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Why Thrifting Has Become More Popular Than Ever

Graphic of clothing with recycle symbol and sign describing reasons to thrift.
Illustration by Oleksandra Nazarova

Thrifting may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a form of shopping that has been prevalent within our society for many years, recently it has become much more mainstream.

Thrifting has become all the rage with Gen Z shopping! Let’s delve into why.

History of thrifting:  

In order to understand how thrifting has grown over time, it’s important to look back at its history. Many, including myself, are unaware of the historical context thrifting has had within our society. 

According to the Berkeley Economic Review, before the 19th century, there was an extremely different mindset when it came to clothing as it was looked at in terms of quality over quantity, and items were repurposed. When the Industrial Revolution came along it was much easier to make large quantities of clothes that weren’t highly expensive, therefore people bought more things and let things go.

As reported by TIME, within history, there was a lot of shame behind the idea of wearing used clothes. This shame was connected to the idea that you were broke if you were to wear someone else’s clothes. additionally, this shame was also brought on by antisemitism as many Jewish people were selling second-hand garments during this time.

 “Used clothes were often available from pushcarts predominantly started by Jewish immigrants, whose professional options were often constrained by anti-Semitism. That prejudice rubbed off on their wares.” 

the first thrift store opened in 1897 and was connected with the Salvation Army company, many of these stores like Salvation Army and Goodwill were connected to churches that needed money. Since 1897, thrift and resale shops have spread rapidly.

It should be noted that while there has been an increase in thrift stores, they haven’t always thrived, in times such as the great depression and World War II, people didn’t want to let go of items due to the financial state of the world during those times

As the economy began to get better and the war ended, these stores began to receive consumers again.

The pros and cons:

Today, thrifting is seen as a fun hobby for many people, but it has had both positive and negative effects on our society. 

It’s important to understand both the negatives and positives so that consumers can make their own informed decisions about the ethics of thrift shopping.

On the positive side, thrifting has greatly decreased the amount of clothes that get wasted. According to, “One hundred billion clothing items are produced each year, and 92 million tons of them ultimately end up in landfills.  By choosing secondhand items, we help to reduce the demand for new products and the production of more goods.” 

On the contrary, this rise in popularity has caused those who need affordable clothing to have more trouble finding it, as those who can afford more expensive clothing are shopping secondhand. 

There can be a strong opinion when it comes to the topic of those needing affordable clothing options, and with good reason.

As thrifting continues to stay popular and continue to grow imprinting itself on younger consumers, there’s a multitude of thrifters who are going to thrift stores and reselling the clothes they bought for cheap at shockingly high prices on reselling apps such as Depop. 

Depop is quite similar to online selling platforms such as eBay and Poshmark, users can make their bids on items, and sellers can either decline or accept these offers.

My thoughts on the ethics of resale of thrift clothing: 

When it comes to this topic I have mixed opinions on the ethics. As a Depop seller myself, I don’t believe in going to thrift stores for the sole purpose of selling it for high prices. Instead, I list items that I don’t wear anymore, out of pure coincidence they may be thrifted items, but I personally don’t believe in going thrifting just to sell these items at high prices. 

This is not to say I’m against the sales of thrifted clothing, as I am an avid Depop buyer, but I think it should be limited as there are people who need affordable clothing. 

That being said, I am also aware that people need to make money, and for some that happens to be the reselling of thrifted items.

Thrift Shopping Social Media Popularity: 

Social media sites such as TikTok and Instagram have also contributed to the popularity of thrift shopping as vintage clothing has become all the rage.

Users on TikTok and Instagram show off their finds to followers in the form of “hauls.” With the popularity of these videos, it’s not hard to draw the conclusion that the internet has influenced Gen Z to thrift too.

One social media influencer named Kalita Hon has 204.2K followers on TikTok has established a business out of thrift shopping for others in what she calls style bundles. Bundles are personalized based on each person’s taste and are purchased through her website.

Consumers send Hon their Pinterest boards and thrift shops based on customers’ preferences. Hon’s TikTok’s are centered completely on thrifting, whether that is showing her followers what she purchased at the thrift store, showing a day in her life of thrifting for a client, or styling her thrifted items.

My takeaways: 

Today, the clothing industry is highly influenced by fast fashion which causes many to move quickly on to the next fashion trend, donations help lessen the waste of clothing.

As reported by TIME, according to statistics from IBIS World Report, “thrift stores are part of a $14.4 billion industry.” When you look at statistics on thrifting. It seems that thrifting is here to stay. 

As inflation continues, it’s clear that many thrift stores have raised their prices as consumers online have complained, despite this, thrifting continues to be a good option for cheaper clothes and a hobby for many. 

I have been thrift shopping since high school, and as I have been in college, thrifting has been a good way for me to get new clothing at a fraction of the cost. 

Overall, I believe that the pros of thrift shopping outweigh the cons, thrifting helps the environment, is a fun activity for people to do, and brings out creativity however, I do understand why there is controversy surrounding those reselling as those who aren’t able to shop at ‘regular’ stores need to be able to have affordable options.

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