A few months ago, a friend dropped off a carload of third graders at my daughter’s birthday party and mentioned that he was going from our house to a “daddy date” with his high school freshman daughter to buy her a pair of jeans. Having just scored a nice pair of lightly used brand name jeans, I thought I’d share a tip and mentioned that I’d found a Goodwill store not far from us full of treasures. As I described the intersection, he laughingly replied, “Sure, I know that Goodwill, that’s where we donate clothes!”
Although it makes me a bit of an outlier among my peers, I’m unabashed in championing used clothes. I grew up frequenting thrift stores with friends in high school, and the habit of frugal clothes shopping stuck. My shoes, active wear and travel packs come largely from REI Garage Sales (where returned gear is sold to co-op members at discount).
My wetsuits come from local thrift stores or craigslist, and those fancier clothes I don’t pick up at thrift stores come from vintage stores like Crossroads Trading Company. With time and experience, you get a sense of what items you can resell to Crossroads for roughly what you paid for them, creating a rotating wardrobe that can be exchanged for credit when items fall out of favor.
Am I a sucker for a brand name? Less than most. As a medical student, I spent a couple of months as an exchange student at Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, where a shopping excursion to the silk alley market revealed the savvy vendors were more than happy to sew the designer label of your choice onto the tie, jacket, or shirt you’d negotiated for. As a result, while I can still appreciate that certain brands are a proxy for quality, I seldom pay full price for those brands.
An unanticipated benefit of being the outlier is that word gets out, and you attract other weirdos like you. I’ve unintentionally developed a growing network of friends and family with whom I exchange clothing. At my son’s recent birthday party, the father of one of his classmates brought me a Patagonia base layer he wasn’t using; the following week, I gifted him a North Face button down shirt I hadn’t worn in months.
I’m still awed by the awkward bromance of it it all, but I do find it quickly identifies people who don’t mind living unconventionally, and those are the folks I’m most interested in knowing.