The Practical (And Fanciful) Reasons To Buy Secondhand

Macklemore had it right. “I wear your grandad's clothes. I look incredible.”

Sarah Garvey
4 min readSep 28, 2022


In a world where fast fashion is so commonplace, it’s easy to resort to, “Well, this is easiest, it’s cheap, and it will get here in two days.”

It’s an understandable default when looking for something new to wear, especially because the price difference between something fast and something higher quality (let alone sustainable) is VAST.

But there’s a third option out there we often forget. It’s truly sustainable, zero-waste, and often, gets you pretty great quality at a fraction of the price.

Buying secondhand.

PEAK Secondhand in Merchantville, NJ. Photo by Caroyln Busa.

You Mean Clothes Dead People Have Farted In?

Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. First and foremost, we all know that fashion is cyclical. Bell bottoms are back with a vengeance, tiny tank tops are all the rage with Gen Z, and the whispers of low-rise jeans coming back are triggering Millennial panic attacks everywhere.

So rather than buy these items brand new at a place with questionable labor practices, why not grab them from a secondhand store? Chances are, they’re vintage from when the style was last popular, and bonus, they’re likely going to be comparable to (or maybe even cheaper than!) the fast fashion online retailers.

Sustainability is Sexy

Hands down, this is THE most sustainable way to shop, as nothing new is created for your wardrobe. It already exists, and rather than end up in a landfill, it ends up on your gorgeous bod.

Sure, there are awesome brands out there that create new items in a sustainable way, but chances are, their carbon footprint isn’t zero. They’re still creating something new.

When shopping secondhand, materials that wouldn’t otherwise be considered sustainable or ethical, suddenly… kind of are. Leather, suede, silk, denim, even fur, believe it or not! (I know, hear me out.) By buying these materials secondhand, you’re preventing them from ending up in a landfill, and while most of these materials are “natural” in a sense, they certainly won’t be biodegrading any time soon.

But buyers be aware — even though you may buy fur secondhand, many (hand raise) still believe it perpetuates the idea of killing in the name of fashion, so don’t be surprised if you still catch a lot of flack for wearing it. In fact, many large fashion houses and retailers have vowed to stop using real fur altogether, which is a huge win for the animals and Earth alike. However, the production of highly synthetic faux fur is no friend to the environment either. It’s a lose-lose, really! But I digress…

They Don’t Make ’Em Like They Used To

This old adage is so true, especially when it comes to clothing. Think about antique stores you’ve visited, or even your own grandmother’s closet. You’ll see dresses and hats from the 1940s that are in surprisingly good condition considering their age. Could you imagine a top from Forever 21 lasting one wash cycle, let alone EIGHTY YEARS?

Quality was just better back then. Granted, it kind of had to be, as people owned far less clothing than we do today — if you have an older house, you probably already know this based on the size of your closets. They had high-quality clothing that was made well, so there wasn’t a lot of need for turnover. It’s like everyone had a fabulous capsule wardrobe before it was cool.

Heavy-duty (therefore long-lasting) fabrics like corduroy are quickly gaining popularity again, and great secondhand shops are full of corduroy, tweed, suede, and more. While you may find similar fabrics in stores today, very few of them are going to hold up the way the ones in the consignment shops have.

Clothes waiting for their new home at PEAK Secondhand in Merchantville, NJ. Photo by Carolyn Busa.

Where Have They Been?

Let’s get dreamy here. One of the most exciting things about buying secondhand is imagining the life your clothes have lived before they found their way to you. Each piece has a story, and the person who wore it surely loved it enough to hope it found another home, rather than the inside of the trash bin.

When you buy a dress, ponder the parties it has attended. Did it get shown off as it twirled around a dance floor? Did it brush against a date as the wearer held hands with her beau? Was it worn in the theatre during the world premiere of a famous musical?

When you buy a jacket, think about what was kept in those pockets. A book of matches from a bar long forgotten? A slip of paper with the phone number of the wearer’s future spouse? Maybe a few coins that are now sitting at the bottom of a fountain after being wished upon?

When we buy secondhand, we’re giving the clothing a second life. And by imagining what they’ve seen, we’re giving the original owners a second act as well.

Here’s the thing. Sometimes we need a specific piece of clothing that we have to buy new. There’s no getting around that. But, if we can supplement our closets with great secondhand pieces, we’re not only doing our wardrobes a favor, but we’re doing the Earth a favor as well.

Check out your local secondhand stores, consignment shops, thrift stores, yard sales, or even your parents’ and grandparents’ closets, and fill your own with timeless treasures.



Sarah Garvey

Freelance writer, retired cartoon character