I’ll never forget the day I let my friend come thrifting with me. As a long-time avid thrifter, I was excited to share something I love with someone who had never experienced it. I thought back to my first experience with my favorite hobby.
Someone I knew had shared her secret with me: her stylish wardrobe was comprised of pieces from the local Goodwill. I was hesitant at first, but I forced myself to give it a try; after all, she had such great outfits. I was blown away by the gigantic bins full of barely worn clothes.
Before I knew it, I was wearing suede shorts, vintage track jackets, lace bell-bottom pants and paisley patterned tops. Each piece, from my cat-eye sunglasses down to my platform shoes, was thrifted.
But my friend wasn’t so blown away. He was visibly disgusted as we sifted through the disheveled and unorganized clothing pile. And when his dad called and found out where we were, I overheard him say, “You know we can afford to buy clothes.”
I was upset, and not because we both went home empty-handed. It was because I felt like I had let my friend down. It seemed like my favorite hobby was viewed as trashy and gross to someone from an upper-class, suburban family.
I enjoy shopping at thrift stores for several reasons. First and most obvious, it’s inexpensive. I can buy a pound of clothing at my favorite hometown Goodwill for just a few cents more than a dollar. I have never spent more than $30 during one day of thrifting, and most times, I leave with three garbage bags of clothing. On the other hand, I can walk into a retail store and spend $30 on one shirt.
The clothing I find at thrift stores is unique: I can’t imagine finding some of my favorite items anywhere else. When people ask where I bought my outfit, I proudly say I got it at a thrift store. I’m never ashamed because I know a lot of my stuff is one of a kind.
Many articles of clothing I own are authentic pieces from the 80s and 90s — my two favorite eras of fashion. I love finding bright colors, interesting patterns and strange designs that not many people would be bold enough to wear. I love thrifting for outlandish sweaters, and I don’t feel guilty about my overabundance of them because I know I spent significantly less than retail value.
Thrifting is like a scavenger hunt. Some thrift stores have organized racks, but most of them leave me fending for myself. My level of persistence determines how successful the haul will be. Some of the best clothing may be at the bottom of the bins and in order to find it, I have to toss piles of clothing aside. When I find a diamond in the rough, I know my tenacity paid off.
Not to mention, thrifting is a way anyone can help the environment. Every article of secondhand clothing you buy means less pollution. While I’m saving money, I’m also saving the world.
I’ve always loved fashion and creativity. Nothing gives me more joy than putting outfits together and conceptualizing new ones based on the inspiration I find all around me on campus, in magazines and on the streets. I have gotten so many compliments on my thrifted outfits from strangers. This always makes my day and encourages my experimentation with the art of fashion.
Thrifting is a great way to socialize with friends, and anyone can do it. A weekend outing to Center City almost always includes thrifting. Whether we’re shopping at Buffalo Exchange on Chestnut Street near 16th, Philly AIDS Thrift on 5th Street near Bainbridge or Urban Exchange Project on Frankford Avenue near Susquehanna, we always return to Main Campus with our hands full of plastic bags. We also try to support local small businesses like Thunderbird Salvage, which was a warehouse near Main Campus.
I met one of my closest friends here at Temple University through a mutual love of thrifting and funky clothes. We even share an Instagram account called @thrift_goals, where we post pictures modeling our outfits in various spots of Philly and reveal where we purchased everything in the captions, so our followers have some ideas of where to shop.
To the people who think thrift shopping is reserved for those experiencing poverty, and buying secondhand clothing is degrading, give it a try before being so quick to judge. And when you give it a try, be open-minded about the disarrayed piles, rather than looking at them with repulsion. Look at them with excitement and appreciation, instead.
Even when I have money to splurge, I will always choose the individuality of thrifted clothing over anything in retail.