A Thrifter’s Manifesto Vol 1: Rethinking Retail
I am a second hand shopper. A thrifter. I almost never buy retail. I grew up in thrift stores. Second hand isn’t just an option for me, it’s the only option.
Around the time clothes started determining your social status I was faced with a choice. I could chase my peers acceptance through aspirational retail buying, or I could search out places where I could buy anything I wanted at a price I was comfortable with. After some unfortunate forays into JNCO & South Pole jeans in middle school I realized aspiration wasn’t for me. Aspiration didn’t make me cooler, or more confident. I wasn’t more stylish because I was buying what people thought I should buy, so I went to places where I could buy what I wanted. I’ve shopped for clothes mostly at thrift stores since I was young. As I’ve grown, thrift stores have grown with me.
When I was 14 and could only walk down into town for an hour or two, I would buy mystery bags of clothes for $5 so I didn’t have to look like every other middle schooler.
When I was 16 and punk rocking, I could find denim jackets, skinny black jeans and combat boots that were cheap enough to rip apart at thrift stores.
When I was 20 and in London where everything was 2x more expensive and I didn’t have a work visa, I bought a sport coat and jeans for $20 at some stall in Camden, then I wore them almost daily for 3 years.
When I was 24 and needed a costume for a party or some pants for work I just went to salvation army.
Now that I’m 28 and a blogger I buy high end stuff in a sort of prep/punk/70’s cop/olde tyme saloon keep aesthetic at the same thrift stores.
I don’t like shopping anywhere I can’t buy things. I have little interest in the latest “grail” item because I don’t have $500 to blow. I have little interest in the new season’s collection, because I’m used to a collection that’s new daily. Look books bore me and price tags baffle me. I don’t understand buying retail.
I reject retail shopping as a paradigm. The things I want to buy are already out there. Retail feeds unsustainability, both people unable to sustain their consumerist habits, and businesses needing to pump out flawless lines every year to avoid falling out of the consumer consciousness. Thrifting is just a parallel to this economy, one that focuses on long term planning, patience and skill instead of investment, classicism and money.
I think there are more people out there like me. People who chafe against the restraints of “essential wardrobe” lists that presume everyone should be dressing in a mode for conservative business and a “buy less, buy better” mantra that often focuses on what you should be spending to flaunt your tailors abilities rather than your personal style.
Buy less, buy better is great, if you have the money to buy with. I usually don’t. I say spend less, spend better. I say don’t define your wardrobe by the retail market and by brand stylists and bloggers. Define your style by what speaks specifically to you, not by what is trending.
I say get out there and search. 1,000,000 garments live at a thrift store. Your wardrobe is already there and for only $5 apiece. It’s up to you to find it.
This series will cover how to go about having an effective thrift experience, more pro-tips than you can shake a broken hanger at, some real talk about what style is and what it isn’t, and some thoughts on why you should consider shifting your shopping habits. I hope you enjoy.
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