I mean, you’re not though. You probably saw it on the end of a rail and thought, “yeah I’ll pay a tenner for that” and strutted till-wards like most of us do. But it’s the cachet that vintage carries. It paints a particular picture. One of stories passed down and of new memories primed to be woven into those slightly musty smelling fibres. Second hand, conversely, also paints a picture but it’s not the sort that you’d put on your fridge.
Despite essentially being the same thing – clothes that used to belong to someone else – second hand conjures images of an old tissue discovered in a charity shop raincoat or crumbs in the front pocket lining of some pre-worn jeans; original food source unknown. While vintage says ‘heirloom’, secondhand says ‘ugh gross’.
There’s one reason for this: semantics-based snobbery. It’s the thing that makes going head to toe in ‘athleisure’ somehow completely different to just wearing trackies. It’s the thing that made Crocs the worst thing on earth but made Christopher Kane Crocs positively covetable. It’s about status and superiority and it happens to be utter, utter bullshit.
Let’s put this into perspective: for clothes to be considered vintage, they should be 20 years old or over. Second hand clothes on the other hand can be as new as you like. Everyone who’s ever found a sweaty jumper or a stained shirt in a vintage shop knows that the vintage title doesn’t guarantee quality over something that’s simply second hand. All it really guarantees is that it’s probably older. And probably more expensive.Second hand and vintage clothes occupy equal space in my wardrobe. One isn’t elevated over the other. The dress (which I took for a spin through the seasons here) was originally from & Other Stories but I found it on depop for only £15. The jacket was a charity shop find and set me back a mere £12, and the stripy turtleneck started life as part of a Halloween costume for my boyfriend but swiftly found its way into my wardrobe and my regular outfit rotation.
The hat is another freebie that comes courtesy of my boyfriend and the jeans (which have lime green seams that you should absolutely marvel at here) were only £5 and came from a bulk buy second hand store called Thrift Shop. The shoes cost £12 and the beaded bag was bought for me as a gift at a vintage fair. So all together that comes to £44 for a full outfit. (£59 if you were to guilt trip me into adding the price of the bag).
£44. For. A. Full outfit. An outfit that is made up of pieces that some people would disregard because they don’t come with the prestige of the vintage descriptor. Second hand is an easy, cheap way to dress ethically. It can fill the gaps in your wardrobe that don’t warrant an investment purchase and it subverts fast fashion; minimising our reliance on the new.
Don’t let semantics get in the way of ethical choices. There are enough clothes in existence to fill every wardrobe. There are so many dresses, shirts, jumpers and coats packed onto this earth that we send them to rot in landfill or ship them off to other countries just to make room for even more of them. Our global fashion inventory doesn’t need adding to exponentially. Tap the resources we already have and take the pressure of our planet. Make second hand your first choice.
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Agree 100% – second hand should be first choice. Use what is already there and help reduce landfill waste. On a side note, I can’t even tell you how often I come across items at thrift shops that still have their “new” hang tags.
Yes! The amount of ‘new’ clothes I’ve bought second hand is ridiculous.