Why we could all do with trying Second-Hand September

Think of the last time you bought an item of clothing. Maybe it was last night after a targetted ad trapped you on Instagram. Perhaps it was last week during a Zoom call.

Whenever it was, it probably wasn’t too long ago; we love buying new clothes. In fact, according to a study by children’s charity Barnardo’s, we bought around 16 million single-use outfits last year for special occasions. The majority of those were holiday garments…but 6 million were for barbecues.

If that doesn’t sound like a big deal, maybe the fact that we spend £32.5 billion on clothes and shoes in Britain every year, with 1.72 million tonnes of brand-new fashion consumed in the UK annually – 1.5 million of which goes to landfill – will convince you things need to change. The average consumer buys just over four new items of clothing each month in the UK. That’s one hell of a fast-fashion habit.

We’re so used to seeing influencers and celebs in fresh outfits that we’ve forgotten how abnormal it is to wear new clothes every week. And that’s causing a massive environmental issue – to say nothing of the damage it must be doing to our bank balances.

So here’s a worthwhile challenge for those of you who can’t help but hate all your clothes two minutes after you’ve bought them: Second-Hand September.

Set by Oxfam, the aim is to get people to stop buying new clothes in favour of pre-loved items. That might mean popping into your local charity shop to see what gems are lurking behind the racks of dubious DVDs, heading on to eBay to find a bargain, swapping wardrobes with your mates or simply giving what you already own a spruce-up.

For 30 whole days, you’re being encouraged to say no to new clothes – helping us to buck the trend of sending 13 million items of clothing to UK landfill every week.

To be clear, you don’t need to shop for second-hand clothes at Oxfam to be a part of the challenge. If you can, try not to buy any clothes for the whole month. That way, you’ll be saving a tonne of cash while reducing the likelihood of you having to recycle or bin more clothes further down the line.

But if you do fancy a change, then go for pre-loved.

Second-hand doesn’t mean garbage clothes. In fact, there are plenty of really fancy boutiques in the UK that specialise in designer and unique second-hand clothing. Oxfam Boutiques are often stocked with vintage Missoni, Marni and Coach – which are sold at a fraction of the price you’d find elsewhere. On eBay, you can bid for Burberry raincoats starting at £30, Louis Vuitton rucksacks from £112 and Lululemon leggings for a tenner.

Rather than spending your hard-earned cash on trendy bits from Boohoo and other throw-away fashion brands, why not invest in items that cost more but last longer – and have the bonus of making you feel accomplished when you find them?

Make a day of visiting vintage stores for hidden beauties or dedicate a little time to winning your bids online. The internet has made us lazy and unappreciative of the things we buy so a good way of cutting down is to rethink the ways in which we acquire our clothes.

How to get involved with Second-Hand September

Sort out your wardrobe

First things first, get to grips with what you own. See how many pairs of jeans you have, shirts, out-out outfits, gym kits. Do you really need to own more?

Make a list of what you want or need

If you know there’s something coming up that you’ll want new clothes for, write down what it is you want at the start of the month. You can’t add to the list to really think about what you need or want then stick to it.

Can you find these items at a charity shop or on a second-hand site? Do you actually already own something that would do without you having to buy afresh? Once you see it written down, you’ll probably conclude that it’s not as vital as you think.

Unsubscribe from store mailouts and unfollow clothing brands on Instagram

How many times have you found yourself buying something after getting a ‘New Collection’ newsletter or an ad for SilkFred on your grid?

Unsubscribe and unfollow to reduce the amount of targetted advertising coming your way. If you don’t know about a new range, you won’t want it.

Set aside a day for second-hand shopping

If you do want to shop for something you don’t already own, make a day of it. Head out to a few second-hand stores and enjoy the process of searching. It’ll be far more enjoyable than abscent-mindly clicking your way to an online checkout.

Calculate how much you spend

There’s nothing like seeing how much money you could save to help you curb a habit. Everytime you feel tempted to buy a new piece of fashion, jot down how much it costs. Very soon, you’ll see just how much saying ‘no’ is saving you – and that might spur you on to keep this challenge going a little longer.

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