I have three siblings, and grew up down the street from four older cousins. My best friend in elementary school was what we called a “head” taller than me. Because of this, I had ample fodder for hand-me-downs. I was always getting cast-off jeans, shirts and dresses. I vividly remember getting a black trash bags full of old clothes, from cousins or friends, and racing with my siblings to see who would get the best picks first. We all wanted to be first to sift through the junk and find our new favorite shirt. As I have grown older, this love for hand-me-downs has grown into a love for thrift shopping as well. Long before Macklemore ever put the words to tune, I was indeed wearing someone’s grandpas clothes. I like thrifting because it enables me to find wonderful clothes for good prices. I love the treasure hunt aspect of it: digging through family reunion t-shirts and shrunken jeans to find a nearly perfect silk blouse. I love thrifting with friends, trying on ridiculous things and using my imagination to remove shoulder pads from otherwise stylish blazers. I love knowing that I am preventing old clothes from going to waste, love imagining the past lives of the items I buy.
Fashion is important to me. To some it may seem superficial, but the way I present myself with clothes can be the first impression I create. For the thousands of strangers I encounter on the subway and streets of New York, it may be the only impression I leave. Clothes can also shape my mood. A sharp blazer gives me confidence for an interview. A flared skirt with flowers makes me feel girlish and easygoing. All-black makes me feel like a New Yorker who means business.
But clothes are not my identity, and they are not all I care about. I am a student, so budget is also kind of a big deal. Loans, debt and all that. Not to mention living in New York, where the food, art and culture constantly rival for the loving affection of my pay-checks. I have to chose where I spend my money wisely, and as sad as that may be, it means there are no Mansur Gavriel bucket bags in my immediate future. Thrifiting helps me come to grips with this by enabling me to find nice brands without paying retail cost or resorting to knock-offs, violating the intellectual property of designers I love so much.
Additionally, no matter how beautiful a piece of clothing is, I never want to wear it if buying it will perpetuate supply-chains with modern slavery. I also don’t want to buy flimsy things that will be disposed, that will be shipped to another continent, and that will ultimately wind up in a dump because even the poorest people know it is poor quality.