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Thrifting Evolves in the Bay

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Thrifting Evolves in the Bay

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Since the Great Depression and World War II, the thrill of finding vintage items for an affordable price was sought by many. Over the years, the evolution of technology has expanded the forms of thrift shopping. From vintage leather, rustic house ware, to merchandise from the 80s, second hand items can be found on the racks of San Francisco’s thrift shops. Located on Valencia Street, Community Thrift is the home to many reused goods and it works with over 200 charities in the Bay Area. Members of Community Thrift Store explained the motives, customers, culture, art, and evolution of thrifting. 

Zarin Kresge, 39 year old general manager of Community Thrift Store, described their day to day customers as “an entire cross-section of San Francisco”. Kresge said, “The broad cross-section of who’s coming in here has changed. And the quality of stuff I’ve seen increased quite a bit over the years, I’ve been here for over 15 years.” Along with their diverse customer population, each customers’ motive for thrifting is different too. Kresge said, “Some people are shopping out of necessities, some people are shopping for a really unique conversation piece.” For example, Geo Pineda, shopper at Community Thrift, is expecting to find “cheap furniture”. Despite the different motives of going thrift shopping, each customer has their own views on how thrifting can help with self expression. 

Growing up in Ohio, Kresge has been thrifting since his teenage years and enjoys finding pieces that brings out a sense of individuality. He said, “Part of [thrifting] was just like creating our own unique style. We didn’t want to look and dress like everyone else at school.” Similarly, Tyler Lynch, cashier at Community Thrift, conveyed her thoughts on how thrift shopping contributes to her unique style. “Everyone can come here and find things that speaks to them rather than things that they think is cool just because it’s on the billboards,” she said. Viewing fashion as a form of art, Lynch said, “I guess thrifting has helped me find myself and my own style and groove when it comes to clothes.”

The practice of recycled fashion has benefits beyond self expression – it is environmentally friendly. Kresge said, “[recycled fashion] brings some awareness to sort of fast fashion and the whole idea of taking some resources from the earth to make something that only lasts for like maybe a season or year” and how that “impacts the earth and also just like the world around you.” Recycled fashion is a way of practicing sustainability and reuse. Thrifting brings awareness to ways people can help the environment by recycling clothing, furniture, merchandise, and other daily necessities.

Thrifting in San Francisco is unique through its variety of donations and quality of items. San Francisco’s tight living space forces many people to constantly get rid of things. Kresge said, “What makes it unique here is just the really high quality stuff that we get just being in the location we are in San Francisco. It’s super space constrained and if they’re wardrobe starts filling up they got to get rid of stuff and that can be really good stuff.” This ensures a large amount of donations that are often in good condition. Kresge said, “You see stuff that’s been around for 30 years, 40 years and still really great and in good shape.” Jesse Parsons, 47 year old manager of the book section at Community Thrift, said that the quality of donated items in San Francisco has always been in good quality because of the educated donors. 

While the quality of San Francisco’s donated items for resale, the process of resale has changed over the years. Parsons said that the simple answer for the change in resale is “two words – the internet”. People often use the internet as a platform for resale. The internet has taken over the traditional concept of thrifting – shopping at a physical thrift shop. People use websites such as Ebay and Amazon to sell their things on the internet. This is helpful for shoppers who stay and home and browse the internet.

Despite the changes of thrifting culture in San Francisco, second hand shopping has allowed people to find their own style, bring back trends from years ago, and find good quality items for an affordable price. Through an inside glimpse of San Francisco’s Community Thrift Store, members of Community Thrift display the reasons, shoppers, culture, art, and change of thrifting and how it has shaped the modern thrifting tradition.

 

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