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How Apps Mark the Generational Shift of Second Hand Shopping

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Thrifting is nothing new. But the attitude towards thrifting has done a full 180 over the past two generations, and much of this shift is thanks to a number of apps and social media platforms (although, as someone who graduated high school in 2013 and was scouring the racks of Value Village during my youth, I can't give these platforms all the credit). I can't even count how many friends parents have turned their noses up at the thought of buying clothes second hand, but today the prestige value of finding rare vintage goods is undeniable. Even if we look back as recently as the early 2000s, the shopping at a thrift store meant you were... *gasp* POOR (See: Regina George calling the one girl's vintage skirt the ugliest effing thing she's ever seen).

Thrifting, though often ignored in fashion media as it is an extremely difficult mode of consumption to monetize (Depop re-sellers I see you, and I shake my finger at you), thrifting and vintage shopping is largely viewed as the most accessible form of sustainable fashion. And it's pretty obvious why. After all, used clothing already exists, and therefore does not use new resources or create new waste when purchased again.

Yet, second-hand shopping did make an appearance in an article by popular magazine Glamour which takes readers shopping alongside congresswoman Cori Bush. And while the article itself is quite pleasant, outlining the experience of second-hand shopping in a way magazines typically refrain from, the wording of the bi-line stood out as interesting to me, a zillennial with a refined perspective towards vintage shopping. The article noted that "Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush finds some of her best pieces at thrift stores, and she's not ashamed.", unveiling a generational gap in value when it comes to thrifting by describing it as something one would, or should, be typically embarrassed of.

While magazines tout sustainable options these days in their consumer-driven fashion roundups, the thrift option is almost always left out to dry. And fair enough, it's not like a magazine can share images of thrifted options, as these pieces are often unique and won't last long on a product page. However, thrifting is also rarely mentioned as it likely does not fall under the umbrella of "luxury" that the majority of big time fashion publications sell to the masses. And that is because, as exemplified by the aforementioned Glamour bi-line, only decades ago second hand shopping was something to be ashamed of. It was a marker of poverty.

For many a fashion editor (certainly not ALL fashion editors though) this view still stands, and second-hand shopping is a symptom of growing up as a have-not, someone who certainly doesn't belong within the fantasyland of fashion. However, as thrifting falls at the center of responsible shopping today, readers should really be asking, if a magazine sells us sustainability but undercuts thrifting, are they really committed to the cause? Especially considering that the more people who can access sustainable clothing, the better?

Depop for instance, began as a cool place to resell your own gently loved garments, but quickly became more of a social media platform wherein users became known and lauded for their rare thrifted finds. Second-hand grew into an aesthetic of its own, central to the identity of the app itself. TikTok also celebrates vintage fashion finds, with many popular sounds encouraging users to share their most cherished and rare fashion items found at Goodwill and Buffalo Exchange. The app also features hundreds of videos of users reinventing, or "flipping" thrifted items, encouraging a new generation to make and alter their own pieces. Not only that, but despite many magazines rejecting thrifting as luxury, young people today recognize that second hand is the best way to buy high priced items like bags and fur à la The Real Real or your-local-consignment-store-in-a-bougie-neighbourhood.

Now dear reader, this author recognizes that this is not entirely sunny and there is actually a plethora of debates and critiques surrounding the thrift culture of Depop and TikTok. But, to be quite honest, we don't have time to discuss them all in this short article. Besides, at the end of the day, positive encouragement and a general change of opinion towards second hand clothing is an overwhelmingly good thing when it comes to the issue of consumption, so I think it's fair to give a round of applause to the popularity of thrifted clothes instead.

Gone are the days of thrifting as the aesthetic of poverty. Instead it is a symbol of individuality, work ethic (hey, it's tough sifting to find the perfect piece at Kiloshop), and creativity. To young people today, thrifting is fashion in its truest form, as it opposes the blind consumption of corporately invented trends and instead upholds the curation of personal style. And for us here at BADLANDS, thrifting is the number one most accessible way that almost anyone can be fashionable without creating waste, no matter the budget. So stay stylish, stay low-impact, get to Goodwill, and most importantly, stay safe while you're there.

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