The History of Thrifting
Thrifting might seem like something that’s new, or just based on the popularity of vintage clothes at a given time.
That said, finding interest in old items and giving them new life is something that’s been going on for a long time. We’re going to take a look at the history of thrifting, exploring where it comes from, why it’s so popular, and why it’s such an integral part of so many people’s lives.
Hopefully, the insights below can add a little meaning the next time you visit vintage stores in Stillwater MN.
What is Thrifting, Anyway?
Merriam-Webster defines thrift as “careful management, especially of money.”
Thrift-ing is the act of seeking used or affordable goods for personal use. Seeking out affordable things is nothing new, but there’s a modern culture surrounding the practice. People go thrifting, not just because they want to save money, but because they enjoy it.
There’s something exciting about finding a little underpriced relic that you know is priceless. There’s also a great deal of variety and novelty available on the shelves of a thrift store. The intrigue of thrifting is just as much about discovery as it is about saving money.
The modern use of “thrifting” is a little different from the original usage of the word, which dates back to the 14th century. “Thrift” derives from a combination of Middle English and Norse language.
Thriven and Prifask were terms that meant “to thrive.” Those terms were loosely associated with wealth and prosperity. The term was first used to describe the habit of saving money in the 1550s.
That said, the idea of thrifting in the modern sense didn’t come until much later. This, in large part, is because people tended to only have what they needed. Excess clothes, toys, and knick knacks weren’t very common because most people weren’t accustomed to having a surplus of things.
Flea Markets and Rummage Sales
Depending on the part of the world and how different societies were organized, people have been selling their clothes, crafts, and products to each other. That said, flea markets and rummage sales are recent ancestors of thrift stores.
Flea markets are thought to have started in 19th century France. At this time, an imperial architect made changes to the layout of Parisian streets. Street vendors and secondhand sellers who previously took to the street to sell their goods were forced out of their usual spots.
Individuals organized to sell all of their goods in the same place, lining their booths up in a contained area that allowed customers to browse. There’s some question as to why it was called a “flea market,” though.
It might have been because the vendors were forced to “flee” their usual locations, and the government of the time would regularly kick them out when they set up shop. Because vendors would come from all over and operate in close quarters, some say that “flea” markets were named because there were actual fleas transferred from booth to booth.
“Rommage” is an Old English term that referred to cargo stored in a ship.
The belief is that “rommage” sales involved selling off ship cargo that wasn’t able to be sold at the market. All kinds of cargo would come in and out of ports, some of which was unneeded. That excess would be sold off, and the idea of getting rid of things that were unneeded evolved into the practice of “rummage sales.”
When homes got closer together and people started to have more excess, personal garage sales evolved from the idea of rummaging.
In addition to grassroots efforts to organize and sell secondhand goods, a couple of prominent businesses started doing the same around the turn of the 20th century.
Goodwill was founded in 1902 in an effort to create jobs and provide necessities to those less fortunate in Boston. Reverend Edgar J. Helms started the organization by gathering secondhand goods and clothes from wealthy people and hiring those in need to repair the goods.
The repaired items were returned at a cost or kept and sold in Goodwill stores. The result was a system that created jobs and offered an affordable way for individuals to buy high quality clothing.
Things have evolved a lot since Goodwill was formed. There are plenty more thrift stores out there now. Many, like trove.Maretplace, are small businesses that meet a number of niche interests in thrift and secondhand goods.
Small businesses like ours have existed for a long time, but there has been a revitalized interest in thrifting in the last 25 years. There are a number of reasons for this, but there are a few that stand out as likely the most important.
The trend was bolstered by awareness of climate change and the impact that the fashion industry has on carbon emissions. It’s estimated that around 10 percent of carbon emissions come as a byproduct of the fashion industry.
It’s also important to note the sheer volume of excess clothing that was left over from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The mass production of clothes in those eras left us with a treasure trove of styles, cuts, and brands that stuffed the vintage racks of the 2000s.
Finally, social media was the matchstick to the vintage kindling, turning thrifting into a trend that people could explore and engage with online. Ideas for repurposing or discovering vintage clothes are all over the internet and have created a subculture of people who dive into thrifting for enjoyment.
Looking for Vintage Shops in Stillwater MN?
If you’re looking for somewhere to thrift, Stillwater is a goldmine. The vintage shops in Stillwater MN are packed with wonderful antiques, vintage clothes, thrifted goods, and more.
trove.Marketplace is one of the most eclectic shops in town. We’re here to help you find what you need and learn all about the thrifting opportunities in the area. Visit our site to learn more or stop by to see what we’ve got to offer.
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