I love thrift shopping. Ever since I can remember, the majority of my clothes have come to me second-hand. I grew up learning the tricks of the trade at America’s Thrift, and I enjoy the process of hunting until I find a truly unique piece.
Recently thrifting has become a huge trend in America, because, as they say, “what’s old is new again”. Many members of Gen Z have found thrift shopping not only to be an effective answer to fast fashion but also an alternative to the “clean-cut” American image that many Gen Z’s try to distance themselves from.
Where some Gen Z’s have begun to use this power for good, others have harnessed the power of the thrift store to perpetuate the capitalist idea of “buy low, sell high.” How do they do this? Through sites like Depop.
Depop is a second-hand clothing site designed to be a mix of eBay and Instagram. Users can create accounts and then with nothing but their camera and their product, they’re set to sell their product.
Similar to Instagram, there are trending hashtags, a personalized explore page and the ability to follow creators you like to see. All this combined has led to a highly competitive marketplace where creators constantly have to have a product to stay on top of the feeds.
Many sellers run to places like local thrift stores and buy name brand products for under ten dollars and turn around to sell them for $40 and up. This puts strain not only on thrift stores, but on the people who rely on them for more than just fashion.
It’s a combination of privileges that lead to the infamous Depop seller. Usually the seller is already rich enough to buy large quantities of clothes in the first place and they have enough free time to not only shop immediately after restocking happens but to sort through a whole thrift store to find the “good stuff” as well. Many who rely on thrift stores as their primary clothing source don’t have the time to dedicate to getting these items due to their work schedules.
The new upcycling trends also exclude plus-sized people when smaller people buy plus-sized items and alter them to fit skinnier body types. Statistically, people with lower incomes are also more likely to be plus-sized and these trends are actively depleting an already scarce source.
Rich people love discovering something poor people already knew and making it expensive. Like lobsters and Raybands, thrifting is facing a very similar tide. Prices have been steadily rising at places like Goodwill, and even America’s Thrift has fewer bargain tags than it had in the past. Thrifting is falling into a trap that capitalism laid – rich people will do anything to make sure they’re trendy and poor people aren’t.
It also plays into the idea that name brands are a luxury that poor people don’t deserve, and it gatekeeps the fashion industry even further.
The first time I felt uncool for the way I dressed was in fifth grade, when I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to have opinions due to the fact I didn’t own any “name brand” clothing. This belief exists in the business world as well – when you look poor, people listen to you less.
I strongly believe in ending fast fashion, and shopping at thrift stores is a very viable way of doing this. So is buying sustainable fashion. There are multiple options for people of all income ranges.
Depop sellers aren’t even entirely bad – in 2016, Newsweek reported that 84% of clothing gets thrown out, and it is possible that by creating more demand we can access more of the supply.
Many disabled people use Depop as a easier way to access vintage threads. Depop Sellers have the ability to do some of the more laborious work that people with various disabilities cannot. By charging at a slight increase one could argue it’s something very similar to a finder’s fee.
Depop sellers can benefit society with limited success. But without critique and self-awareness, soon these Depop sellers will irreparably damage the thrifting industry.
Katy Barnes is a writer for The Alabamian. She is a third year theatre major who enjoys movies, comics, and Montevallo culture. Previously she has written a Lifestyle Column for the Alabamian.