Thrifting is becoming a global trend on social media after years of criticism. In the age of social media, sustainability is raised as an important and trending topic combating the practices of fast fashion. Individuals’ shift to sustainable living is observed through the increase of the public buying second-hand clothing. This method is eco-friendly and a great alternative to fast fashion, but there are factors to be aware of when shopping. 

Thrift shopping perpetuates a double standard, one of trendiness for middle to upper-class families and one of necessity for lower-income families. Lower-income households have had to buy clothes from thrift stores out of necessity and receive scrutiny for not being able to afford new “hip” clothes. Luckily, this stigma is being lifted as thrifting is now considered “cool” but individuals with lower incomes continue to be affected. 

Photo by Maegan Comer

An emerging issue that comes with buying secondhand is reselling. Apps like Depop and Poshmark, if used correctly, are a way to shop secondhand and sell old clothes to someone who will give them another life at a cheap price. 

However, since vintage clothes have become trendy, the number of people willing to pay for a pair of used, vintage Levi jeans has increased. Sellers go to thrift stores, find items for cheap prices, around 5 to 10 US dollars, and go on to sell them for 50 to 100 US dollars, sometimes more, depending on the product. This takes away the option for anyone with less money to be able to afford these clothes which were originally in a low price range. 

Thrift hauls are flooding TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. Influencers display an overconsumption of clothing, setting an expectation for viewers regarding shopping. That’s why thrifting is trending in the first place and promoting mass consumerism through the purchase of secondhand clothing. Overconsumption is never a good thing for the planet, whether it’s from fast fashion or secondhand shopping, and should not be glamorized. 

This threatens the rise in prices at thrift stores leaving the individuals who need them most with nowhere else to shop but fast fashion stores like Shein or H&M that perpetuate cheap prices for low-quality clothing. Some thrift stores mark their clothing prices the same no matter the brand. Others have started to price based on brand, which has arisen with the popularity of thrifting. Shirts that used to be priced at 5 US dollars are currently priced between 12 and 15 US dollars. Fast fashion companies like Shein offer deals selling clothes as cheap as thrift stores used to be, resulting in numerous issues from pollution to labor exploitation. However, it is easy and affordable, and for people who don’t have the luxury of buying high-quality sustainable clothing, this may be the only option.

Photo by Maegan Comer

Thrifting is one of the best options to be sustainable while keeping up with trends and owning clothes you love. While at your next thrift store, think before you buy. Practice intuitive shopping, can you see yourself wearing this in a year? Do you like it, or is it just a trend? Do you have clothes that will match? 

While scrolling through secondhand apps, make sure the items are second-hand rather than for resale to stop encouraging that behavior. Ask the seller where they got the item and if it’s resale. Some ways to know whether someone is reselling is by checking out their seller’s page. If someone has posted an excess of items over a long period of time, they are probably a reseller. Also, professional photos can be a sign of someone who’s reselling. Someone selling their old clothes will have less options and most likely an iPhone picture.

Keep in mind the privilege of being able to thrift out of want rather than need and apply that to the things you buy. People who enjoy second-hand shopping should continue to do so and all people should try to implement it in their lives if they can. 

There are other options for sustainable clothing. See if friends have clothes that they no longer wear; maybe parents or other adults have something you’ve always wanted to add to your closet; or siblings can be a great place to look. Sustainability should be trendy. Let’s just make sure we are doing it the right way.