Over the past decade, secondhand clothing’s reputation has been on an upswing. Pin it on the Great Recession, where nearly everyone had to penny-pinch in some fashion, or attribute it to growing awareness of sustainable manufacturing practices. Either way, greater demand for quality secondhand items has resulted in a prominent resale market, and apparel and footwear are big draws. A recent report from thredUP found that over the next five years, the resale clothing market is projected to reach $51 billion in sales.
Unlike the methods of yesteryear, where you might’ve browsed a thrift store or upgraded to the nearest consignment or vintage shop, today’s resale market encompasses a wider range of efforts. One, there’s the marketplace: Think Etsy, eBay, or the more recent app Depop, where independent owners set up their own smaller shops for their own goods. Then, there’s the eCommerce-like resale store. On this end, The RealReal has resold luxury apparel covered with authenticated listings and lightly worn, top-tier designer goods. For footwear, StockX, Stadium Goods, and Flight Club have helped fuel the global trainer trade industry. Then, speciality resellers like GRAILED have dedicated parts of the market cornered – in this case, streetwear.
What’s behind the turnaround? First, the fashion industry’s environmentally damaging practices have received more attention, from tossing out perfectly usable deadstock fabrics to dumping chemical-laden dyes into rivers. Consumers now want options that don’t contribute to global destruction and seek to lessen their carbon footprint. Then, there’s the issue of quality: Fast-fashion retailers – some of the most wasteful – exemplify the notion that you don’t always get what you pay for. Especially amongst the menswear market, more emphasis has been placed on building up quality wardrobe basics, instead of buying the trend of the day at a deeply discounted cost. Thirdly, we’re no longer living in the Pimp My Ride pre-Recession years.
Buying something cheaper – especially when the quality is not compromised – is less frowned upon. After all, this time around, you’ll have more money stashed away for the next economic downturn and a wardrobe that won’t tear after three washes. As another side to this coin, the clothing flipper has proved that individuals can make money selling (or buying and then selling) older, not-too-worn styles on the internet. In fact, this practice is behind the $1 billion global trainer reselling industry. As thredUP points out, Millennials and Gen Z are fuelling much of the resale industry but wanting to reduce environmental impact while getting a deal cuts across gender and generational lines. If you’re just getting into the whole reselling thing, here’s how to make a meaningful purchase – rather than just create more clutter.
Evaluate Your Closet Before You Shop
Although secondhand items keep clothing and footwear out of landfills, mindless purchasing still adds a bunch of unneeded stuff – the wrong style, the wrong fit, or something you thought you would wear but didn’t – into your home. Keep all the principles of minimalist menswear in mind: If it doesn’t match with other items in your closet, you shouldn’t buy it. As another way to avoid mindlessly shopping, take inventory of what you currently own and regularly wear. Unless an item needs to be desperately replaced because it’s completely unfixable, don’t buy duplicates. Instead, make sure that whatever you purchase adds value and purpose to your wardrobe.
Buy for Now – and For Yourself
Added to this last note, make sure that whatever you purchase fits you at this exact moment. Don’t think, “It’ll fit a bit better after I spend more time at the gym,” or plan to do a crash diet. Instead, if it pinches now or feels tight in certain places, realise that it’ll likely still fit that way a month or two from now. Added to this, although lower prices might be tempting, avoid grabbing items for your friends and family members. While you might think it’ll match their style or fill a hole in their wardrobe, you don’t always know their tastes or personal feelings about an item. A gift that doesn’t suit someone may eventually end up in a landfill.
Know Which Items are Better Secondhand
Stop by a thrift store or do a quick search on eBay and used fast-fashion ends up looking cheaper and flimsier than it did on the rack. A tiered system exists in the reselling world: At the top, lightly worn designer items and vintage duds, military goods and classics round out the middle, and fast-fashion falls toward the bottom. The higher the tier, the greater the price the reseller can get for it. As well, the better and sturdier the quality is. Especially where vintage clothing is concerned, if it can look good after a couple of decades in rotation, it’s more valuable – and durable – than a poly/spandex tee from two years ago with broken seams and signs of wear. For the buyer, take note of this tiered system, but also know how it benefits you. Beyond the obvious, like designer clothing that’s nearly as good as new, leather and raw or selvedge denim are nearly always better secondhand. The stiffness and shine are gone, and the broken-in garment ultimately offers a better fit. Similarly, military items like pea coats and flight jackets in their authentic forms tend to hold up longer and deliver better coverage than their inspired strictly fashion counterparts. Classic styles – trench coats, leather jackets, and navy blazers – further offer you an even greater deal. Not only does the garment’s mileage soften it nearly perfectly, but its form will give you a few years, if not a decade’s worth, of use without ever looking out of style.
Know Your Measurements and Try Things on
As a first resort, see if you can try on a secondhand item to make sure it fits – generally narrower in the past – works for your body. With the primarily online-based resale economy, however, this isn’t always feasible. Instead, knowing your measurements is the next best thing. Even for men, sizing has changed over the past few decades – and, yes, vanity sizing for men is a thing. As such, what was a small in the ‘70s and ‘80s might be an extra-small today, or that reliable 32×30 size fits too close around the waist in vintage form. Additionally, as you’ll find, older shirts often have numeric dimensions. In all cases, don’t estimate. Instead, measure your neck, chest, shoulders, hips, waist, and even your torso, if you’re concerned about length, and reference your figures against any available size charts or product listings.
Get Ready to Filter
The best part about shopping secondhand items online? Being able to use filters. In stores, you know the experience: Browsing rack after rack, item after item, for the perfect find, and oftentimes coming up empty-handed. Some stores such as Thrift+ offer their own searchable categories – whether by decade, trend, or garment – while other formats are less user friendly. In this case, begin your search with a particular item, period, or style in mind and refine your results by size, colour, decade, or brand.