Mackelmore had it right.
His most famous song sings high praises of living the prudent and humble life of minimal expenditure at a thrift store. He shames other celebrities for spending thousands of dollars just to show up at the club in the highest styles and hide behind their disguises of wealth and confidence.
I’ve sung along to the song “Thrift Shop” and chances are you have as well. But has it actually affected our lives? For years I’ve frequented giants such as Urban Outfitters and H&M while verbally praising the merit of shopping at thrift stores. But my wallet said otherwise. Not only have I blown far more money than necessary, but I’ve contributed to companies with little to no regard for human lives in other countries.
My mouth can talk all it wants, but where my money goes is what actually makes a difference.
So I’m finally making the public declaration. I’m moving from being about 70% clothed by thrift stores to 100%. No longer will I buy clothes new (with the obvious exception of undies because…..yuck) and here are the reasons.
I’ll save a billion dollars
I wish I was exaggerating.
Okay, maybe I am.
But when Urban Outfitters has a shirt on clearance which still makes me gawk at the price, something’s a little twisted. In addition to the fact that one of their clearance shirts could buy roughly ten thrift store shirts, it seems like a no-brainer.
This is by far the easiest part of this resolution, as my wallet will hopefully not be quite as starved in the coming months.
Don’t support slavery
If I’m really serious about ethically sourcing my clothes, I basically have two options: Spend hours researching which stores do and don’t use foreign slave labor (SPOILER ALERT: Most of the big ones do), or I can simply choose to exclusively buy used clothes. You can do a simple Google search of which companies use slave labor, but if you’re anything like me, you won’t do this.
Because when we live in ignorance of where our clothes come from, we can continue to spend $7.80 for a brand new pair of jeans at Forever 21 rather than have to think about the mistreated tween slaves who made it available for such a low price. You don’t have to be a genius to realize that in order for clothes to be that cheap, someone has to cut corners somewhere. And usually those ‘corners’ are the rights of humans in other countries.
Like little kids.
I feel like most of us don’t research the origin of our clothes because we really don’t want to know. We don’t want our knowledge to have to affect our actions.
We don’t want to sacrifice our style so that someone else can have a better life.
But by shopping at secondhand stores, we avoid this problem altogether! We can still wear the same brands found at the mall, but we don’t have to worry about funding unjust conditions. When we thrift, not a penny of our money contributes to keeping people in bondage.
If you’re one of those people who thinks thrift stores are ‘icky’ and you can’t live without new clothes, perhaps you should do some research into the ‘icky’ lives people have to live so that we can have our new clothes. Look at how ‘icky’ it is when 7-year-olds have to go to work to support their families in terrible conditions, often losing fingers and toes because of the lack of safety precautions. Then buy a washing machine and go thrifting. Problem solved!
DO support humanitarian organizations
Nearly every thrift store I know does really, really great things. Just last year, Goodwill beat out Amazon, Patagonia, Google, and literally every other company on earth to rank #1 on the Brand World Value Ranking. They are doing the most good out of every company on earth.
And they are not alone in the thrift store category. You don’t have to look hard to see thrift stores hiring people with disabilities, or who are rehabilitating back into society. They donate to other charities to help people become educated, end hunger, and so on.
And it makes sense! Most thrift stores get their merchandise either for very cheap or as free donations, so they have a lot of money coming in with a lot left over. And since most are listed as non-profits, they have enormous opportunities to make positive differences left and right.
This is possibly one of the most effective ways we can contribute to the coming of the kingdom of God, and it’s one of the simplest changes we as consumers can make. As Christians, we are responsible for what we do with our resources. We choose where our money goes, so we can continue spending it at places with murky backgrounds just so we can look better, or we can invest it in companies that are so obviously making giant positive changes in the world and in their communities.
When I buy a brand-new article of clothing, I am consistently wary about when I wear it. Then, I am incredibly cautious not to do anything to harm it. It’s a constant awareness that certain actions may ruin my brand new sneakers/shirt/pants. It’s terrible!
But when I shop at thrift stores, even if I buy a really sweet pair of kicks, I’m less cautious and they return to their proper place in my mind of simply a pair of shoes I got for $5. I can live life more fully and relaxed, knowing that if I spill some wine on my jacket, the world will continue to spin and I can easily replace it for a few bucks. Clothes return to their proper place as simply a collection of threads, and they are removed from this worshipful place on the altar of selfhood. Your clothes simply clothe you and stop defining you.
Like Brad Pitt says in Fight Club, “You’re not your f****ng khakis.”
Additionally, as Mackelmore also points out, you won’t have the exact same style as a dozen other people wherever you go! Thrift stores have long given me a unique style, preventing the awkward stares when I walk into a coffee shop and have the same Abercrombie shirt as two other guys there. Pretty much all my favorite clothes are from thrift stores. Break away from the clothes advertisers are telling you to buy!
Conclusion & Invitation
Committing all-the-way to this won’t be easy. I know I’ll want to renege at times if there’s a great sale or a certain piece of clothing is needed. But that’s why I’m putting this here on the internet. So y’all can hold me accountable.
No longer do I want my dollar bills to potentially fuel organizations which belittle the value of human beings; I want them to go to organizations which employ the unemployable and benefit people all over the place.
And I want you to join me.
Are you willing to commit to thrifting (or at least doing research and shopping ethically), even if it means missing the Fall Line and sometimes having to wash your clothes before you wear them? Is it worth another human’s dignity to you, even if they live in another country and you’ll never meet them?
And are you willing to save half a million dollars? (That’s the easy part.)
Don’t just post selfies on social media; make effective changes that reflect what you believe, even if it’s a sacrifice.