By Loh Jia En Jolene (21J02), Joan Goh (21J02) and Leong Ky-Lin (21J07)
In the past, buying clothes from big corporate fashion companies, wearing them a substantial amount of times before throwing them away or donating them to the Salvation Army was the norm.
However, in recent years, thrifting has risen in popularity, with an increase in platforms for the sale of secondhand clothing, such as “Depop”. Now, thrifting is a hot trend among a myriad of people, especially the younger generation. In fact, some of us might be guilty of jumping on the bandwagon after watching “thrifting hauls” on our Tiktok “for-you” pages or our Instagram “discover” pages, and seeing influencers show off their “vintage steals” from their thrifting trips.
But despite the gentrification of thrifting, some of us may still have misconceptions about thrifting being unhygienic and only for people who have lower incomes. Let us try to convince you otherwise.
The misconception of thrifting being unhygienic originated back from the 1920s due to racial stigmatisation against marginalized racial groups who were the main patronisers of the stores in the past. Thrifting was also strongly associated with the poor as people of lower-income families would often frequent thrift stores in search of affordable, secondhand clothing and items that they otherwise would not have been able to afford in more pricey retail stores. However, these are simply myths.
Simply put, thrifting is completely sanitary. There are policies put in place by thrift stores to ensure the secondhand clothes’ wearability and cleanliness. For example, The Fashion Pulpit, a well-known thrift store in Singapore, ensures that the secondhand clothing being exchanged under their premises are laundered, then steamed and disinfected with essential oils.
In fact, shopping second hand may be more hygienic and safe than new clothing! We are so acclimatised to believing that secondhand clothing is less clean. However, unbeknownst to most people, newer clothes may contain higher levels of chemicals due to treatments such as urea resins and formaldehyde which are used to prevent wrinkling of clothes and parasites. Secondhand clothes, on the other hand, have already been worn and washed several times, hence any toxic substances would have been removed by the time the clothes are resold.
Unsurprisingly, many RVians have already become active thrifters, with some even creating their own Instagram thrift store accounts. We spoke to Joey Woo from 21J04, the co-owner of Instagram thrift-store “Jobel_co'' and an avid thrifter to get a deeper insight into an RVian’s perspective of thrifting.
What inspired you to start thrifting?
I really like fashion and thrifting forces me to think out of the box, especially when digging through the piles of clothes. However, I started thrifting more mainly because of how the prices are much cheaper as compared to fast fashion stores. Some clothes found in thrift stores are of good quality, so buying second hand gives these clothes a new lease of life in my closet!
What made you decide to start the account?
I felt that it was quite a waste to throw my clothes away when most of them are still in really good condition, so I wanted to give them a new home by starting an account to sell them to others.
Do you think that thrifting plays an important role in making fashion sustainable? Why or why not?
Yes of course! When we buy second hand clothing rather than [from] fast fashion, it decreases the demand of fast fashion and thus less pollution occurs. Furthermore, second hand clothes do not require more resources to produce.
Other than environmental sustainability, what other benefits do you think thrifting can bring?
Firstly, thrifting helps to reduce waste as thrifting gives them a new home. Secondly, thrifting allows us to step out of our comfort zones and explore different styles. Lastly, most thrift stores are partnered up with charities so by thrifting, we are technically giving back to the community.
Do you have any advice to give to first-time thrifters?
For first-time thrifters, it may get overwhelming and intimidating at first due to the large amount of clothes that you have to look through. However, as long as you have the patience, you may be able to find vintage and good quality clothing. Make sure to think out of the box too, fashion has no limits and you can redesign or alter the clothes!
As you can see, thrifting is not only hygienic and safe but also delightfully versatile and convenient. As Joey put it, one only needs to “think out of the box” and be more open towards the concept of second-hand clothing - you never know what steals one can manage to find! We hope that we have offered a more comprehensive and accurate point of view of thrifting and maybe even convinced those of you who were more hesitant before to give it a shot!