The Daily Gamecock

Column: A thrifting guide to how and why you should shop secondhand

Sifting through used clothing in the hopes of striking vintage gold has become a favorite pastime of millennials and members of Gen Z. Even celebrities like Zooey Deschanel ("New Girl") and Sarah Jessica Parker ("Sex and the City") have embraced buying used. 

For anyone who hasn't tried thrifting, a few tips and tricks may help to shed light on the second-hand scene:

Know your options

Shopping secondhand doesn't have to mean flipping through racks at Goodwill, although it certainly can. In addition to chain thrift stores like Salvation Army, Plato's Closet and Goodwill, there are also smaller, standalone thrift stores such as Five Points' Sid & Nancy and its sister store Revente. Flea markets and estate sales can also be great places to find unique and inexpensive items. 

There are also online options. For example, Caroline Allston, a USC second-year psychology and criminal justice student, runs the @uofscthrift Instagram page. With over 2,300 followers, the page has attracted a lot of attention from students and people looking to buy the inexpensive clothes and Gamecock gear the page offers. Students need only to scroll through the Instagram page to shop and bid on items.

Allston said one of the benefits of online thrift shopping is that customers don't have to sort through the same volume of clothing they would at a physical store. She cited Depop as one of her favorite thrifting apps, along with Poshmark and Mercari, although she said sometimes the last two can be hit or miss. 

She also suggested shopping other Instagram thrift pages. 

“The thrift Instagram community is huge ... you can find really good stuff that you like for super cheap,” Allston said. 

Be open-minded

In a large thrift store, it's normal to get overwhelmed by all the items. It might seem easier to shop around in familiar sections, but Sid & Nancy employee Jerryana Williams-Bibiloni said although the store is separated into men's and women's clothing, clothing isn't actually gendered, and customers should walk in with an open mind. 

"Always look a size bigger than you would look, look a size smaller than you usually would look, because these styles stretch the whole gambit. Don't be afraid to look, especially with graphic tees in the men's section, and vice versa, because the cool stuff is out there," Williams-Bibiloni said.  

Be thorough 

Allston primarily finds her pieces from Goodwill and said you have to put in some effort to find the best pieces. 

“You really do have to go through every single item. Like, if you really want to find something you have to dedicate your time,” Allston said. 

If going through every item seems daunting, thrifters should follow the advice of Williams-Bibiloni and have a plan of what to look for. 

An easy way to narrow down the options is to create a Pinterest board of pieces to look for.

Allston said it also might be worthwhile to look through multiple sections of the thrift store. She said shoppers should not overlook the shoe section or the jeans because they may miss out on good finds.

Thrifters should also be thorough when looking over the items in their cart. If an item is stained or ripped, it might be better off on the rack. Allston warns especially about holes or tears in the seams. 

Know the good you're doing

Emily Farra of Vogue wrote that the fashion industry causes the second-greatest amount of pollution in the world behind the petroleum industry. Consumers can avoid contributing to this pollution simply by incorporating more second-hand items into their wardrobes. 

According to ThredUp's 2020 Fashion Resale Report, if everyone bought one second-hand item in 2021, it would save 5.7 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, which would be the equivalent of planting 66 million trees. It would also save 25 billion gallons of water and prevent 449 million pounds of waste. 

And if the financial and environmental benefits of thrifting aren't enough, hunting for secondhand steals can also be a lot of fun. Finding unique or vintage pieces can add new life to your wardrobe and spending a day with friends thrift store-hopping can be a fun way to give back to the planet and to small businesses around Columbia.