Whenever I’m feeling tired and in need of a closet upgrade, my first thought is “I need to go thrifting.” This is because at my favorite thrift stores, I can find the cutest clothes at the cheapest prices and experiment with different looks (from pastel purple windbreakers to groovy graphic tees).
Thrift stores are not a new phenomena, but in the past few years have risen considerably in popularity. Thrifting culture is especially rich in New York City, where there are many good stores to pick from and inspiration all over the streets to help you find your “aesthetic” or look grunge, hipster, or monochromatic.
One important distinction to make is the difference between thrift stores, and consignment/vintage stores. Consignment stores usually stock actual vintage clothing (often designer labels) at more expensive prices. However, thrift stores stock vintage and new clothing at cheaper prices.
If you’re looking to make some money, most thrift stores participate in buying as well as selling. Bring over some of your old unwanted clothes and they’ll become someone else’s treasure. Though from personal experience, some thrift shops can be quite picky. Even so, there are stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army that take all donations.
Thrifting is a great way to experiment with different types of fashion at less of a cost than most larger stores like Urban Outfitters or American Apparel, or even name brands like Chanel and Gucci. It’s also a fun activity to do with friends. Sometimes it can be tough—you may have to sift through racks on racks of clothing in a somewhat stuffy and dusty store, and sometimes you can leave disappointed—but you could also find a gem, making thrifting definitely worth it in the long run.
On that note, here are some recommendations!
L Train Vintage
L Train Vintage is currently one of the biggest and most popular thrift stores, with locations all over Manhattan and Brooklyn. Some stores are just huge warehouses with clothing covering the floor to the ceiling. Not only do they have a huge variety, but their prices are among the most reasonable I have come across—I once found a Patagonia jacket for only $8.00, and a multitude of colorful graphic tees are usually priced around $5.00 a pop. L Train is definitely a go-to for some more funky, unique pieces (especially jackets).
Another store with multiple locations throughout the city, Beacon’s Closet has an inventory of tons of normal, modern clothes and some funky throwbacks. I normally head to Beacon’s Closet for finding clothing from stores I normally shop from (like Urban Outfitters or American Apparel) at much cheaper prices than buying them brand new. Their clothing is a little more expensive, normally ranging from $10-$30, but compared to store prices, they’re still a steal. Also, they often have the same style in different sizes, which can be convenient since most thrift stores have only one copy of each article of clothing.
Buffalo Exchange spreads not only across the city but all the way to the West Coast. A mix between L Train’s loud colors and Beacon’s Closet’s wide price range, you can find clothing for all occasions here and some fun accessories, from cat bags to hot air balloon bags. I once found a Fjall Raven Kanken bag there for only $25 (normally $70-$80), and it’s lasted me for almost two years. People often underestimate the wear time of thrifted items since they aren’t new. Buffalo Exchange is one of those mixes with designer clothing for sale too.
Goodwill is probably the cheapest of them all, with a huge selection from houseware to clothing. Goodwill may be a lot of trial and error with trying to find clothing, but there’s something for people from all crosses of life at the most affordable prices! This is especially great for people on a budget looking for more than some fashion style. Big shops like these might not always have exactly what you’re looking for (and it’ll definitely take some sifting) but you can buy items for super cheap and then repurpose them. For instance, instead of dropping $40-$50 at American Apparel for some high-waisted denim shorts, just find a pair of high-waisted jeans at Goodwill and cut them at home.
Housing Works is another to hit up if you’re looking for more than just clothes. They have furniture, clothes, shoes, and houseware. They might be more expensive, but everything is in great condition. Plus, they are a charity-based store and all their profits go to those living with HIV/AIDS. I think of Housing Works as being a bit more upscale than the other thrift stores, with more proper clothing, like business attire-style. If you’re a busy Stuy student with little time to go shopping, no need to stress. There’s a Housing Works just a few blocks from school (on Chambers Street between West Broadway and Church Street) that you can quickly visit after school.