How thrift is becoming a social media megatrend

The popularity of thrift 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 those on a budget – has evolved into the go-to place for fashion-forward.

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

Friends and business partners Lexson Millington (aka Lexsonator) and Liam Wilkings, both from Toronto, are experienced savers. They have shared their passion for thrift on social media platforms including Instagram and TikTok, accumulating more than half a million followers on their private and shared accounts.

Their popular videos, some of which have hundreds of thousands of views, often feature 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 several twists and turns to keep the challenges interesting, such as adding a green item.

For Millington, the fact that frugality has become a trend over the past five years has a lot to do with the fast pace at which things are moving on social media. “It’s inclusive, everyone can access it,” he said.

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

“When I went as a kid, I felt like I was the only young person saving,” Wilkings added. “It wasn’t 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 had no money to spend.”

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

“Thrift stores offer you unlimited character development with a variety of mixes and matches. 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 to this day still my friends.”

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

“I tell them I’ve ‘cut it down’ and they almost don’t believe it,” he said, noting that he’d found things like a Burberry jacket and a brand new pair of New Balances worth $200 in his experiences. “I think there’s still a big chunk of the population that isn’t frugal and thinks you can’t get good stuff at thrift stores.”

Behind the scenes of TikTokers Lexson Millington and Liam Wilkings' work studio, friends are customizing and recording their second-hand outfits for their recent TikTok challenge.

In addition to the individual benefits, the growth of the savings trend can have a greater positive impact. It’s good for the environment, because we reuse clothes, shy away from shopping for fast fashion and opt for more sustainable fashion.

In 2018, for example, the Salvation Army said its thrift stores collected more than £82 million worth of clothing, textiles and household items from local landfills.

For those new to thrift, Millington, Wilkings, and their stylist friends have some advice.

“It helps to see what people are finding at different thrift stores so you can figure out which thrift stores have the best finds for your style,” advised Nkwachukwu Nwalozie, aka Zumon, who has styled for artists and influencers such as Bolu Ajibade and Nhyira Oasare .

Zumon often chooses one or two thrift store locations to visit based on the variety of clothing available and the likelihood of finding items that suit his style.

Liam Wilkings and business partner Lexson Millington pose in their frugal outfits, 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 helpful to find things you’re not afraid to cut or make yourself (do it yourself). It’s easier to economize if you keep an open mind.”

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

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

“Give yourself time, thrift isn’t something you normally can’t do so quickly. People often wonder why they can’t find anything and why it can be overwhelming. Often it is because they are in a hurry.”

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

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