Following the era of consumers deceived into paying 15 extra dollars for an alligator, moose or eagle sown onto a cheap shirt, individuality has risen as the new popular style. In other words, straying away from conventional fashion trends and defining one’s own distinct style is the new norm. However, doing so can run up quite the price if you’re buying retail.
Shopping at thrift stores is a great, frugal alternative to buying from retailers. Thrift shopping, or thrifting, has become more commonplace over the past couple of years. There is a certain stigma attached to thrifting — that thrift shops only offer low-end clothing and that shopping from second-hand stores is reserved for those with low financial resources. Anyone who goes thrift shopping will actually find that these stores are clean, organized and house an extensive selection of merchandise. Jam-packed with clothes, accessories and shoes from decades ago to now, these stores will surprise anyone who steps foot inside. Simply put, getting well-made pieces at bargain prices is a win-win situation.
Since thrift stores host a variety of items, not everything in these stores will fit everyone’s personal tastes. It might be tough to find that perfect item in a crowded thrift store, but with the assistance of a few helpful tips, it’s possible to unearth some great items.
Thrift shopping strategies
1) Pick stores in populated places — there will be a larger selection. Also, check back at stores regularly as items cycle through quickly.
2) Go into a store with some idea of what you need or want. This way, you can be more efficient.
3) Shop section by section. Look for individual items, not to build an outfit. Whatever you find will be able to work with something you’ve already got in your closet.
4) Be able to judge if something is your size by sight, because oftentimes sizing is not always accurate or organized.
5) Make sure to pay attention to the quality of what you are purchasing. Pay the extra $2 — it could be the difference between a Versace and an H&M shirt.
6) Looking through every rack of clothing is impossible, so instead quickly scan sections for unique patterns and colors.
7) Always try on the clothing. If an item fits you in the shoulders, but is too baggy — don’t worry! With a sewing machine and some rudimentary needlework, you can slim it down.
8) Pay special attention to designer brands as they will usually be the best bargains for superior quality.
9) Thrifting takes time. We recommend you dedicate a day to thrifting. Sure, time is money, but when you’re getting clothes at large discounts off of the retail price, we think you can afford it.
10) Bring friends with you — there’s a larger chance of spotting better items with more people. Plus, it will obviously be much more entertaining.
Palo Alto vs. Haight
Palo Alto’s opportunities for thrifting are generally limited to the local Goodwill, which in itself, is incomparable to the Haight’s counterpart. Even though San Francisco is not as convenient, add on six more blocks filled with even more unique thrift stores and it becomes pretty clear that a trip to Haight and Ashbury is worth it.
At first glance, the people walking around the Haight can be somewhat of a shock for the average Palo Altan: piercings in places you didn’t know possible, half shaved heads and hair dyed every color imaginable. Though after embracing this unusual ambiance, the Haight will become your only destination for thrifting in the Bay Area.
The Haight offers countless thrift shops of varying styles, whether it be a store full of vintage clothing, secondhand steampunk or designer labels, one is bound to suit your fashion taste. Every store located on the Haight is also larger than those found locally in Palo Alto and have wider selections of merchandise. Having more to sift through presents a greater chance of spotting something you love and that is a necessity for your closet. Although prices at the two locations are about the same, the quality of items in the thrift stores on the Haight definitely surpass those in Palo Alto.
Military Surplus stores are great places to get well-constructed, warm clothing that won’t put a hole in your pocket. California Surplus on Haight provides well-made items — but at the price of selection. The space is cramped and hard to navigate, but fairly organized with clothes racks sorted by size. There are next to no choices for women’s clothes and there is little inventory for things other than outerwear. Regardless of the small selection, there are some great deals that can be found. A particularly notable deal was a pair of leather boots priced at $60 that could run you up to $250 in other stores. Also in the store were several Carhartt items (a good quality workwear brand) marked down $10-$25. Though it does have a few major flaws, Military Surplus is a great place to shop for outerwear.
Crossroads Trading is a buy-sell-trade store, which means that customers don’t have to donate their clothes, but can sell their gently used clothes to the store for cash or store credit. Crossroads is brightly lit and organized just as a regular retail store, but is a great deal smaller. Due to the lack of space, clothing racks are packed to the point to which it is impossible to see what many articles of clothing look like, and removing the clothing from the rack is quite difficult. But if you do manage to discover a few items, you will realize that the style of clothing sold is similar to that of Forever 21, as most clothes are super chic and casual. However, the quality of the clothing is much better than what is normally found at such a store. The store is predominantly women’s clothing, shoes and accessories, but does have a few racks of men’s clothing as well. Crossroads is an appropriate fit for those who want to buy trendy clothing at bargain prices.
Located in both Palo Alto and on the Haight, Goodwill is an ideal thrift store for those who are just learning the ropes of thrift shopping. These stores are basic and have a fair amount of both women and men’s clothing. There are numerous categories of items, from clothing,to shoes and jewelry. Most items are pretty recent styles, so this is not the place for those who want older, vintage clothing. Prices here are reasonable and most prices are determined by item category, not quality. For example, most women’s tops range from $5 to $10, regardless of their brand or quality. So, make sure to search through items a little more when you’re here — it’ll be worth it. And, for the best selection, try going to the Goodwill on the Haight.