The Gentrification of Thrifting

Thrifting, both online and in-store, has been on the rise for the past year. While this is better for the environment than continually buying new clothes, it poses a new issue. There is a popular trend of buying old clothes and then reselling them for a higher price because they are trendy. Sometimes the clothes are altered, but many people are just looking for a profit. This phenomenon has been dubbed a “gentrification of thrifting”. Gentrification is when wealthier people take over a poorer neighborhood and displace them because they drove the prices up too high. In this case, it is raising prices at thrift stores/online selling stores and limiting the ability for people to use clothes at an affordable price. Here is why this trend is problematic.

person holding assorted clothes in wooden hanger Photo by Becca McHaffie from Unsplash It takes away cheaper clothes from low-income people who actually need them and do not have other options. Typically, used clothes from sites like Depop or thrift stores will be higher quality items than fast fashion pieces that would be a similar price. This would allow people who could not afford more expensive clothes to still get nice quality items at a discounted price. The clothes purchased are typically trendy or vintage which reduces the supply for others who would actually appreciate those clothes. Some people make a living off their reselling business, so they will go to the stores very early and buy all the cute clothes only to resell them later. I don’t think this is fair and takes away the main point for why people buy used clothes, they can be cheap and affordable. 

Thrift stores are also raising their prices now that they know about the demand. For resellers, this won’t be an issue since they raise their prices anyway. However, it harms people that rely on used clothing stores to get their clothes because they have less accessibility. Online sellers like Depop or Poshmark also can raise their prices to be high if they know an item is in demand. 

a glimpse inside a thrift store Photo by Prudence Earl from Unsplash This is not the same as people shopping at these stores who may be able to afford more expensive clothes. Buying used clothes that you will actually wear and will be better for the environment is not the same as buying used clothes at a cheap price and reselling them at a higher price. That distinction is where the problems come in. Someone selling their own personal used items is also not the same thing. They probably bought the clothing at a standard store and now want to get some money instead of throwing it away. They did not buy the piece just to make a profit. Shopping at thrift stores is not the issue and should still be encouraged. The problem is the people that exploit them. 

woman shopping for clothes in store Photo by Burst from Pexels

The rise of thrifting came from people wanting to be more environmentally sustainable by buying used clothes instead of buying new clothes. Fashion trends are always being recycled, so many trendy pieces can be found at used clothing stores. I think it's good to be trendy in a more sustainable way. It is better than going to fast fashion stores and supporting the capitalist cycle of fashion. However, this new wave of selling is doing more harm than good. 

Thrift clothes Photo by Artificial Photography from Unsplash Thrifting or buying clothes from Depop that you will actually wear is not a bad thing. It is more sustainable and is a cheaper alternative to regular shopping. The issue is when people will exploit the cheap prices for trendy items and then sell them for twice what they paid. It takes away options from people that need those clothes or would at least actually appreciate them just to make a profit.