Just when I thought I was out of Depop, the secondhand clothing platform has pulled me back in, with a message offering up to 40% off “blokecore”. I struggle to explain – even to myself – how or why I ended up regularly trespassing on a site where “90% of our active users are under 26”, and their preferred category of vintage is “Y2K”. Of my active wardrobe, 90% is Y2K – and the rest wishes it was.
But there’s something alluring about Depop. Partly, it’s an instant shot of youth, the kind you would pay many francs for in a Swiss clinic. Is that what the kids wear, I think, baffled but invigorated, looking at corset tops (“sooo stunning”) and acid-washed cargos (“insane”). It also feels like a force for good. The app’s popularity – $1bn (£940m) made to date by the Depop community – seems like a positive rejection of fast fashion. Of course, there is some buying and flipping of grimly unethical tat, but most sellers seem genuinely creative with, and excited by, old clothes.
There is also an anarchic charm to the platform. You can get anything there: customised Covid tests, handmade A-level flashcards, a miniature plastic bin doubling as a handbag, even absolution – recently someone offered a $5 “Virtual Catholic confession penance” (“I perform all penances at holy table … #angelcore #lolita”). The enthusiastic rebranding of ordinary stuff – and stuff I would run from screaming – is bizarre and obscurely pleasing. “Remember when the jumper I liked the look of was tagged #goblincore?” reminisces my friend Marianne, who has gone even deeper on Depop than I have and forwards me many gems.
I also enjoy the chaos intrinsic to 26 million gen-Zers sending each other emoji-strewn, oversharing offers by private message, and tackling the ultimate “adulting” that is the post office. Much of that chaos is gleefully catalogued on the life-affirming @depopdrama Instagram account, from spats (there are lots of spats) to the grim bran tub of items left in pockets: a vibrating butt plug, a belly button ring, a live cockroach. Then there are the inventive excuses for not posting items: grounded, hit by electric scooter or phone dropped “in a crevice in KFC”. The Queen’s death has featured heavily and, I am sorry to say, unconvincingly, in recent weeks.
Short of cash and opportunities to wear my former life Y2K wardrobe of trouser suits and LBDs, I moved from Depop lurker to active seller earlier this year. I inveigled my husband to take pictures of me in “fun” poses – a marital activity I absolutely do not recommend – and laboriously listed my items. I followed advice for successful Depop selling, including suggesting where you could wear the outfit (“the past?”) using hashtags (#outofmydepth), and bought bags of sweets and pretty labels to send out with my sales. Then … nothing. Gen-Z may love vintage but mine failed to generate a flicker of interest. The only items I sold were a Zara shirt and two pairs of very fancy heels (bought shortly after my mother’s death in a moment of “it’s what she would have wanted” madness). The first pair was snapped up with absolutely no chat or emojis by a Depop seller who covers Louboutin shoes in Swarovski crystals and sells them on for hundreds. The second, by a 52-year-old who wanted them for burlesque classes: delightful, but not the core demographic.
I was then seduced into spending my meagre proceeds on a skirt from a popular seller who promptly vanished for a month. The veneer of laid-back chill on my unanswered messages to her wore thinner and thinner until eventually she re-emerged (“dissertation and personal stuff”; broken heart emojis) and the skirt arrived. There were no pocket surprises, but I haven’t worn it. Depop bamboozled me into forgetting how wedded to my uniform of allotment-core (a sub-genre yet to trend) I am.
All that remains of my Depopping is £15 on PayPal, which I have no idea how to access, and the memories. It’s no country for old women, but at least I get regular notifications on what’s hot. Blokecore, if you’re curious, seems to be football strips and tassled loafers of the kind Frank Butcher from EastEnders would wear. Just the update my look needs?
• Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist
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