Three myths about secondhand style you can ignore

It’s Secondhand September again.  For 30 days, Oxfam invites us to pledge to buy only pre-owned fashion and accessories.  Why September?  It’s a huge month for fashion.  As the season changes to autumn, the chill in the air prompts us to contemplate a new winter coat, investing in a pair of boots or revisiting our knitwear collections. 

The impact of choosing to buy autumn/winter clothing secondhand instead of new is huge.  The fashion industry places unsustainable demands on natural resources such as water.   It also generates chemical pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.  Many of us donate old clothes to charity, but by shopping secondhand too we can make a bigger difference.  Choosing preowned will ultimately translate into fewer new items being produced and therefore reduce the environmental impacts of the fashion industry. 

Despite the growing popularity of preloved clothing, some myths linger than needlessly put people off buying secondhand.  Here are three of the biggest and why you can ignore them:

(1) I’d be taking clothes away from people who really need them

Several preloved influencers have told me is that they’ve been criticised for buying secondhand clothes, leaving nothing for people on low incomes.  If you can afford new clothes you should buy them, goes the argument. 

It’s understandable that people worry about this.  Unquestionably, priority should go to people who face financial difficulty, especially now in a cost of living crisis.  However, the truth is that we urgently need many more people on all income levels to buy secondhand.  The production of fossil-based synthetic textiles has doubled globally within 20 years, as fast fashion production and consumption has increased.  Globally we now produce a mind-bending volume of clothing.  So much so that every second, the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of clothes is burnt or buried in landfill.  There is no shortage of secondhand clothing.  In fact, there’s so much of it that piles of discarded clothing ends up in the Global South: there just aren’t enough buyers for it all.  A quick look at eBay, Depop, Re-Fashion or your local charity shop will demonstrate the abundance of secondhand clothing available. 

(2) It’s unhygienic to shop secondhand

Another understandable concern, this is easily dealt with: Immerse your thrifted fashion in a bowl of hot water (not boiling!) with a small amount of washing powder and a powder clothes disinfectant, and leave to soak for a few hours.  Many reputable secondhand clothing stores clean clothes before displaying them.  (Even so, I don’t personally recommend buying underwear or nightwear secondhand.)  Remember that even if you’re buying brand new, other shoppers may have tried clothes on in changing rooms, so hygiene worries are by no means unique to preowned clothing. 

If you’re still concerned, there’s a lot of brand-new-with-tags (BNWT) secondhand clothing you can buy that’s never been worn:

(3) Secondhand clothes are frumpy

Vintage fashion can conjure up images of frumpy or slightly out-there bohemian looks.  If that’s not your vibe, be assured that you can easily buy clothes that look just like what your friends are wearing.  You’ll find recent Primark, Zara, Nobody’s Child and H&M on Depop and eBay, including styles that are just a few weeks old. 

In one of my favourite secondhand pieces – green Zara pleather skirt

Let these IG accounts inspire with secondhand looks that are contemporary and stylish:

Thanks for reading!


PS You might also like this article – Secondhand Jeans for Secondhand September

Published by jengreggs

I'm a London-based writer and blogger focused on sustainability in fashion. My purpose is to help everyone discover the joy of living more sustainably.

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