How to Tell the Difference Between Vintage and Second-Hand Clothing

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For me, vintage clothing stores are one of the best poetic playgrounds for creating and curating personal style.

Particularly, I admire vintage clothing’s ability to embody yet transcend an era. In other words, the pieces I am drawn to are often so classic that they can withstand any trend.

Similarly, when your personal style is authentically you, it is timeless.

Vintage shopping is not about dressing like a different period, it is about finding something from another period that reflects you.

Admittedly, it is a challenging hunt to find a wearable treasure to reflect a strong sense of self-awareness.

Regardless, with the resale industry experiencing a 7 percent increase per year, it is clear that more and more consumers are joining the treasure hunt. But not all shoppers are following the same treasure map.

While some frequently visit their local vintage shops, others prefer to purchase their used clothing from second-hand stores.

But what factors, if any, decide the route shoppers decide to take?

Vintage shoppers tend to be more highly educated, more affluent, more nostalgia-prone, and more fashion-minded than shoppers who prefer second-hand stores, according to a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management.

Conversely, the study found that second-hand shoppers are more likely to solely value frugality. Meaning that through differing sentiments, second-hand shoppers find themselves on more of bargain hunt than a treasure hunt.


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With vintage clothing’s mainstream appeal, second-hand clothing stores are beginning to rebrand themselves as vintage fashion.

Though a seemingly clever marketing ploy, the study concludes that their efforts may not yield desired results. “They might attract a group of consumers which will not necessarily find their dream piece and at the same time exclude those smart shoppers driven by the potential bargains presented in second-hand clothes,” the study says.

Additionally, some vintage owners have personal definitions that are pillars in differentiating the two.

Ely Panos—the owner and buyer of Village Vintage in Arroyo Grande, California—emphasizes that true vintage is rare, whereas second-hand clothing can be anything used.

Having parents in the antique industry taught him early on that quality vintage is about finding collectibles.

As a buyer, he spends countless hours in search for classic pieces that will never go out of style.

“The thing about vintage is that history repeats itself. Many times we think something’s new when in reality the idea just came out of a different era. My job is to teach that to people through the pieces I choose to sell,” —Ely Panos

As a final point, I want to remind you all that whether you find yourself obsessing over a vintage classic or getting excited about a second-hand bargain, we all can relate to the thrill of the hunt.

Further, let us not forget that despite the preferred pathway, used clothing provides us all with the opportunity to create an outfit that’s truly you.

Keep sifting through styles and find your treasure.

-Wearable Poetry

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