We were dancing to ‘Thrift Shop’ by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at a party recently and then we realised that most of the people belting out the song have no clue what it means. We’re not about to disclose our favourite thrift shops but George will give you a simple thrift shopping guide. 

Thrift Shop by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Photo courtesy of milkshakesandmoustaches.com

A hospice, thrift store, second hand shop are mostly the same thing. The differences lie in whether the money they make goes to charity and whether the stuff sold is donated or not. Every thrift store is unique. Some only sell clothing, some sell only designer clothes that are in a new condition and some (like charity shops and hospices) sell anything they get. When you’re shopping at second-hand stores you will refer to things being ‘antique’, ‘retro’ and ‘vintage’. Get your definitions right. Antique refers to items at least 100 years old. The things are typically ancient and probably broken. Vintage is used to describe items from a specific time period that is more than 20 years and less than 100 years. For instance you could say, ‘Those shoes are vintage 1950s’. Retro refers to items created in the last 20 years, however, they are old enough to not just be last season creations.

You wonder why thrift shops have become popular? It’s largely due to wanting to look different. Think about it, as a student or young working person you will buy your clothes from the same shops as everyone else. It’s always awkward when some imp decides to wear the same item of clothing on the day you decide to. You want clothes that set you apart. I realise how hipster-esque that sounds, but we all want nice things and we want to look unique. This applies unless you have no personality and want to be like everybody else. Please take your Sketchers (or Croc shit), Truworths Man (or Jeep) clothes and go sit in a dark corner… we are done here.

When first hearing about the idea of buying other people’s old stuff one is naturally inclined to resist, with reference to hospices specifically. You might ask, ‘What if someone died in these clothes?’
Well you don’t know but you hopefully won’t be buying ancient old people clothes like that unless you are a dirty hipster in which case I hope that you exorcise your clothes. Finding dried patches of blood on clothes would also be a slight turn-off I presume.

When someone does dispose of their clothes one has to ask why. Why would you want to buy it if the previous person clearly no longer wanted it? The list of reasons can be long: weight gain or weight loss meaning clothes no longer fit, giving away presents out of spite (people do that), and by people I mean me (fuck you for buying me socks for my birthday again), or maybe just giving away something you no longer like or need. The main reason will most probably be that the clothes are no longer in the best of conditions or the person died, but then you can easily see clothes in shoddy conditions. As for the dying thing? You are playing lotto on that one.

This is a really REALLY nice second-hand store. Most places smell like old people.
Photo courtesy of anavedobomgosto.blogspot.com

Tips
It takes time. I have been through a shop on many occasions where I have found nothing. Do not let that discourage you. I am not saying go every day, but take a chance once in a while. You have to be vigilant though because everything is one of a kind. There is no small, medium or large. So not everything will fit you (don’t just buy something because it looks nice if it’s not going to fit you) and don’t bargain on coming back later to buy it, chances are someone else will like it and buy it.

To avoid buying old worn out clothes I tend to not look at shirts or things with thin material. They just tend to be properly worn out or have some stain that can’t be removed. This is not always the case but I have yet to buy a shirt.  Don’t go and buy a formal shirt when you can see the collar has been worn out; that’s stupid. Do not be fooled by labels either, if it’s an Armani shirt with holes in it then what’s the point? Unless you’re willing to spend time repairing it?

Look at jeans. Proper denim jeans can literally last a life time if they are from a proper brand. There will be jeans with holes in them but these days jeans are all made to look old and worn so it’s a win-win situation. Jeans and pants in general are also easy to alter for sizes so don’t worry if it’s a size or 2 out. At one hospice I have bought a pair of Levi’s, Guess, Diesel, Armani and Vertigo jeans, none of which were more than R30. The Vertigo pair were brand new and in perfect condition, in fact at that time they were still being sold in Vertigo shops for R600; it was quite a good deal if you ask me. Not all of them fit me but I altered them for about R40 each.

Wash the clothes that you buy before wearing them. Don’t be fooled into thinking they are clean. I think the lingering scent of old people that haunts hospices is disgusting.

Stay away from shoes. I rarely see shoes that don’t look like someone threw them under a lawn mower or that don’t have some form of fungus on them. It really is nasty and that’s where I draw the line. Shoes also either fit you or don’t, I once saw a pair of Hugo Boss square toes that were a size 12 for only R25. There is just no way to make that work.

Go through miscellaneous things. You can find almost anything from golf clubs, leather bound books, cutlery – the list is endless really. If you know a thing or two about collectibles then you can get your biggest bargains. Old people have the tendency to accumulate tons of shit which ends up at these shops after they pass, but you may find some proper treasures in all the junk. I’m lucky enough to have a mom who is an antique maniac so I send her photos of anything that looks like it could be worth something and she will know if it is. I saw this cool teapot that had a very well-known stamp on it. I ended up buying it for R100 and found out I could get up to a R1000 for it. This is obviously a massive field within itself which I do not know much about but it’s very much possible for you to come across something like this. I have yet to see any valuable books or paintings but it has happened that a woman bought a painting for R1200 that was worth one hundred times that.

If not for anything else I would still advise going for the thrill. You can find the coolest things and stuff you can actually use, especially if you no longer live at home. Look for any kitchen utensils, furniture, tools and vinyl records. Stay away from technological stuff though because there is no guarantee that it will work.