By Brittany Tankersley | Photo Editor
In the past few years, thrifting has become a major trend among middle- and upper-class Americans. What used to be considered a sign of poverty has been rebranded by young people as vintage or Y2K. While this shift destigmatizes secondhand shopping, it also capitalizes on one of the only available options for low-income communities.
It’s encouraging to see young people embrace the thrift stores that have helped so many impoverished areas find affordable attire. Although that’s exactly what a thrift store was intended to be — a place where people in need can buy clothing — viewing places like Goodwill and Salvation Army as a fun weekend is a privilege. Some Americans need to buy a winter coat to stay alive, but Hannah from Baylor just wants one in blue to match her new rain boots.
Of course, there are many college students with lower incomes who can and should utilize thrift stores. However, there are also people who spend hundreds of dollars on clothing they do not need, taking away the already limited apparel options from low-income communities. Buying in bulk from thrift stores when you are financially stable, or well off, increases the demand and prices of secondhand items.
While costs are expected to increase over time, base prices at Goodwill have increased three times between 2010 and 2020. This steep increase cannot solely be accredited to inflation. It can, however, be largely attributed to the gentrification of thrifting.
Many Americans utilize apps such as Depop and Poshmark to resell and buy used clothing. However, a majority of the major sellers on these apps are not getting rid of old clothes. Instead, they are bulk buying from thrift stores and reselling the items for obscene prices. A pair of Levi jeans can sell for around $100 on Depop, but it costs around $10 at Goodwill. Buying clothing from thrift stores and drastically increasing the price for resale is price gouging. It is unethical to profit off of the clothes intended to be cheap and affordable for those in need.
This issue is a complicated one because there has been a shift moving away from fast fashion and toward recycled apparel. Fast fashion competes with higher-end retailers by quickly creating clothing pieces that coincide with trends. Their low price comes from forced labor and dangerous environmental practices. While thrifting certainly has its eco-friendly benefits, buying from local and large businesses that sustainably and ethically source is a better option for middle- and upper-class Americans.
Before going out to thrift with your friends, reevaluate your options when it comes to purchasing clothing. Supporting small businesses or even making your own clothes can help make thrift stores accessible to lower-income communities again. Find another hobby.