Bay Area Thrifting
By Brandon Llamas
The Bay Area is home to a huge variety of second-hand clothing stores, making it possible to construct entire wardrobes out of only a couple dollars, in addition to finding some unique and often overlooked pieces.
To cover these thrift shops, I visited the Goodwill in downtown Novato, the Salvation Army in San Rafael, and the Plato’s Closet on Haight Street in San Francisco, each providing their own advantages and drawbacks.
Initially, I chose to go to the Goodwill. For those unfamiliar, this is a store that takes in clothing donations from nearby communities, then resells them for a fraction of their retail pricing. For anyone lacking a collection of basic jeans, shirts, and jackets, this would be the ideal destination.
The Salvation Army was very similar to the Goodwill in its methods of acquiring and distributing its merchandise. However, I did notice a difference in the variety of their items. There were many more last-generation electronics available for purchase, as well as a large section dedicated to higher-quality pieces such as leather jackets and dresses suitable for more for formal occasions.
Yet, both of these suffer in the regard that any name-brand items are few and far between, and the sheer volume of clothing can seem overwhelming to anyone passing through.
To counter this, The Plato’s Closet had a very different atmosphere from the two previously mentioned locations. It was much smaller, and attracted a much more interesting crowd of San Francisco natives and tourists alike. It also did not take all donations, instead offering cash or in-store credit for men and women’s clothing meeting their standard for quality, and, because of this, provided generally more interesting clothes, albeit at higher prices.
Here, I was able to find many discounted clothing companies popular among Novato students, such as Stussy, Air Jordan, and A Bathing Ape, all of which are usually found far outside the average high schooler’s budget.
Novato High junior Melina Paisley had much to say about second-hand clothing as an alternative to higher end companies.
“Thrifting is 100% better than name-brand because if I buy something I don’t end up liking, it’s not as big of a deal because it’s not a huge hit to my wallet,” said Paisley. “If I get something I do like, it’s way more valuable to me because I get a lot of use out of something I didn’t have to pay too much for. You usually end up finding more interesting and flexible items at thrift stores than department stores that focus on current trends instead of what will last.”
Another benefit to thrifting is that it helps work against the current “fast-fashion” epidemic plaguing the current scene. This can be described as brands like H&M or PacSun providing trendy, but low-quality and potentially immorally-made items at low price points, which can drive independent companies out of business and hurt the field as a whole. Second-hand stores can help this by keeping money out of the unseen corporate hands at the top of the fashion industry.
Another Novato junior, Jade Abreu, enjoys shopping at thrift stores.
“You can find some really cool things that have been aged for you, and haven’t been artificially aged. You can also find authentic vintage clothes if you search well enough; I found a full 90’s shell suit for $10,” said Abreu. “Whenever I wear aged things, like my denim jacket or red coat, I feel like I just came from Times Square or Haight Street.”