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Why Is Thrifting So Popular Among Today’s Teens?

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

If you enjoy both thrifting and procrastinating on your math assignments by spending hours watching YouTube videos, you may have noticed the abundance of thrifting videos that YouTube has to offer. There are a ton of them: thrift hauls, thrift flips, thrift tips, "come thrifting with me"s, and so on and so forth. To go along with the long list of thrifting-related videos, there’s a shorter-albeit-still-substantial list of YouTube channels dedicated to these types of videos as well. Many of the individuals running these types of channels are young people, and most of them belong to Generation Z.

This is not just the switching out the older, millennial influencers and replacing them with fresh, young faces some may expect it to be. The number of thrifting YouTubers who also belong to the so-called “iGeneration” reflects a greater truth: Thrifting is getting increasingly popular with Gen Z, and cementing itself among our most noted pastimes.

But why is this? What about thrifting is so appealing to Gen Zers?

The first and most obvious thing is that thrifting is cheaper than just about any other form of shopping out there. When thrifting, you can snag a really cool graphic T-shirt for as little as $2 and a slightly-too-big pair of Levi’s for $7. The low cost is a big seller for the high school/early college crowd who want to look cute while saving money, whether they be saving money away to pay for college, rent, or to buy that new pair of AirPods.

Another aspect of thrifting that Gen Z finds so appealing is that it can give back to communities! Places like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Savers aside, there are some pretty cool locally run thrift stores–in L.A., especially.

“It’s good to support smaller businesses instead of, like, huge massive chains and corporations,” Spencer Hart, a junior, says. Spending money at these smaller businesses means that most of that money will circulate locally for a little while and will continue to be reinvested in the community.

“A lot of the money you spend when you purchase from thrift stores actually goes to charity,” he added, singling out Out of the Closet Thrift Stores, who donate 96¢ of every dollar spent at their stores to HIV/AIDS health care and housing services.

While it may surprise many adults to hear, there are a lot of teenagers out there who take who they’re giving their money to into consideration before purchasing, and prefer shopping small to purchasing new from huge fast fashion brands like Target and Forever 21 who often take advantage of lax safety and low minimum wage laws in other countries to obtain cheap labor.

Speaking of fast fashion: next comes the fact that thrifting is better for the environment than shopping from fast fashion brands. Fast fashion produces monumental amounts of waste due to overproduction, and is one of the largest consumers of natural resources (such as water) worldwide. Taking away business from such companies means that they’ll waste fewer - even if it is only by a fraction - resources, which is incredibly important for many Gen Zers who are concerned about the environment.

“I like that it makes me feel less guilty, rebuying clothing instead of buying new clothes,” says Olivia Alatorre, another junior. “It’s good for the environment compared to shopping fast fashion.”

And last, but most certainly not least (as Spencer made abundantly clear): The fun of it! Thrifting is an exciting experience, and there’s nothing else quite like the thrill you get while hunting through the racks of a second-hand store searching for that one item that just speaks to you.

“It’s a bit like a scavenger hunt,” Spencer says. “There are always just one or two things that are really cool and interesting that can be . . . bragged about and shown off.”

“You never know what you’re going to find,” says Olivia. “You can find a tutu, you can find a ballgown, you can find a tracksuit. You can literally find anything.”

Going thrifting with friends adds another layer of fun to the already thoroughly enjoyable experience because, as Spencer put it, “You can wreak havoc.”

“You can go through and just pick up the dumb stuff that you find and look at it and show it to your friends and be like, ‘What the heck is this thing?’”

Keep in mind that these are only the opinions of a handful of high school students! There are sure to be many more ultra-specific reasons behind why thrifting is popular amongst individual members of Generation Z.

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