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Are Thrift Hauls Any Better Than #SheinHauls?
With the rise of the Haul Video on TikTok, we took a look at the pros and cons of thrift haul videos as an alternative to the popular #sheinhauls.
The Rise of the Haul Video
On the fashion side of Youtube and TikTok, try-on haul videos are a popular format. These videos typically feature young women showing off and detailing all the garments they’ve recently bought. While the format rose to popularity on YouTube in the last decade, the coinciding rise of both TikTok and SHEIN took these videos to a whole new level. The #sheinhaul tag boasts over 10 billion views on TikTok. Thanks to the low low prices of ultra-fast fashion brands, young girls will spend hundreds of dollars to get dozens of items in just one purchase or “haul.” These videos have served as a highly effective (often unpaid) marketing tool for fast fashion, playing into a culture that sees and treats clothing as disposable. Social media platforms, of course, love this format because it plays into their ability to be a shopping and advertising platform, and these types of videos perform really well. When clothes are priced at only a couple dollars, why wouldn’t you buy loads full each season while racking up hundreds of thousands of views?
Debating the Ethics of Thrift Hauls
Alongside the rise of these videos, secondhand fashion has increased in popularity. Thrift hauls videos are a whole subset of this trend. Because secondhand prices can often compare to that of fast fashion brands, thrift shoppers can still acquire a “haul” without breaking the bank. Plus, there’s the added allure of scoring thrift treasures and getting to show off your hard-won finds. But are thrift hauls any better than SHEIN hauls? Are they a sustainable version of the trend or merely another manifestation of consumerism? Let’s discuss.
The Pros of Thrift Hauls
Thrift haul videos offer the opportunity to share an alternative to fast fashion. They can demonstrate how the appealing aspects of fast fashion (cheap, trendy, novelty) are available without having to support new production or exploitative brands. They exist in a unique space to be able to meet the SHEIN haul consumer where they are at and introduce them to platforms like Depop and ThredUP or in-store thrifting instead of ultra-fast fashion. By showing off cute thrift finds, haul videos can make secondhand cool and trendy. But at what cost?
The Cons of Thrift Hauls
While it’s good for more people to recognize the amazing asset that secondhand fashion can be (personally, we are big fans), thrift hauls come with some pretty glaring disadvantages. Those downsides hinge on the question: can you overconsume secondhand?
Overconsumption is overconsumption, no matter the source. So, yes, you can overconsume secondhand. The problems of a thrift haul aren’t inherent to its secondhand source, but rather the problems lie primarily in the mindset and treatment of clothing.
Thrift hauls are still a materialization of the same mindsets and habits that fast fashion and consumer culture have created.
Haul videos of all kinds have demonstrated their effectiveness at driving more shopping and perpetuating a consumer-centric culture. They appeal to our human desire for newness. We know that the average consumer only wears an item 7 times before tossing it, and honestly, that figure is likely even lower for many of these ultra-fast fashion items featured in these haul videos thanks to a social media and influencer culture of “I can’t be seen twice in the same thing.”
If someone is buying dozens of items each season, each trend change, each trip to the thrift store, or each time they want that viewership boost of a haul video, that’s so much clothing that gets bought and discarded in a short amount of time. Buying so much cheap clothing at once makes it hard to really value it and feel responsible for caring for it, holding onto it, or intentionally rehoming it. Plus, secondhand shopping is “guilt-free” thanks to its eco-friendly benefits, making it even easier to justify more purchases.
There’s plenty of secondhand clothes to go around— way more than what gets resold. But thoughtlessly buying a bunch of it only to donate it back or, worse, throw it in the garbage within the year doesn’t actually help divert them from landfill. While it is better to buy secondhand than new in terms of production demand, thrift hauls are still a symptom of our larger problem: our culture’s addiction to new stuff with little regard to how that new stuff was made or where it goes when we are done with it. If we simply replace the fast fashion label with thrift finds or sustainable brands without cutting back on shopping overall, we are merely continuing on a similar trajectory of mindless consumption which eventually becomes waste.
While a thrift haul certainly isn’t as harmful as a SHEIN haul, it’s still more on the side of being another symptom of the problem rather than a solution to it. Ultimately, we have to move away from shopping in excess of any kind and be intentional about making additions to our wardrobes that truly serve us long term.