Why thrift? To quote Macklemore: “That shirt’s hella dough / And having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don’t.”
Okay you’re right, that song is hella out of date, but thrift shopping has become a typical phenomenon associated with the youthful demographic in recent years.
Once practiced predominantly by those who could not afford to shop at high-priced retail stores, the emergence of thrifting in mainstream culture has resulted in a drastic market expansion. According to the Association of Resale Professionals, the number of resale stores in America has grown by 7% a year over the past two years.
On one hand, thrifting is an affordable way for young people to use fashion as an instrument of self-expression. What’s more, the normalization of thrifting has removed the stigma associated with second-hand clothing.
However, the more recent trend of “thrifting for profit” undermines most of the positive aspects of thrifting. E-commerce applications such as Depop and Poshmark provide a platform to capitalize on the surplus of second-hand clothing. Poshmark user Alexandra Marquez makes $3,000 to $5,000 a month just from reselling thrifted clothes. Now that’s hella dough.
There is no dispute that thrifting for profit has generated entrepreneurial opportunities for young people and encouraged the development of skills such as customer relations and marketing. Be that as it may, resale stores such as Value Village are being purged of their best quality and one-of-a-kind pieces by resellers who charge three or four times the price -- once again, hanging these items out of reach from those who thrift out of necessity.
Moreover, Value Village has responded to the growing demand for second-hand goods by raising its prices significantly. According to “professional thrifter” Kali Martin who owns the online store Atomic Age Vintage, some items are priced similar to, or even higher than, specialty vintage stores. She recently found a set of 1970s Chalet glass dishes priced at $69.99. Several years ago, the same set would have gone for between $4.99 and $3.99. “...Antique stores aren’t even selling them for that much.” Martin says.
A powerful poem entitled “Somewhere in America” delivered by a trio of young girls at the 2014 Brave New Voices poetry slam sheds light on this overlooked side of the story that we often lose in the bags of discounted Levi’s and Cobain era flannels. “The preppy kids go thrift shopping because they think it sounds real fun,” one girl sneers, “but we go because it’s all we got money for.”