Second-hand Style Challenge: The Overhead Shirt

When I decided a few months ago that I needed to find a more sustainable approach to menswear and fashion, I initially just focused on finding sustainable clothing brands. What I didn’t realise at the time, as I described in my recent post, was how important second-hand clothing is to the whole sustainable fashion idea. From a sustainability perspective buying second-hand is usually much better than buying new (even when the new equivalent has been manufactured responsibly).

Although this seems fairly obvious in hindsight, buying second-hand clothing is something I’ve just never done. I’m very fortunate to have always been employed since the age of 16. That, combined with the availability of low-cost fast-fashion on the high street, has meant that I’ve always been able to afford the luxury of buying new. Initially I felt slightly uneasy about the idea of wearing clothes that have been worn by someone else, but as reported in the retail gazette, it’s a trend that’s growing at pace.

2/3 of consumers would buy 2nd-hand clothes, with 15% more women saying they would than men

Retail Gazette, March 2020

I figured that to properly commit to a more sustainable purchasing habits, I needed to at least give this a try and see how I get on.

Having spotted this outfit that I liked on pinterest, I set myself the challenge of sourcing a similar brown overhead shirt on the second-hand market. The outfit in the picture appealed to me not only because it looked good for summer, but I thought it was a fit for my current ‘working-from-home/chilled-weekend’ mashup of a lifestyle. When I was commuting regularly to London, I wore typical office ‘smart-casual’ during the day and then changed into something more relaxed in the evenings. Over the last few months in lockdown, that boundary has blurred and I find my choice of clothing has changed with it. I find myself increasingly looking for clothes that can carry me through a day of video calls right into the evening.

My first task was figuring out where to look. Vestaire Collective had some nice beige overshirt examples, but not specifically in this overhead style I was looking for. I spent some time looking through Depop; my main challenge with using that site was that the photography is often quite poor so it’s really difficult to get a sense of what the quality of the item is like. Again, there were some beige overshirts, but overhead shirts. I was beginning to think that I should have started with an easier challenge…maybe a simple white T-shirt?!

I ended up on ebay and after quite some time searching, I came across this used Farah, sand-coloured overhead shirt. It wasn’t exactly the same as the reference image but it had similar aesthetic qualities. Plus it was being sold for £17, so not a huge outlay given that it was a ‘label’. Farah has been a British menswear staple brand since the 70’s; I remember growing up in Coventry and wearing my Farah ‘sta press’ trousers with pride during the late 70’s Two-tone era.

It was slightly unnerving to me that the seller didn’t offer any returns, I was basically committing to this shirt based on a description and a photo. Nonetheless, I took the plunge and bought it.

A few days later it arrived. Upon examination it looked in perfect condition. I gave it a brief wash to freshen it up, got up on Saturday morning and threw it on (see picture above) and went out for a for a walk in a local country park with my wife. I’m really happy with it.

It’s not perfect in terms of what I was looking for; I’m short but take a medium shirt due to my chest and shoulder broadness which means that shirts can be on the long side. This one is ok but to achieve the layering look of the pinterest reference image, it needs to be shorter to that the bottom of the T-shirt hangs out. I guess I could always get that altered if I was that bothered about it (I probably won’t).

So that was it; my first second-hand clothing purchase and it was all relatively painless. I like the shirt, it fulfils the outfit requirement that I had in mind, it didn’t cost me a fortune and best of all, I didn’t fuel the fast-fashion machine by going and buying something from the large online retailers (which is probably what I would have done before previously). All in all a success.

I might do this again, so stay tuned for more second-hand style challenges..

Note – in the top image it might look like there’s a stain on the shirt to the left of the collar. It’s not a stain, it’s just damp patch where I’d steam-ironed the shirt before laying it out 🙂

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