Gentrification of ThriftingThe gentrification of thrifting is impacting the availability of second-hand clothing for people in need. Although thrifting existed from the late 19th to early 20th centuries, it had not gained widespread popularity until the 1970s onward. Furthermore, the scale at which this now $119 billion industry operates signifies its importance to the fashion industry and mass media. While thrifting has captured the interest of many young consumers, the consequences of this overconsumption prove to be more harmful than initially intended.

The History of Thrifting

Thrifting has existed for centuries across various cultures, but it was not until the late 1800s that thrift stores began to appear all across the U.S. As immigrants integrated themselves into the evolving American culture, they struggled to be accepted by mainstream society, often seen as those who took opportunities away from U.S.-born citizens. Many low-income individuals sought to create secondhand shops in collaboration with the Salvation Army, however, secondhand clothing held a stigma that deterred the general public.

At the turn of the 20th century, these locations began to change their marketing tactics to resemble popular department stores emerging at the time. From then on, they appealed to a broader range of people and the stigma began to disappear. It was not until the last half-century that modern thrift stores aligned with popular fashion, moreover when maximalism became all the rage.

Throughout the mid-to-late 2010s, fashion companies worldwide, including Levi Strauss and H&M, formed an arrangement to push sustainable fashion to the forefront of their businesses. Their proposed sustainable options could not come to fruition without addressing the issue of unethical production methods. Once fast fashion increased in scale, garment producers overlooked the human rights side of the equation. Tragedies like the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, sparked the question of ethical textile creation. Thus, thrifting presented an easy switch for consumers. Furthermore, with the increase in internet use and micro-trends perpetuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, thrifting gained traction like never before.

Recent Popularization of Secondhand Shopping

With the upward trend of maximalist fashion —a style that incorporates layers, patterns and other eccentric accessories— consumers acknowledged thrifting as an affordable shopping alternative. This craze began among teenagers and the advent of social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram has merely increased its appeal. Environmental friendliness and avoiding exploitative labor justify the transition from fast fashion websites to secondhand stores. Influencer culture has also weaved itself into the mix, triggering this overconsumption and gentrification of thrifting.

Thrift stores, designed to benefit low-income communities, have been under fire for increasing the prices of secondhand clothing in recent years. Although a majority attribute the online reseller to be the pivotal cause of this shift, more often than not, thrift stores are raising their prices to maximize sales from wealthy shoppers.

The issue pertains to demand rather than the supply of donated goods. The desire for thrifted items has increased, so much so that it is becoming difficult for low-income people to access this support network. Moreover, thrifting has positively benefited the environment and human rights issues. However, psychological determinants, especially among impressionable youth, also play a role.

Changes in the Thrifting Market

A study in Vietnam displayed the growing second-hand market as well as the impacts of social class and cultural perceptions. While many western countries have developed an affluent thrifting environment, others have blurred the lines regarding the practice due to external influences. Some feel good about their decision to thrift due to its low cost and benefits to the environment while others stay away because of lingering social stigma. Each country is attempting to develop its own stance on second-hand goods, but a general consensus has yet to be reached.

Clearing up Misconceptions and Finding a Solution

Misconceptions about thrifting have emerged over the years. Supply is a common segway for thrifting advocates to guilt affluent consumers out of purchasing secondhand. The sheer number of donated clothing has skyrocketed since the pandemic began, but only around 20% become in-store inventory for selling in secondhand shops. The rest are either sent to warehouses to ship to overseas markets in sub-Saharan Africa or end up in landfills. It is an act of overconsumption as an ideology that has erected a majority of the damage; even more so than resellers of thrifted clothing.

Rather than citing specific groups that have contributed to the steepening prices, the best solution to combat the gentrification of thrifting is to spread awareness and encourage ethical buying behaviors, such as avoiding “high-need items in low stock” or simply buying an item that one can use for an extended period of time. Another alternative may be purchasing from vintage clothing or consignment sites that are not geared toward the low-income demographic. This way, one streamlines where their clothing originates from and can avoid situations where the seller mass purchases items from mainstream thrifting locations.

By addressing the gentrification of thrifting through conscious thrifting behaviors, secondhand shops can still serve the people most in need.

– Sena Ho
Photo: Flickr

Rural poverty in North Africa is similar to rural poverty in South Africa, though the national poverty line varies dramatically. According to Rural Poverty Portal, this includes the differences between 6% in Tunisia and 90% in Somalia. North-African economies are in dire straits.

Poverty-ridden people, they said, “constitute about one third of Tunisia’s poor population, and about three fourths of Somalia’s poor.” However, poverty in Northern Africa is still concentrated in rural areas.

This has deep causes such as the limited availability of “good arable land and water,” and “the impact of droughts and floods.” Conflict has similarly disrupted agriculture and thus intensified poverty, especially in Somalia and Sudan.

