Love it or Hate it: Thrift stores

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Love itMost of my clothes come from thrift stores. Truth be told, there’s an abundance of choice in New York City second-hand shops, probably because there are millions more people dropping off stuff (many of them wealthy) and because fashion is a higher priority there than it is here, deep in the mountains. There are still goods to be coveted in Durango – you just have to look a little harder.

At any standard department store or high-end boutique or wherever your price range takes you, you’ll be forced to try on multiple sizes of any one item to see which fits best. You can never be sure, because sizes vary vastly from store to store, brand to brand, food-intake-that-day to FITD. But at a thrift shop, there’s only one of everything. Either it fits, or it doesn’t, or it ALMOST fits but you buy it anyway because it’s only $7 and what the hell do you have to lose. It’s a much less exhausting process, as you never have to decide between different fits. If you get something from T.J. Maxx, you’ll eventually see another Durangoan (or worse – a New Mexican) wearing the exact outfit; whereas if you get something from a thrift store, you probably never will. You’ll be unique in all the world.

The whole “unexpected thrift store treasure” thing is cliché, but the hunt is truly half the fun. You might walk away utterly dejected and empty-handed, smelling musty. You might wander into Goodwill and find nothing in the “art” section except framed Winnie the Pooh posters and dull paint-by-numbers landscapes. Or you could stumble upon the weirdest trinket or portrait you’ve ever seen. There are scores of (true) stories about people finding extremely valuable art in thrift stores, and getting rich off of it. You never know.

– Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldHate itIf you’re looking for something specific – a vintage blender from when things were made right, heavy duty and in gently-used shape – you might find yourself making cursory rounds at 18 different thrift shops only to end the day weary, frustrated and still having no answer for how to get all those cookie ingredients to intermingle.

If you’re not looking for anything in particular, you’ll inevitably come home with that ashtray with the deer figurines glued to one side, a Marlboro clock whose tag said “works!” but whose minute hand is forever stuck on the 4, and a buckskin vest you think you might get in shape so that you can wear it shirtless to your next Western Rave.

That is to say, thrift stores for me are usually either a fruitless endeavor or a simple transfer of junk from one person’s house (a person who’s probably dead) to mine. At least charities or underprivileged dogs stand to benefit.

And please pardon the snobbiness, but there’s the “thrift store smell,” the second-hand equivalent of the “Walgreens smell.” As every Walgreens across the country smells the same, so does every thrift store, which must be what happens when people’s discarded clothes and fad exercise equipment from the early ’90s are put in close proximity. And sometimes, no matter how hard you scrub, those garments you got for $2 apiece will always smell like they belong to someone else.

– David Holub


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