Thrifting isn’t theft

Charlotte Ury, Opinion Editor

If you’ve been on YouTube recently, you’ve probably seen a video pop up in your recommended feed titled “THRIFTING HAULS FROM  _____.”  The videos start off with a fashionable teen wearing ill-fitting jeans, floral print blouses, or men’s sweaters in sizes way too big. By the end, the seemingly irredeemable articles of clothing have transformed into an unrecognizable trendy outfit. The comments are full of “I’m going thrifting this weekend” or “where do you thrift?” 

Thrifting, or shopping at thrift stores, has never been a bigger trend. Whether you’re on the hunt for vintage looks, much-needed clothes, or even materials for new outfits, the possibilities from thrift shopping are endless.

According to the 2019 ThredUp Resale Report, almost one out of every three Gen-Zers have bought secondhand clothing, and the secondhand market is projected to skyrocket from $24 billion in 2018 to $51 billion in 2023, reflecting a new demand for sustainable shopping practices.

When thrifting began to rise in popularity around 2018, questions surrounding its ethicality rose with it. While thrifting reached new, wealthier markets, issues related to price, reselling, and opportunity puzzled many. However, it’s clear that the benefits from thrifting should be open for everyone.

Critics of thrifting argue that while higher-income shoppers see thrifting as a fun activity, lower-income shoppers actually need the cheaper clothes. Giving lower-income shoppers access to cheaper clothes that are still in good quality and trendy could help improve their quality of life.

While richer shoppers can afford to splurge on fancier clothes, citizens in lower-income brackets rely on what comes into the thrift stores. When higher-income shoppers take name brand clothes that they could buy for more money with only slightly more effort, they are taking them away from those in need who can’t afford to buy it elsewhere.

However, by spending money at nonprofit thrift stores, shoppers are also pouring money back into low-income communities. Famous thrifting chain Goodwill often hires disabled or financially struggling employees and donates 85% of its profits back into their local community. 

Another issue that has arisen with thrifting is the increase of shoppers reselling thrifted clothes for a much higher price. Some shoppers buy vintage brand clothes and then resell them for almost twice their original price.

But this is true for almost any store: anyone could buy anything from a store and resell it for more. While it is annoying, reselling isn’t new, and it’s hard for any store to control. Not to mention the effort involved for the thrifter (hours of going through bins of clothes to find the right clothes) does take time and energy.

The profit from reselling comes from the low prices that thrift stores are known for. Recently, though, these prices have been rising. In 2010, Goodwill Industries estimated flat prices based on the item, so prices could not vary. This meant that, except for rare circumstances, all skirts would have the same price. But just ten years later, the items now include price ranges.

Although the clothes might cost slightly more, there is never a shortage of clothing.  Goodwill Outlets sell clothes by the pound in massive bins and still have to throw out many of their clothes. This isn’t even mentioning the massive amounts of clothes thrown out by stores like Zara or Forever 21, and the consequent destruction of the environment around the factories and landfills.

Issues caused by thrifting cannot be attributed to people wanting to support more sustainable alternatives. Thrifting should be open to all, regardless of what they want to do with the clothing. While the fast fashion industry runs rampant, it’s more important than ever to show support for thrifting and secondhand clothing.  

Next time you thrift—and if you have the choice not to rely on thrift stores—recognize how privileged you are. Try to give back to the community by donating the money you might’ve spent on the same top at another store to a charity that supports low-income communities or sustainable fashion.