I remember when I was maybe in the 5th grade, my mom (if you know me, you know I prefer to call her by her first name, Peg) took me to my first thrift store and when I look back on it now, I totally smile thinking about a few things. First of all, that thrift store was none other than Buffalo Kids in Tempe, which maybe you haven’t heard of, but if you’re from Tucson, Denver, or a few other rad places around the country you might know the glory that is the famed Buffalo Exchange.
Founded in Tucson in 1974, Buffalo Exchange is a place where you can take all your unwanted clothes and actually sell some choice items for cash or even better in my opinion, store credit to then use while you’re in to buy something that feels like new to you. The vibes of this place are legendary, one of a kind, and if you’re into 1970s vintage meets high-fashion meets edgy self-expression, Buffalo may be a place for you so I highly recommend checking it out. At the very least, Halloween is coming up and I guarantee they will likely meet your needs (see the photo of me at my “Decades” themed high school dance lol not sure exactly which decade I was going for but I found this entire interesting outfit at Buffalo on Mill Ave in Tempe). So anyway, that fact that Peg was so OG that she was taking me to the child’s version of this store over a decade ago is hella cool to me. The other thing that makes me laugh about this memory is I remember my mom telling my aunt, who probably would list finding killer sales in her top 3 favorite hobbies, about Buffalo Exchange and Buffalo Kids, and her response was “God no, those places give me the heebie jeebies.”
Now, you might be like my aunt and even my husband and be thinking, “Well, I don’t like the idea of wearing someone else’s used clothing”, which in some instances, is totallyyy fair. For example, you may not want to buy say, swimwear used. Or socks and underwear. Or maybe even shoes. And that’s okay. I smell ya. BUT not only will I argue that used clothing can always (and SHOULD always) be thoroughly washed before it touches your body, I will also say there are 3 larger reasons why I value thrift-shopping and why I think you should give it a chance too.
1. OBVI Lower Prices
As the saying goes, “another man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and as much as using the cliché hurts my little English major heart, I cannot deny that there’s no better statement to summarize what I’m trying to say here. I mean we’ve all done it. I’m sure there are those pieces of clothing that in years past seemed like they were worth the money, but you either grow out of them or get sick of wearing them or they just don’t fit your aesthetic any more. So what do you do? If you're me, you usually pass it down to your little sister. But if you’re lacking in the little sister department, hopefully you don't just throw it away and instead load it in a garbage bag and drop it at your nearest Goodwill or sell it at a place like Buffalo or Plato’s Closet. So think about it. If you do that, obviously other people do that. And if other people do that, it means their nice shiz is just sitting there waiting to be snatched up for single digit $$$ people. For example, I got this belt below at Arc, a thrift store near my old house in Colorado Springs, for only $2 (pretty sure I literally paid in change from my wallet) and I get compliments on it every time I wear it. Here's the kicker: compare it to the western-inspired Austin Mesh Free People belt for $68. For a small-business owning, mid-20’s gal like myself, a difference of $66 is a big deal to me. That's like 5 Sundays of bottomless mimosas or at least 3 dozen avocados. Now, don’t get me wrong friends, I love Free People's designs and have definitely splurged in the past (something I struggle with now because of reason #3 but stay tuned). Sometimes it’s satisfying to see those pretty tags on the stuff in your closet. But then again, $66 difference, for the same, if not better quality. You can’t argue with that.
2. MOTHA EARTH
So in our day and age, everybody’s talking about the environment and sustainability. You might even hate me for bringing it up lol But it is a big passion of mine as a lover of all things plants, animals, and the great outdoors and I'm also thinking and reading up on what I can be doing in my daily life to conserve and protect these things. At the very least, it usually comes down to those 3 Blessed ‘R’ words. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. And when we talk about that word sustainability, that’s really all it means. What can we be doing to not only sustain our planet and make it last, but also live in a way that's sustainable, maintainable, and justifiable. Just like paper and plastic, clothes can be recycled and reused and clothing production can be reduced. If it’s in the thrift store, it means it’s not in a landfill. If it’s getting reused, that means there’s less demand for more new products and less pollution, waste, and chemicals going into our environment from manufacturing facilities. Fun fact for ya: just in the state of Arizona alone, Goodwill prevents over 100 million pounds of goods from going into landfills. That blows my mind. Let’s keep it green people.
3. SOCIAL IMPACT
One of the best things about places like Goodwill and Buffalo Exchange, is their connection to charity. Goodwill is known for providing jobs as well as using their profits from their retail stores to support their career centers. Here they help the unemployed get resources like career advising, interview practice, and job-matching. On the other hand, Buffalo Exchange has many different charitable programs in place (Hello $1 Earth Day Sale and Coats for Cubs) but the most well-known is a fun little program in place where you can choose to forego a bag for your purchases (Buffalo has kept over 14 million plastic bags from going out into our world! See reason #2 for thrift shopping) and in exchange you receive a token to put in a box for a charity of your choosing. Each token donates 5 cents and some of the charities that I’ve personally seen include animal rescues, women’s abuse shelters, LGBT support organizations, and the list goes on. 5 cents doesn’t sound like much, but when you think about 14 million bags that’s over $700,000 donated to local causes from skipping bags alone.
And of course, similar to #2, it is always important to think about what type of business practices your money is supporting when you’re buying your clothing or anything for that matter. Does the company abide by fair-trade practices and offer fair wages and working conditions for farmers and factory workers? Are there rumors that they use forced child labor in impoverished countries? (hence my problem with Free People) Do they outright steal the work and designs of small-business artists and designers (looking at you Urban Outfitters, Target, etc.)? So maybe that Free People dress unfortunately originally came from a not-so-savory factory in Uzbekistan, but if you buy it used from a place like Buffalo, your money supports Buffalo's efforts rather than Free People's shady practices that may or may not involve child labor. In our world with so many issues and things to think about, it can easily get overwhelming thinking about whose hands made your t-shirt, but I encourage you to think about what things are important to you—human rights, animals, the planet—and then see what you can be doing just in your daily life or here and there each month to make even just a little difference in our beautiful world :’) If you're unsure about the practices of your favorites companies, I recommend searching the brand on www.projectjust.com and just see what their research shows!
So there ya go! These are just a few of the reasons why I think Macklemore didn’t do Thrift Shoppin justice in personally hit up Goodwill, Buffalo, and some of my other local thrift stores for my own clothes sometimes. And if you follow along with my art ventures lately, you can probably see that these are actually many of the reasons why I also was inspired to create the denim side of my business. Thrifting and then up-cycling denim has been a hobby and passion of mine since I turned my first pair of mom-jeans into distressed high-waisted shorts in college and I think it can be yours too! Or at the very least, I can at least do it for ya lol
And as always, thanks for readin’, you’re a gem.