This Instagram Account Is Dedicated To The ‘Luckiest’ Thrift Store Finds (50 New Pics)Interview
It’s no secret that thrift stores are real treasure troves. Many enjoy hunting for sustainable and affordable garments, statement pieces and unique artwork. However, if you've ever been to one, you know that there's plenty of weird stuff as well. In fact, so much of it, that someone even created an Instagram account to showcase it.
Enter "Thrift Store Art", a place where more than 213K followers enjoy questionable decorative objects people find while thrifting. From the most eccentric T-shirt designs and weird cat paintings to sequin pillowcases with Nicolas Cage’s face on it, you’re bound to see something entertaining.
“Here’s a picture of me with my thrift store find - a photograph of an unknown woman who basically looks exactly like me with a beehive.”
While for some, thrifting offers a way to express creativity in a much more sustainable way, for others it’s a place to find essential clothing at an affordable price. It’s a big industry that generates about $10 billion in market size per year. According to research by IBISWorld, "As the economy recovers from 2020, industry growth is expected to increase slightly as consumers seek to make more permanent saving habits in their retail shopping."
Bored Panda reached out to Jennifer Le Zotte, an assistant professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and author of From Goodwill to Grunge: A History of Secondhand Styles and Alternative Economies, to talk about the background of thrifting and why it is so favored today.
According to her, the popularity of thrift stores relies heavily on factors that have always made second-hand desirable. "Thrifting has seen periodic fashionability since the 1920s, akin to any ebb and flow of cool pastimes. So, Gen Z is a generation that has seen massive disruption of some kind—like the youth following, WWI, WWII, during the Vietnam war, economic crises of the 1970s, and the "culture wars" of the 1990s."
The professor is talking about the global pandemic and growing climate crisis that we face today. In these times, thrifting scratches several itches: "It's at least seemingly more environmentally responsible than buying new things all the time, and it is a way to connect (sometimes even through online shopping) materially with others' lives," she explained. "At a time when the economic prospects are uncertain, thrift shopping feels anti-capitalist and anti-consumerist."
Thinking about the saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure", we wanted to find out why certain people see things that others give away as amusing. The professor mentioned that the surrealists might be the ones who made thrift-shopping cool.
"In the 1920s, avant-garde artists—surrealists and dadaists especially, like André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, and Max Ernst and the Baroness Esa von Freytag-Loringhovenl—embraced the artistic possibilities of discarded objects."
"In his 1928 semi-autobiographical work Nadja, Breton, the 'father of Surrealism,' describes secondhand shopping as a transcendent experience," she continued. "Discarded objects, he wrote, were capable of revealing 'flashes of light that would make you see, really see.'" The question is, why did they feel that way?
Jennifer Le Zotte provides us with a couple of possible reasons. First, they might have viewed different cultures from an elitist perspective, or in other words, "poor people go to flea markets and try to find something they can use for cheap." And artists got too excited about queer objects and how they are removed from their original intentions.
Another generous interpretation would be that "it's amusing because it's like an incomplete story that the viewer gets to imagine some of the parts for. Why was this object made? Who bought it? What was its original context? I think there's a real urge to connect across cultural, spatial, and temporal divides."
When it comes to thinking about the younger generations and why are they so into thrift-shopping, the professor said that it could have something to do with the world Gen Zers saw while growing up. For example, facing the problems of global labor practices, climate change, and consumption. "Also, the rapid pace of production in the past fifty years means there's more cool 'old' or aging stuff out there to be creative with or about! So they have the motivations and the tools," she mentioned.
However, the pandemic also had its effects: "The way that thrifting has escalated specifically during the relative isolation of the pandemic indicates to me that this is a way to connect without connecting. First, it's almost like spying, to see the stuff other people got rid of." Also, thrifting has grown as an identity marker, "something you can participate in with others from all over. I think that accounts for the social media accounts and so forth that have an almost cult-like following. I really think things are, in this case, about people."
A year ago, we talked to the author of "Thrift Store Art" about the project and the inspiration for it. Bryan Dickerson, the man behind the account, is a freelance content creator from San Francisco. According to him, the idea of Thrift Store Art is "not to bash art but to expand what can be considered as art—clothing, album art, book graphics, vacation souvenirs."
What inspires Bryan the most is the level of absurdity that such weird thrift items carry: "It is something I would never make. But someone out there thought it was the best idea in the world and spent the time to see it through." To a certain extent, you’re able to "experience what they feel is important in a benign and non-politically-charged way," he explained.
Bryan also told his side of the story, why he’s such a fan of thrift stores and how they promoted his creativity. "Before punk rock moved to the shopping malls, all we had were thrift stores to find and create a look, decorate the apartment, or construct some kind of aesthetic," he said. "Table cloths became fashion ponchos, Ronco food dehydrators became wall art, and crocheted doggie pants became beer koozies."