Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ video, “Thrift Shop,” had 679,334,319 views on YouTube as of March 29. Since the release of the song, thrift shopping has gained immense traction. However, students at Lick-Wilmerding have been thrift shopping long before the success of the hit song.
Dusty floors, fluorescent lights, and loosely-organized aisles filled with unique finds — this is what many in the Lick community, students and teachers alike, call a fashion haven. This is also what many refer to as a “thrift store.”
Thrift stores are retail establishments that sell second- hand items (clothing, home goods, or others) that have been sold or donated to the store. Many thrift stores are social enterprises, meaning that they are retail establishments operated by charities for the purpose of fundraising. Because the items they sell are donated by the public, the goods are marked well below retail prices. After all costs are paid to maintain the store, the remaining income from the sales is often donated to local charities.
Community Thrift, for example, is an “independent and non- discriminatory establishment, and when you donate to us you can pick your favorite charity,” according to their website. The store works with over 200 Bay Area charities.
Lick-Wilmerding, and San Francisco in general, is teeming with connoisseurs of thrift culture.
Avid thrifter, Amelia Levin- Sheffield ’17, says, “I began thrifting when I moved to San Francisco, at the beginning of freshman year, about a year and a half ago. I lived in Sonoma County before, and when I moved to San Francisco, I explored the Mission. I loved the thrift shops there. San Francisco is one of the few places that has very hip stores; at my previous city, thrift shops were not a cool thing.”
Manager of Academic Information Systems and Registrar Kelleigh Trowbridge explains that she started thrifting when she moved to San Francisco when she was 18 years old.
Another Lick thrift store favorite is Thrift Town, which calls itself a “First-Class Secondhand Store.” The business is committed to making a difference everyday, stressing the importance of community, charity partners, customers, and crew members. Across its fourteen locations, Thrift Town purchases over 50 tons of clothing every day, totaling over 40 million pounds of items that would otherwise end up in landfills. They recycle or donate the items they do not sell to developing countries around the globe.
By purchasing all merchandise from local nonprofit partners to raise money for charities, Thrift Town has helped raise over $240 million since 1972. They seek to benefit nonprofit organizations that provide real benefits to the community. A grassroots philosophy still holds true in the business today, as an employee stated that, “What the company stands for and the customers who come to shop for are admirable.”
When asked why they enjoy thrift shopping, many Lick- Wilmerding students said the experience of thrift shopping and the stories behind the clothes they buy were important. Reishan McIntosh ’15 says that “thrifting is something that’s been passed on. Each clothing item has been worn, has been from someone else. Clothes don’t have to be new to be good. Many people credit their style to very vintage outfits. People don’t realize that you can buy a normal outfit from Thrift Town.”
“I enjoy it because it’s more eco-friendly. I’m not throwing my own clothes away. I’m buying clothes and donating my own clothes. It’s more fun to find things at thrift stores than have things laid out for you. Clothes have more a of story if they’re worn by someone else,” says Bix Archer ’15.
Regardless of how vintage or unique clothes at thrift stores may be, Trowbridge says there are drawbacks, including “finding something that really does not fit. No matter how cute something is, if the size does not fit you, you can’t buy it.”
Thrift shops offer clothes that are not typically found in department shops. “You can find stuff that people today aren’t making,” says Levin-Sheffield. “And if you do find something that people are making today that is cool and retro, it’s not out of my price range. Also, in an effort to avoid looking like I walked out of Forever 21, I thrift shop. It’s a way to set myself apart from other girls and to find my own niche in the fashion world because fashion can be so one dimensional, and vintage shopping opens people up to contemporary fashion and fashion that’s been going on for the past 200 years.”