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Should I shop at thrift stores?

Once I heard a man on a podcast explain that he didn’t grow up in a family with excessive disposable income and often wore clothes from thrift stores.

This piqued my interest. Logically, it makes sense for someone with parents in a lower income level to wear clothes from thrift stores because thrift stores typically sell used clothing at lower prices. But I have a tendency to associate thrift stores with fashion and vintage aesthetics. The man on the podcast seemed to imply that he didn’t wear thrift store clothes to be trendy – he did it because he wasn’t exactly wealthy.

It seems like thrift stores have become more mainstream in recent years. There’s even a slang term for shopping at them – “thrifting.” But every action has an impact. A few of my friends mentioned that thrift stores aren’t as inexpensive as they used to be. I’ve browsed Etsy and have found that it’s not uncommon for a vintage clothing item to cost over 40 dollars. They can even be as high as 80 dollars. It seems like the rise in popularity has caused a rise in prices.

I know that I’m allowed to shop at thrift stores. But I wonder if I’m part of the problem. Do I play a role in the increased costs of used clothing? Should thrift stores be reserved for people with financial situations that don’t give much of a choice, or is it acceptable for anyone – including me – to shop from them?

My parents financially support me, which is a privilege. I’ve gone “thrifting,” so to speak. But I’ve also purchased more expensive clothing from other stores.

When the merchandise in thrift stores become less affordable, it doesn’t affect me as much as it would affect someone with less financial privilege than me. I’m not highly disadvantaged by the popularity of thrift stores.

I’ve shopped at thrift stores because I genuinely want to. The most superficial reason I do so is that I like the clothing. But also I feel that repurposing clothing is better for the environment than constantly creating new clothes that usually end up in landfills anyways. In addition, numerous department stores rely on sweatshops for the production of their merchandise. It’s not uncommon for sweatshop workers to be paid less than a dollar a day.

Should I shop at thrift stores? I don’t know. It feels like no matter what, I’m doing something wrong. It’s practically impossible to engage in an action that doesn’t, in some way, affect someone else. Some of those effects are negative. And I don’t know what to do about it.