Thrifting and its rise in popularity

COVID-19 affects communities and thrift stores alike

June 7, 2020



Thrift stores provide communities with ways of buying affordable clothing.

With the COVID-19 pandemic occurring all over the world, fewer people are going to be thrifting, which could potentially cause a problem for many local thrift stores who need means to be financially stable in these times. With social distancing orders and restrictions, it isn’t on the mind of many people to go thrifting now. 

Before the rise of the pandemic, however, thrifting had become more popular in recent years, with young people from all over the world flocking to the trend. Thrifting has always been a much more affordable method of shopping, and it’s a better way to support sustainable fashion by purchasing secondhand clothing.

Crescenta Valley High School sophomore Chloé Garabedian explains that people have gone out less for thrifting because of sanitary concerns. Since many people rely on these organizations for basic supplies, “it would be better now to open back up because it may be beneficial to people from low income families because it’s much more affordable for them,” Garabedian says.

After the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century, a mass production of clothing was introduced due to the sudden surge of immigration around the world. With more clothes to go around, shopping became more affordable and clothes were seen as disposable. Landfills were filling up with an extremely large amount of clothing.

In the 1920s, thrift stores were seen as department stores, including places such as Goodwill and Salvation Army. According to Forbes, there has been a stigma to purchasing second-hand clothing that have been worn by complete strangers. Nowadays, it’s seen as normal for people to purchase things from thrift stores, not just clothing.

The joy in finding clothes at a much lower price has spread all over the world, especially with new ways of “thrifting” items from these stores. Websites such as ThredUp, Swap, and Poshmark have changed the whole idea of thrifting, without people having to leave the comfort of their own home. 

Going thrifting has also become a popular way to hang out with your friends and find items that are suited to what you’re looking for at a lower price. Burbank High School freshman Maral Alexanian says her favorite part of thrifting is “how I can find a lot of vintage items that you can’t really find in name brand stores. It’s also really cool how some local thrift stores pay customers if they bring in pre used items to be sold.”

Not only is thrifting a more affordable way of shopping, it is much more environmentally friendly, better for the economy, good for your community, and good for your wardrobe. With thrifting becoming a more known trend with many teenagers and young adults today, the influence of thrifting spread and has made people more socially conscious about supporting fast fashion as well. 

According to the Student Environmental Center at the University of California Berkeley, “buying secondhand clothing means that you’re keeping plastic out of so many landfills and joining many other people to reduce the amount of waste and the worldwide demand for textile factories.”

Thrifting is known to be more environmentally friendly, but how does it help? It’s a lot easier on the environment as a whole since a majority of clothing is made in factories, and a lot of them end up sitting in landfills. According to the HuffPost, “the average American throws away at least 81 pounds of clothing every year.” 

In simple terms, thrifting is just a way of recycling. By purchasing clothing previously owned by someone, you are further decreasing your carbon footprint. With a higher carbon footprint, it all adds up to a larger chance of increasing climate change. 

By choosing preowned items, people limit the amount of resources it takes to produce that clothing, limit the time it takes to ship across oceans, and bring awareness to the injustices fast fashion has made towards child labor. This all reduces the amount of pollution and waste in the world. 

Thrift shopping provides people with limited economic means access to items they might have not been able to purchase at regular brand stores. This is seen in a majority of immigrant families in the U.S.

A main reason why thrifting has become so much more popular with younger generations now is because people have found their own sense of style. Finding clothing that makes a person feel good about themselves and have a way to express themselves in their own way. 

Clothing is a way for people to unleash their creativity, find their sense of style, and be unique in their own personal way. According to Dispatch, many thrift stores are seeing a majority of their customers from Generation Z. 

“Thrifting is a good way for people to get into upcycling clothing and making it into something completely new,” Garabedian says. By doing this, people can sell these upcycled clothing and make a business out of it by selling them on websites such as Depop

This leads into the question: why is thrifting so popular with Generation Z? Along with Millennials, Gen Z have consumer characteristics that, for example, make them adopt secondhand items 2.5 times faster than any other consumer

They purchase items they like and appreciate that thrifting gives them the option to buy better brands for a much lower price than they would expect the price to be. The price tag doesn’t determine how they can style themselves with clothing. And thrifting is a perfect example of that. 

Many young people today are Instagram users and feel the need to have multiple outfits to post with; they have a desire to have a wardrobe that defines who they are and show the world who they are. “Second hand buying also makes me feel happy because I know that I’m doing something good for the environment,” Alexanian says. 

However, despite thrifting becoming more popular in recent years, with the rise of COVID-19, thrifting hasn’t been on the mind of many people. There are many ways to contract the virus, and shopping for clothing around lots of people may not be a good way to continue social distancing. 

Many community centers and local businesses have been affected during the worldwide pandemic since there hasn’t been a way for customers to come and support these local organizations and businesses. Recently, many communities have decided to open businesses up again in the later weeks of June. 

A volunteer at the Assistance League in Santa Clarita, retired Wilson Middle School teacher Jennifer Lopez, says that the Santa Clarita chapter is deciding to prepare for an opening on June 15. Opening businesses up slowly would be a good transition from a long time of social distancing.

There are many precautions organizations such as the Assistance League and thrift stores are taking to continue to maintain social distancing guidelines. “We will have a greeter who will take each customer’s temperature,” Lopez says. “We will only allow 12 people in at a time, [and] all [are] required to wear masks. They can stay in the store for 45 minutes to make sure all who want to shop are able to.”

The money the chapter makes from their store goes directly back into the community. “We have Operation School Bell where we provide clothing and shoes to every student in the Santa Clarita Valley in need,” Lopez says. 

This is a perfect example of how these organizations give back to their community and work for the further improvement of all the people living there. Lopez says that this year they’re planning to put part of their budget into providing food for schools in the Santa Clarita Valley.

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    Haylee Ann ReaMar 15, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    Hey I doing research for my sustainability podcast and I found your article! Great work!