A Guide To Thrifting
Publish date: November 10th 2017
Written by Hugh Perkic
Edited by Michelle La
Recently, I’ve been growing tired of buying new clothes. The numerous drops from the various brands on the market, like for example Supreme, don't excite me as much as they used to do. Now I often find myself sleeping through the 8 o’clock rush, instead of waking up early for a chance at copping myself a new piece for my wardrobe. Whereas before, I would wake up early just so I could get a chance at copping an item (or multiple items) from a brand’s website.
Instead of losing sleep in order to cop things that will make me look (and feel) hype (my definition of “hype” items being something that is popular and desired greatly by members of the streetwear community), I've begun the habit of spending my evenings wandering (like a certain photographer friend of mine) through various thrift stores and even the occasional stray Winners in the hopes of finding something that I can incorporate in my wardrobe. Even though there are people that I know of (personally and through word-of-mouth) in our community who kill it (constantly finding rare pieces and/or pieces that they like and will wear from various brands every time they visit a thrift) when it comes to the thrifting game, with my knowledge and views I can give you streetwear-heads a crash course on how to thrift.
Now first off, how does one thrift? Simple. Just head to a thrift store. Sounds easy, right?
Well, it's more searching through racks in hopes you’ll find something that fits the description of what you’re looking for. It’s dedication, patience, and time. Luck does have an influence on whether or not you end up finding something that you’ll wear consistently, but the three main keys to success in thrifting are as follows:
1: A shit-ton of dedication
2: A significant amount of patience
3: A good amount of time
Remember these three key steps are the fundamentals and the backbone of every sub-category in this guide. With that in mind, we will cover the following:
- Thrift shops
- Types of thrift shops - small and local; big chain stores and charities
- Thrift shop tier list
- Examples of gear that I have found/what others have found
- Story time
- How to efficiently thrift
- Where to look
- What to look for
- How to maximize your thrifting capabilities
- What to not do
- Final thoughts
Now that you have a basic idea of what we’re going to cover, sit back, grab a coffee (or whatever you like to drink), and relax. We’re going to learn about the wonderful world of used clothes shopping!
Before we go thrifting, we need to learn a little bit more about the battlefield that we will be dropping into. While the basic idea of a thrift store is the same thing, a store that sells used clothing and other various household items. The types of thrift stores that you see will vary. For the purpose of this guide, we are going to divide them into various different categories for the sake of simplicity. The categories are as follows:
- Small, locally-owned stores
- Consignment stores
- Big charities and/or chain stores.
Now that we’ve stated the two main categories of shops, we’re going to go into detail about what they will typically carry.
Smaller thrift shops will typically carry a smaller stock of clothes, depending on the neighbourhood and type of store, it can either be a dead end with little-to-no hidden treasures or an absolute fucking godsend depending on what kind of gear that you so happen to be searching for. A good comparison from my own experience would be my own local Salvation Army in Surrey (located by Newton Exchange) and Community in downtown Vancouver (located in Gastown).
Both storefronts are small, with a small but decent selection of old gear. While Salvation Army (Sally Ann) has a selection of everything: good, decent name brands to ratty, and old clothes that look like they’ve seen better days back in the decade that they were produced. Stores like Community will typically stock vintage clothes that are in better condition and more likely to been seen on your typical vintage aficionado or skater. While both are thrift stores at heart, the major difference (which was pointed out to me during the writing of this article) is the type of thrift shop they are; NOT the size of their storefront.
The major difference is their prices. Salvation Army sells the majority of their clothes for cheaper, affordable prices, while Community (and numerous other shops who follow a similar format) sells their gear for a price that’s more closer to retail than affordable. While some people might not like that, it’s part of their business. Community isn’t a store that survives off donations or is run by a charity, it’s a store that sells items that are consigned by the owners.
(While these two thrift stores are similar, they’re actually quite different from each other.)
“BUT ENJI I THOUGHT THE THRIFT STORE ONLY SOLD ITEMS THAT WERE DONATED!!!”
No, that’s where you’re wrong, fourth wall break. Thrift stores aren’t just run by charities or non-profit organizations. A lot of the locally known thrift stores throughout Vancouver are known as consignment stores. Stores like F as in Frank, Turnabout, and the aforementioned Community are prime examples of the stores that consign products. They’ll sell the items at a specific price that’s higher than what you’d find at your typical Value Village or Salvation Army. I can even give you an example of these higher prices, as I recently bought a Livestock x Reigning Champ letterman jacket for my girlfriend for the price of $60.
Before we lose ourselves and flip out over the prices of the various items at the consignment stores, fear not, budding thrifter! Sometimes waiting to buy that fire piece can pay off, especially at a consignment store. One thing I neglected to mention in my brief bit on consignment shops is that the prices aren’t fixed like other thrift shops. They do drop if the item isn’t sold over a period of time. To explain this better, I’ve included a picture of a tag from a consignment shop to show how this works.
An example of a tag from a consignment shop (specifically Turnabout on 14th and Main.)
