When I was a teenager, I had the best Saturday morning routine ever. I’d wake up at 5:30am, and head to my tiny town’s small thrift store that opened at 6. I know…this sounds insanely early, but for some reason this store only stayed open for two hours and was only open on Saturdays (I still don’t know why).
This was the mid-90s, a time when 70s throwbacks defined my personal style. And man oh man did I find some amazing things back then! Butterfly collar shirts in crazy patterns, authentic 70s high-waisted bell bottoms in every color, pattern and fabric imaginable and even the occasional pair of sky high platform shoes were all loaded in to overflowing bags and then taken home. While my new scores spun in the washing machine, I watched an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. After they were washed, dried and hung up in my closet, I’d take a well-deserved nap.
It was kind of perfect.
My hometown didn’t have a Goodwill, so monthly trips to a town 30 minutes away to this ‘fancy’ thrift store were special treats. Here I found beautiful vintage wool sweaters (that all my classmates thought were from J. Crew) and more mod frocks, go go boots and funky costume jewelry than you can imagine.
Little did I know, I was in thrifting’s Golden Age.
I still thrift. I still find amazing things. But as any longtime thrifter will tell you, it’s different now. With the rise of fast fashion and the wild abundance of cheap/disposable clothing, one has to dig a lot more to get to the good stuff. It’s not any thrift store’s fault. They’re just selling what has been donated.
A lot of avid thrifters will advise you to shop at thrift stores in affluent areas and big cities to find the best highest-quality scores. And I get where they’re coming from. It’s a totally logical concept, right? Wealthy people have and therefore donate better stuff right?
Not so fast.
Don’t ignore your small town thrift stores. They’re treasure troves for those willing to venture out of the city.
Smaller populations = less competition.
It’s amazing what you can find when you don’t have to shop alongside scores of vintage-loving college hipsters. If you have a slightly unique style, you’re at an even bigger advantage.
You can find more luxury brands.
If you have a discerning eye, and a knowledge of labels, congratulations. Guess what? Wealthy people are everywhere, and with the easy ability to order luxury items online, even the tiniest of hamlets have a few high-end fashionistas. When they tire of last season’s looks (which they always do), you can scoop up their donations by the armload.
You’ll find more interesting things.
I’m not even sure why this is, but I always find the most unique and interesting items in small town stores. Just trust me on this one.
Any time I travel out of town, I try to visit at least one small town Goodwill. There’s much to be found off the beaten path.