The Rise of Second-hand Shopping

Last year Newshub reported that second-hand shopping is growing at a “phenomenal rate”, and the trend is likely to rise as customers seek out greener alternatives to fashion. In this same report Newshub suggested that second-hand alternatives will out grow fast-fashion in the next 10 years.

United Nations environment article, Putting the brakes on Fast Fashion states:

The fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally and it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans.

Obviously, this can’t go on. So, is second-hand shopping the answer? And, how do we go about it?

This is a pile of clothes a second-hand shop was trying to give away for free – sadly, not enough interest, so it was heading to land-fill.

I’ve always shopped second-hand, so I’m already accustomed to this way of shopping. My wardrobe consists of 80% pre-used clothing. It started when I was in my teens, which is pretty normal as at that time in life most of us were/are on a small budget. However, for me, I just fell in love with the hunt for gems. Now, I must admit, I spend a little more on the second-hand items I purchase, but once you start this practice it is very hard to go back. Now, fast-fashion clothes seem like ‘card-board cutout’, and I’d rather show style than fashion anyway.

However, how do you start this practice if all you have known is fast-fashion shopping. I can imagine the change being super stressful. The thing is with fast-fashion you can see what is the latest trend, go into a mall and purchase something similar on a small budget.

There is a lot going on here. First the need to fit in, to feel socially acceptable. And this fear is REAL. We are, after all, pack-animals, so in the past we survived by fitting in with our group.

Richard F. Taflinger, in the article, Social Basis of Human Behaviour, states:

Another aspect of personal survival is the forming of social groups within a species. When staying alive is not just the responsibility of the individual, but other members of the species help the individual to survive, and vice versa, all members’ chances are enhanced.

This need to fit with our group or tribe is very instinctual, not something modern media created. Media, however, taps into this basic need, and now, sadly, it is deeply ingrained in our western perception of how we should: be, look, behave – and what we should have.

As most of us know, this way of thinking about ‘fitting in’ often starts in our teen years as at this age we are most susceptible to our peers’ criticism. And for a lot of us a cycle of comparing begins. Over the last 30 years the market has completely changed and brands start by capturing the tween-age group. The clothes are made super cheap, and match what is in trend – fitting both the budget and the need to fit in. By the time you are moving into your 20’s you’re totally hooked on this type of shopping, and move onto brands with a slightly more mature look, but with the same production and consumption values.

So, from this so-called ‘safe’ shopping experience how do you move out of this comfort zone and start a lower-impact clothes shopping adventure. It’s tough changing. So difficult. I’m not going to say that it’s going to be easy. However, it is rewarding, if you’re just beginning on this journey, or if you don’t know where to start – just start, see what happens.

Love this quote from, Wendell Barry:

Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.

So if you want some tips, (there are so, so, so many YouTubers and Bloggers who are focusing on just this issue), here is a post from ‘Trash is for Tossers’, giving a step by step guide to second-hand shopping. And I also recommend Useless Wardrobe, who puts out inspiring content on this topic every week.

Also, if you don’t want to go to (actual) second-hand shops, there are hundreds, if not thousands, online, from everyday brands to designer. Just for starters, Thred-up or Vestiaire Collective are places to start, and then… literally ‘the world is your oyster’… or if you don’t like oysters, then, ‘the world is your, (insert fave in here)’. I try to shop locally, or with online sellers in my country or region. I just think it is another way to lower my impact, however whatever it takes to break the ‘fast-fashion’ spell, in my opinion, is worth a go.

I was chatting to my partner about writing this post, and he asked a very good question, ‘How does this relate to creativity?’ He asked because he knows I’m trying to keep my blog-posts within a certain theme or framework. It got me thinking.

For me I’ve always loved style. But this did not come from a self-style ambition, it came from people watching, music videos, period-film, street art, and so on. Style captures a time, place, feeling, subculture. It pulls and pushes from the need to connect with a tribe and the desire for individualism. It’s secular, seasonal, it ebbs and flows, it is for the young and the very old, there is something about true style that announces someone, but this type of style has nothing to do with fashion. Style is creative. I just love this small creative post from BlackPants, outing the differences between style and fashion.

Style, for me, is knowing who you are, and when you put on the clothes you’re most comfortable and confident in, you forget about them and get on with your day. I think discussing fashion, production, consumption AND style, subculture, creativity – is something for this blog.

So is secondhand shopping the answer? Truly? I don’t know. BUT, I find enjoyment from the pieces I collect, and satisfaction that I’m somehow, in the smallest of ways, protesting against the fast-fashion industry. Does it make a difference? Again, I don’t know, BUT, it makes a huge difference to me – so that’s worth it.