Buying second-hand clothing is becoming cool again. There are many advantages of shopping for used clothes and many consumers see it.
Thrifting not only helps your wallet but also the planet! The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries globally.
It's a great way to deal with textile waste and save a little extra money. Second-hand clothes also help you feel and look great.
Luckily, many people consider donating or selling their used clothes. They help fuel the second-hand clothing industry.
If you want to make some cash selling your old clothes, read up my guide on how to sell unwanted clothes.
There are now plenty of great places to buy and sell vintage fashion, online and in your area.
While some people see many of its disadvantages, the arguments in favor of thrifting are difficult to ignore. Buying second-hand has become a popular trend in fashion for good reasons.
Finding exclusive items is super fun. You may even discover designer pieces for a fraction of the price.
The second-hand industry is also completely independent from the conventional manufacturing industry. They can co-exist without affecting each other.
In many developing countries like Cameroon, there are still many people who cannot afford to replace used clothing with new pieces. They have to buy from the second-hand clothing market.
The second-hand apparel market is valued at 32 billion USD in 2020 and is expected to reach 51 billion USD in 2023, according to the report “Value of the clothing resale market worldwide from 2012 to 2023” (2019).
Conscious consumers aware of the disastrous impact of fast fashion often buy second-hand goods for a more sustainable way of living.
Globally, the second-hand clothing market was valued at over 4.3 billion USD in 2013, according to published United Nations statistics. In 2013, there were 3.9 million tonnes of old clothing being exported globally.
The United-States is the largest exporter of used clothing: 675 million USD of used clothing were exported in 2018 to Canada (for sorting and re-export), India, Guatemala, Chile, and the United Arab Emirates.
The UK is the second-largest exporter in the world, to countries such as Ukraine, Poland, Pakistan, and Ghana. In 2018, it exported 543 million USD or 395,000 tonnes of used clothing.
There are too many benefits of used clothing to list them all here. But here are the top 10 advantages of buying second-hand clothes.
1. Second-hand clothes protect your skin
Most dyes used for clothing manufacturing and processing are toxic. The fashion industry is responsible for enormous levels of air, land, and water pollution due to the overutilization of hazardous chemicals.
New clothes are highly dangerous to your skin. Especially when they receive chemical treatments to make them make more flexible, soft, or water repellant.
Be sure to wash the second-hand clothes you buy before wearing them. It's important to free them from bacteria, fungus, or germs that may still be there.
2. Buy used clothing to save the planet
If you decide to buy second-hand, you are helping the environment. You reduce water and energy consumption by avoiding the manufacturing of new clothing.
Buying used clothes also decreases the extraction of natural resources and the amount of textile waste that ends up in landfills.
A great way to become more sustainable with your clothing is to wear your items longer!
Second-hand pieces are often in good enough shape to keep wearing them instead of throwing them away.
Reusing old clothes is amazing to reduce pollution and climate change globally.
The production of clothes requires a lot of chemicals and raw materials, often made from non-renewable resources.
To learn more about how used clothes help the planet, read up my article on the environmental benefits of buying second-hand clothing.
3. Good working conditions in the fashion industry
Most clothing is made in faraway overseas countries. Fast fashion brands and retailers keep driving prices down to produce new trendy clothes as cheaply as possible.
There is little care for the well-being of farmers and garment factory workers in the fashion industry.
Many cases of child labor and forced labor still occur in the world's poorest countries to make new clothes. It's not rare for people to have working days of up to 20 hours, seven days a week in dangerous working conditions facing severe harassment.
A more ethical and fair way to shop for clothes is buying second-hand clothing. You help reduce the exploitation and abuse of local communities, especially young women and children.
You may not have a direct impact on poor working conditions in garment factories, but you can still drive change by making better purchase decisions. You choose the clothes you buy and who you support with your money.
4. A bigger clothing budget
Second-hand clothes are often more accessible than buying new ones. You can find the latest trends at exceptionally low prices.
Price is one of the biggest determining factors when buying clothes for many consumers.