Algeria is a country in Northern Africa whose economy is dominated by the state, according to the CIA World Factbook.

“Hydrocarbons have long been the backbone of the economy,” the Factbook explains, “Accounting for roughly 60 percent of budget revenues, 30 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) and over 95 percent of export earnings.”

This hydrocarbon exportation has brought relative “macroeconomic stability, with foreign currency reserves approaching $200 billion.”

Despite Algeria’s relative stability, things such as transportation and a stable social infrastructure remain obstacles for Northern Africa. High rates of illiteracy, especially among women, also negatively affect the economy.

Rural Poverty Portal furthermore illustrated that the northern region of the continent has “weak local institutions, poor integration with the national economy, and the migration of rural youth to urban areas.”

However, the urban areas in Northern Africa hold the most political influence. “Government policies and investments in the region tend to favor urban areas over rural areas,” they said.

Just south of Algeria lies Niger, a land-locked, Sub-Saharan nation. Though it shares a border with Algeria, a relatively stable African country, it has a very low income – less than $250 USD gross national income per capita, according to the World Bank Development Indicators as of 2005.

Moreover, CIA World Factbook states that Niger qualified for “enhanced debt relief under the International Monetary Fund program for Highly Indebted Poor Countries.” This significantly reduced Niger’s debt and annual obligations, and freed up funds for “basic healthcare, primary education, HIV/AIDS prevention, rural infrastructure and other programs geared at poverty reduction.”

The Factbook said that food security remains a problem in Niger, and is enhanced by refugees from Mali.

Sixty-three percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the most recent data which was gathered in 1993.

Northern Africa has a wide disparity between the very poor and the middle-class. Though some countries are more stable than others, education, food stability, access to clean water and social stability remain significant obstacles for the reduction of African poverty as a whole.

– Alycia Rock

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, BBC, Rural Poverty Portal, Central Intelligence Agency
Photo: Reuters

In the vaguest sense of the word, Merriam-Webster will tell you that general poverty is “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.” This is just about as much as anyone with a context clue for the word poverty could define it as. But what is it really? What does it mean to live in poverty? There are different types and levels, in a sense, of poverty. Each country tends to have different cut off points that determine whether they are truly impoverished or not. But it is generally accepted that those living in such a way that it is difficult to make ends meet, are impoverished. So what are the different levels?

There are several million people living at or nearby the poverty line just in the United States, but even our poverty line is higher than that of the world’s poorest countries. A person living alone and unmarried is allotted just over $11,000 or less to meet the poverty requirements set by the government. And while survival in our country would be absolutely difficult on this meager income, many people are living on even less. In fact, there are 2.4 billion people living at the poverty line of $2 a day, this comes to less than $3,000 income in an entire year. That is two dollars every day to feed themselves and their families. All that money to have a place to live and water to drink and clothes to wear. Defining poverty means looking at the fact that people are going without the full education or access to good jobs that they so desperately need to pull themselves out of this way of life. People living this way often have to choose one necessity over another in order to make sure that at least some of the needs are met and taking any government assistance when possible, like food stamps and welfare. And it gets even worse than that.

What about extreme poverty? This is recognized as living on less that $1.25 a day as defined by the World bank in 2008 and there are over 1 billion people living in this state. This level is decided by a lack of clean water, housing, food, health care and education. Some of the countries most beset by this issue include Africa, Afghanistan, and Haiti. Most things that other people take for granted, those living in extreme poverty must go without. People living in extreme poverty suffer much higher rates of infant and maternal mortality. 22,000 children around the world die every day in the poorest countries due to unchecked illness and succumbing to malnourishment. In fact 1 billion out of 2.2 billion children in the world are living in poverty conditions such as these. At this point every aspect of survival becomes a struggle. It is not simply a matter of going without health care to ensure that there is enough food in the house. It is instead going without reasonable amounts of anything at all and living a day by day existence.

What about social poverty, or social exclusion? Poverty is not only defined in a monetary fashion. Income poverty is the most commonly looked at, but there is such a thing as social poverty. This is defined as lacking cultural inclusion due to the inability to conform to society’s ideal norms due to a lack of education, skills, money, health care, child care, and a certain type of living condition. This multidimensional measurement of poverty brings all these into consideration to define itself as the inability to participate in the community socially whether on that national, local, or even familial level. While it is much more difficult to measure than what is called absolute poverty, it is still considered to be an important aspect of poverty by many in the world. It is thought that a quality of life should also be applied to standards of living.

All in all, while poverty is defined much in the same way that any word is, it is a constantly adjusting thing as it is an active part of life itself. It fluctuates regularly and changes to meet the times. Hopefully, with the right amount of work and education, it will also become a part of our past as opposed an all too realistic part of our present.

– Chelsea Evans

Sources: Merriam-Webster, Families USA, Global Issues, UNESCO, One Day’s Wages
Photo: Photo Brazil