To thrift or not to thrift

Photo by Nickolus Patraszewski | Tacoma has no shortage of secondhand stores to visit.

Thrift shopping can be a fun and positive experience, but its current trendy nature has serious drawbacks.

Stop if you’ve heard this one before: You’re on the lookout for a specific article of clothing, or something to just spice up your wardrobe a bit, but for one reason or another, modern new clothing is just a pain. Maybe they don’t match your aesthetic, maybe a lot doesn’t come in your particular size, or maybe it’s just not in the budget. What’s an eager fashionista going to do in this scenario? Barring becoming an impromptu fashion designer overnight, the next best thing is to go used clothes shopping, also known as thrifting.

There are a lot of genuine benefits when it comes to thrifting. For one, it’ll usually be more affordable than most new options for clothing especially when it comes to name brands. Secondly, if you have a fascination with the past or more classic aesthetics, then obviously clothes passed down from the past will vibe with that much more than modern stylings, or even modern brands trying to capture an old aesthetic. Third, barring larger chains like Value Village or Goodwill, both good storefronts in their own right, many thrift stores, or antique stores if your desire goes beyond just clothing, will be local businesses, which means any support to them is supporting your community.

But there has been a paradoxical problem with thrifting lately, one that shares a root cause with a lot of other problems we see online: rich people and social media.

Even going as far back as Marie Antoinette allegedly playing the role of a milkmaid or shepherdess in her personal cottage retreat to turn-of-the-century businessmen “admiring” the work ethic of laymen. Rich and affluent people have frequently romanticized aspects of poverty that speak to some moral or ideal of theirs. This has transferred to the modern day in the guise of fashion and older aesthetics.

It has been a trend among all forms of social media, especially visually based platforms such as Instagram or Tiktok, to thrift and find older clothes for a variety of aesthetics, and since the affluent youths of today are among the ones who create and curate these trends the most, they’ve been the ones participating in it the most.

Initially, this is a harmless act, more business after all, but with the advent of a trend comes people making use of that trend.This leads some storefronts to jack up their prices to a level where the affluent and the influencer can pay, but the average person is left out of the loop. This means they have one less option to get their clothing either due to price or due to body shape since there’s a good amount of ‘old’ trends that make use of baggy clothing on smaller frames.

Despite this trend, most people who thrift won’t be rich socialites or trend-chasing influencers, but in the wake of what could change due to rising trends, it’s key to support local businesses that don’t fall prey to online fads like country-wide chains can. 

Here in Tacoma, we have plenty of secondhand and antique stores, even having an entire row of them along Broadway downtown. Locally owned and operated for that personal and community involved touch, one called Sanford and Sons is even reportedly haunted for the spooky season. Just remember to shop responsibly and be mindful of limited stock, especially when it comes to larger sizes, or the only haunting thing will be a ghastly lack of options.

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