Do hand-me-down clothes impact a child’s ‘individuality’ as they grow up? Here are the pros and cons, according to experts

Hand-me-downs are an eco-friendly and economical choice for many parents, but how do they affect a child?

child pulling on a jumper over their head
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Hand-me-down clothes have long been a wardrobe staple for many kids and now experts have revealed how second-hand clothes can impact a child's 'individuality' as they grow up. 

There are so many adorable kids clothes on the market right now, from a brand new Gruffalo clothing collection to some sweet Peppa Pig clothing that's perfect for summer holidays. But while the prices of many high-street clothing pieces are low, the speed at which kids grow out of their wardrobes means the cost stacks up - and quickly. 

For decades, if not centuries, the answer to this problem has been to re-use clothes. Whether it's an older sibling passing down items to their younger sibling, or a cousin gifting all their too-small clothes to younger relatives, it's not uncommon for the younger members of a family to be dressed in hand-me-downs. 

The purse-friendly and environmentally conscious wardrobe hack is only growing in popularity as we become more climate-conscious and our budgets are stretched ever-tighter thanks to rising nursery costs and the increased cost of childcare

But experts have now warned that second-hand wardrobes could be affecting kids' approach to their own identity as they grow up. Talking to The Huffington Post, Dr. Shira Schuster, a licensed psychologist of Williamsburg Therapy Group, revealed, “Some adults who wore hand-me-down clothing as children might place more emphasis on how they dress as a way to show their individuality or as a way to feel like they ‘finally’ get to wear what they want."

However, it's not likely to have too much of an impact. Schuster added, "Many people who wore hand-me-down clothing growing up probably don’t give it much thought as they get older.”

Rachel McCarron, a therapist who specialises in working with children, believes that the popularisation of secondhand shopping has flipped the stigma of hand-me-downs into a positive, promising parents that it's unlikely their kids will feel 'shame' even if they aren't wearing the newest clothes like many of their peers are.

She said, “I’ve definitely had clients who have been the recipients of hand-me-downs, and in my experience I’ve never heard kids or their parents identify this as being an area of concern or a trigger for anxiety or shame."

In fact, Schuster believes hand-me-downs can actually have a positive effect on a child, especially when it comes to sibling relationships. “It can make a younger sibling feel a connection to an older sibling through wearing something the older sibling once did," she said.

It's great news for parents who are worried about their younger kids feeling frustrated at their wardrobes. It's understandable to be worried about such a thing but testimony has showed that hand-me-downs can be just as exciting, if not more so, than new clothes and they can also instil eco-conscious values in kids that they carry forward into adulthood. 

One woman revealed, “If I knew [my hand-me-downs] came from my childhood best friend's older sister, it was pre-vetted and was inherently cool. I was instantly, immediately cooler. Lots of times their parents bought them new Abercrombie from the mall. And the hand-me-downs were often cooler brands and they were ‘pre-approved’ by cool aspirational older girls, so that meant I was cool to wear them and I was cool because they gave them to me.

“Especially now, as a society we’re more environmentally conscious and I feel more aware of the amount of waste that exists in fast fashion. Aside from underwear, some leggings, socks and bras — I get almost every single thing I own secondhand. It really helps that I can do this from the comfort and convenience of my phone, but I’m no stranger to [charity shops]. I’ve even convinced my husband of the merits and glory of secondhand shopping.”

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.