Thrift Shopping: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Thrift shopping has benefits beyond just cute clothes-- it’s a sustainable practice that reduces textile waste and decreases pollution. The best part: most of the time, you can’t even tell the clothes were bought second hand. (Photo used by permission of Kaitlyn Stocum)

Thrift shopping has become teenagers’ newest infatuation. It offers a variety of benefits– from recycling clothes that would usually be thrown away, to messing around with your friends trying on funky outfits. While it can be challenging at times, thrifting is a fun activity that is also helpful to the environment and eliminates waste.

Fashion recycles. Styles that were popular in the ’80s– such as scrunchies, “mom jeans”, and high-top Converse–are now in style again. “Vintage” looks are very stylish, and many teens’ use past trends as inspiration for their outfits.  At any high school in the United States right now, tons of girls could be found sporting these styles, just like their parents probably did when they were in high school.

Luckily, thrift shops are filled with tons of clothes from past decades, many of which may not be made anymore. As adults declutter their closets, many donate to thrift stores like Goodwill, where their ugly clothes can marinate until they become stylish again. At thrift stores, one-of-a-kind clothes can be found as well, which can be the first step to someone who wants to become more involved with fashion.

Thrift shopping also helps eliminate waste. Many don’t think of recycling clothes like they would paper or bottles, so tons of clothes / textile products end up in landfills every year. The United States generated 16,030 tons of textiles in 2015, with 10,530 tons sent to the landfill.

Shopping at thrift stores does more than just reducing trash; it also decreases pollution. When an item of clothing is thrifted and bought second-hand, it’s one less item of clothing being produced. Synthetic fibers such as polyester–which has become a popular material for clothing– require a lot of energy to produce, and the byproducts of its production include toxic gases and chemicals. Pesticides used to keep bugs off cotton plants used for cotton and linen products also have a negative impact on the environment.

Furthermore, thrifting is much cheaper than buying new clothes from large scale retailers. Most thrift stores offer clothes at prices well under fifty percent of their initial retail price. Thrifting is a much better option than “fast fashion” brands, like Forever 21, H&M, and Zara, which offer the same low prices, with questionable clothing quality. At thrift stores, the prices stay cheap while the quality is still high because most clothes come from higher end brands. It’s the perfect option for anyone who wants to be stylish on a budget.

With thrift stores offering clothes for such a low price, it is also a perfect place to buy clothes that are intended for DIY projects. For those who want to dabble in design, cheap clothes can be perfect for trying out different styles, without worrying about ruining nice clothes.

Thrift shopping is also fun. It’s a great way to spend time with friends and get in some retail therapy, without racking up hundreds of dollars of purchases. With tons of thrift shops popping up, it’s not hard to find a good one to spend an hour or two in. There are some seriously funky items hiding in thrift stores and creating outfits out of these items can be a fun challenge for an afternoon.

While thrifting offers a variety of positives, it should be noted that it can sometimes be very frustrating. Some stores are extremely picked over, and it can be nearly impossible to find any clothes worth buying. There also tends to be a lack of organization in thrift stores. Sizes can be limited as well, so even if there are cute clothes, there may not be any in the right size.

However, with this being said, it’s worth giving thrifting a try. Thrifting is a strong community of people recycling clothes, and once a group of people begins to contribute to it–buying and donating to stores– benefits can be felt in a variety of areas. Through buying second-hand people can decrease textile waste, save money, and explore fashion trends in a more sustainable way.

In the Triangle area, there are a variety of thrift stores popping up, all with different price points and difficulty levels. The Goodwill stores can be hit or miss depending on the location, but are frequently donated to, so it may be easier to find current pieces. Another thrift store, North Raleigh Ministries, is very fairly priced with most clothing five dollars and under, and is home to many hidden gems. Bargain Box is a trendy thrift store in Cameron Village, with prices a little more expensive than Goodwill, but also offers a t-shirt box with 25 cent shirts.


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