Back in Hong Kong, whenever I mention the word ‘thrifting,’ people’s reactions are quite negative. On the flip-side, whenever I talk about thrifting with my friends here in Vancouver, they are over the moon and they thank me for bringing it up so they can let out their pent-up desire to preach their thrifting wisdom. The cultural difference is woven into different perspectives on second-hand clothes shopping.
Let’s take a look at the thrifting culture through the eyes of UBC students.
Of course, there are a multitude of reasons to thrift, but the motives are always a mixture of price, fashion and environmental sustainability. For myself, it is definitely the price. The thought of being able to find a pair of Dolce & Gabbana jeans for under $150 is absolutely exhilarating.
Same goes for Peyton Murphy, a recently-transferred student from Edmonton. Since the age of 14, she has gone to thrift stores regularly. Motivated by her sparing mindset, Murphy has found the perfect balance between sourcing nice clothes and keeping her wallet happy.
“I like to keep up with trends, to keep my wardrobe fresh and financially if I want to achieve that, thrift stores are the best option,” Murphy says. “Eventually, it just became a part of my life and I saw myself spending a good amount of time in thrift stores by myself.”
On the other hand, Farzeen Ather, an English literature major, advocates for fashion sustainability through thrifting. Ather has a smart thrifting habit: whenever she feels like it’s time for a change, she would donate her old apparels (usually at Goodwill or Value Village) and thrift a whole new batch of clothes.
“I predominantly do it for environmental purposes but in a selfish way, I feel good about myself when I donate clothes. In return for giving my old clothes, I get the chance to buy clothes in thrift stores that I wouldn’t normally purchase,” Ather shared.
This habit is absolutely genius. Take notes fellas.
Though it is a high-risk, high-reward situation (the amount of scammers on platforms like Depop and Grailed is uncountably high) Murphy tried online thrifting multiple times and she has developed a phobia of it.
She explained, “it was convenient but there were a lot of scammers. The one time I purchased something, the conditions of the item didn’t match the online description at all.”
But once in a while, it can be really rewarding. The possibility of finding used Prada nylon backpacks or other famous archive pieces at up to 50–70 per cent off the original price is the thrill that just keeps getting better.
Online thrifting has the upside of letting you browse thousands of listings in the comfort of your room but as mentioned, and experienced by both Murphy and I, it is hard to perform any kind of product check. Proceed at your own risk!
It is amazing to see how all interviewees narrowed down to this as their favourite moment: finding treasures in a mountain of clothes.
I started thrifting a little bit more than a year ago due to my increasing interest in fashion and my decreasing wallet size. I still remember vividly that exact moment when I found a clean, undamaged Yves Saint Laurent polo shirt priced at $50.
Yes, real Yves Saint Laurent. 50 bucks. Let that sink in.
As mentioned, you can find cheap name brand clothes on online thrift stores but it is all the more thrilling to hold those rare finds in person after searching and digging for two hours.
Words can’t describe it. You have to experience that feeling for yourself.
Tips for beginners
Thrifting isn’t a complicated matter but it can be tricky if you aren’t patient.
“Don’t expect to find what you need in 30 minutes, you really need to block out a whole day just to go thrifting if you wish to gain something from it,” said Ather.
It’s true, it is almost impossible to find anything of your liking without sufficient time, after all it isn’t a boutique where the collection is sorted and designed according to trends, with various sizes ready in the backroom.
I understand that upgrading your closet can be challenging with a tight budget, but don’t get discouraged! Give thrifting a try, it might just become your favourite new weekend activity.
Farzeen Ather and Peyton Murphy are contributors to The Ubyssey.