Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Thrifting, A.K.A buying second hand clothes, has become increasingly popular in recent years, and with this growth in popularity has come increasing prices. This rise in prices isn’t a coincidence, but many people don’t know who to blame
In the past decade, there has been a substantial influx in middle to upper class people thrifting, mainly young adults. This boom has led to an overall price rise of products for the multi-billion dollar business Goodwill. This price rise has left financially underprivileged communities with fewer options. A place where they were once guaranteed affordable clothing, including both daily wear and work attire, has lost its viability.
With thrifting’s growing popularity in upper-middle class and upper class society, clothes that fall into the price range for low income households are being bought out from under them, diminishing this resource for the disadvantaged. Many low income people use goodwill and other popular thrift stores to get their work uniforms. To add on, plus-sized people are also seeing a deficit in clothing for them since it is now popular to buy oversized clothing and DIY crop-tops/dresses/scrunchies out of them. Many people who are disenfranchised by the rise in prices complain that thrifting has been “gentrified”, and while they aren’t necessarily wrong, are we blaming the right people? No. We aren’t.
As a society, we tend to point the finger at the individual. Instead, we should be critiquing the overall system that allows for industries to raise their prices more than they need to. It is easier to blame the individual, but we have to fix a more fundamental flaw in our society. The way we have set up our businesses ultimately hurts consumers. To these businesses, profit matters over people.
Goodwill, while perceived as a place for low income households to rely on, never explicitly states they are such. A statement by the company reads,“While our stores serve to fund our programs and provide jobs for those otherwise facing barriers to the economic mainstream (including visible and non-visible disabilities), we also aim to provide an interesting array of like-new clothes at affordable prices at our Goodwill stores.” In other words, their focus is not to keep prices low to aid people in need, but rather to keep prices low enough that people will come to find trendy and “interesting” items. Money over people. It is not the consumers’ fault that Goodwill chooses to raise their prices when they are already receiving enough revenue.
Thrifting is a great way to reduce your ecological footprint and simply save money and there is nothing wrong in buying something from a thrift store. While the practice may seem tone deaf at times, simply buying a shirt for $5 instead of $10 while simultaneously reducing our overconsumption should not be villainized. Instead of continuing the pattern of blaming the individual, we should recognize it is our foundation that is at fault for the cracks we see.