Thrift store culture and environmentalism might have more in common than you think. Maybe you thought the only reason a person would shop at a Goodwill is because they’re poor, they’re trying too hard, or they’re Macklemore (Yes, that’s a link to that song). But go beyond the post-hipsterism and judging people based on their economic status. You’re better than that.
In Australia, the “op shop” is used by everyone. Any stupid stigmas that mass consumerism has ingrained in us are completely absent there. Just think to yourself “W.W.M.I.A.D: ‘What would M.I.A do?
The answer is thrift.
Thrift stores have become this strange mix of fringe and mainstream culture. They’re not quite department stores and not quite a malls but all of a sudden they’re kind of trendy. It’s probably because they’re timeless and exist for everyone. Weirdo’s, hipsters, welfare kids, bargain hunters, the terminally fashionable, environmentalists, collectors, pragmatists, and treasure hunters all converge under one roof to seek out their own personal aesthetic. What’s really cool is that it isn’t standard consumerism. Thrift stores actually decrease your carbon footprint and reduce overall waste.
A guide for the uninitiated and curious:
The word thrift is sort of annoying because it’s inherently connected to saving money. Which is a big deal, to be sure, but also isn’t the only reason for recommending thrift stores. They’re a great eclectic mix of everything a consumer or collector might need or want without the overhead or headache of box stores. The added bonus is the ability to discover news things and customize to your personal taste without regards to current trends (retro will always be cool.)
But also think of choice. At the mall, you’re confronted with racks of the same items. That brand’s vision of the perfect ‘little black dress’ for this season or their take on a particular fall fashion that won’t be en vogue by spring. You end up paying a premium for items that won’t have a shelf life, are poorly made, and which you’re likely to see worn by friends, co-workers and (gasp) rivals. Sure, we don’t live in a future where everyone wears the same silver jumpsuits but if you only shop at the mall we might as well.
Nothing is perfect, not even thrift. Part of why thrift and boutique isn’t for everyone all of the time is specificity. The ability to single-mindedly envision an exact, specific brand or accessory you need and then go grab that thing at a moment’s notice isn’t the way thrift shops roll. Whereas thrift can offer choice, savings, and an environmental good citizen badge, there is dependability at mall stores. Need a black bow tie now? Want the exact item your favorite movie character was wearing? Enter: The mall. Same goes for cutting edge threads. If you absolutely have to have rave pants or stone wash low rise skinny jeans you might find them at a thrift shop but you’re better off going to the source for those duds.
When it comes to consumer electronics don’t expect new or even newish. Thrift stuff is good for pragmatic buys but if you need a monitor or television and you want something from this decade, you’re probably sifting through the wrong kinda store.
Thrift furniture can be a blast. It’s like antiquing for people who aren’t wealthy and bored with their lives. Just be sure to check whatever you’re buying from top to bottom. Take off the cushions, look everywhere (pee). Another issue with thrift most people have is that it’s a hands-on experience. You have to look for rips, tears, stains. You have to make sure electronics work, you have to make sure it’s the brand or the label you can live with. Some people don’t want the trouble.
Thrift Like a Pro
Thrift often. You can’t go to a Savers once, not find exactly what you were looking for, and then give up on it altogether. You have to go often and look at what’s available from an idea of your own personal style. Be open to inspiration and experimentation. Generally, a good idea is to pick out items that grab your attention on the rack, make sure they fit and always color coordinate. Remember that personal style, fit, and coordination are universal truths that will outlive trends. Do a quick scan for holes or stains and try it on in the dressing room.
You’re also going to have to shop around. Instead of hitting the mall for a couple of hours, making some impulse purchases and chowing down on food. Why not go on a thrifting adventure at a few stores. Do some treasure hunting.
Keep An Open Mind
Thrift stores aren’t just about clothes and vintage. If you’re looking to enjoy the second renaissance of board games then a thrift store is a great place to check out some classics for cheap. Books and vintage magazines are plentiful as are things like speakers, record players, typewriters, and amps. It’s also, generally, a great place for a wide range of dining sets (unless you’re happy with the flat black Ikea set that literally everyone on Earth owns.) Think of every thrift store as the ultimate garage sale. You might walk away with a hockey stick, vintage clothes, new furnishings, a mini fridge or a framed poster of Dolly Parton. All of these are necessities.
Just…make sure it’s stuff you actually need. You won’t make it in the thrift shop game if you spend on silly stuff you wouldn’t have bought anywhere else. Put down the velour tracksuit — unless you’ll really wear it.
The Sustainability Factor
#WorldRecycleWeek is here and thrifting is — by its very nature — reducing, reusing, and recycling. The planet is heating up, resources are depleted, and we’re all familiar with the feeling of not having enough money in our pocket and all the worries and hardships that come with that. Every single one of those issues is eased by hitting up a thrift store instead of the mall. That doesn’t quite make you one of the Avengers just because you decided to supplement your wardrobe with some thrift flair here and there, but you’re definitely doing your little part to help save the world.