Yesterday I crossed the point in China where the weather changed from "cool enough to put a jumper on a night sometimes" to "You need more layers". And I am continuing further north to Ulan Bator, Outer Mongolia.

As I began the trip in August in Southeast Asia I did not bring warm clothes because they can be bulky and I expected them to be easily obtainable, even cheaper, once I needed them when in a cold location.

I'm now in Xi'an in Saanchi province. It's a big city and I'm staying in a backpacker hostel here. I asked at the desk if there was somewhere I could buy used/second-hand winter clothing. They looked quite puzzled as if nobody would ever think of such a thing in China.

I've bought used clothing easily enough in other developing countries with cold winters. Such shops were everywhere in Georgia. I also know it's easy enough to buy used clothing in developed western countries like Australia and the US. I've even bought used western clothes in a big trendy store in Tokyo where there seems to be a certain niche for such things.

Even though there's more and more rich people in China and luxury malls are everywhere, most people are still poor. Is it really the case that the non-rich in China don't buy and sell second-hand clothes? How can I find such places? Is there such a shop in Xi'an?

I'm expecting cold but dry and not windy. I expect to need a coat, gloves, and warm socks. A traveller heading south already donated a pair of longjohns and a cashmere shirt/jumper. I have a lot of extra cotton layers.

(I know I can buy inexpensive new clothing but as a non-winter-specialist I'd have more faith that a used but known brand would perform well, than a new but obscure Chinese brand.)

  • 5
    15 years ago you could buy known brands with stitching errors at markets in xi'an and beijing. It is not second hand though
    – user141
    Nov 19, 2013 at 6:33

1 Answer 1


I would recommend you to go to one of the malls in the area. The malls in the 3rd tier cities have more and more factory outlets inside where you can buy quite cheap branded (genuine) goods.

Personally I have never seen used clothes shops in China either. What you can try alternatively are "wet markets" or street markets. There is no guarantee of course if those products are genuine or not., most likely they are fake.

I am afraid that in the poorer areas people simply cannot afford brands that you can recognize and therefore there are also no used clothing shops. People nowadays rather sells such clothes online since the market is so much easier to manage than running a retail outlet with it. Retail space is very expensive in China because of the real estate boom.

Also I heard that there is a certain hesitance in China to wear clothes that used to belong to someone unknown.

  • 2
    The problem with fake and "possibly fake" is you often don't know just how low the quality is until they fall apart. With used clothes you just have to worry about easy to spot things like stains and wear and tear. I wouldn't say that Australians or Japanese lack a hesitance to wear pre-owned clothes. There's just enough people that can't afford new (opportunity shops) or have an alternative mindset (retro, recycling, etc) that stuff is findable if not common. Nov 19, 2013 at 11:13
  • 1
    @hippietrail nobody will tell you if the used jackets are genuine or not.
    – uncovery
    Nov 19, 2013 at 15:42

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