The old saying “from rags to riches” proves to be terminally true when sweeping a side long glance over thrift store racks in Philadelphia.
In certain male circles, second-time-sold clothing stores are looked down upon. Unknown to those with negative pre-connotations is the truth that there is nothing secondary to these places, especially when the best finds are nothing but first rate designer apparel.
Retrospect 534 South St.
“Our shoppers are predominantly women,” said Jason Silen, 28, proprietor at Retrospect. Retrospect receives men’s clothing “every day” and designer pieces “pretty often,” he said.
Although the cliche that the men would prefer to battle on the court instead of the checkout lines holds true, what isn’t known is how many finds one can turn up and for what prices.
On just one single two-bar display at Retrospect, waiting for the day they would be proudly shown off again, were men’s bootcut low-rise Diesel jeans with a whisked bleach fade, black straight-leg Dolce and Gabbana jeans, Seven medium
blue bootcuts, Lucky and Abercrombie & Fitch jeans.
These finds would usually go for $70 to $250, but at Retrospect, these pieces cost between $25 and $54. With all these fashionable items on the thrift store market, one might wonder why men are hesitant to shop at all. And the truth is that more and more are coming in all the time. Although most men do not like shopping, what they really do not care for is spending big bucks, which is exactly what men aren’t doing at consignment shops.
Buffalo Exchange 1713 Chestnut St.
“Our typical male customers are college students, alternative guys and urban types,” said Mike Shaffer, 24, manager of Buffalo Exchange.To hesitant male customers, Shaffer said, “It’s not as bad as you think; our stores know guys are hesitant, that’s why we place our men’s stuff in the front of the store and try to make our sizes and styles more diverse, and we get more everyday.”
And the diversity is clearly palpable on a circular rack where a Hollister screen print T-shirt, an Abercrombie & Fitch thermal, a skull polyester long sleeve shirt, a Banana Republic striped sweater and a DKNY alternative blazer all hung. They cost 50 percent to 75 percent off their original prices. What most people don’t realize about stores like Buffalo Exchange and Retrospect is that they have some of the same styles that are in most upscale stores now.
Greene Street Consignment 700 South St.
From modern vintage made this year, to the real thing from the 70s and 80s, customer Nicole Sutton, 23, at Greene Street Consignment shop said, “Thrift stores are turning more trendy because the fashions that are in today are the same things that were being made 20 to 30 years ago. And because of that, there is always great stuff to be found [at thrift stores].”
Furthermore, if the low-end prices at the high-end mark do not attract certain males to try their hand at shopping, second-time-sold stores have more to offer than just designer material.
“These stores are good because they promote recycling,” said Shaffer at Buffalo Exchange. “They’re fun. You never know what you’re going to find.”
Philadelphia Aids Thrift Store 514 Bainbridge St.
Other stores have more in mind than just helping out the environment, technically and socially. The Philadelphia AIDS Thrift store gives their proceeds to local organizations involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Shoppers at PAT can kill two birds with one stone – look good and help out a good cause.
But whether one is on a recycling anti-capitalistic mission to find great deals, or simply wants to contribute to society through material things and epidemic research, thrift stores prove perfect these days in catering to the urban man — either for idealistic victory or individual vanity.
Ron Blair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.