Before lockdown young people were rountinely knocked for being “materialistic” while at the same time going on student marches preaching about the effect older generations were having on the climate.
But little did those armchair critics know about the choices these passionate teenagers were making to lessen their impact on the planet.
I reported on a climate strike in Stroud last September, and hoards of the young people there were making their voices heard whilst dressed in articles of vintage or secondhand clothes.
Although so many teenagers flock to fast fashion websites these days to get their fix, a similar amount of young people are actively rejecting the questionable ethics of fast fashion by making the effort to purchase more vintage, pre-loved clothing.
Instead of popping in and out of high street shops on a Saturday afternoon to get the latest looks, members of Generation Z have replaced this tradition with trying to cultivate new and exciting looks out of clothes older than themselves.
Spice Girl-esque chunky trainers, tourist sweatshirts and high-waisted mom jeans are all staple items that can once again be found in the wardrobe of teenage girls – despite these being clothes their parents might have also donned when they were the same age.
So what is it that makes vintage clothes so seductive to the teens of today? Well, there isn’t just one answer.
When you trawl through vintage fashion marketplace app Depop or visit a vintage clothing store, it is very difficult to come across the same deadstock clothing item from 30 years ago twice in a row, which means that buying vintage will really set you apart from the rest.
With so many young people striving to collate an identity for themselves through buying a unique collection of clothes, some savvy members of Generation Z have seen this as a business opportunity.
Harriet Best is an interior design student at the University of Gloucestershire, and has been running her vintage clothing Depop shop, You’ve got great taste, for just under two years now.
“I started it just to get rid of my old clothes like most people, and then as those items sold, I got a bit too into it and started putting in a bit more effort and made quite decent profits,” the 21-year-old said.
“So I just carried on and now I have sold over 100 items, have nearly 5,000 followers and it’s just going up. It’s nice to work for yourself, too.”
Harriet’s passion for vintage garments is sentimental, as her upbringing shaped her flair for stylish pre-loved garments.
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“I’ve always loved the way my grandma dresses. Weird to some people, I know, but the lady has style and I’ve always admired her.” Harriet said.
“She’s like a less plastic Cher to me.
“All of her clothes are pretty vintage and understated so I guess it’s been subliminally sort of drilled into me since I was young and I found it quite easy to pick them out of a charity shop full of crap.
“What I like the most about them is that they each have a story and to me, that’s what adds value.
“I like to look at my stock and imagine who used to own it before I found it, and what they did for a career and where they went wearing it.
“I guess it’s a bit of a pointless exercise because there’s no way I’ll ever really know, but it definitely romanticises the whole experience for me and makes it that little bit more enjoyable.”
Aside from a genuine love for the vintage look and appreciation for the recent history behind clothing, many people, including myself, buy vintage clothes to lessen their carbon footprint by supporting the circular fashion movement.
Of course, buying vintage fashion isn’t for everyone and some people love the styles some fashion retailers bring out, and making eco-conscious decisions is all about doing perfect things imperfectly.
Living in a way that is totally environmentally-friendly would be really difficult to achieve in this day and age, so small but impactful changes can go a long way.
According to Greenpeace, the UK is the epicentre of fast fashion in Europe, with British citizens buying an estimated 26.7kg of clothing every year.
Greenpeace also claim that fast fashion has a more harmful impact on the Earth than flying does, with textile production costing the planet a whopping 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually – more than the carbon footprint of international flights and shipping combined.
With it being estimated by Retviews that polyester now takes up 35% of the world’s oceans, ditching plastic straws could be a counter-productive way of ‘saving the turtles’, when clothing fibres take up so much more of our waters.
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Selling unwanted clothes and using the money to replace them with pre-loved looks is one of the biggest steps in the right direction you can make.
If you want to make your impact on the Earth a little less harsh, look to your wardrobe.