Pandemic prompts surge in support for second-hand clothing

Young shoppers switched to sharing clothes and buying more items second hand during the pandemic, according to a new survey.  



a person standing in front of a crowd: Gen Z and Millennials are socially and environmentally conscious - and that is filtering into their shopping habits: (Photo: Getty)


© Provided by The i
Gen Z and Millennials are socially and environmentally conscious – and that is filtering into their shopping habits: (Photo: Getty)

Half of shoppers aged 16-30 swopped, borrowed, or bought second-hand clothes more in 2020 than the year before, the Censuswide poll of more than 1,500 people shows.  

The polling suggests the trend is concentrated among the so-called ‘Generation Z’ – those aged between 16 and 24 years.  

Up to one in five people in that age group belong to a ‘virtual swap group’ to share clothes, and just 11 per cent said they wouldn’t wear clothes someone else has already worn, compared to the poll average of 13 per cent.  



The pandemic has prompted people to reassess their spending habits (Photo: Getty)


© Provided by The i
The pandemic has prompted people to reassess their spending habits (Photo: Getty)

Clothing with a conscience

Because of the pandemic, people are “thinking more about what they own, what they buy, and why they are buying it”, fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell told i

This has dovetailed with existing ethical and environmental concerns harboured by younger shoppers, she explained.

“Millennials and Gen Z are incredibly socially conscious. They have been thinking a lot more about how they can personally make their own positive impact.” 

For those shoppers, buying vintage or second hand is an ethical badge of honour. 

“Young people use their clothes as a way to showcase their identity,” she said. “Second-hand clothing is really a way to stamp your mark.” 

A growing trend

Forbes-Bell stressed Gen Z was embracing more sustainable fashion habits well before Covid-19. Depop, a clothing resale app, has more than 13 million users – 90 per cent of whom are under the age of 26.

The Censuswide poll was conducted on behalf of the North London Waste Authority, which runs clothes swapping events in the capital. Chair of the authority, Councillor Clyde Loakes, said the events have grown from a few hundred people back in 2013 to more than a thousand attendees in 2020.  

“It is encouraging that young people are realising they need to be more sustainable, but we cannot afford to lose momentum on tackling the climate emergency,” he said. “Clothes swapping is invaluable. It’s inclusive, free, and is definitely a step in the right direction.”