browsing second-hand clothes

The Pros and Cons of Second-Hand Clothes

When you think of your go-to places to shop for new clothes, used clothing might not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, second-hand shops are booming with popularity and have become an affordable and even preferable option for buying new clothes.

However, if you’re new to buying preloved clothes, there might be a few pitfalls you’ll want to consider before you start shopping…

Buying second-hand is great on your wallet and much better for the environment: so we’ve put together the lowdown of what to look for that’ll make second-hand shopping a doddle.


Much Cheaper Than Buying New

The main and most well-known advantage to buying second-hand clothing is that it is much cheaper than buying new. Buying second hand clothes can save you a lot of money.

It is common for used clothing to sell for less than half of the price of when that item was new.

The price of a pre-loved garment will depend on the quality of the item, the branding, and even how popular the item is at the time.

Better For The Environment

The fashion industry is a huge contributor to climate change. Despite creating millions of livelihoods globally, textile manufacturers have a lot of environmental issues.

Let me hit you with the facts:

  • An estimate £140m worth of clothing is sent to UK landfills each year.
  • Only 1% of clothes manufactured are recycled into new clothes
  • A UK study found that 1 in 3 respondents consider clothes old after one or two wears
  • The fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of humanity’s carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

“Fast fashion” is the business model of many large popular clothing retailers like ASOS and Shein, where clothes are created in an affordable price with limited life span so they can be replaced by new collections easily.The end goal is to encourage consumers to replace their clothes frequently with newer styles.

Buying second-hand clothing combats the fast fashion industry, as you are reusing what has already been produced.

Helps Support Charities

Many charitable organisations rely on their brick and mortar stores as a source of fundraising for their operations, so buying second-hand clothing from them helps contribute to good causes.

It is well-known that clothing donation bins are overflowing with stock that has never been worn, and if we want to make a difference with our donations, second hand shopping is the way to go.

You Can Find Unique Clothing

Examples of unique second hand clothes

If you’re a stickler for finding garments that stand out and won’t be worn by every third person you walk past, vintage and second-hand clothing stores are your best friend. You’ll unearth clothing from the 60s, garish early 90s shirts, edgy Y2K styles and lot more.

Sure, you’ll browse through some things you won’t like but every once in a while you’ll come across something completely unique and exciting that you’re highly unlikely to find again.

In fact, Oxfam found that the thrill of buying a second hand clothes lasts longer than when we buy new items.


Quality Control Isn’t As High

Unless you shop at a specialist vintage or thrift store that has high clothing quality standards, you can risk buying clothes that have defects that you don’t initially spot.

Online marketplaces like Facebook marketplace or a carboot sale are may highlight if the clothing is slightly shrunken or has a slight tear, but often times they don’t.

Despite it being one of my favourite thrift find on eBay, my garish 90s Berghaus jacket came with a tiny hole in the sleeve.

Just be aware that you might have difficulties returning items if you’ve purchased clothing privately. If you’re worried about whether items will fit your body shape, or would like more certainty that items will arrive clean and ready-to-be-worn I would recommend sticking to dedicated second-hand stores.

No Warranty Protection

If you bought a reasonably expensive second-hand item such as a raincoat that came with a warranty and that coat starts to let in water seep in, you’d be unlikely to claim using the item’s warranty.

Unfortunately, unless the item’s warranty mentions ‘third party rights’, only the person who bought the item can make a claim. You can find more information on Citizens Advice.

There’s Less Choice

It’s very easy to get frustrated with the amount of choice when it comes to second-hand clothes. Even if you find a nice item, it might be in a size that’s far too ill-fitting for you to wear.

If you’re looking for something specific, you will have to spend more time looking for what your need when it comes to buying second-hand clothes.

This is where shopping at a dependable high-street retailer or a cheap online store becomes very tempting…

Less Likely To Find Latest Trends

The purpose of donating or selling clothes is that either you don’t fit them, don’t wear them, or your least favourite relative has bought you something hideous for Christmas.

Either way, the second hand garment market is not generally filled with latest clothes that are fashionable and in demand. This means you’ll be browsing through last year’s or frequently last decade’s styles.

Where to find good second-hand clothes

There are a lot of places to find second-hand clothing, shoes, and accessories at low prices. However, you can’t always be sure about the quality of the garments.

We’ll do a breakdown reviewing thrift stores, but these are your best bets if you’re looking for the best second-hand shops:

How to Identify Good Quality Used Clothing

If you do decide to buy second-hand clothing from a more unreliable online store like eBay or a flea market, there are some steps you can take to help you decide if you’re buying good quality clothes.

Check the stitching and seams

They should lie flat and be undamaged. If there are any loose threads it may fall apart soon. You could decide whether it’s worth bartering for the item, but it is a more risky purchase.

Look for rips or stretching at flex points

Clothes naturally become stretched and weaker as they are worn, so second-hand clothing is likely to have weaker patches of material where the previous owner has been moving. This is especially true for tighter fitting clothing.

For tops, check beneath the armpits for weaker patches. For trousers, you’ll want to check the belt loops and the groin area.

Check for stains

It goes without saying that there should be no ominous stains or suspicious marks on second-hand clothing. It’s a slightly off-putting thought.

That being said, even if you do find an item you like with a mark, you should consider whether you would be able to get the stain out given that’s most likely been washed already.

benefits of buying second hand clothes

Final Advice

Whether you are on a budget or just like experimenting with different looks, buying second-hand clothing is a great option. Used clothing has several benefits including being less expensive than new clothes, helping reduce waste and CO2 emissions from production of new clothes, and supporting the charitable organizations that sell them.

Omar Agor-Wood
Omar Agor-Wood

Omar is a digital marketer by day for one of the UK's largest environmental consultancy companies, and is writing like the world depends on it for Pick Ethical at night. He has a passion for hiking, bouldering, and making a fuss of his dog.

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