Weir style solution for the resources needed to source the two chemical components, but I thought this was a promising start.

In our history, the discovery of these chemical processes made fabric production cheaper, but of course, the chemists guild might be protecting their new manufacturing method as a trade secret and setting an inflated price for their novel soft and slinky fabric that is this season's must-have item. Or perhaps, rayon or nylon is a lost invention of a previous civilization, with only a few existent garments handed down across generations.

Found animal materials

Found animal material such as feathers, seashells, shark teeth, ambergris, found bones etc. are vegetarian, and have also been historically valuable as jewelry and decorative objects. For example, cowrie shells have been used as both currency and jewelry

Oral stories and birch bark scrolls seem to indicate that the shells were found in the ground, or washed up on the shores of lakes or rivers. Wikipedia

Human hair is sometimes considered vegan because the producers usually donate the hair of their own free will. In the Victorian period, human hair was often used for jewelry. While human hair is not ideal for making thread, a technique similar to wig-making could be used to make human hair "furs".

Unusual Plant material

For celebratory clothing, in the Pacific paper cloth and bark cloth are alternatives to more familiar fabrics. These traditional cloths are expensive labor-intensive fabrics used for ceremonial clothing.

Expensive Dyes

Some dye-stuffs are simply very expensive. The most famous examples are animal-products (i.e. Tyrian purple), but plant-based expensive dyes also exist, such as saffron. Logwood (a black dye) was even a target of piracy.

Just make it labor intensive

Many valuable fabrics are simply labor intensive to produce such as handmade lace, embroidery, tapestry, and dye techniques like ikat. The base material doesn't matter much whether it be hemp, linen, or cotton. If it's labor intensive, it will be a luxury good, and the members of your society will value it as a decorative item regardless of what it looks like because it will be a status symbol.

For example, black was once a status symbol color because it required multiple layers of dye to get the darkest shades. The dyes used were woad and indigo, both of which are plant-based. Conversely, white was also a status symbol because of the cost of keeping white fabric clean.

The style was very often worn in white to denote a high social status (especially in its earlier years); only women solidly belonging to what in England was known as the "genteel" classes could afford to wear the pale, easily soiled garments of the era. Wikipedia

To summarize, all you need to do is emphasize that the celebratory clothing is expensive to source, manufacture, or maintain, and it will follow naturally that it has special cultural status.


Dandelion milk contains latex. The latex exhibits the same quality as the natural rubber from rubber trees. In the wild types of dandelion, latex content is low and varies greatly. In Nazi Germany, research projects tried to use dandelions as a base for rubber production, albeit failed. It's not impossible.

Do they have an aversion to metal?

Second, Vegetarianism doesn't oppose certain products. Vegetarians simply avoid meat. Vegans abstain from any/all animal products. Though the exact strict definitions are flexible.


For jewelery, your civilization could use wooden amulets, bracelets, necklaces, and so on. Wood dye could be made in several colors, depending on the availability of flowers.


Wool, antlers, feathers, etc can be obtained without killing or even raising animals, although they would be rarer, thus making them something only used in ceremonies or for prestige. Take for instance some First Nations tribes and their use of eagle feathers. Or perhaps don't if you don't want to be accused of cultural appropriation.

Perhaps buttons or beads made of naturally dropped antler or horn could be considered fancy. Maybe a family has a pet angora rabbit and they only use the wool from natural shedding, and use it for ceremonial garb since it's the good stuff. I linked a youtube video where a lady talks about her rabbit's wool, including what she gets from just brushing. In the comments, some people mentioned making wool from their dogs' shed fur. They may have been joking, but it's certainly possible. It used to be a punishment to have to wear clothing made from human or horse hair (it's itchy). https://youtu.be/F11-5CG5dKw

If your setting allows it, you could have all sorts of fictional plants or even minerals with properties useful for making clothing. Perhaps there are deer that shed deer velvet large and sturdy enough to be useful. Maybe there is a mineral fiber that can be made from local materials with your people's level of technology. If they have magic or similar, they could make somthing like carbon fiber or fiberglass. Wouldn't want to wear those as regular clothing, but maybe something decorative or for armor. It was also common for the rich historically to use stuff like cloth of gold, which consists of strips of gold wrapped around the yarns. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metallic_fiber https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mineral_wool

One last thing I didn't notice anyone mention was micarta. If you need a stiff material you could have them stick many layers of fabric or paper together with some sort of natural adhesive. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micarta


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