Everyone who knows me is aware that I have a big, burning, platonic (key word, lol) crush on Gen Z.
Gen Z was more tech savvy when they were shaking baby rattles than I was at age 12. They’re socially, politically, and environmentally engaged. They slam hate speech on TikTok in favor of words of encouragement. They tank entire Trump rallies. They have opened themselves up to a buffet of options to help them finesse their sexual identity. They’re cool!!!
Not to mention, many of them happen to be extremely savvy at shopping second-hand. Whether they’re trolling Depop or sifting through the racks of their local donation-based church thrift stores, they’ve acquired some of the best tricks of the trade for digital and IRL treasure hunting.
And while I’m aware that I’m speaking broadly, the teens that I know these days are fundamentally great in so many ways, they give me hope for a future that, in less hopeful moments, looks deeply uncertain. And how special is it for the reputation of an entire generation be characteristics and behaviors that I wish I found more often in my *own* generation?
Anyway, before I permit a single, loving tear to slide down my nose and drip onto the exclamation key, I’ll allow these cool teens to speak for themselves. All my sweeping “generation generalizations” ring true with Joyce, 19, and Orlie, 18—second-hand-savvy teens I had the privilege of speaking to this week in New York. Below, they share some of their expertise, alongside the tips of other teens in the Repeller audience who bestowed their best vintage shopping knowledge upon us via a survey.
Get out your digital pad and pen for this one.
Joyce Matos, 19
Joyce is a sophomore at NYU Gallatin. She was born and raised in Ridgewood, Queens, and is actually finding Zoom classes to be kind of… nice?
On How it All Got Started
I think I started shopping thrift and vintage in late middle school. You grow up in New York and the thing to do is to go to L Train Vintage after school and just hang out in that miserable store where there’s never AC. I grew up in Ridgewood, and there was a huge thrift store there called Urban Jungle near my uncle’s factory.I would always go there, but my parents did not like me thrifting. It’s an immigrant thing, I think, like, “Why are you buying someone else’s clothes? We moved to America so you could buy new clothes.” Then I learned about fast fashion and I explained this to them, and they were like, “No, no, please buy new clothes or else why did we move here?”
In early ninth grade, when I was on Tumblr, there used to be more activism on Tumblr. I would read about fast fashion and labor practices, and it was very intense. I was aware of it to an extent, but not to the extent of photos and details and what sweatshop workers are going through. I read a book at that age, too, called Factory Girls, about the factories in one of the cities in southern China. It included testimonies from factory workers there, and I remember reading it and thinking about how awful it was. I had a debate with my mom about it because she was like, “That’s how they make their money. Are you going to deny them that?” and I said “People can still buy there, I just don’t have to buy there.”
I know there are sustainable brands, but at the same time I don’t necessarily trust them. There have even been these debates around the ethics of second-hand shopping, about how Depop sellers are buying from charity shops and thrift stores that people depend on and marking it up. I don’t prefer Depop and tend to know which sellers do that and which ones I can trust. I prefer Poshmark for that reason. Poshmark isn’t like someone going to a thrift store, buying everything, and then selling it to upper-middle-class teenagers with a markup.
On What She’s Wearing Today
Today I wore Levi’s 522s. They’re like these low-rise, baggy jeans that I always wear. They’re very Avril Lavigne, low-rise, loose. The jeans make me feel like a boy, in a sense, and then I feel good about myself because I can breathe, I can move, and still look cool. And I wore a Hysteric Glamour tank top, which is pink with this graphic design on it. I found it on Japanese eBay.
Before that, I was wearing a Betsey Johnson blouse that’s very frilly and cream colored and these Jean Paul Gaultier tan, low-rise flares. The Betsey Johnson shirt I found on Poshmark, as well as the Levi’s. The JPG pants I found at Hester Street Fair, which is a flea market event that happens in Chinatown. I’d consider this more of a fancy outfit. I like the colors together, the cream and brown and tan. Then I chose to use the plaid colors of the shoes to offset that. The vibe I’m always going for is like… an old stableboy who’s going to his first party.
On Starting Your Search with Tumblr
To find what I’m looking for, I usually go on Tumblr. I’m an active Tumblr user—me and my closest friends all have them and we send each other stuff. We look at Fruits Magazine or Popeye, Japanese magazines, and find style inspiration there. Then I’ll go to Depop and start searching—I’ll put search terms into Depop and find the right names or brands of what I’m looking for. Then I’ll put it in Poshmark or Ebay because it’s always cheaper.
That’s one of my tips: Find what you like on Depop and buy it somewhere else because the sellers won’t mark it up. The difference between the different resale apps is that Depop has become a business place, where sellers will go buy stuff and then mark it up, whereas Poshmark is just a bunch of middle-aged moms trying to clean out their closets. Depop is a different kind of platform for selling clothes. There are Depop sellers. You know the names of Depop sellers. They’re personalities.
On Finding the Hidden Gems
One platform I love is Japanese Ebay. It’s not called Japanese Ebay, it’s called something like Yahoo Shopping, which is Japan’s form of Ebay. Japanese Mercari is also really good. Rakuten is great. I mostly love Poshmark and I’ll use Depop sometimes—only sometimes. In real life, my favorite stores are Country Of on Essex, which used to be a stand at Hester Street Fair. Also Lara Koleji in Greenpoint. She has a great curation of clothing.
Find what you like and put in keywords: ropped blouse,” “orange cropped tee”. You just have to be really patient and communicate with the seller. Be polite and ask questions. If things are already cheap, then I won’t barter down, but if it’s more than I want to pay, then I’ll go a little lower than I’ll actually pay and they’ll usually meet me.
