Students Weigh in on the importance of thrifting


Will Kleihege

A customer browses the secondhand selection at the Brown Elephant thrift store.

For many college students, especially those in urban areas, thrifting has become a mainstay. Instead of opting for expensive brand-name clothing, thrifting allows a student to go on an adventure of sorts.

“It’s exhilarating finding something unique that you’ve never seen before,” said DePaul alumni Justin Singerman. Singerman, who has been thrifting and shopping at second-hand vintage shops since he was 14, believes the activity has become normalized.

“It’s become more and more common,” Singerman said. “When I was in high school, shopping at thrift stores and wearing stuff from second-hand shops — I don’t want to say I was made fun of — but people were a bit turned off by it.”

Along with adventure, thrifting also provides a sustainable way to shop. Singerman barely, if ever, buys brand new clothing. 

“There’s enough clothes on the planet to last us several lifetimes,” Singerman said. “So I figured doing my part and shopping responsibly kind of involves me buying things second hand.”

Thrifting also allows one to avoid certain less-than ethical fast-fashion brands.

“It’s cheaper and more ethical than like H&M or something,” said DePaul senior Emily Stahl.

DePaul senior Maddy Sanchez shares a similar sentiment.

“I’m just someone that really believes in the overall renewal and recycle process and I think it’s so important to get the most use out of an item,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez explains how thrifting can be a relaxing activity. 

“For some reason me being at thrift stores is really calming,” Sanchez said. 

Sanchez, who has thrifted throughout her life, feels that one must be mindful when shopping at thrift stores. 

“Be mindful of the community spaces you’re entering,” Sanchez said, “Be mindful of not overbuying when maybe you’re in a position that is more privileged than someone who isn’t.”

The dispersion of quality thrift stores around Chicago is not an even one. Although it has some, Lincoln Park tends to not be a heavy-hitting thrifting neighborhood. 

“I don’t really go thrifting around Lincoln Park,” Stahl said. 

Singerman agrees. 

“There isn’t really much in Lincoln Park,” he said.

When one does wish to thrift in the Lincoln Park area, most of the stores will have a more tailored selection. Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads alike boast smaller, more expensive selections.

 “It’s more curated,” Stahl said, referring to the Buffalo Exchange at 5252 N Clark St. Both stores have quality selections of clothing, as well as a higher-end shoe selection. 

Along  with curated selections, many Lincoln Park thrift stores come with higher prices.

“It’s expensive,” Stahl said. 

As one moves west from Lincoln Park, thrifting opportunities present themselves more and more.

“Village Discount Outlet in Roscoe Village is like a DePaul staple,” Stahl said. 

Village Discount Outlet is a fan favorite, with several locations in Chicago, most notably in Andersonville, Wicker Park and Roscoe Village. Singerman describes these three neighborhoods as the “heavy-hitters” as it pertains to thrifting. Village Discount Outlet is perfect for entertaining the adventure aspect of thrifting with enormous racks of every type of clothing. 

“If you want to go in and explore, go to a place like Village Discount Outlet,” Stahl said, “They accept everything.” 

As well as having a huge selection of clothing, which is, for the most part, organized by style and color, Village Discount Outlet boasts a large glassware and shoe section. 

“The best thing I have thrifted is this pair of painted overalls,” Stahl said. “I looked them up on Poshmark and they’re like $150 and I got them for $4.” 

Stahl acquired her favorite thrift at Village Discount Outlet. 

While the average price of a long-sleeve shirt at Village Discount Outlet will run one around $5, the same shirt will run someone anywhere from $15-$25 at Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads. 

“Lincoln Park is a richer area, so the items might be priced up,” Sanchez said. “It feels a little more classist in these thrift stores in the richer communities.” 

Army Navy Sales, located at 3100 N Lincoln Ave, has tremendous value in the thrifting genre. Army Navy Sales’s atmosphere is very unique, with both a WWII drone and a 40-caliber machine gun as store decorations. One can find anything at this store, including old Army, Navy and Marine uniforms, MRES (Meals Ready to Eat), old ammunition boxes and military pins. 

The Salvation Army Family Store at 2270 N Clybourn Ave, and The Brown Elephant at several locations are both worthwhile thrift stores in Lincoln Park. Salvation Army, similar to Village Discount Outlet, boasts a huge selection of clothing, glassware, and furniture. The Brown Elephant, a smaller and more selective store, holds a quality furniture and glassware selection, along with an even-smaller selection of clothing for both men and women. 

Thrifting as of now is a common occurrence, especially for college students. 

“The fact of the matter is that within the last few years the act of going to places and shopping second hand has come into the mainstream,” Singerman said. 

This move towards the mainstream for thrifting is evident on DePaul’s campuses. 

“I feel like whenever I’m walking here on campus, the majority of people I see, or at least half, I can see that they definitely might have gotten that at a thrift store,” Sanchez said.