The art of thrifting

My firsthand experience buying secondhand

Shopping secondhand doesn’t make you cheap; it makes you unique.

I’ve been looked down upon for purchasing used clothing, but it’s such a huge part of what brings my style together.

Every weekend I hit up the local thrifts near campus, looking for pieces that will not only compliment my wardrobe, but also compliment my wallet. Occasionally, I come out empty-handed, but most of the time I find some real gems.

A couple of weeks ago I came back to campus with 2 pairs of pants and 3 shirts for a grand total of $23. It almost feels like you’re robbing the place.

The steals are one thing, but I think the biggest draw to secondhand shopping is that it separates your style from that of your peers.

Sure, it’s easy to shop online or pick up the latest trends at your local H&M, but everybody else has that same mindset. Although I do shop new as well, I don’t want to dress like everyone else. I want to buy pieces that I can incorporate into my outfit and call my own.

The worst thing in the world is seeing the dude behind you in a lecture wearing the exact same T-shirt.

Don’t get me wrong – I love buying brand new clothing too. I just feel like shopping for brand new stuff comes with a hint of guilt. I never know if the jeans I just bought were worth their $30 price tag, or if a $20 tee is actually a quality purchase.

When thrifting, there’s never any need for this shopper’s remorse. Everything is so cheap that it’s almost impossible to feel bad about spending some cash.

When I walk out of a thrift with an entire outfit, that’s an outfit that nobody else will have. Thrifting gives me the opportunity to express myself through fashion and showcase my interests.

My favorite era in terms of fashion trends was the ‘80s and ‘90s. Boy bands were killing the game with colorful looks, Zack Morris was showing up his classmates in “Saved by the Bell” and Tommy Hilfiger was high in demand. That time frame of fashion has been coming back, but not completely.

Vintage-inspired clothing is cool and all, but there’s nothing quite like buying the real thing. I have no problem with other people’s fashion decisions, but when it comes to my look, I’m a little picky.

If I have the choice of buying a modern take on a piece of clothing, or check the thrifts until I find one of my liking, I’ll always choose the latter.

Thrifting is also a hunt. You scavenge through racks, look at everything and keep going until the whole store is swept through. This is the biggest appeal of thrifting; it becomes more of a hobby than just shopping.

Everyone is looking for something different at thrift shops. We all have different styles. The fact that nobody in the store is looking for the exact same thing as you makes it a bit easier to enjoy. You’ll never fight over the last of any product, because if you do, you may just miss something else.

That’s where thrift shopping can get a bit competitive. If you don’t find something, somebody else eventually will. It’s essential to hit up the shops on days that they restock the shelves, so you can have a higher chance of scoring.

At department stores, there are two types of shoppers. There are those who know what they want and those who don’t.

Most thrifters are a combination of these two categories. When I walk into the thrift shop, I always have a general idea of what I’m looking for. Do I always find exactly what I’m looking for? No, but that’s what makes it so exciting.

I could walk in and make a mental note that I’m looking for band-tees or button downs. Most likely, I’ll come out with a mix of the two, as well as something that I never anticipated finding.

It’s a rush finding something you never knew you wanted. That’s what thrift shopping is for. It’s really just a treasure hunt – giving shoppers a surprise in every corner.

The only legitimate downside to thrifting would have to be leaving the store with nothing. This can happen, but it doesn’t mean that the next store doesn’t have something waiting for you.

Each weekend I walk around stores full of other people’s unwanted belongings. But hey, I guess one man’s trash really is another man’s treasure.

Brenton J. Blanchet is a staff writer and can be reached at


Brenton J. Blanchet is the 2019-20 editor-in-chief of The Spectrum. His work has appeared in Billboard, Clash Magazine, DJBooth, PopCrush, The Face and more. Ask him about Mariah Carey.