There are three general motivations behind thrifting: environmental, social and financial.
Thrifting is an attractive option for eco-conscious shoppers as it can be a more environmentally friendly practice compared with shopping new. The fashion industry is a major polluter, causing global concerns -- in 2018, the industry's total greenhouse gas emissions were equivalent to all of France's, Germany's and the UK's combined. The industry's water usage and carbon emissions via global shipping are two major concerns.
Thrifting is one way to extend the lives of existing clothing, creating what advocates call a "circular economy." The basic idea of this cycle is that when clothes are passed on to other consumers, they stay out of landfills and help reduce demand for new clothes -- two things that help alleviate fashion's environmental footprint.
From a social perspective, research has shown that there's been a significant decline in the stigma surrounding resale in recent years, up to 76% of Americans surveyed in one study. In fact, thanks in large part to Gen Z, thrifting has become a social media trend. Thrifting took off on social media in 2021 as a TikTok trend, with users making trendy #ThriftFlip videos of their best thrift store finds and transformations. As of September 2023, the tag "thrifting" has over 11 billion views on TikTok.
And, for shoppers, thrifting is a great way to save you money. One report estimates you can save nearly $1,800 a year by shopping secondhand.
There have been concerns about the ethical impact the rise of thrifting has had. The increased popularity of thrift stores can lead to increased prices, potentially making these products out of reach for the communities they were originally meant to serve.
Sellers have similar motivations: cleaning out your closet can make room for current trendy pieces; donations or resales can be a more environmentally friendly practice and keep clothing out of landfills; and it can be a great way to make some cash.