By Solmaz Salehi
Humans have loved making purchases from the beginning of time, evolving from the trading of goods to the creation of online shopping in the 1990s. When it comes to shopping, the main generational difference is that, unlike previous generations, younger generations never stop buying, which gives birth to new trends every day.
Thrifting gained popularity with Generation X and the grunge movement that rejected consumerism with their “we don’t care about the fashion trend” mentality. However, Generations Y and Z started buying so many clothes in thrift stores that a “trend” was born. According to ThredUp, the largest online thrift store, 44 million women bought second-hand clothes in 2017, a growth of nine million from the previous year. Thrift stores have had a 24 percent growth on the market in the past year.
“Internet is no doubt one of the main factors behind thrift stores becoming more and more popular,” explained social media influencer Alexa, who has said goodbye to retail stores. Influencers have made thousands of YouTube videos and hundreds of Instagram posts encouraging the younger generation to stop by their local thrift stores to “find awesome clothing for a ridiculously cheap price.” Thrifting has now become a career option thanks to social media since everyone can buy items and resell them on apps like Depop or Poshmark.
“Usually, people buy second-hand clothing if they are designer [brands] since the actual prices are extremely high and they get cheaper in the thrift stores,” explained Esther Dube, who currently works at the Salvation Army.
“Some of the most popular brands that I usually find [at Value Village] are Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Vintage Levi’s,” said student Selena Goudreault about her love for thrifting.
Thrift store employees are aware that teenagers are trying to recreate looks inspired from the 1980s and 1990s, which explains the sudden inflation of prices for second-hand clothing. While there are wealthier people who can afford to pay for overpriced goods, those who solely rely on thrifting to buy clothes now outpriced. “Clothing is no doubt one of the most important needs for a human being, and it is really sad to see people not being able to even afford a second-hand version of them since the prices are going up,” said Dube.
As Cinema-Communications student and Green Earth Club executive member Sophie Dummett says, it is really important to “do proper research first [to choose] the right thrift store or local boutiques.”
Another issue that comes with the popularity of thrift stores is the fact that plenty of retail store workers are now losing their jobs. The New York Post reported last year that “Forever 21 was struggling to pay the bills and lenders were withholding credit.” The fast-fashion seller also closed two of its biggest stores in California.
The solution to that problem has thankfully been found, with thrift stores such as Goodwill and Salvation Army helping give back to local communities. According to their website, Goodwill, who has more than 700 employees working in their stores, donates more than 87 cents of each dollar spent in the store to “help fund job training, employee and family strengthening programs and employment services.” As for the Salvation Army, they use their funds to help create emergency shelters for disaster survivors, food pantries programs, and veteran rehabilitation programs.
There is no doubt that recycling clothes helps reduce waste and decreases pollution. The demand for new clothes will diminish if people wear more second-hand clothes, which will shrink the environmental cost of the mass production of cheap clothing as well. In sum, “there are just too many clothes,” as Dummett pointed out.