New clothes are often used only a few times before being donated. You can find really good pieces for a low price when you know where to look.
This results in a bigger clothing budget overall. You can save money, or invest more in higher-quality and long-lasting pieces.
At second-hand stores, you will find deals often up to 90% off retail prices. Some items are even given up for free.
If price is important to you, take time to look for the best value. Seek out the best thrift stores, yard sales, and free piles.
5. A large variety of style choices
Second-hand clothing offers a very large variety of style choices! It's great to discover new and old trends, find vintage, retro, classic, or simple pieces.
Resale shops and online marketplaces offering second-hand clothes are popping up all over. There, you will find a large selection of used clothes spanning a range of brands, styles, and prices.
Here are some great places to buy second-hand clothes:
6. It's fun to hunt for used and unique clothes
What's the best way to wear a unique outfit? Using second-hand clothing!
It's not only very fun and thrilling to hunt for new pieces but you will also find items that nobody is wearing currently.
No one wants to wear what everybody is wearing. It's best to avoid fast fashion retail giants like Forever 21, H&M, Zara, GAP, Primark.
Read up my definitive list of fast fashion brands to avoid if you aren't convinced why you are better off shopping somewhere else.
Buy vintage, retro, classic styles, and let your fashion sense shine through! I would argue that it's easier to find your style with used clothing than looking through the latest trends in high-street stores.
Second-hand clothing leaves more room for experimentation. Craft your unique look, and stand out from the crowd with special pieces not available anywhere else.
Express your uniqueness, originality, creativity or nostalgia. Second-hand clothing is now stylish and cool again.
7. Reliving old trends through vintage clothes
To find trends of the past and relive them again, visit resale shops, thrift stores, and online marketplaces.
There are so many excellent places to buy vintage clothing. It's well known that fashion repeats itself. You'll find there what might become trendy and fresh over the next seasons.
You can find used clothes from all the decades. Not every piece that is considered old-fashioned should be thrown away. Some will reappear in stores again soon and make a stylish come back.
Read up my article on how old clothes must be to be considered vintage for a list of some amazing places to buy chic vintage fashion.
8. Accelerating the transition to sustainable clothing
Buy second-hand clothes as a wonderful way to re-purpose and reuse old clothing to keep them away from landfills.
It's a lot better to use clothes again and extend their lifespan instead of manufacturing new clothing made from wasteful materials.
Second-hand clothing participates in changing the linear take-make-waste system of fashion into a more regenerative and circular one.
It creates publicity and awareness around the social and environmental impact of fashion. And it stimulates the industry by increasing the demand for sustainable fashion.
It's undeniable that second-hand clothes are helping the growth of sustainable fashion, raising awareness of environmental challenges, and making conscious clothes accessible to more people.
Consumers are now looking for new ways to make their wardrobe more sustainable. Unfortunately, new ethical clothing remains quite expensive.
9. You support ethical clothing brands
The green movement is booming. More and more people are looking for sustainable ways to consume clothing.
And buying second-hand clothes is a great option to promote sustainability in the fashion industry.
Many fashion designers and brands try to answer conscious consumers' demands with clothing made from organic natural or recycled materials.
Some even offer their customers the possibility to resell, recycle, or up-cycle their used clothes. A great example of this sustainable practice is Worn Wear from Patagonia.
10. Helping the local community
Second-hand clothes are chic and hip, make you look and feel great, and help people in need.
Help out your local community by developing a culture of reusing, repurposing, recycling, and up-cycling.
Buying used clothes contributes tremendously to the recycling system already in place in your local area.
You can donate your used clothes to someone else that might need them more than you do.
One garment can be owned by several people in the course of its lifetime. You can always visit your local resale shops and ask more about what they do to give back.
How they keep money locally, how they donate to charities, what they do with unsellable clothes, how they help local business owners.
Local businesses in your area work hard to collect, sort, clean, and distribute second-hand clothes. Why not help them further instead of sending your money to large corporations?
What are some of your favorite places to shop second-hand locally?
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.