Fifty years ago, you never wanted to mention getting a deal on something or buying second-hand. Now, it's something to brag about. A popular song made it even cooler to thrift shop and "pop tags." It's completely snazzy to "wear your grandpa's clothes," but you can find so much more at the shops. More often than not, you will get compliments on a thrift find over a new good.
Goods today are cheap, low-quality, outsourced, and extremely over-inflated in price. The sweatshop clothing presented now already has threads ripping at the seams, thinned-out cheap polyester is the main textile, and buttons will break off. Who likes to have pangs of guilt for supporting that system where we are both the slave and slave driver? And then you might have to pay to have the item fixed. Low cost is the obvious reason to go, but there are other less obvious benefits.
I don't think the thrift shops of the future will have much quality to offer as everything continues to break down - so here are 17 reasons to go thrifting now:
1. Great quality - The fact that it has survived wear and wash and winds up at the thrift shop for you to enjoy is a testament of quality. You'll notice, especially with vintage, thicker cotton or linen, double stitching, durable buttons, and leather goods. A new Chinese-made can opener broke the very first second I used it - the $.10 old-time one has worked for years. Look for heavier, older models of kitchen gear. Older appliances are easier to fix and have longer cords!
2. Prepping Gear - Put catalogs and website orders on hold for now. You want top quality for a few federal reserve notes? This is where you go first! It might take digging and time, but for the cost you might have quite the haul of non-ammo, non-food goods by the end of the year.
3. There's Gold in Them There Shops - Shop workers are often volunteers or minimum wage workers. I have yet to see them look up the value of something online - they just move the stuff. That's probably how my brother wound up with a designer black leather jacket for $1.50. If you strategize, you could bring in income by resale, but you'd be competing with dealers who hit them up when the doors open. Still, lucky finds happen all the time - you know the person who brags about it non-stop. Some people are buying antique silver goods, melting them down, and getting much more value from the silver itself. New items arrive every day at various times.
4. Find originals - My grandfather was about to donate his WW2-era Greek fisherman's cap until I yanked it. Women were buying new cheap versions from China at the mall for $20-40. Can you imagine stumbling on historic originals like that for a buck?
5. No pressure to buy . . . from neurotic sales associates who make a commission off your purchase. Nope, pretty laid back - the workers at thrift shops don't care if you buy anything at all.
6. Great first start - college, moving out, marriage, babies . . . why go in debt during your beautiful new start? You could ask something different from your wedding guests who don't actually want to run out, look up a registry, and buy an appliance, wrap, carry in . . . How about money? Money works, or nothing, or their help in the wedding. Now you don't have to create a registry and see how few people could actually get anything on the list.
7. New clothes are growing more hideous - Seriously, has there ever been a time for more awful materials, mish-mashed patterns and god-awful color pairings? I can't speak on behalf of all men, but the trends for young men are frightening, too. Also, can anyone find their size anymore? The emotional games played with women and sizing are cruel, and when companies keep changing their standards it becomes confusing to find a good fit. If you think the hideous talk is opinionated, degradation in culture seems to be by design. The same cookie-cutter, ugly pattern clothing seen now was written about in Ayn Rand's semi-autobiographical We the Living which takes place after the Bolsheviks took over in Russia.
8. Great for last-minute costume or dressy event - Costumes today are crappy and overpriced, unless it's a historical reenactment piece. Why spend so much for a one-day item? Make one from thrift shop items and get dressy wear for your next event. Won't be so worried about staining or tearing so you can enjoy your time. Work clothes can be found here, too.
9. Won't be afraid to tailor - It's so nice to have clothes that fit, but new off-the-rack clothes offer nothing in individuality. Who would want to pay for tailoring on something new? Get it thrifty and feel proud with a great custom look. I'll never forget the frustration of buying what I thought was great quality at a high-end store only to find it was super thin material and ALL the buttons broke after washing. Replacing the buttons cost $27, which I did in a pinch before traveling to keep wearing my favorite shirt - but I'm still so upset at the low quality, high cost. None of my thrift clothes have ever worn out.
10. Won't be afraid to experiment - Learning to sew? 'Chop-shop' your clothes to create new. This is called upcycling and can be a lucrative side-business. Use clothing for different purposes, often cheaper than buying fabric. You might find other items you can re-purpose or change into something new - shelves, TVs, books . . . Let Creativity Ring.
11. Get fabric - Textile prices continue to rise, making it way cheaper to get clothes at Wal-mart than to make your own. This is so unfortunate as people used to make their own clothes to save money - now it's pretty expensive to do so even as a hobby. Yet, yards of fabric and old sheets and blankets are super cheap here.
12. Keep your growing kids in clothes - Kids and teens can grow two or more sizes each year depending on growth spurts. This way, they don't have to be too careful about rough housing and stains. Clothes have been laundered before so no surprise shrinking.
13. Thrift shops are increasing and so are the standards - Even though the stores of the future might not have old good quality items, these stores are cropping up everywhere now and the standards for what they take are increasing because people don't want to shop at gross smelling stores with musty, stained, ripped clothing. A surprising amount of stuff is barely used, probably from people who got the wrong size or the item shrank.
14. The value of new clothing/goods can drop by 80% or more after walking out of the mall - Percentage-wise, that's worse than the depreciation of buying a new car. When you don't want it anymore, you might end up donating it for the tax write-off, selling it on eBay, to consignment shops, or on Craigslist. It's great to make a little extra cash and get rid of items, but it won't recoup the original costs, not by a long stretch.
15. Sleep with a good conscience - Speaking of depreciation, it's sad to think of how much people pay for a cheap item that was wrought from foreign slave labor for pennies. We are all exploited in that large system - except for the corporations who make money on both ends. This is the way to stop directly supporting that practice and still get what you need. True, someone else bought that slave labor, but now is the chance to support a local outreach, local people in need, and keep that item out of the landfill. The tiny local outreaches are great for directly supporting the people right there in town. Plus, no more credit card use, great for cutting debt. You can get off catalog lists. All good for less stress. Forget the Joneses.
16. Halt smug "carbon footprint" talk - Not that you have to justify yourself to self-righteous, insincere, eco-agendists; but a lot of energy, water and chemicals do go into new clothes especially with genetically modified cotton crops requiring enormous amounts of glyphosate pesticides. So that's another way not to support Big Biotech. Read Grist's top two reasons to thrift shop for more info. Chemical cleaning agents and dyes should be long gone by the time they reach the store; so, either way, thrift shop clothes don't damage the environment - or you.
17. So much easier to let go - Want to clear the clutter, embrace minimalism, downsize, move across country? Who cares if you get rid of your thrifts? Sell it all and you might more than recoup your original costs. No one will later find you on Hoarders, buried in books, overcoats and feral cats.
Why do you like to go and what did you find?
Read other articles by Amanda Warren