Controversial

I bought clothes at the charity shop

So, I bought clothes at the charity shop. A denim shorts, to be precise. You see, it doesn’t sound like much, but somehow it was a big deal (whereas it shouldn’t be).

I drop things at charity shops all the time. I always take great care to ensure that the clothes are perfectly wearable, in good condition, clean, ironed and folded. I appreciate that volunteers do all the hard work there – and they don’t have the time or resources to wash, iron and fold. I always prep all items so that they can be simply put on hangers and displayed.

22cdd2b1a553fd3745abbb2a696bb0c6It only occurred to me recently that I had actually never shopped at a charity shop. Isn’t it strange? I use the system because I feel it’s 100% worth supporting, but so far it’s been a one-way street. I can’t even say that I didn’t like what they sold. Why?

Because I never even checked. 

I’d drop the bag, say ‘thank you’ (because I indeed feel thankful for the fact that these shops exist and that kind people volunteer there), and leave.

After years of doing this I suddenly realised how arrogant a behaviour this was.

Why would other people shop there, but not me? Why would I always buy new, while others bought used?

The most common response would be: Because I can afford it.

But that’s not the real answer. If I wasn’t caring about sustainability and reusing things, I’d just throw everything into the bin.

No, I believe in the system, I highly value the fact that things that are in good condition can find a second home, have a second life. But why not at my home?

The uncomfortable answer is simply this: I was reluctant to buy clothes someone else had worn for a long time. Even writing this feels stupid. There is nothing about these items that’s less ‘clean’ than those at shopping malls, where countless people have tried before you picked the item from the shelf. The fact that the shop itself looks fancy and that the items are pricey (overpriced?) doesn’t mean that everyone who took something into the changing cabin kept their undies on.

So I bought a denim shorts. I checked the shorts rack, found one that I liked within 15 seconds, tried it – and it felt like I had owned it for years. And suddenly I realised a few others things about used clothes that I had never considered before:

  • They’ve had a life, and they’re still in pretty good shape – what can be a better proof of a garment’s high quality?
  • They feel comfortable from the get-go. No awkward ‘breaking into the fabric’ period where you feel you just don’t want to sit down for more than ten minutes.
  • You know exactly how much they’ll extend and stretch (yes, not more than now, because they’ve already reached their final shape. You’re not left wondering).
  • They won’t lose any more colour than they have already. This is it. You get what you see.

Have you bought second hand clothes? Were you reluctant like me? How do you feel about wearing stranger’s clothes?

Please share your thoughts!

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4 replies »

  1. totally agree! When I lived in Germany, the common thought process was that ‘only poor people shop there’. I shopped there all the time, and took a special delight in telling people they came from the secondhand shop when they would ask where I bought them. I hope I inspired at least a few of them to go and try them out: they are the best place to find unique things that are already broken in, that no one is wearing. EXACTLY. Well done!

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  2. To my dismay, our village charity shop has suddenly closed. I did sometimes buy things there with nary a thought for the other lives they had enclosed. Just sometimes wondered as I went my way around town if the former owner was observing me in her cast-offs. Good for you for giving it a try! Those shorts look great by the way. 🙂

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