As a kid, I remember ‘back to school clothes shopping’ as such a big deal. It seemed so important to have brand new clothes for the start of school in September. My parents didn’t buy into the hype much, and it was just as likely that I would have second hand clothes as new. Instead of choosing clothes, or anything really, for being new, my parents valued things for how they were made and if they were durable.
I have carried on this same tradition as my own kids head back to school. We get plenty of great stuff handed down from cousins, and whatever is missing I can usually find used.
There are multiple reasons we do it this way:
1) Its less expensive. I have worked retail and I know that the markup on clothing is insane, and I’m just not willing to buy expensive clothes that were most likely made by someone who was not paid well. On a recent trip to the thrift store, I found my oldest two pairs of like-new pants, a pair of shorts, and a T-shirt he loved, a hat and a watch all for under $20. Total. New, those same items would have cost ten times that much.
It didn’t take being a parent to discover this price difference. By the time I was a teenager, I was given a modest allowance and was responsible for buying my own clothes. I learned pretty darn quick how to stretch a dollar and still look good. It also saved my mom from being dragged around clothes shopping with a teenager…but that’s another story.
2) My kids grow quick. It’s rare that they ever wear anything out before they outgrow it. Clothes given to us by older cousins are still in good shape after my kids have worn them. We hand them down to still younger cousins. It’s a system that works pretty darn well.
Because the clothes will only fit for 6-12 months, I’d much rather invest money in things they will use longer-term. Recently we bought an outdoor play center that they will use for the next ten years, which, incidentally, was also purchased used.
3) There are far fewer environmental impacts to buying clothes that already exist than buying new ones. The Independent wrote a great article summarizing just how awful the current ‘fast fashion’ industry is, and their conclusion is the same as mine: “Ultimately, the best thing we can do is to keep our clothing in use for longer – and buy less new stuff.”
So that’s how we are handling back to school shopping this year. What about you? Where do you re-stock your kid’s clothes as they grow out of them? And if any of you have suggestions on how to keep them from losing mittens and hats I’d love to hear them …