Secondhand clothes are wardrobe essentials, passed on from one person to the next and each unique item tells a story, yet they seem to get a mixed review amongst shoppers. Does using the term Vintage free you from the stigma or does buying second hand clothes make you feel like a second class citizen?

Goodbye Stigma!

 By Graciela Garcia 

Secondhand clothes are wardrobe essentials, passed on from one person to the next and each unique item tells a story, yet they seem to get a mixed review amongst shoppers. Does using the term ‘Vintage’ free you from the stigma or does buying second-hand clothes make you feel like a second class citizen?

I confess, to having a stigma against second-hand shopping. Moreover, I have no idea exactly why I do, but it’s there. It’s all about one thing: hygiene. On the upside, I’m fighting hard to get rid of this stigma as there are very important reasons why.   

I didn’t grow up in a family that was into thrifting and so it didn’t generate any interest until I reached my early 20s. I accompanied friends to second-hand stores and was in awe at all the vintage things they had. But, I never brought myself to buy anything. I just couldn’t see them as cool vintage pieces. I didn’t see the fun in it as my friends did. I saw stained clothing and said, no thanks.  

Now, I don’t fancy myself a germaphobe, I swear! Still, the thought of buying something someone else had already worn – for who knows how long – seemed, well, unhealthy. I mean, these were people I didn’t know, and I was buying their used clothes. It truly seemed unnecessary as I could afford to buy new clothes. Until, now, I reflected on what second-hand shopping was truly about. 

I took a trip to the city of Berkeley in California last year. A great city with a small-town feel. There I was, taking in a gorgeous afternoon walking around downtown. Eating, movie-watching and then shopping. I knew they had a couple of trendy second-hand shops. Plus, I was becoming increasingly aware of sustainability and how I could apply it to my way of living. Upon internet-searching reasons to shop second-hand, I was bombarded with information on how fashion is one of the main industries that negatively impacts the environment.  

I threw caution to the wind and looked through the racks. I found a gorgeous pair of gray skinny jeans in my size. I kept searching and found the most comfortable black t-shirt and a gray sweatshirt. Next thing I knew, I was at the register making my purchase which came out to a total of $28 with tax. I saved a lot since that brand of jeans was usually in the $100+ range, the t-shirt was only $5, and the sweatshirt was $7.   

I want to make it clear, it wasn’t about the brands or the money. Although come on, I saved about 100 dollars if not more. That’s just wise shopping. Seriously, though, it’s the realization that I could get clothes that were just as good as new, and they wouldn’t end up in a landfill because I decided to give them a second chance.   

In the end, I’ve learned: it’s not about our stigmas if we want to be more fashion conscious. We must collectively make a better effort, educate ourselves and change our mindset. And, if that now includes looking at second-hand clothes strictly as vintage, I’m okay with that. Recycling, exchanging, swapping, (whatever we participate in); Buying second-hand fashions…if that’s what it takes to at least start to create a better impact and move to have a healthier environment…

…in the grand scheme of things…

Goodbye stigma, goodbye!    

2 Comments

  1. I had a rough day today and this article is just what I needed for a little pick me up. I’ve always been a little self conscious about second hand clothes even though I save money and feel more comfortable, this article made me feel better! And in top of that, the tone and happiness of the article is too cute!
    Love it!

  2. This this this! I was just having a similar conversation with my roommate and her sister about thrifting, and how it actually helps the environment. They too shared, and still share, the same sentiments around buying used clothing (you know, the idea that they are stained items). My roommate will go thrifting with me but throughout the whole experience, she’s either holding her breath or asks me to check out something for her. I myself enjoy the experience so much and even introduced my mother to it. Sometimes finding gems you won’t otherwise find in trendy stores make for an artsy look. This piece is making me ponder when the shift happened with me and if I was as enlightened as you were or whether I was just doing it because I was a broke college student. Lol. I am glad you’ve embraced it, Graciela, because honestly, sometimes the lived-in feel of these pieces are more gratifying than the “new item” feel. I appreciate your perspective since it is one that appears transformative. I think my roommate will benefit from this perspective. Thank you so much for this, Graciela!

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