Buying second hand clothes: good for your wallet and the planet

Are you on a mission to buy less, or even no new clothes this year? Well, so are we – and we aren’t the only ones!

More and more people are changing their buying habits, and it’s having a huge impact on the second-hand clothes industry, which is growing 21 times faster than the traditional retail apparel market. 

There are a number of factors that have contributed to this growth: 

  • The rise of the conscious consumer - more and more people are looking for a more environmentally friendly way to shop, so are extending the life of garments through buying second hand.
  • Value for money - ties into the point above. Often it’s Millenials and Gen Zs that are more environmentally conscious, but they also tend to have a lower disposable income than older generations. Buying second-hand clothes is good for both your wallet and the planet.
  • Accessibility & ease - platforms like ThredUp and Thrift+ are making it easier than ever to discover great second-hand clothes without rummaging through thrift shops. If you haven’t already, you should check them out.

  • Whatever it is that is inspiring people en-masse to buy second hand, it’s going a long way to extending the life of clothing, which is one of the best things we can do to reduce the impact of our garments. According to WRAP, extending the life of your clothes by just nine extra months of active use would reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by around 20-30% each.

    Although buying second hand clothes has many benefits, when it comes down to it, it can feel quite overwhelming. 

    How do you find ‘the good-stuff’ – those amazing finds that seem like needles in the haystack?

    Buying Second Hand Clothes For A Year

    We recently spoke with Chloe Howard, a second hand shopping pro that successfully went the whole of 2019 without buying any new clothes. 

    Chloe was inspired to change her buying habits after reading about the amount of clothes that are wasted and end up in landfills, as well as the damage fast fashion does to both people and our planet. 

    “I started reading a lot more about fast fashion, the waste and how often people buy new stuff. I have so many friends that get weekly clothes delivery because they think ‘Why not?’”.

    With a knack for finding good deals and hidden treasures, Chloe was able to find what she needed throughout the year by buying second-hand. 

    “I’ve got clothes from charity shops, car-boot sales and from friends,” Chloe explained. “I started running swap shops, I’ve done three this year, where loads of friends come together to swap different items. It’s amazing what people have that you might need!” 

    One thing that holds people back when it comes to buying second-hand clothes is finding things of quality, and historically, buying second-hand clothes has had really negative connotations.

    What people often don’t realise is that you can often find clothes that are very lightly worn or even some that have never been worn at all! It’s staggering how many clothes people buy and, for whatever reason, they never wear. The value of unused clothing in wardrobes has been estimated at around £30 billion. 

    A lot of these unworn clothes end up in charity shops or thrift shops, so if you are lucky you might find clothes that are second-hand, but still new. 

    Chloe was determined to change negative perceptions of buying second hand clothing, and prove that it’s possible to have a full, fashionable wardrobe without buying new. 

    “Lots of people think that second-hand shopping is good to get the odd thing here and there, but I’m trying to debunk this and show that you can have a full wardrobe of second-hand clothing.”

    But, it wasn’t always easy – “I come from a long line of shopaholics, so for me, it’s been a real challenge to not buy anything new!” 

    Also, certain items prove to be much more difficult to source second hand than others. After all, intimate items such as underwear and tights aren’t something that many people would feel comfortable buying second hand.

    Buying Second Hand Clothes Advice

    If you are trying to buy less new clothes and are switching to buying second-hand clothes, then here are some tips and tricks:

    • Give yourself plenty of time - when you are shopping second hand, it’s not as easy as buying new when you just walk into a shop and find something immediately. It takes a lot more rooting and digging, so you will need to be more organized especially if you are shopping for something specific or are looking for an occasion outfit.
    • Look online as well - Depop, Thrift+ and ThredUp are all platforms that are changing the way people shop second hand. If you prefer internet shopping or aren’t keen on rooting through thrift shops then they may be the best option for you!
    • Don’t get disheartened - If you are buying second-hand clothes for environmental reasons, don’t get disheartened if you have to buy new occasionally. There will always be certain things you can’t buy second hand or don’t feel comfortable buying second hand such as tights or underwear. Instead, try and find brands with strong sustainability commitments, or ethics that align with your own. 

    Are you trying to buy less clothes this year? Or, are you a pro at buying second-hand clothes? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below!