In the past few years, thrift-shopping has become one of the biggest trends in fashion culture. According to research and data collected by thredUP, an online second-hand store, fifty six million women purchased from thrift stores in 2018 and the numbers have only been rising. The second-hand apparel market is expected to double in the next three years from $24 billion to $51 billion. And it makes complete sense; why would you go to an expensive department store for something when you can potentially find the same things, or even better things, at Goodwill?
What many people don’t see is how this trend affects the people thrift shops were meant for. Before they became a mainstream fashion trend, thrift shops were looked down on by the middle and upper classes. They resell other people’s unwanted clothes, so they were thought of as dumpsters for all the things you didn’t wear anymore. People in the lower classes went to thrift shops not because they wanted a glamorous look for cheap but because they actually could not af ord the clothes sold in the typical department store.
However, because thrift stores have noticed the rising trend, they’ve begun raising their prices, making it harder for the people who they were made for to actually afford them. Spending $20 on a pair of jeans seems like a good deal to someone used to shopping at Forever 21 or American Eagle but can be quite expensive to someone used to only having to pay $10. An environment once considered to be for the poor has suddenly become trendy to the upper classes and is now harder to afford for the poor, thus driving them out. Sound familiar?
The gentrification of second-hand stores is a growing epidemic, but is it a completely bad one? Ethically speaking, while prices have risen in thrift stores, it’s important to take into account that there aren’t any statistics proving that it’s increased astronomically; they’ve just become harder to afford. It’s also important to remember that a percentage of all sales made by thrift stores goes to charity. Additionally, buying secondhand clothes reduces your environmental impact and keeps you away from promoting the exploitative work conditions associated with the designing of clothes by big fashion companies. The central issue in the gentrification of thrifting is not donating as much as you’re taking; thrift shops run on people’s donations so maybe consider giving back as much as you’re taking.
While thrifting does have its ethical cons, it has a lot of ethical pros too. Don’t take these words as a chastising lecture on why you shouldn’t shop in thrift stores if you have money. Just consider donating clothes every once in a while or try finding other ways to give back to thrift shops and the communities they were initially designed for.