Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Secondhand Good Enough?

Trying to buy new clothes is a minefield.

I don't just mean trying to fit my body or find things I like, either. (Though that's plenty difficult enough, between drastic weightloss and my attempts to get back to a healthier weight and build more muscle.) I always end up having to answer a lot of questions, like:

Was this made in a sustainable fashion? Is it at least going to biodegrade sometime this century?

Was it made with sweatshop labor? Are those sweatshops the primary means of economic advancement for people in that area?

Does this company secretly donate to politicians who are not-so-secretly giant buttholes? What kind of legislation does the parent company support?

Is there a chance that this is counterfeit, and my money is actually going to support organized crime?


It's exhausting. I just want a pair of pants so I am legally allowed to leave the house ever.
Preferably ones that didn't cost a malnourished eleven year old their eyesight.

One of the easiest ways to avoid most of these is to buy things that were handmade in the U.S., but that's expensive. The next best way? Buy secondhand.

Except I'm starting to question that, too.

One of the biggest things driving fast fashion is the idea of owning a certain label or distinctive look, or, if you can't drop the dosh for an actual designer, something that at least looks the part and won't fall apart before it's no longer in style. Since clothes age in dog years, that bar is basically low enough to crawl over.

Not shown: the worker handcuffed to a sewing machine.

To frame it another way -- if I wouldn't buy unsustainable sweatshop clothing from a certain label when it was new, is it really more ethical to buy it used? Either way, I'll be wearing that label, and, considering the bizarre way fashion works, essentially advertising that brand. Even if none of my money went to the original manufacturer, I'm still basically paying to promote them. (Truly ethical consumption is pretty much impossible with modern economic and production models, but trying to be more ethical is at least a little better than nothing.)

On the other hand, there's also the somewhat-questionable practices of big name secondhand shops. While they can do great things for charitable causes, the Salvation Army's relationship with LGBT people could best be described as "complicated," and Goodwill's model relies on the fact that it is legal to pay disabled people pennies per hour. That... doesn't sit right, and I feel like I should be able to do better. If you're looking to make upwards of half a million per year as the head of what is ostensibly a charitable organization, you should probably find a different job.

I swear -- if I was able to forego this entire process and just be a full-time nudist, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

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