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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Charity and Second hand Shopping - as good as it sounds?

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Hi guys! I'm here to warble again!

This post was prompted by a comment from a friend when we went to go see Pacific Rim during the summer (very good film, with big ass robots and even bigger monsters) - I had just recommended the Spin Doctor clothing label to him (an offshoot of popsoda - the company which also runs Hellbunny - who have a very dark steampunk aesthetic), and whilst he said he might consider it, he joked that he was of the 'old snobby goth clique and [thought] that everything should be purchased in charity shops'.

This stuck me as odd - not because I don't believe in charity shops, or because he wouldn't be able to get anything in them (quite the contrary; it's fantastically difficult for him to get things in high street shops, which is the main reason he shops in charity shops rather than a moral objection), but for the dismissal by some in the subculture of anything other than The One True Goth Way.

Now, although we often criticize goth brands for churning out low quality, easily DIYed products and homogenizing the subculture - and let's not mention the 'insta-goth kits' - the Spin Doctor brand seem to make an effort to converse with their customers and keep them updated of new developments, and the three items I own from them (all gifts for formal occasions) are very good quality. But that's not the point; the point is about how the purchase of second hand clothing can often turn into an example of elitism in our subculture.

At its heart, charity shopping is a good thing. You are reusing clothes that may otherwise have gone to landfill, which is good for the environment and ethically means you aren't funding unfair labour by buying non-fairtrade items and clothing. It's usually cheaper, which is always worthwhile, and you can find unique clothing that you might never find in the shops. You're also giving to a good cause - I've heard of people donating items to charity shops only to purchase them later, just so that the shop can have the proceeds. Additionally, there's a certain fun in hunting through the rails and shelves to find that one perfect shirt you've been looking for for years, and a pride when you look through your purchases.

But, equally, there are problems with the process, particularly associated with the gothic subculture. These tend to manifest in a snobbish elitism that suggests you aren't a real goth if you don't buy all your clothes at oxfam. This ultimatum tends to ignore the realities of second hand for some of us; clothes are difficult to find for plus sized shoppers, and unless you live in a very diverse and alt-friendly area it's difficult to find big names such as new rocks or items for very specific fashion styles such as bustle skirts or fluffy leg warmers. And what about your basics, such as tights or tank tops?

Moving away from the goth specific aspects, second hand shopping can be difficult for those who don't live in an area where there are charity shops, or have other restrictions as to where they shop. On top of this, it's not necessarily always cheaper; the charity shops of Glasgow's west end, for example, are just as expensive as anything on the high street, and vintage can be incredibly pricy.

So, what's my conclusion? I do believe in supporting charity shops and small businesses selling pre-owned clothing, but I don't believe that it's the only way. Yes, the original trad goths and post punkers may have purchased most of their clothing second hand. But just because that's the way it used to be, doesn't mean it always has to be that way. For many, it's  simply a case of being unable to get the kind of clothes that they like or can wear, and they shouldn't be made to feel guilty about that. I feel that, by attempting to be ethical in our shopping in high street shops as well as supporting independent crafters and good goth brand names, there is nothing wrong with not being able to shop second hand.

What's your opinions on charity shopping? Do you feel that it's a viable option for getting all your wardrobe from? Tell me in the comments! :)



  1. I mustn't be goth enough. I didn't know op-shopping was The One True Way.
    Seriously thou, I mostly op-shop, but that's because I don't have much money, you find interesting clothing, and I'm a greenie. Saying charity shopping is the only way is very narrow-minded :/

    1. Nah, you're goth enough. ;P

      There's a definite move away from that elitism, and though I love shopping second hand and want to promote it, it's not for everyone!

  2. I used to when I didnt have any money. but if you live in the burbs, you get the same crap clothes that were at the mall anyway...just a few years later. And then I got bedbugs, probably from all the used clothes I (and my roommates) bought. so I dont anymore except for belts and jewelry.

    1. Yeah, I find the quality (and cleanliness...) of the stock varies between areas, but it's not always the cheaper option, as charity shops got really popular here recently. I tend to get bottoms, jewellery and accessories more out of them now.

  3. I've blogged extensively on charity shopping and most of my wardrobe is secondhand, either from eBay or charity shops, and primarily for the reason that I have rarely been able to afford things that cost more than £5 per item, and as a teen Goth didn't have access to local Goth-specific shops or permission to shop online. Interestingly, I didn't get any sense from other Goths that charity shops were the One True Way, but I put this down to mostly hanging around with Goths under 30 in reasonably well-paid jobs who could go online and buy New Rocks and corsetry with relative ease - if anything, I felt I was sometimes a little bit looked down on for not having Pennangalan winkle-pickers or New Rock platforms, for wearing old Marks & Spencers skirts from the charity shops rather than going online to get fancy brocades and velvets. I do, occasionally (quite rarely, as I don't really have money to spare) buy made-for-Goth clothes- at the moment I'm fond of a lot of Banned and Jawbreaker stuff, especially the Victorian-inspired stuff, and I have a few fancy Hearts & Roses London jackets. My made-for-Goth clothes are often second-hand from eBay, as something like a pair of New Rocks can cost nearly as much as my rent for the month if bought new!

    Glasgow has an abundance of Goth shops on Queen St - that's got to be an advantage for buying Goth-specific stuff. One thing I really don't like about buying online is not being able to try things on, especially when things don't always conform to their given measurements. I've bought several things where I've had to make alterations immediately on buying them, including inserting panels at the waist and taking things in considerably.

    1. Haha, it's funny you saying that those who buy from M&S are looked down on, when some of the gothiest things in my wardrobe are from there. ;)

      I think previously it was very much a 'brands above all' mentality, but in more recent years there's been a swing back to charity shops - it's interesting to see the differences in opinions between different goth groups, however. I like the Queen Street shops for trying on clothes (though their stock is hit and miss to my tastes) - H&R London is a favourite of mine too, and I wouldn't have bought them if I hadn't checked the sizing and quality in person.

  4. Morning! I'm a newbie round these parts, found this post very interesting. I am basically a Spin Doctor whore, I love their products. I also shop extensively in charity shops, and have a passion for M&S tights (and hate Pamela Mann tights as they don't fit me properly - gusty gusset ahoy!). I've been aware that sometimes I do get looked down upon for perhaps being a 'brand slave' (I also love Banned's cardigans and tops) - but these days much of it comes up second hand on Ebay, where I bought the SD strait jacket coat for £4 and the Lavelle top for £7. I don't really belong to any specific gothic 'look', other than loving basic black. There's something to be said for supporting emerging british brands / designers, and as you say SD's quality is generally pretty good. Unfortunately their most recent range appears to be sizing up, and I'm finding myself swamped by the length / fit of their current range having gone mysteriously from a medium to an extra small...

    Mind, when it comes to trousers as a 5 foot tall woman with a small waist and large butt I buy from anywhere where the pants fit!! Goth branded trousers never fit me, and anything by Raven etc tends to be far too long.

    1. Hello, and welcome to the blog!

      As said above, if people have reasons to buy from brands then there's no reason they shouldn't, though I would suggest that they do as you've done and buy second hand. I absolutely advocate supporting independent brands, as it's an investment in quality and more ethical overall, but it's rude to pass any judgement on what other people wear.

      I have a nightmare with any brand which uses S/M/L sizing, so I understand your frustrations!


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