The situation will be familiar to many people. The closet is full of clothes, but without stopping to think about it too much you just add to cart online that sweater from cashmere from your favorite brand. As the transaction closes, you are convinced of the purchase and you counter the criticism your brain starts throwing at you with arguments that are difficult to refute: it’s an investment in your wardrobe, it’s at a very good price, you’ll wear it without stop… However, that feeling of guilt when purchasing something you really don’t need overshadows any hint of happiness you may feel when you receive the confirmation email of your purchase. The phenomenon is not new, nor is it limited to shopping (see, for example, eco-guilt or the shame of not doing enough to protect the environment).

In Sweden, they even invented a term to define this behavior of feeling very guilty after buying clothes. with the name of kopskam, the Swedes allude to the feeling of shame experienced when buying unnecessary clothes. The concept has become popular in recent years in a country where climate activism has gained momentum thanks to personalities like Greta Thunberg, a native of Stockholm, who has stated on more than one occasion that she does not buy new clothes. It is not the first time that this type of phenomenon has been conceptualized. In 2018, media around the world echoed the neologism flysgkam (feeling guilty about flying), a term that also originated in Sweden and gave rise to an opposition movement called tagskyrtthe pride of traveling by train, a less polluting means of transport.

In addition to concern for the environment, the phenomenon is also linked to the need to explore other forms of consumption. It could therefore be defined as a response to the unbridled consumerism that has driven the textile industry since the 1990s. When garment factories moved to outsource to countries where labor rights are non-existent and labor is cheap, clothing became highly affordable and production exploded, with tens of thousands of new garments coming onto the market every day. We quickly got used to buying dresses for ten euros and T-shirts for five. The success of ultra-fast fashion giants among younger generations shows how deeply rooted this form of fast consumption is today. But compared to those who continue to bet on “disposable” fashion, there are buyers who have developed a certain conscience and this is where the feeling of guilt for consuming arises in the midst of a consumer society.

How to avoid or learn to manage then that shame or kopskam, as they say in Sweden? Dr. Núria Aragay Vicente, a psychology specialist at the Brain 360 Institute, points out the importance of identifying and combating this feeling of guilt and points out some tools “to be able to shop for pleasure, but that do not cause us a feeling of lack of control or negative consequences”. , suggests “planning the maximum number of pleasure products that we want to buy each month” or switching purchases over the internet to physical stores, “where we can see the object, try it on, calmly analyze whether it is going well, etc.”, points out the specialist.

screen shopping

Although some studies indicate that it is in physical stores where more impulse purchases are made (this was the conclusion of a 2019 report prepared by the company Geoblink, specialized in data and geolocation), personalized advertising in the digital medium makes the task even more difficult. . difficult for those looking to reduce their spending on fashion. E-commerce has made our lives a lot easier by simplifying any process to a minimum, so much so that currently 47.43% of Spaniards shop online monthly and repeatedly, according to the annual Confidence of Spaniards in online fashion shopping by Showroomprive and the Confianza Online portal.

If you’re among that percentage that expands their wardrobe on a monthly basis, you’ll know that the vast majority of clothes you buy, you really don’t need. The digital universe doesn’t help much and encourages this unbridled consumption. However, little by little, on social networks like TikTok, challenges begin to proliferate where people are challenged not to buy for several months and to practice the so-called fashion fasting (something like “fashion fasting”). “Seven weeks into my challenge of going six months without buying clothes”, says one of the videos included in the trend, where tiktoker @ru_pitman extracts several lessons from her experience without buying clothes, noting that once you get used to it, it’s not that difficult to adjust to this new routine.

On the other hand, the famous clothing and cosmetics pitches continue to occupy a significant volume of views, videos where a content creator reveals everything he bought in a certain store in front of the camera, usually from a fast fashion chain, such as Shein . , preferred among centenarians.

The guilt of buying clothes we don’t need isn’t motivated solely by environmental awareness. There are other factors, as varied as one’s personality, that influence this sociological phenomenon. Inma Brea, trainer and an expert in human behavior determines that “the sense of guilt that some people experience when buying something they don’t need depends largely on their values ​​and beliefs about money, the financial education they received and the influence of their environment. Blame can be spending more money than we can afford, the environmental and social impact of excessive production and consumption of material goods. The specialist finds similarities between the so-called kopskam and the relationship that some people develop with food when they claim that if clothes are bought with the aim of “meeting other needs or calming emotions, this can be similar to the feeling of guilt we feel when we eat on impulse or restriction”.

Second hand and repair, alternative to new clothes

It is no coincidence that the rise of vintage fashion today coincides with society’s development of greater environmental awareness. The shift in mindset in Spain towards second-hand clothing, a habit more common in big cities but anecdotal elsewhere, is reflected in the numbers. According to data provided by Humana, a non-profit organization, in 2022 used clothing sales increased by 22%. The same brands that promote this dynamic of “buying for the sake of buying” have been able to identify the potential of clothing pre-loved and start to offer services in this sense. But there are more options if you don’t intend to invest in new clothes. Mending old or deteriorated clothes, an ancient custom that is regaining splendor, is postulated as another way to advocate for sustainable consumption. Of course, the practice hasn’t gone unnoticed on security experts’ radar either. marketing behind the big brands, many of which have implemented free repair services.

Any of these alternatives could mitigate the shame of buying too many clothes, but the truth is that the phenomenon of kopskam So far, it has not affected the textile sector, a business that is experiencing a good moment in Spain in terms of sales. A study prepared by Kantar for Modacc indicated that revenue in 2022 was 14.9% above the previous year. That is, we are buying more and more, so there will be kopskam for a while.

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