How thrifting is becoming a social media megatrend

The popularity of thrifting is soaring.

And it’s not just about inflation driving up prices for everything, including consumer goods like clothing. Second-hand shopping — never an unknown option for people on a budget — has evolved into the go-to place for the fashion-forward.

And sharing your thrifted finds has become something of a sport on social media.

Friends and business partners Lexson Millington (also known as Lexsonator) and Liam Wilkings, both from Toronto, are veteran thrifters. They have shared their passion for thrifting on social media platforms including Instagram and TikTok, garnering over half a million followers collectively across their private and shared accounts.

Their popular videos, some of which have reached hundreds of thousands of views, often include their friends completing challenges in the thrift store.

These challenges can range from seeing who can find the best outfit under $50 to finding the best outfit in under 30 minutes. There are different twists to keep the challenges interesting — for example, having to include a green item.

For Millington, thrifting becoming a trend in the last five years has a lot to do with the rapid pace at which things move on social media. “It’s inclusive, everyone has access to it,” he said.

Tashi Gurmey, Liam Wilkings, Lexson Millington, and Nkwachukwu Nwalozie (Zumon) show off their styled thrifted outfits for an upcoming TikTok video.

On TikTok, the hashtag #ThriftTok has 1.2 billion views worth of posts, while the general #Thrifting has reached 4.2 billion views.

“Going as a kid I felt like I was the only young person thrifting,” added Wilkings. “It was not this trendy thing that I feel it is now. For the most part, it was seniors and resellers who would go. I would just go because I was broke and wanted clothes and I didn’t have money to spend.”

Millington said he was drawn to thrifting because it’s a great way to develop your individual style.

“Thrift stores provide you with unlimited character development where there is a variety of mixing and matching. You can take pieces that were $15 or less and put together an outfit that looks high fashion or completely unique,” he said. “I’ve also met some of the coolest people at thrift stores and some of them are still my friends to this day.”

While the thrifting community is growing, there are still many people unfamiliar to the experience. Wilkings said people are sometimes shocked when they ask about his outfit.

“I tell them I’ve ‘thrifted’ it and they are almost in disbelief,” he said, noting he’s found things like a Burberry jacket and a brand new pair of New Balances valued at $200 in his experiences. “I think there is still a large part of the population that doesn’t thrift and doesn’t think you can get good stuff at thrift stores.”

Behind the scenes at TikTokers Lexson Millington and Liam Wilkings' work studio, friends try on their thrifted outfits and record for their recent TikTok challenge.

Beyond the individual benefits, the growth of the thrifting trend can have some larger positive impact. It is good for the environment as we are reusing clothing, shying away from shopping for fast fashion and opting for more sustainable fashion.

In 2018, for example, the Salvation Army said its thrift stores diverted over 82 million pounds of clothing, textiles, and household items from local landfills.

For those who are thrifting for the first time, Millington, Wilkings and their stylist friends have some advice.

“It helps to see what people find in different thrift stores so that you can pick out which thrift stores might have the best finds for your style,” advised Nkwachukwu Nwalozie, also known as Zumon, who has styled for artists and influencers like Bolu Ajibade and Nhyira Oasare.

Zumon will often pick one or two thrift store locations to visit based on the variety of clothing available and the likelihood of finding clothing pieces that fit his style.

Liam Wilkings and business partner Lexson Millington pose in their thrifted outfits by styled by Tashi Gurmey and Nkwachukwu Nwalozie (Zumon).

Tashi Gurmey, who has done assistant styling work for Nike and Kappa, and styled for artists like Tobias Dray, said, “I find it useful to look for things that you’re not afraid to cut up or DIY (do it yourself). If you keep an open mind it is easier to go thrifting.”

Gurmey added that sometimes thrifting can give him anxiety so he opts for a curated shop instead. Curated thrift shops offer a smaller, hand-picked selection. Unlike traditional thrift stores there is less to sort through and it is more organized.

Millington said he does better when he’s not in a hurry.

“Give yourself time, thrifting isn’t something that you can’t usually do very quickly. People often wonder why they don’t find anything and why it can be overwhelming. It is often because they are rushing.”

He added: “Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.”

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