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The Mass Media

The Life of a Thrift Shopper

Why thrift shop? It’s a valid question. Thrift shopping is an acquired taste, to say the least. It requires a specific brand of person, those who not only can deal with the inherent grunginess involved, but thrive on it. Plenty of people aren’t cut out for it. They’d be just as happy buying new clothes from one of the autonomous clothing stores out there. But, where’s the fun in that? To understand the mindset of a thrift shopper, you have to understand that people thrift shop for a plethora of reasons. The usual three umbrella reasons to thrift shop are thus:

Economic Reasons: Any way you slice it, used clothing and housewares is cheaper than new. The low overhead is generated in part because most thrift stores are charity run; selling donated clothing to profit the needy. It not only benefits the economic needs of the shop but benefits the needy economically.

Environmental Reasons: A lesser understood advantage to thrift shopping is a chance to help out our dear Mother Earth. How does it help the environment you ask? Good question, points for listening. By purchasing used clothes and goods, you help prevent waste by re-using what would otherwise come to occupy space in a landfill. You also help the environment by conserving the resources and energy that would be required to make new clothes. With Green being the new black, so to speak, it would seem that thrift shopping should be becoming a lot more en vogue than previously.

Entertainment: This is the real make or break of a true thrift shopper. If spending prolonged time digging through less than clean clothes sounds like fun to you, then this is your game. It isn’t as easy as shopping at a usual store. Thrift shopping requires discipline, to be able to search and search in hopes of finding your own personal holy grail, only its not sub rosa; its sub-piles of damp sweat pants. The atmosphere of a thrift shop is quaint, putting you in close quarters with all the usual eccentrics expected at The Common at night or an art school during the day. Any veteran thrifter will tell you that the thrill is in the hunt.

Our city has many thrift stores hidden within it, some in plain view and the more choice ones requiring a little bit of effort to discover, finding the right one can be tricky. To make your life a little easier, I have used my expert opinion in junk and rubbish to pick out several premium examples of the thrift stores our city has to offer.

The Closet:175 Newbury St. Boston This is about as posh as a thrift store gets. Not only is it quite clean and well ventilated, things are hung up neatly and orderly. The staff are polite and knowledgeable. Nothing has the distinct musk of used clothing, and despite being rather small, claustrophobia never really hits. The price you pay for this comfort is literal though. I’d go so far as to call The Closet a “Thrift Boutique” as opposed to a true thrift store. You end up paying nearly as much as you would at a normal store. The advantage? You get unique, vintage threads and relatively low (especially for Newbury St.) prices.

My Haul: I’ll be keeping groovy in this beautiful blue Adidas track jacket. Brand new quality, fits like a dream, and I was able to wear it right out of the store. Damage: $20

Goodwill Industries, Davis Square: 230 Elm St. SomervilleA classic thrift store, the Goodwill in Davis Square boasts one of the larger selections of the Boston area. Two levels, with Mens on the Bottom along with housewares and women and children on the top, this store could keep any true pack rat satiated for a whole day, if not longer. The biggest issues are the menagerie of used drink cups (often spilled) on the shelves and the long line to check out. The music in this store can be quite hip for the clientele but just as easily be a single 20-minute jazz-fusion scat solo, so caveat emptor.

My Haul: I’ll be all set to party like its 1999 in this super swanky “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” T-shirt. Remember that little dog? He’s probably dead by now. I also will be the coolest kid on my campus with my own personal copy of “Film Theory” by Sergei Eisenstein that I picked up out of the book barrel while I was waiting on line for the register. Damage: $3 total

The Garment District: 200 Broadway, CambridgeInside this neat costume and vintage shop lies perhaps one of the more ludicrous thrifting experiences I’ve been privy to. On the first floor of The Garment District is the Dollar-a-pound room, where you grab a bag and are encouraged to crawl and dig through the three feet of clothes that are completely covering the floor. This is the place where the thrift store treasure hunt becomes literal, as the tragically hip get on their knees and dig through innumerable nighties and incalculable cardigans, hoping to score. Definitely not for the faint of heart or stomach, but who can beat the price? (It’s actually $1.50 a pound for close, excepts on Fridays, when it is $0.75 a pound).

My Haul: I’m going to be warm through this harsh New England winter in my new (kind of) lined corduroy blazer and brown merino wool hoodie. Damage: $4, getting to dig through 3 feet of clothes like the McDonald’s play place: Priceless.