By Erin Moyer ’16, Associate Opinions & Editorials Editor
I have a confession to make: I like to pop tags. I may only have twenty dollars in my pocket, but I’m hunting. I’m always looking for a come-up. Because thrift shopping is freaking awesome!
At least, I think so. I really, actually enjoy shopping at thrift stores. I sincerely like to buy second-hand clothing more than the crispest, newest shirt any store can give me. I will blissfully paw through racks and racks of gently used, slightly musty clothing than be confronted with the newest, most unforgiving trends. I love running up to the cash register with four vaguely vintage shirts, four shapeless grandma sweaters, and three sundresses and only needing to pay, yes, about twenty dollars (especially on Half-off Wednesday! Check your local secondhand stores!). I went through this weird phase last year where I insisted on buying ten long, floral dresses and “tailoring” them by hand myself. And two of them turned out really well.
Shopping at thrift stores is just a fun thing for me, and that’s about all I can say about it. It makes shopping a cool, imaginative adventure: who knows what I’ll find? A large white t-shirt with a blurry picture of a man whom no mortal can identify? Or a baggy, powder blue sweater with the best pocket of all time? And for the record, I have found and purchased both of them.
And who hasn’t turned to their local Salvation Army for a Halloween costume or a themed mixer? It’s the best way to find cheap and hilariously horrible clothes. You can look great in that ideally ironic, grody way. Snag some short leopard print jorts, a psychedelic muscle shirt with the Jackson Five on it, and show up at the club looking fresh to death.
But here’s the thing about thrift shopping: a lot of people elect to shop secondhand. I certainly do, and I think a lot of people here do, too. And that is a privilege we generally don’t think about. Because the thing is, a lot of people have to shop secondhand. What we do to be funky or funny, other people literally need to do to buy clothing. This whole attitude about thrift stores as whimsical places of fun finds and funniness—I’m looking at you, Macklemore—is actually a really serious manifestation of privilege.
I should point out, I don’t want this to be a self-righteous diatribe. I’m not saying if you can afford not to shop secondhand, then you should be blacklisted from every Goodwill in America. I’m not saying everyone should stop using thrift stores for all of their crafting and frating needs. I’m not trying to convince people to avoid secondhand stores like the plague, because it’s generally a good cause and hey, you can still find me there every Half-off Wednesday.
What I am trying to do is try to make more people aware of this cultural conflict: getting to choose to shop at thrift stores is a privilege, and having to shop there is a hardship. What’s hilariously tongue-in-cheek and silly for people like me is actually a way of life for other people on our halls, our campus, and our neighborhood.
So my point is, let’s just try to be more respectful. Let’s try to be aware of how lucky we are to have this choice to make. Speaking for myself, I know I’m stupidly fortunate that, for no real reason at all, I’m in a position where I get to choose to thrift shop. And at the risk of making assumptions, I think that’s the position a lot of people on campus are in, too. So next time you put on “Thrift Shop” or joke about how nasty Salvation Army clothes are, just think about your fellow Diplomats who might be at Half-Off Wednesday for a reason that could not be farther from your Friday night mixer.
Erin Moyer is a sophomore American Studies major. She is the Associate Opinion & Editorial Editor of the The College Reporter. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.