Thrifting: Trendy or Harmful? By Nicole Obi
In recent years, thrifting has become a staple in fashion culture. Thrift stores have been around since the 1920s, when they were known as second-hand resale stores, but now at least one thrift shop can be found in every town across the U.S. With thrifting’s low environmental impact and price range, it’s no wonder it’s taken the fashion world by storm. A simple 30 dollar budget could get you a handful of cute clothing items at a thrift store, especially with the rise of trends such as Y2K and streetwear. If you look closely enough, you can even find rare designer items—I once found a super cute Dior bag for only 5 dollars! Looking up thrifting on YouTube brings thousands of videos of people vlogging their trips to the thrift store and their massive hauls.
A lot of my favorite outfits have been made up entirely of thrift store finds, yet no one would know unless I told them. In pre-pandemic times, trying on crazy outfits at a thrift shop with my best friend was one of our favorite ways to hangout. I’ll never forget the joy of finding the perfect pair of pants to complete the outfit I’d been imagining in my head. Even if I didn’t end up finding anything at a particular thrift store, I would simply take a short trip to another one and shop there. At the end of the day, even if I can’t find anything (and that never happens) shopping itself is a fun way to spend time.
Though fun to do and exciting to see how low the price we end up paying is, the popularization of thrifting can end up being harmful to individuals who truly need it. In the past, thrifting was taboo due to concerns about cleanliness and poverty. Thrifting was the main way for low-income families to clothe their children. Ever since it became the trendy way to shop, influencers and celebrities alike leave the stores with much more than they should, leaving a meager selection behind. Some resellers on apps like Depop thrift exclusively for the reason of buying clothes for cheap and then resell them for crazy marked-up prices to make a profit. Many users have called out Depop resellers for exploiting thrift stores and thrift culture for a quick buck. For marginalized communities, it’s disheartening to see that something they were once made fun of for doing is now popular and even profitable!
Not to mention the fact that larger sizes are notoriously rare in thrift stores, just like any store. Now that baggier clothes and upcycling have once again become trendy, clothes that were already scarce have become even more so. Unconsciously, something we find so fun can impact others in more ways than we realize.
I’m not trying to say everyone who isn’t at some sort of economic disadvantage should stop thrifting. That would be hypocritical, as it has become one of my favorite hobbies. But we need to be conscious of our privilege if we aren’t thrifting out of necessity. Instead of going on 200 dollar sprees and clearing out sections, trendy shoppers must be more mindful and leave some cute clothes for the underprivileged. They want to look good too, especially knowing that they don’t need to break their bank for some fire fits. We also need to be respectful with hiked up resell prices—it just isn’t fair to buy an item for 5 dollars and sell it for $45. Happy conscious and trendy thrifting!