What to Thrift vs Buy New

Over the years I have found that there are some garments best found in thrift stores, and some I’d better just look for in the retail stores. The placement in these categories comes down to how often people choose to donate quality items, how quickly trends change thus encouraging people to change around their wardrobes, and the odds of finding something that fits any given shopper.

I’ve listed out the consistently best and worst items to shop for in a thrift store.

Best to Thrift

Jeans - Who doesn’t love a worn in pair of jeans? Since authentically ripped and timelessly faded is in style, what better way to go than thrift shopping? Someone already did the wearing in for you. Also, you save a crazy amount of water when you buy jeans second hand. It’s a win all around.

Jackets - Thrifting a jacket is a great way to save money as it is likely the most expensive article you’ll have to purchase. People will often give away a jacket when they purchase a new one, rather than when it no longer serves them or goes out of style. The changes of finding a great jacket are higher than some other types of garments. My long down coat that has seen me through 2.5 Chicago winters was $40 and everything it covers has kept me perfectly warm. I also found a light blue vegan leather bomber in Paris for $20, so maybe I’m just a bit biased.

Knit Sweaters - Knit sweaters seem to be best found at a thrift store. I’m not even talking about the ugly Christmas sweater party find. The big chunky cable knits to the nice fitting Christmas dinner type sweaters. Thrift stores seem to have a never ending supply of stylish and ironically trendy knit sweaters. You’re more likely to stumble upon the perfect chunky sweater in a thrift store than any other (in my humble opinion).

Better to Buy New

Shoes - Okay not a garment, but still important. Now here’s the truth: I found some gore-tex winter hiking boots in my size for $7.99, and on the same day found a pair of Dansko Mary Jane clogs in my size, also for $7.99. I’ve also purchased Chacos for a heavy discount. So it’s not impossible to find amazing deals on shoes. However, I am also passionate about shoes being really really comfortable and the three pairs of amazing shoes for amazing deals mentioned above are molded to someone else’s feet and aren’t the most comfortable (even the Chacos). My mom also thinks it’s really gross.

Hats - Maybe it’s just my taste, but a hat feels like a step below a toothbrush. Something that once hugged another person’s scalp so intimately? It feels to me like I’d be getting more than just a hat.

Leggings - I find that something which holds so closely to the skin should be chosen based on how it feels on your body. The challenge and joy of the treasure hunt that is thrifting, is that options are usually not an option. The leggings I have searched through are not always well cared for or of high quality fabric. People don’t often give away a great pair of leggings.


Of course, this list doesn’t cover every garment option. Most typical garments, such as trousers, pants, tops etc. are hit and miss with thrift stores. They always make for a fun treasure hunt!

You may agree, disagree or have your own version of this list. Please share in the comments below! Have you had any consistently great finds? Did I miss something here? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published