Hello everybody! Over the past months, I have been wanting to address a certain format that I myself have enjoyed in the past, that I have made myself in the past and that I recently have started to doubt. It is the good ol’ fashion haul format. If you don’t know what a fashion haul is, lemme bring you up to speed. The “haul video format” is a video premise where you will show what you have purchased. Originally, I both watched and made fashion hauls with clothing from fast fashion stores, but that was obviously before I started my zero waste journey. I remember being a young 18-year-old, watching YouTube videos about people buying obscene amounts of stuff and showing it to their subscribers, including me. This is what made me want to make similar videos. So the premise of the haul format is kind of a show-and-tell vibe.
So what is wrong with haul videos?
Seemingly, there is nothing wrong with showing what you have bought, in an ideal world. I still use the format weekly to show my zero waste groceries. But the problem with the haul format arises when they perpetuate and romanticize overspending, and overconsuming. Consumers will always be affected by what we consume, and this definitely goes for what type of content we consume online. If we watch people we idolize, or even just kind of this are cool, buy the same t-shirt in 4 different colours, 4 pairs of shoes, 3 jackets and 22 scented candles “just in case they need them” or “because there was a sale“, we will at one point or another start to think that such behavior is pretty normal. When in fact, it shouldn’t be.
Romanticizing fast fashion purchases is a huge problem because it taps into the idea that we constantly have to buy new things, even when we don’t actually need them. If people only bought what they needed, and repaired whatever broke, the fast fashion industry would not be among the most polluting industries in the world, it would not produce over 80 billion pieces of clothing every year and it would not have caused the global consumption of clothes to have increased with 400% over 20 years – but it has, and it does. Should we blame all of this on YouTubers who make haul videos? No, that seems a tad unfair, and also a vast simplification of the underlying structures of the fast fashion industry, but nonetheless, to say that they play no role at all, would also not be true.
So what about thrift hauls?
Now I have for the longest time not promoted fast fashion, I haven’t stepped foot in a fast fashion store for over 5 years, and I have solely relied on second-hand apps, thrift shops, and eco brands for clothing, and basically everything else. But I have also loved fashion, I have always loved experimenting with style and self-expression, so for that purpose, I have held on to the haul video format, however instead of fast fashion clothing, I have shown my second-hand finds and thrifted scoops.
However, during the pandemic, I have felt increasingly weird about posting a video showing what I found second hand, with all these intense things going on. I have had a feeling that this might seem tone-deaf and a little self-absorbed. I don’t know, perhaps that is being harsh, but I would also understand if people felt this way about that type of content. To resolve, this I have refrained from making more dedicated thrift haul videos, but rather included a thrifty element to my normal daily vlogs. So the entire video is not about Gittemary’s thrifted boots, it is a small 40 second-aspect of my day. Which I think read better given the circumstances. Check out the video down below, to see what I mean.
What is the future of thrift-hauls?
Now, I have so many thoughts about this, most of them seem to constantly be in conflict with each other, and while I seek to create the type of content that I persoanlly like myself, I reach out on YouTube and Instagram, to hear your thoughts on hauls, and it was super interesting to hear what you had to say, here is a recap.
THE PRO-THRIFT HAULS FOR INSPO STANCE: Here I generally show a postive attitude towards thrift hauls, to some of you they are inspirational because theys how that you can express your style and have fun with fashion without supporting the industry. I absolutely agree with this, and I am so happy that lots of you are sitting with this feeling, because that has been the purpose of my thrift hauls thus far. However, I also know there is more to the issue than this.
THE ANTI-THRIFT HAULS, BUT PRO-FASHION, STANCE: a large chunk of you seems to like sustainable/thrifted/eco fashion content, but simply feel that the show-and-tell format of thrift hauls is boring, uninspiring, and a little shallow. To this, I got loads of requests to do more styling content, more “shop your own wardrobe” content and generally focus more on a non-shopping based fashion routine that do not invovle any king buying new, not even second hand. I have already started to explore ways to make more fashion content, and I think it is an exellent point that you don¨t need to buy new/thrifted things to be stylish, but always should to work with what you already have
THE OVERCONSUMING IS OVERCONSUMING STANCE: I saw a couple of comment addressing the fact that just because we buy second hand we can still participate in the normalisation, and romantiazation, of overconsuming. Which I think is absolutely true. Constantly showing new finds, or promoting a certain type of consumer behavoir, will not only make people want to second hand shop more, it will also make people want to shop more, period. I think it is extremely important that we address this in the fashion content we produce as content creators. On the other hand, a thrift haul does not have to have anything to do with overconsuming if you actually NEED the stuff you are showing. I think this stance is good example of how affected the whole “haul format” is by the tradition of overconsuming, to the extent where it is really difficult to seperate the video format for then practise that often comes with it, although I wouldn’t say it is a universal given that a thrifted haul is overconsuming – but again here the content creator would have to, not only talk about the garment, but also the sustainabel reasonaing behing its purchase.
THE JUST CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE STANCE: I get where this is coming from for sure, the whole “haul” format is so affiliated with overconsuming, and specifically fast fashion that those connotations will always linger, even when applying a certain level of sustainability. I got a fair amount of comments telling me to simply not call the videos “thrift hauls” but rather something else. However, for me, the problem is not as much the name as it is the practise. The name is not to blame for the problems this format has caused, and thus, changing the name will not fix it, that is sort of where I am at.
Now, I wouldn’t expect everyone to agree on where I land on this, that seems a bit far-fetched, some people will always find the content you make uninteresting or boring, and a long time ago, I made the decision to not try and please everyone. I am not going to stop making fashion content, because I thoroughly enjoy it. I am not going to stop talking about thrift shopping, or styling or self-expression because those things are a very vital part of who I am. My platform is so thoroughly dedicated to conscious consumer education, and while that means giving up on certain things, or cutting certain content out of your life, that also entails that I cannot accept a video format to take the sole responsibility for peoples overconsumption – we have expect more from ourselves and each other than that. This is not to say that I don’t think that a lot of hauls are unsustainable, unethical and unnecessary, I think that a lot of them are, but that has more to do with the values of the content creators who make them, than the format of the video, in my opinion. If we accept that a video format can be responsible for overconsuming, even if the items shown are second hand, if we accept that showing a second hand item will influence people to make unsustainable choices, then that will be case no matter if that item is presented in a haul video, or in a styling video, or in a vlog. I want to constantly rethink and reflect upon the impact of my content, but I also think it would be an unnessessary step to take, to remove previous hauls, or never talk about new thrift finds again, in fear of having a passive or third-hand negative impact. Especially considering how my platform is so devoted to the opposite. I will have to trust that I am able to communicate a conscious way of being, even in this regard. Will I take up making haul after haul now? No, I probably won’t. Right now, I will look at certain other ways to talk about these things, like a video about 10 tips of how to find what you are looking for in thrift stores, how to shop your own wardrobe or my top 10 all-time favourite thrift finds. But it is also not unlikely that a conscious version of the haul will find its way back onto my channel. Because my overall goal is, and has always been, to provide as many different tips and guides to living a more sustainable life as possible, and for people who are in different phases of their sustainable journey. To some, that means challenging themselves to a year without buying anything, and to others it means just starting to refuse fast fashion. We need both, and everybody in between.