Also, brands you wouldn’t expect to have good clothes, do. Early 2000s Loft? Good. The brands your mom would wear? Banana Republic, Loft, all of those corporate or office-wear brands, are really good. Their quality was better back then. There’s some good low-cut pants, really good blouses. Check out the mom brands.
On Her Best Scores Ever
The best item I ever purchased second-hand was this purple figure-skating dress. It’s light purple mesh and has glittery flowers on it. It has a fairy-like hem—I wore it to prom. And I’m really into this old skate brand called Porn Star. It’s really hard to find. I found one shirt on Depop listed for $300, which was a no. Then I found one on eBay for $40 and I got them down to $20 and was very proud of myself. I love their labels, their tags.
Orlie May White, 18
Orlie is a first-year student at Barnard College in Manhattan. She’s taking a class on the history of humanity wearing clothing and is loving it.
On Crafting Her Lewk
There’s a lot to say here. The first thing I’m wearing is this beret by Kangol. I got this at a flea market in Seattle because I was there for my cousin’s bar mitzvah. I had always wanted a beret—now I have a few and I collect them.
The next thing I have is this white bomber jacket. It says “The Kids from Wisconsin” on the back and on the front it says “Steve.” I always wanted to have some kind of athletic, football, jock-jacket, and this is the closest I’ll ever get to that.
My skirt is gingham, it looks like a picnic blanket and I really like the unique seams. There’s a thrift store in my hometown of Maplewood, New Jersey, where I found it, and I had my eye on it for a long time. It didn’t fit me properly in the waist, so I negotiated the price down after watching it for, like, months. I usually wear it with a belt and I love it.
This belt and my necklace I bought in Morocco. I was lucky enough to spend three weeks doing a road trip there last summer with my family, because we knew some people that used to work there. In Morocco there are so many antique stores, even in the desert—all over the place. I could never get tired of looking at them. I negotiated with the owner for a price on this necklace, which is older, and this belt, which is newer. I love how they look together.
My tank top is by Baby Phat, which I love. I was born in 2001 so I grew up in the 2000s and wasn’t really aware of the Baby Phat brand. Now I love the founder, Kimora Lee Simmons–I think she’s a really inspiring and confident woman. I wanted to support more Black-owned businesses in fashion, and a lot of people in my age group aren’t as familiar with Baby Phat. I really love it and love telling people about it. I actually wore it to my high school graduation, actually. I went to a Catholic school and always got in so much trouble for not abiding by uniform guidelines rules because I always wanted to be creative. I wasn’t allowed to do anything with the gown so I wore this underneath. I was sneaky like that; I’ve learned to dress that way.
My cowboy boots! Cowgirl boots, actually. I visited my grandmother who rented a house in the Berkshires. I went to the Goodwill that’s off the highway there and found these boots and they were only $6. I’d been wanting cowboy boots forever. They’re so cool and I love them so much.
This purse is from the Tekashi Murakami Louis Vuitton collaboration from the mid-2000s. I got it for my 10th birthday. My family is not into designer clothes and are not glamorous in any way like that. I was in Florida in the winter and my mom went to a Goodwill there. The story goes that she found this bag in some random bin in a hidden spot, and the lady at the store didn’t know what it was. She showed my mom that there was a small nail polish stain on the inside of the bag and assumed people wouldn’t want the bag because of the stain. My mom got it for $4. I’ve checked to see if it’s real, and there are these numbers that are inside that are supposed to indicate that, but real or not I love it.
I put this outfit together through trial and error. I wanted to have a variety of pieces that represented different time periods, different locations, different ways of acquisition. When dressing up for something, I try to make myself a little uncomfortable in the way I mix and match. A lot of the people who design these clothes probably never would imagine them being worn the way I wear them, but I feel like it’s a way of telling some kind of story that I might not even know. I always still feel like I’m in the dress-up phase of my life. When I was a kid I played dress-up all the time, and I feel like I just never moved on.
On Her Second-Hand Origins
The question should really be “When did I first start shopping FIRST-hand!” My mom raised my sister and I on consignment clothes. When we were little and our bodies were always changing and growing, my mom said we should always have hand-me-downs. There are some local neighborhood consignment stores for kids that most of my clothes came from.
I remember me and my sister being like, “I wish we could buy clothes from, like, Old Navy or something normal,” but my mom just always had the idea that this was the easiest and cheapest way to shop.
On Her Top Tips
For online shopping, it’s really good to have something specific in mind that you’re looking for. So many places that you would go to find things online are so oversaturated with people trying to get rid of things. It’s easy to feel lost or overwhelmed by the mere quantity. If you have the vision of something you’re looking for, or a look you want to achieve, a specific decade, material or brand will help narrow your search. The more specific, the better your chances are of finding something that fits your vision.
On Her Favorite Gown (Yes, Gown)
My favorite things I purchase are the things I feel most fabulous, glamorous, and fashionable in. I”m such a girly-girl, and I love getting dressed up. You can’t wear these big, voluminous pieces to the grocery store, but I’m so drawn to them. I found this vintage Elie Tahari gown at a church thrift store in Deerport, Florida. I was going to a wedding and didn’t like my dress, and I found this glamorous, beautiful, embellished dress that’s cut on the bias so it fits everyone that wears it. It’s my favorite piece, sometimes I just wear it around my apartment. Whenever I’m feeling bad or down, I’ll put on this dress just to make myself feel better. I can’t wait to, one day, have a place to wear it.
Photography by Beth Sacca.