Millennials came of age with the flourishing resale markets on Craigslist and eBay. They’re accustomed to what’s been called the “disposable culture,” in which goods are commonly discarded even though they’ve barely been used. Right now, they’re also fairly likely to be broke due to some combination of unemployment, underemployment, and/or student debt. All of which helps make the clothing swap concept a big hit with Gen Y.
The term “clothing swap” doesn’t sound particularly hip or trendy. It sounds, instead, like something that might be covered in a column named “Ms. Cheap” in a place like Tennessee, which, in fact, it is.
Nonetheless, clothing swaps—or the slightly hipper-sounding “apparel swaps”—are “a hot ticket for Americans aged 18 to 34” right now, reports a Bloomberg story. Swaps are organized by various social-networking sites, clothing-swap-specific sources like SavvySwaps.com, and sometimes just by groups of friends (and friends of friends) who decide to clean out their closets for mass trades. Anyone participating is expected to bring their old gently used fashions to the gathering, and take home only that which they’ll incorporate into their own wardrobes.
(MORE: The Declining Economic Might of the 18 to 34 Demographic)
Clothing swaps became hot around 2009, a year when frugality reached the heights of chic. Now, it seems, millennials have jumped onto the idea as a sensible alternative to dropping $40 on a T-shirt at the mall, according to an expert quoted by Bloomberg:
“People are saying, ‘I can at least figure out another way to look like I’m wearing something new and fresh without spending top dollar on it, or waiting for it to go on sale and not being able to find my size,’” said Alison Paul, who leads the retail group at Deloitte LLP in Chicago.
At a time when a large percentage of young adults are poor and still live with their parents, it’s no wonder they’re open to swaps and secondhand merchandise. Millennials, a new survey indicates, also aren’t particularly picky when it comes to brands. The survey, from WSL Strategic Retail, shows that 60% of millennials will choose a cheaper priced item over their usual brand.
(MORE: Study: Millennials Are Biggest Suckers for Selfish Impulse Buys)
While money—or lack thereof—plays a role here, millennials have demonstrated that they won’t simply follow along with the consumer habits established by previous generations, nor with what marketers tell them is cool or necessary. For instance, they’re not particularly into cars, and they aren’t big wine drinkers compared to older generations. That’s quite convenient, considering that car aficionados and high-end wine connoisseurs are prone to spending lots of money on their enjoyments—money the typical millennial doesn’t have.
Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.