The Mesmerizing Power of #VintageHauls

Old clothes, new content. For a growing number of Gen-Zers, thrifting is becoming a lot more than an affordable and sustainable way to shop. It’s also great material for social media. 

My TikTok feed has recently been overtaken with enthusiastic teens and 20-somethings showing off the pounds and pounds of vintage clothing they recently purchased. These “vintage hauls” center around a more-is-more approach to thrifting. The TikTokers will document the process of buying a dizzying array of outfits in one go and then model them. The vibes-heavy videos, often self-shot and self-edited, with a catchy tune playing in the background, also offer the opportunity for some casual, low-stakes trendspotting. As much as they are a voyeuristic glimpse into other people’s closets, they also give me a head’s up about what I should be putting in mine. I can find out that jorts seem well-poised for a comeback this summer, based on how many creators are buying thrifted iterations of them. I can also glean that body-con vintage Vivienne Westwood, spurred in part by the designer’s recent death, is raging in many locales. 

The videos are less about flexing (that’s for Instagram) and more about indulging in the art of the find. More simply put, it’s about enjoying fashion for fashion’s sake. In one video, I find myself mesmerized by a young creator summarizing her thrift store finds with a colorful and sharp mix of Gen-Z vernacular. “I’m obsessed with dressing like a teenage preppy boy, because I refuse to cater to the male gaze,” she says while showing off a pair of tweed trousers. Later, while flaunting another great pair of trousers, she says, “My waist literally goes missing in these. Like we’re literally gonna have to call the police to help find it, cause it’s gone.” The video feels like shopping at the mall with a hilarious best friend. 

“Vintage Haul” videos are great content, but they also reflect and align with a growing shift amongst young shoppers. To more and more of them, thrifting is easily the top choice over retail. Gen-Z shoppers, in particular, are expected to majorly contribute to the secondhand market ballooning into a $350 billion market by 2027. Naturally, then, the ways in which young adults talk about shopping should adapt and change too. 

Content creator Codey James, who is based in New York, sees his thrift hauls as a chance to help others source enviable vintage. “I’ve always tried to steer away from the gatekeeping culture that surrounds shopping in the city,” James told me. “I know that when I first moved to New York I wished I had someone tell me where the best places to shop are when it comes to thrifting.” 

The videos do serve as an easy entry point into finding great spots and neighborhoods in whatever city you’re in. Case in point: I turned to the vintage hauls tag during a recent trip to Dallas, which I grew up not too far from. Through some sleuthing, I was able to find a high-end consignment shop, Hideaway, that sold a staggering array of Raf Simons, Commes Des Garçons, and Helmut Lang. I didn’t think a shop—or even an audience—for vintage avant-garde fashion existed in the city. I felt like I was back in New York. 

The person I got my recommendation from: 23-year-old Brandon Bonds, who runs the fashion-obsessive account @imseeinghosts. Bonds, which is the creator’s “internet last name,” tapped into a service journalism spirit and dedicated his account to secondhand finds discovered in-person and online. Today, he has an ongoing partnership with the popular resell platform. “The secondhand market has always been such a IYKYK thing [previously],” Bonds says of finding financial success through regularly dishing out thrifting content. “Everyone wants to know the new hottest spot to thrift or when a new store opens in their city. TikTok has helped spread this info so much faster.”  

But do “vintage haul” videos erode the true meaning and spirit of the market? One could argue that a “haul” approach to vintage fashion chips away at the sustainability and practicality of thrifting. Secondhand stores say they are overwhelmed with traffic, due to the ever-swelling popularity of thrifting. It raises the question of if vintage hauls, however well-intentioned they may be, are contributing to thrifting becoming too trendy and overwhelming the entire resale market?  

Critics also argue that hauls promote people buying high volumes of clothes that they do not actually need or intend on wearing frequently. That, inadvertently, they are promoting overconsumption. As a recent Vogue Business piece put it: “The trouble with secondhand: It’s becoming like fast fashion.” 

“It’s something that I go back and forth with,” James says of the paradox.  “There are often people in the comment sections that mention the increased attention leads to the gentrification of the neighborhoods that the thrift stores are located in. At the same time, I’ve had small stores reach out to me after a post and say my TikToks have been a massive help in getting people to their location.” 

Like with so much of fashion TikTok, “vintage haul” appeals to me because of how grounded and sincere the videos feel. These are clothes meant for wearing. (So much so, they were already worn by someone else!) Sure, of course things are best done in moderation. But half of the fun built into shopping, especially when done with others, is the joy of discovery. It’s infectious—even through a screen. 

Originally Appeared on Vogue

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