Vintage Is About More Than Fashion

Returning to an old chestnut – secondhand clothing and the circular economy.

I love fashion (well I would with my background). I love looking at each new seasons mens and womenswear collections. But I stick with looking and very very rarely buy any new clothes (except undies and socks). I have a wardrobe (or 6) full of brilliant, timeless second-hand menswear, shoes and accessories that I have amassed since our days on Camden Market. For a while second-hand, or rather “vintage” as it became known in the late 90s was the coolest “label” to drop. Every fashion editor, stylist, model, actress on the red carpet and even designers themselves seemed to be wearing or saying that they wore “vintage”. Those days are gone for now as newish labels like Vetements have replaced “vintage” as the new uniform of the fashion cognoscenti.

However I won’t go down that route, as vintage is about far more than fashion. Every time I wear second-hand I know that I am doing my little bit for sustainability. Making things last is one of the best ways of reducing our carbon footprint and you can be sure that none of my 50 or so short sleeve patch pocket 1960s summer shirts have done any recent damage to the water sources where they were manufactured.

When I read about the £5.99 Lidl jeans where the seamstresses in Bangladesh are working 6 to 8 hour days, getting paid 23p per hour (according to an interesting article in The Guardian) and making from 2 to 10 pairs in that hour. (That’s a cost of 2p to 9p a pair!) I know that my 50s workwear trousers don’t carry that kind of baggage.

In the unlikely event that they did have any unethical elements to their manufacturing 60 years ago, then I have not been fuelling anymore bad practice by blindly buying fast fashion. The always brilliant Lucy Seigle writing in the Observer Magazine states that in the past 12 months 31% of Britons have bought a new handbag and that 290 million cows were killed last year just to keep us in new handbags and shoes (and that this is expected to rise to 430 million by 2025).

Well can I be a tad smug in that owning over 70 pairs of beautiful vintage leather shoes? I am not part of this current slaughter (or should I be going leather free and shopping at Beyond Skin and the like, eschewing even second-hand leather? I wonder what PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) stand on this would be? Am I promoting new leather by wearing old leather?
Me in my 60s shirt, 60s Levi trousers and 70s brogues…

Vintage Is About More Than Fashion