Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Second hand people

This week is the legendary countdown week at UFF. Every single piece of clothing costs the same amount, and as the days go by, the amount gets less and less, and the closer we get to the one-euro-day. On this coming Saturday, everything will cost one euro!

Yesterday I went to see what was on offer for 4 euros. Well, there was a lot. Jeans, leather jackets, thick winter coats, dozens of 60's print dresses, you name it. I got a couple of things, and I will post pictures of my finds at some point. My visit to UFF got me thinking though.

If you ask someone why they buy second hand clothing, the most typical answer covers these three points: 1) "I want to combat consumerism and protect the environment", 2) "I don't want to spend much money on clothes" and 3) "I want to wear individualistic pieces that support my own style and make me stand out from the crowd". It is this third element that got me thinking. Why are so many second-hand-wearers starting to look the same to me? Everyone of us at UFF yesterday had our own individual style, but we all looked like we were a part of a bigger whole.

Take one look at hel-looks, and despite the myriad range of styles, there are a couple of common threads that connect many people whose pictures are portrayed there. There is "the young & intellectual wears vintage"- look, and "the hippy wears second hand", for example. I don't even know what I am getting at, really. I just think there is something weird about how these individualism-driven second hand people end up looking alike.

Whatever it is, Hel-looks sure doesn't portray the "I am poor and I have to wear clothes that someone else wore first"-people.


Jennifer said...

Hi, I recently came across your blog here (via flickr - w_r group) and have liked reading it quite a bit. I understand what you mean about people who wear second-hand clothing looking alike. I think even people who enjoy wearing and mostly buy second-hand clothes end up having a "look" just as much as anyone else does who buys clothing in a department store. I think looking at people in w_r says will explain it all really. For some, it's a prideful thing. They are proud and clearly show that they shop second-hand because of that "individualism", but I think that there are so many people who think like that - that in the end they look alike for wanting to show how much they look like it. Hope that made sense.

Angie said...

I've recently started noticing that too. I think wearing second hand clothes has become a bit of a trend in itself lately (or maybe this is just the first time I've noticed it). I find that whenever I see a trend I like, I feel like i have to find it at thrift stores because retailers won't have it. There's something about wearing vintage that has become trendy lately.

Personally though, I think your style is very unique. Of course I'm not in Europe, so I don't know first hand how people dress there, but as far as style blogs are concerned, you set yourself apart.

kasia said...

you're right, there seems to be an underlying aesthetic that many people have. but i think it's in the second-hand pieces themselves, what is chosen somewhat follows current trends and current aesthetics. and at the same time, retailers are looking to the second-hand trend, like h&m or urban outfitters, so new items are produced that look 'vintage'.
i like this trend though.
and i love your style and hair :)

Unicorns Have Whiskers said...

Oh definitely.. vintage-wearing hipsters, that is definitely a "look" or a trend. What makes them unique is that the pieces in themselves are unique and can't be found by other people, though thay can shop for very similar pieces. Also as this vintage trend has trickled to mainstream, massmarket shops offer similar looks (that lack the "uniqueness" of course. I'm at a point right now where I can't be bothered much with choosing outfits, let alone accessorizing... Umm anyway, thrift/vintage shopping is great for reason #1, it helps recycle and reuse and save our resources. Which isn't really sucjh a big concern if you truly shop for need, and not overly much. I'm not so sure how much money the serious thrift shoppers spend in clothes vs. any average shop shopper, but I have a feeling it may not be so much less. If you buy stuff every week, even if the pieces are cheap, you end up spending quite a bit of money and probably making mistakes... Whereas if you buy less but more expensive, but something you really wear a lot, it may not actually be so much more expensive... Like, if you buy 10 pieces in a year averaging 50 euros/piece, or a 100 pieces averaging 5 euros--- you end up spending an equal amount. I never buy too small shoes in a regular shop, but I've thrifted several pairs, thinking they'll stretch out. Yeah right.
What I really want now is to create a style that is totally ME, and the basis for that should come without looking at any magazines or other people style, and take into consideration other factors beyond "style" or "look", namely comfort and practicality considering how lazy I am at clothes maintenance. If it needs to be ironed, in the closet it stays!

Amy G. said...

