Do you buy second hand clothes? They’re probably more stylish

Second-hand shopping is not only good for the planet and your wallet, our new study finds that the more style-conscious you are, the more likely you are to buy second-hand clothes and accessories.

In FY2020/21, 72 per cent of Australians bought at least one item of clothing second-hand – but we wanted to learn more about people who were making second-hand purchases.

It is often assumed that those who buy second-hand clothes do so to save money or reduce their environmental impact.

In our study, we found that the more likely people are to buy second-hand, the greater their sense of style. In fact, style awareness was a greater predictor of second-hand shopping than frugality or environmental awareness.

Style-conscious shoppers differ greatly from fashion-conscious shoppers. Fashion is all about the “new”: fashion is new and constantly evolving.

Style, on the other hand, is about expressing a long-term individual identity.

The fashion problem

Fashion shoppers are used to a constant supply of new trends and “fast fashion” products. Fast fashion works quickly to replicate an ever-changing stream of fashion trends, resulting in large volumes of low-quality clothing.

Style-conscious shoppers want to express a long-term individual identity, in contrast to fashion-conscious shoppers who focus on the “new”.(ABC News: Lucy MacDonald)

The environmental impact of fast fashion is significant and well documented. Globally, the fast fashion industry generates 92 million tons of waste per year and uses 79 trillion liters of water. Less than 15 percent of clothing is recycled or reused.

Poorly made and substandard fast fashion items are a significant problem for charity shops, which are forced to send fast fashion items they cannot sell to landfill.

But bucking this fast fashion trend, more and more people are buying second-hand clothes and accessories.

A growing market

It is difficult to size the second hand market as many sales take place in informal settings such as pre-loved markets and online platforms such as Facebook Marketplace.

However, sales data from online platforms show a growth explosion. James Reinhart, CEO of online second-hand fashion retailer Thredup, predicts the global second-hand market will double to US$77 billion (AUD102 billion) in the next five years.

He also predicts that the second-hand market will double the size of fast fashion by 2030.

Younger shoppers are driving the popularity of second-hand shopping, particularly through online platforms.

Our research suggests that much of this growth is attributable to shoppers who consider themselves style-conscious.

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What makes a second-hand buyer?

We asked 515 Australian consumers about their ‘orientation’ (the preference to behave a certain way) when shopping. The frugality orientation, environmental awareness, materialism, nostalgia tendency, fashion awareness and sense of style were measured for each participant.

While we have found that there are frugal and environmentally conscious second hand shoppers, our research has overwhelmingly shown that style awareness is the best predictor of second hand fashion buying.

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