The impact of second-hand clothing in early Britain
In early modern times, the clothing was mainly from self-made or manual workshops. The small-scale production could not meet the growing demand of the general public for fashion clothing. As a supplement,with high quality and cheapest second hand clothes have greatly met the need of the humble people with relatively low social status. And low-income longing for fashion.
How much did second-hand clothing impact Britain?
The impact of second-hand clothing in early Britain. In modern times, British people provided a large number of second-hand clothing, which mainly came from aristocrats, city workers, servants, and thieves, etc. The clothing was no more a luxury but a life necessity for ordinary people after bulk used clothes wholesalers and secondhand clothing stores purchasing and reselling these second-hand clothes.
In early modern times, the clothing was mainly from self-made or manual workshops. The small-scale production could not meet the growing demand of the general public for fashion clothing. As a supplement, second-hand clothes with high quality and low price have greatly met the need of the humble people with relatively low social status. And low-income longing for fashion.
In the 1980s, Spford and Lemier began to make research about second-hand clothing based on its trade and market. But they didn’t focus on the consumption of the general public for second-hand clothing.
The origin of second-hand clothing in early Britain
In early modern times, new clothes in the market were so expensive that most people could not afford them. As the fashion trend was changeable, aristocrats always pursued new fashion clothes, so the clothing was updated rapidly. They became a major provider of second-hand clothing. Piles of robes, aprons, shoes, etc from aristocratic families were brought to the second-hand clothing market by clothing shops, wholesalers. and itinerant traders. People had a chance to buy shoes worn by former rulers for five shillings a pair.
The old uniforms
Besides nobility, servants and public workers also sold clothes in the secondary market. At that time, servants were rarely paid in cash, but rather in daily necessities, a large proportion of which were clothes. Many wealthy masters even made uniforms for their servants to show their noble and social status. Their uniforms were well-designed with high quality,
So the old uniforms were pretty popular in second-hand clothing stores and pawnshops. Servants always sent their worn uniforms to secondhand clothing stores or pawnshops to change other clothes directly or indirectly. Because the servants always needed to wear uniforms, that reminds them of their masters’ favor for them.
Traditional hard-textured eliminated
In the 18th century, thanks to the development of the native cotton textile industry in England, the average workers began to wear comfortable and soft cotton clothing, making the traditional clothing made from canvas, burlap, and leather gradually outdated. Those traditional hard-textured eliminated by the general public was also an important origin of second-hand clothing in early Britain.
Gain second-hand clothing by stealing
Not all used clothes in the second hand clothes market are eliminated by consumers, and some of them are stolen or robbed. We are not sure how many used clothes were gained illegally, stealing was quite common in early modern English society. People from the lower class often stole and robbed fine clothes.
From 1620-1680, 14% of thefts in Essex are clothing thefts. Of all the crimes of theft in the 18th century, clothing theft was the most common one. In the Surrey and Sussex metropolitan areas, 27.1 % of all prosecutions were accused against people who stole clothes.
To get fine clothes, thieves would even steal clothes from their friends and relatives, and rob strangers in the street. Professional thieves often gathered a large number of clothes. And sold them at a low price, retailed them on the street, or changed and renewed them as second-hand clothes. Mercenary pawnshops, used-clothing owners, and itinerant vendors were happy to buy stolen clothes at bargain prices.
Purchasing and circulation of second-hand clothing
A large number of second-hand clothes provided by aristocrats, servants, ordinary workers, and thieves were purchased by mobile vendors, wholesalers, and pawnshop owners, achieving the distribution of second-hand clothing before entering the market. The purchasing ways of these clothes vary from person to person, so the clothes they collected were different in texture and style.
Mobile vendors exchanged used clothes with new goods. Mayhew introduced clearly in his book The Working Man and the Poor of London about how traders bought used clothes and stressed that this way had been used for a long time, in the mid-19th century.
In the 18th century, an English newspaper reported the story of James Warlow who is a small merchant and his wife. Mr. Varao specialized in purchasing second-hand clothing, while his wife selling new Manchester’s cotton. Customers who sell used clothes could easily buy new cotton from this couple.
John Matthews, a businessman from London, purchased men’s and women’s Used clothes. He said: “no matter your clothes with lace, embroidery or are elaborately tailored or not, and no matter what color or style they are, I promise to buy them at the highest price. Because they are so widely available, and I have channels to sell them, they can be sold not only in London.
The impact of second-hand clothing in early Britain Sale
Outside London, shopkeepers in other towns also purchased used clothes. Most of them were tailors who had a lot of knowledge about the fabric, sewing skills, clothing styles, etc. They sold new clothes and promised their customers to buy their used clothes. Then these worn clothes were divided into two categories. The good ones were sold as second-hand clothes, while the rest were directly sold to paper mills.
Selling second-hand clothes from a pile of old clothes brings much more profit than selling them as piles of rags to paper mill. Therefore, clothing shopkeepers were willing to buy used clothes and are keen on renewing these old clothes.
The development of old clothes in today’s society
Recycling has become a common phenomenon, such as used household appliances, cameras, and clothes. It is found that second-hand clothes are preferred to new ones in some undeveloped countries. The reason is that the price of new clothes is several times more than that of old clothes, which is a relatively large consumption in ordinary families. In addition, with the change of The Times, clothes are updated quickly. So the definition of old clothes has evolved into worn several times.