There's absolutely a trend element going on there. The individuality comes with the stripes or prints the wearer chooses to buy, but the silhouette and look are almost uniform! And I think this look is most common among very young thrifters. As one matures, one finds her own best look and starts to look different from the pack. Then the clothes that don't work can go back to the thrift shop for another lucky shopper to find!

princessmillatwoshoes said...

Hahaa! Great post! Everyone's comments have pretty much articulated what I might have to say about this topic, though I'd like to add that the one reason why there seems to be a uniformity to the thrifter aesthetic might be also because of cyclical nature of fashion is somewhat based on lack and availability. When something is out of vogue for a long time (brogues, high-waisted jeans, neon colors), a vast amount of it accumulates in thrift stores. The thrifters, who are often a little ahead of the curve (and it seems many of them designers too), see a freshness in these pieces that is intriguing compared to current styles and begin to wear them. As the pieces are readily available and cheap, these trends tend to catch on rather quickly. It would be interesting to know when exactly does a few separate peoples wearing of a particular item accumulate the critical mass to become a trend...

The Waves said...

jennifer: thanks for commenting! I think you are right: the people who wear a lot of second hand have just as much of a "look" as the people who shop at LV. It is the vibe underneath that counts, not necessarily the pieces they choose.

angie: wearing second hand is definitely a trend in itself, at least here in Finland. It is a clear-cut choice to be wearing second hand rather than new clothes, and I agree with you, it shows.

kasia: you raised an important point. Retailers have a huge saying in what counts as a trend, as well as what counts as trendy vintage.

unicorns: yup, I went to UFF today to see what was there for 2 euros, and had to stop myself from getting too much stuff just because it was cheap. The whole "second hand is cheap"-thinking is very dangerous indeed. You are soon left with a ton of crap that you don't have time to wear if you are not careful.

amy g: yes, I think it is also an age-thing. Older vintage/second hand wearers tend to have more of a personal angle to the thing, whereas younger ones go for the pieces that are "trendy vintage."

princessmillatwoshoes: I am starting to get confused about whether trendy thrifters influence fashion or vice versa... maybe it is an ongoing cycle where everything influences everything, where it could just as well be one person coming up with an original idea or a ton of people having mass consciousness... who knows. (It is funny, I get nervous when I start to think about these types of things too much. It takes the fun away from getting dressed up!)

Anonymous said...

A thought from the male perspective...I have seen, out and about, many people wearing vintage (or even new styles...I think the point I'm trying to make covers any type of clothing)....and you might see person after person who looks the same as everyone else wearing a particular style...the faces and the looks often seem interchangeable (the same is true with males, of course). But then you see that one person who just *pops*...who looks completely different and fresh and unique...original. And even though they might be dressed in 99% the same clothing as everyone else you see who seems unoriginal, there is something about this one individual's personal style...they might wear the skirt a bit differently..or accessorize with one special item that seems unusual for the style, but that you realize just absolutely makes the outfit unique, and special. And I think it is these people who set the trends, even with a pre-existing style. There are innovators who you just know are special, and who have that inner fire that makes the outfits they wear their own creations (they care enough to be unique, they don't simply follow along)...and sometimes *ahem* they have blogs, and people come to the blogs often to see what they are wearing, and to read about what is going on in their lives *cough-cough*... :) Chris R.

Vasiliisa said...

I buy second hand for all the reasons you mentioned but things certainly don't always work the way I intended. I may still end up using too much money (quantity counts too you know) or polluting the environment (if the second hand comes by air from overseas via ebay for example). And it is indeed hard to dress in a very individual way. Which is not a bad thing in itself, it just goes to show how social in nature dressing up is. When picking an outfit we certainly don't consider ALL thinkable choices, like togas, baroque wigs, seaweed skirts, you name it. Gosh, if one really would like to stand out, there would be numerous options :)! But I bet it would get very tiresome.

Well, me, I try to not fret too much about having an unique style. That is just over-emphasized, of late. The joy of belonging to a "tribe" - and dressing accordingly - is just as great. If not greater! I do find joy in finding unique pieces, and seeing what creative minds have come up with in the past decades. And thrift stores are great places for that.

Re. the "I am poor and I have to wear clothes that someone else wore first"-people, and why they aren't represented on hel-looks - well, actually, I think they are. We just don't really know because hel-looks people apparently need to have other qualifications, too. If price is your only concern, you can totally buy second hand and not stand out at all!