Take note at how the items are labeled and described, and also take note at how the price drops are spaced out.
As you can see on this tag, the initial price is listed, as well as a few other different prices on the tag that show how much the item will become at a certain point. For example, if the $26 Herschel Gore-Tex Bucket isn’t bought after a certain date the price would drop to $20.79. If it’s still not bought by then, it’ll be dropped down again to $18.19. If it’s still not bought by then (which I’d be surprised about), the price will be dropped down for the last time to a measly $13 dollars (if it’s still not bought by then, jeez guys, y’all are fuckin cheap).
That would be a brief example of how consignment prices work. It varies from store to store, but I assume this is how it would work at most consignment stores (especially Turnabout, whose tags I decided to use for this example).
Keep your newly acquired consignment store knowledge in mind next time you go to one of these stores and get emotionally triggered like I did over the prices ($75 for a vintage Umbro parka why god). If you wait patiently enough, that $75 dollar parka could become a $45 dollar parka.
Now, on the other hand, bigger thrift stores typically carry everything (AND I MEAN EVERYTHING). They don’t focus on any style (or just on clothes for that matter). However, since they’re usually busier (depending on location), most stores typically will consist of everyday items strewn about, with a few hidden gems thrown in the mix in various different sections. Whenever you go to a store of this sort, you’re more than likely to leave with at least one new item in your hand.
Not all of these stores are great for finding awesome new gear to wear. Depending on the location you go to, you’ll either find a haven for thrifting that carries dozens and dozens of fire pieces from various athletic, fashion and streetwear brands, or a place that’s been torn apart by crazed thrifters and people who think that employees will clean up after their mess.
Anyways, if you end up going to a store like this, two good examples like Value Village and Salvation Army (which I mentioned earlier in my previous example) are great places to go to depending on the location. For the former, locations such as King George and Burquitlam have yielded great finds for myself personally. As for the latter, my friend (and fellow contributor to this guide), Macadam personally recommended me to two Sally Ann locations in the west side of Vancouver. While I have two favorite locations at 12th and Knight and 67th and Oak. Either store will do fine for thrifting, it’s honestly just preference with store location, the type of clothes you’re looking for, luck, determination, and of course, patience.
Now that we’ve talked about the types of stores, let’s quickly go over some examples of items that you can find at either small or big stores.
Examples of what you can find at thrift stores (aka the “look at the cool shit I’ve found while thrifting” section):
When it comes to things that you can find at the thrift store, oh, you’re definitely going to have a blast -- only if you don’t give a shit about what kind of brands you want to wear. Or you’re going to die inside, if you’re a hypebeast who expects nothing but dank memes and ultra-rare Supreme pieces from 1997 in 9/10 condition that you can sell for $15,000 because you like to overcharge and make money. Sadly, thrifting doesn’t result in hype pieces every time. You get lucky some days and find some good gear, and some days you don’t. That shouldn’t discourage you from looking for a few lucky finds or even discover a hidden gem or two along the way. Here are some general examples of things that you could find at your local thrift store:
- Pieces from “mall” streetwear brands (ex: Stussy, Huf, The Hundreds)
- Pieces from retro athletic wear and sportswear (“activewear”) brands (ex: Nike, Adidas, Umbro, Diadora)
- Pieces from outdoor gear/mountaineering brands (ex: North Face, Columbia, Helly Hansen)
- Pieces from workwear brands (ex: Dickies, Carhartt, 5.11 Tactical)
- Sometimes pieces from more popular streetwear brands (ex: Supreme, Palace, Bape)
- Rarely pieces from designer brands (ex: Raf Simons, Gucci, Dior, W&H)
These are just a few different examples of things that either I (or fellow friends/contributors) have found at thrift stores. As I stated earlier in the guide, the location of the thrift store that you visit will make a difference in what you’ll find. A Value Village in Vancouver won’t have the same gear as the one in Richmond, just as a Salvation Army in New West won’t have the same gear as one in Langley. Since each location has a different type of demographic (ex: West side of Vancouver is generally a higher income area, so you’re more likely to find more expensive gear compared to East Vancouver), you’re more than likely to find different items at each different location. Every store is different, just like how everyone’s fits are different.
I originally had planned to talk about a few specific instances in which I’d found specific types of items but instead, I’ve decided to cut the bullshit out and simply just show a few fit pics and/or pictures of said items in particular:
A.P.C hoodie, small (contributed by Macadam)
Retail price: Estimated around $200-$300 USD in DSWT condition
Price at Thrift: $18
Total discount (estimated): 90% off
Long sleeve Christian Dior button-up (contributed by Macadam)
Retail price: estimated around $758 USD in DSWT condition
Price at Thrift: $6.99
Total discount (estimated): 99% off
Now that we’ve seen some examples of what we can find at the thrift, we’re going to wrap up this first part of this lovely guide to thrifting.
In the next part of this guide, we’ll talk about how to efficiently thrift, and what you should and shouldn't do when searching through the racks for dank-as-fuck clothing.
Until we see each other again, this is Enji Norizuchi, shutting down.