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Gen Z Ditches Streetwear Stars for Prep-School Panache, The RealReal Finds

Streetwear’s undisputed reign may be coming to an end, according to The RealReal. The secondhand marketplace’s annual resale report, published Thursday, analyzed data from the platform’s 23 million global members, comparing the first half of 2021 to the same period the year prior. The findings revealed a marked evolution in trends, especially among young shoppers.

While the casual dressing style remains a strong sales driver for the platform, consumers are drifting away from clout chasing with established streetwear leaders like Supreme and instead going preppy, TRR found. “We’re seeing the most cutting-edge streetwear shoppers move beyond chasing hyped collabs and drops in favor of following streetwear back to its roots,” Sean Conway, The RealReal’s sneaker and streetwear expert, said. These shoppers are latching onto the reemergence of an aesthetic reminiscent of Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Nautica’s influence from the ’90s, he added. The era’s prevailing look was defined by the pairing of preppy staples like button-downs with more urban influences, like workwear and sneakers.

“At the same time, as skate and streetwear pioneers mature, they’re blending sports and outdoor gear into their street style,” Conway added. Brands like Casablanca (up 358 percent), Polo Ralph Lauren (up 234 percent), Salomon (up 188 percent) and Stussy (up 183 percent) have benefited from this shift. By contrast, Supreme saw sales fall by 6 percent, while Vetements (down 24 percent), Yeezy (down 25 percent) and Off-White x Nike (down 29 percent) all took a hit.

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While appetites are changing, the luxury resale market is seeing record growth, TRR’s numbers indicate. The marketplace attracted 6 million new members over the past year alone, underscoring a skyrocketing demand for secondhand goods, namely premium and luxury items. In the past year, 29 percent of TRR shoppers said they made their first pre-owned luxury purchase.

Meanwhile, 45 percent of TRR’s consignors in Q1 admitted to being new to the reselling game. And resale enthusiasts are starting younger: the company’s data indicates 1.4X more first-time consignors ranged between the ages of 18-34 over the past two years than in previous periods. Within the Gen Z demographic alone, buyers on TRR have increased by 33 percent and sellers have ballooned by 86 percent.

Many shoppers are citing a newfound affinity for conscious consumption as a reason for gravitating to TRR. Forty-three percent of buyers fingered sustainability concerns as a reason for shopping on the platform, while 40 percent said they purchased used goods from the site to avoid fast fashion. “Our data suggests Gen Z will be the most conscious shoppers yet,” Rati Sahi Levesque, the company’s president, said, noting that demand for sustainable brands doubled among Gen Zers in the past 12 months, surpassing even “value-conscious” millennials.

Young shoppers are also increasing their investments in pieces they believe will hold value, with the contingent of Gen Z buyers making high-value purchases growing by 61 percent year over year, and millennials increasing their big-ticket buys by 39 percent. These shoppers are also cashing in on past purchases, with high-value Gen Z consignors growing by 110 percent from the year prior, and the percentage of millennial sellers hawking luxury goods growing by 50 percent.

Gucci is the No. 1 brand among this age cohort and shoppers at large, with both purchases and consignments for the brand growing by more than 60 percent year over year. While millennials still dominate luxury resale, their older counterparts, Gen X, are the No. 1 buyers and consignors of Gucci on the platform. The Italian label now ties with Louis Vuitton for most-searched luxury brand on the site, followed by Chanel, Prada and Dior.

Emerging Black-owned, Brooklyn-based brand Telfar had a banner year, with lust over the label’s perpetually sold-out handbags driving demand up 590 percent. Interest in Telfar’s leather bags increased nine times over the previous year, with the company’s Small Shopping Bag as its No. 1 most-wanted product.The item’s resale value tripled year over year, TRR said.

“The rise in high-value purchases we saw after Covid began has accelerated this year, suggesting a lasting change in how luxury is viewed,” said Mayank Hajela, TRR’s senior director of merchandising. “Younger generations have embraced newer forms of investment such as crypto and NFTs, and they’re now looking to luxury goods, which can yield significant returns even after a piece has been worn.”

Vintage handbags in particular represent an appealing investment for millennial and Gen Z shoppers, who have driven up prices on iconic heritage styles. The Gucci Jackie Bag has seen over 100 percent average sale price growth since 2019, while Chanel’s Flap Bag has seen prices increase by more than 80 percent on average. Sales prices on the Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 bag have gone up by about 25 percent during the same time period, while the Hermes Constance bag’s prices climbed more than 20 percent.

Certain styles have also emerged as resale value stars, TRR said, including the Hermes Mini Kelly 20, which resells at a 162 percent value, the Hermes Birkin 30 (157 percent) and Louis Vuitton Multi Pochette Accessoires (137 percent).

Outside of luxury labels, Gen Z is also coveting sneakers more than any other demographic, TRR said. Lace-up kicks rank No. 5 among young shoppers’ most searched items, “while they don’t even crack the top 10 for other demos,” it said. Conversely, millennials and women are cashing in on their purchases, with high-value consignors growing by 383 percent year over year. Nike styles retain the highest resale value across the board, with collabs like Nike x Tom Sachs’ NikeCraft Mars Yard 2.0, the Nike x Kanye West Air Yeezy Red October and the Nike SB Dunk Low Grateful Dead seeing maximum resale values of up to 3,350 percent of their original price.

The Gen Z cohort is also eschewing blazers and blouses (consigned at rates 180 percent and 212 percent higher than last year) for knitwear and sleeveless tops, which have seen sales blossom by 59 percent and 39 percent, respectively. Doubling down on a popular refrain, TRR’s numbers indicate that skinny jeans are out, with young shoppers’ consignments of the tapered style rising 205 percent, while straight-leg styles topped their must-have lists.

Among shoppers of all ages, another notable and unexpected trend has emerged. Vintage Japanese luxury men’s wear has been on the upswing, said Dominik Halas, a master vintage authenticator for The RealReal. “The rising international availability of Japanese brands, coupled with a significant halo effect from celebrity adoption and collaborations like Supreme x Yohji Yamamoto, is driving a surge in demand for vintage menswear by Japanese brands,” he said.

From the 1980s through the early 2000s, these designers crafted avant-garde pieces that balked common trends, he said—and now, they’re finally getting their due. “For many of the most desired brands, which are no longer in production, resale is the only way to acquire a piece of their work,” he added.

Men’s wear from Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme and Matsuda has seen strong growth in resale value, Halas said.