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!