The evolution of thrifting

By Liana Naccarato

Nathan Hopper, vintage clothing seller and manager of Vintage Instincts in Guelph, Ont., grew his interest in thrifting and vintage clothes with a friend he met in university. After selling his thrift-finds at local markets in his community, he realized that this was more than just selling somebody’s old clothes.

“I found more common interests with people that didn’t exactly share that with me,” he said. “So, the social aspect I thought was really cool, and that’s what made me want to do it for work.”

It was over the COVID-19 pandemic that Hopper said he saw the biggest shift in thrifting. People couldn’t afford expensive, new clothes. He saw students on tight budgets struggling to make ends meet. Those under lockdown and stuck at home were forced to shop online.

“It was the only way you could sell stuff,” Hopper said about selling his thrifted clothes.

“The way that the world and the economy is moving people can’t afford new clothes anymore,” Binet said.

Josh Binet

Hopper said social media plays a big part in thrifting’s rise to popularity. Platforms like Tiktok have become places to showcase thrift culture. Hopper feels like Tiktok this has influenced younger generations in particular into finding thrifting that is something cool. 

When people see vintage clothes on their favourite rapper or social media influencer Hopper said it impacts their viewers’ style as well. 

“All these videos coming out of people posting their finds on TikTok and showing their resale flips and it’s getting 3 million views, it encourages kids to go out to the thrift stores,” Hopper said.

 Josh Binet, co-founder and marketing manager of Mississauga-based vintage store Street Cvlture said he knew there was a growing demand for thrifted clothes when 200 people lined up an hour before their doors opened.

“We realized the impact it had on the people in the community and very quickly realized we needed a bigger space to be able to meet the demand of what people are asking,” Binet Said.

When Street Culture marketed all their items for $20 each Binet said the prices they offered were unheard of at the time. This was when he realized how big of an impact their store had on the thrifting community.

“The way that the world and the economy is moving people can’t afford new clothes anymore,” Binet said.

Claire Magnus is a 20-year-old thrifter in the GTA who has been buying and selling for the past five years. In that time, she too has noticed a shift in the community, but not just in the physical aspect of buying and selling second-hand clothes, but also the mentality toward it from others.

“On social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok, it is extremely trendy to show other people your greatest finds,” Magnus said.

She uses Depop, a popular reselling app used by thousands across the word to buy the unique items she finds. Magnus said she uses this app because of its convenience and its ability to reach a wider audience than a regular store would.

“Everything I’ve ever found in the thrift store has been a gem.

Icess Rawling

“You end up finding a lot of cool people on there that have such good pieces,” Magnus said.

She said she enjoys watching thrift hauls on TikTok, specifically Emma Chamberlin, a popular influencer and model with 16.1 million followers on Instagram. 

“On social media platforms like YouTube and Tiktok, it is extremely trendy to show other people your greatest finds,” she said.

Icess Rawling is a another Depop seller from Toronto. She noticed that since the stigma around thrifting has changed, people are less embarrassed to do it. She said that she can go thrifting for multiple hours and suggest it to be a fun activity to do with other people.

“There’s a big opportunity to find diamonds in the roughs,” Rawling said. “Everything I’ve ever found in the thrift store has been a gem,” Rawling said. She noted that the thrifted items have always been affordable too.

Stylists even use thrifting to enhance their luxurious wardrobe. Myles Sexton, a stylist that works alongside City Line often encourages people to try it out.

“I absolutely love thrifting and mixing my luxe brands with unique thrifted pieces,” Sexton said via email.

“The stigma around buying secondhand clothing has really changed. It’s way more embraced and encouraged versus when I grew up, I would get bullied for wearing thrifted clothing, but that’s what my family’s income could afford,” they said.

They believe that thrifting has become more prioritized in society, since 10 percent of the global fashion industry contributes to carbon emissions. Thrifting gives clothing a longer life which helps reduce the amount of waste we produce from it.

“I think people realize they can get better quality clothing, thrifting for the same price as fast fashion brands that will fall apart very quickly,” Sexton said.

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