To Haul Or Not To Haul

Does YouTube’s haul culture have you reaching for your bank card or is it more likely to make you want to overhaul your shopping habits?

You know the drill. As the soothing, rhythmic sounds of chillstep fill your ears, boxy paper bags appear on screen, a teasing slip of tissue hiding the promise of slogans, sequins, cut-outs, rips, ruffles, bows and chains. Slick editing sets the tone for the video you’re about to watch.

Soon, the mini fashion show begins, and outfit after outfit is paraded before you. The accompanying commentary is lighthearted and fashion-focused, sometimes mixed in with proclamations of embarrassment at the weakness for clothes. 

Currently, over 7 million videos come up in response to the search for ‘clothing haul’. That’s a shopping spree for every single person living in Denmark, and then some. 

There is a certain thrill, a certain satisfaction that comes with unfettered consumption. Abundance is enticing. And when we watch other people spend money so freely on the latest styles, we can’t help but imagine ourselves having access to that same kind of abundance.

A new outfit everyday – isn’t that what being stylish is all about? 

But let’s be frank – hauls serve no positive or practical purpose. They are a bizarre transaction between the person hauling and the person watching, where one party gets views and the other gets at best, some fashion inspiration or at worst, feelings of anxiety or dampened self-esteem. 

More eloquent minds have written brilliantly about the problems of the haul culture herehere and here.  

To Haul Or Not To Haul 

Thankfully, a counter-movement seems to be emerging. 

In 2015, YouTuber and performer Kimberly Clark came up with the anti-haul. Feeling like she was at a saturation point with her makeup consumption, she decided to explain her reasons for not buying certain hyped-up products.

Her insights are sharp and run towards a more critical and hard-hitting view of consumerism and the manipulation that brands engage in.  

Today, anti-haul videos have spread far and wide on the platform. Content creators talk about why they won’t be buying a particular item, while lightly poking fun at new releases and trends.

The tongue-in-cheek approach is entertaining enough to keep viewers engaged and moderate enough to keep in line with their other videos where they detail their current obsessions or even more ironic, a recent haul.

Sometimes, it feels more like ‘What I Would Buy Instead’ or ‘Anti-Haul Today, Haul Tomorrow’. Fun, but ultimately not critical enough. 

The Guide To A Fashion Anti-Haul 

Watching hauls and even anti-hauls makes us acutely aware of the sheer volume of things that exist in the world.

So much of it repetitive, so much of it unnecessary. We are caught in a weird middle ground where we’re anxious about gross excess but also dreaming of an ethereal, flowing patterned maxi-dress.  

So, inspired by the brilliant Kimberly Clark, I’ve assembled a small guide that we use to stave off both the anxiety of ‘that’s too much’ and the desire for ‘I need more’. 

1. What’s Your Signature Look?

A signature look is an empowering way to externalise your identity without going full haul. You get to keep a tidy wardrobe that isn’t just a random assortment of garments but rather, an honest representation of your style. Bonus – you can wax lyrical about other talented women with signature styles, including Audrey Hepburn and Janelle Monáe

2. Shop Your Stash 

Another popular trend on YouTube, this challenge invites you to use what you already have. Whenever you’re feeling like you have nothing to wear, just dig deep. All the way to the back of your closet. Give your old clothes some new light and love. 

3. Trends Aren’t Real 

I’ve tried for years to mix prints. Each time, I just stare gloomily at my reflection, wishing that I was longer, skinnier. According to Anna Winter herself, short people and print-on-print outfits just don’t work. Hmpf! Trends are artificial concepts, and high-street brands definitely piggyback on this trend obsession by releasing new collections frequently, in some cases, every week

The only trend that matters is the one you want to wear, the one that you feel good in. 

4. Behind-The-Scenes

Remember that the people you see on your screens are just that – people. Their fervent shopping habits are only one facet of their lives and we have no clue what is happening behind the scenes, especially with regards to their finances. Don’t ever feel pressured to spend more than you can.  

5. You’re Beautiful With What You Have, Just The Way You Are    

You really are. Whatever you’re wearing, however you’re wearing it, there’s no one quite like you. 

Written By Sumitra Gopal    

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