In today’s world, mainstream clothing alternatives are gaining popularity as we’re becoming more conscious of the need to live more sustainably. In particular, the pre-owned fashion market seems to be growing, with the rise of platforms such as Depop and with Generation Z’s interest in it. However, despite consumers’ best intentions, some end up opting for more familiar choices. This dissonance is commonly called the attitude-behaviour gap, which occurs when expressed beliefs are not mirrored in actions, such as buying decisions that people make. A cognitive process, decision making involves a couple of stages, such as judgment in light of personal preference and social norms. Using the example of pre-loved fashion, it is interesting to reflect on the resistance to switching from new clothing to pre-loved garments.
Why do people not want to buy second-hand?
One of the reasons is how those garments are viewed by some parts of society. The symbolic meaning associated with second-hand clothing, originating from its imagery, is actually a rejection factor by some fashion consumers. It remains negatively stigmatised. What’s more, in an era where target consumers can mostly afford to acquire new items, they simply see no need to shop second-hand. All in all, it used to be a time-consuming process with no guarantee of gratification, and, for some individuals, pre-owned clothes degrade their sense of identity. Indeed, style is integral to the understanding of the self and is one of the most personal means of expression. The specific visual identity offered by places such as charity shops remains undesired and creates a social barrier, stopping consumers from even walking into such stores.
For some individuals, shopping for used items is to move away from their personal taste in fashion and their mythologies - the beliefs that they have about their own selves.
For some individuals, shopping for used items is to move away from their personal taste in fashion and their mythologies - the beliefs that they have about their own selves. Some research suggests that symbolic transfer between the “new” and the “used” can be perceived as a form of self-violation.
The connotations of wearing an “unhygienic” item can derive from the specific smell that is encountered in vintage stores, and in fact, the sensual experience is an integral part of the quality of shopping experience. Brands often either use a signature scent to attract consumers and stay in their consciousness or refrain from using it at all. It has been shown that when consumers don’t enjoy the smell, they do not return to the shops.
The growing social media presence of curated vintage boutiques, as well as e-commerce platforms, helps to reimagine visual identity connected to pre-owned garments.
It is refreshing to observe how digital culture redefines preloved garments as objects of desire. In fact, the most significant barriers stopping consumers from choosing conscious fashion is the lack of information and the problem with its immediate availability. The current bloom of items sold online almost entirely overcomes such obstacles, granted that the consumer has an Instagram account. With the variety of sold and posted second-hand items, consumers can now execute sustainable attitudes without losing a part of what fashion has to offer in terms of style, price, and quality.
However, psychologically, pre-owned fashion is about much more than those qualities. Buying pre-owned could result in a greater emotional connection to the garment as an element of story is involved. The uniqueness of the found “treasure” is, in part, generated by its history; each piece has its own past. Recalling an account from a young industry professional, she was absolutely fascinated with the fact that a particular leather jacket was worn, let’s suppose, by a boy in the ‘80s. He would have had his motorcycle and pair of cowboy boots, handmade in Texas. Now, those garments have come all the way from there to her favourite second-hand store on Holloway Road. They came there to be found just by her, as if it was her turn to continue their journey. This can play a significant role in identity creation. Everyone’s style changes and evolves, therefore when some pieces are outgrown, it’s time to pass them on, along with the memories and emotions that they carry. This idea of continuance can challenge the notion that clothes are disposable.
Ultimately, getting rid of a garment is as much a part of the consumption process as its acquisition. In a way, passing on unwanted clothes can help us rethink the instant and temporary nature of fashion. Perhaps such a change in how dressing is perceived could bring us closer to a transition into a circular economy. Celebrating it allows us to cherish an emotional connection.
Blue 17 Vintage