hrift store shopping, better known as “thrifting,” has become so popular the past couple years, it's as if we’re all trying to channel our own inner Carrie Bradshaw sporting our own unique finds. The thrift boom, has been brought on by the younger, college aged kids and their recent love for nostalgic “vintage” clothing.
Their strong stance on trying to create an eco-friendlier world is also a big part of the movement. If they can find some cool retro pieces, put together a unique outfit and keep from adding more apparel to a landfill, that's a big win for them. There's tons of younger YouTubers creating thrifting videos showing their cool finds and the looks they've put together using them. Just look at the enthusiasm the girl in the videos below has for thrifting and for sustainability.
Thrifting may seem like an oxymoron in our industry, but these things affect our space more than you may think. In the wholesale, market we've seen a considerable rise in sustainable manufacturing and a huge increase in apparel intentionally being made and decorated to look like it’s been worn in and purchased from your local thrift shop.
Let's dive a little deeper into this trend, and see how it could influence your choice of decorations, product selections and overall sales.
All In On Nostalgia
Thrifting has become a part of the younger generation's culture and since the start of the pandemic, teens and young adults are wanting to find cool unique pieces that are nostalgic to simpler, happier times. The nostalgia loop is getting smaller and faster than it's been in years past. We used to see fashion trends resurface after about every 20 years, but now that gap is starting to shrink down to about 10-15 years.
Y2K (Early to mid 2000’s) trends are already resurfacing, and the younger generation is wanting to wear things speaking to that era. They’re finding these pieces from their “millennial ancestors” at thrift shops all over the country – and BTW - I have never felt older than I do right now writing this.
"What Are the Cool Kids Wearing These Days?”
College kids (ages 18-24) are dictating a lot of the fashion trends you're seeing filter down into what some of the younger students are wearing. During our 2021 S&S Activewear Virtual Experience, Brian Geffen, president of the San Diego-based custom screen printing shop, Duds by Dudes, briefly touched on this saying:
"On the school and team side, it often seems like the sororities are doing stuff that might seem a little crazy and out there this year, and then next year, everybody down the road is copying them.
So local groups, the high schools, the middle schools – even some of the elementary schools that we work with...It seems like the sororities and kind of the college-aged girls, who are in the know of fashion, are driving that side of the business."
- Brian Geffen, president of Duds by Dudes
Being a college student is like attending one big fashion show and the entire campus is the runway. Hundreds of students are showing off their trendiest styles on a daily basis to all of their peers and thrift finds have become a big staple for this generation across the US.
College Merch Stores Are Going Retro
College stores have also joined in on the thrifting trend and are carrying merch that not only looks as if it was worn in the early 2000’s but they’re offering product with that with the thrifted, worn in look. Blank apparel is being manufactured to look worn and broken in and then being decorated to look “vintage.” Decoration techniques being used are trying to create a faded, distressed, nostalgic, look. Garments are NEW but destressing is added in production and/or post production by the graphic.
Retailers Are Jumping on the Bandwagon
Popular retailers are taking note and wanting to join in on the thrifting trend as well. Even though they aren’t selling merchandise that is used they are recreating classics that you wouldn’t know weren’t vintage. Urban Outfitters has an entire collection of early 2000’s coveted brands, Ed Hardy, Juicy Couture, and Converse just to name a few, and it includes everything like iconic trucker caps, velour tracksuits, butterfly clips, graphic tees, colorful sunglasses, bucket caps, funky socks and accessories, and hightops.
A Response to Fast-Fashion?
Environmental sustainability and thrifting comes with a bigger, more important message other than just being “cool.” It is helping the environment by simply reusing and recycling clothing. The average life cycle of clothing has become extremely short and a lot of fast-fashion items are ending up in landfills. The trends come and go so quickly, that clothes are being produced and thrown away more than ever before.
Thrifting gives the eco-conscious a way of being fashionable and sustainable, which is something everyone in the decorated apparel industry should stay mindful of. You can use this to your advantage by offering apparel from brands like Alternative, Adidas, Hanes, Kastlfel and SoftShirts, when you need to create that nostalgic retro look for clients – especially those selling to college students. They've done a great job at trying to lead the charge on improving sustainable and ethical manufacturing practices.
Thrifting has now become an increasingly popular way of life in modern culture, and even if people aren’t keen on wearing a vintage piece that someone else has worn, you can still achieve the look of it all. Hey-fake it till you make it right? Your piece may live on forever.