Only Got Twenty Dollars In My Pocket

American youth have always used money as an outlet for self-expression. Recently, teens and young adults have shifted their purchasing powers away from ostentatious displays of wealth to a more understated way of making a monetary statement– thrift shopping or ‘thrifing.’ This ‘new’ way of shopping not only alters the styles seen on the streets but also cultural ideals (particularly the concept of self-expression) of American youth. In order to fully understand this social shift, one could assess the phenomenon from different perspectives of cultural anthropology.

From a Functionalist standpoint, thrifting might be seen as means for connecting different members of society. Functionalists suggest that there is a specific relationship between individuals and society, and that culture is a way of creating a holistic and balanced society[1]. An article of clothing has the potential to connect people of different ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds. Thrifting can be viewed as a mechanism for providing a network between people who might not be connected normally. By reusing and recycling personal items, each individual is not only directly creating interconnectedness, but is also contributing to the social ideals and customs that keep society together.

A Symbolic-Interpretive Anthropologist on the other hand, might explain thrifting as a symbol of innovation and practicality in American youth. This school of Anthropology says that symbols are vehicles of culture and that they communicate the ways in which people should view and feel about the world[2]. The idea of “effortlessly cool” is portrayed through thrifting; one does not need to exert much resources, both monetary and effort, to be trendy. Since thrift stores tend to resell clothing articles for a lower cost than department stores, being a thrifter shows that an individual is sensible when it comes to spending money on material goods. In order to successfully use thrifting as means of expression, a person must be clever and innovative to make a used item ‘new’ and fresh again. Analyzing thrifting as a symbol of youth culture gives us insights into what is valued and respected when it comes self-expression.

While both Functionalists and Symbolic Interpretive Anthropologists see thrifting as different social mechanisms, both approaches acknowledge that the phenomenon has an important role in constructing and maintaining social ideals. The change from designer brand names to Goodwill sale rack items is significant in that it revises the cultural values of affluence as a sign status. Today, the kid wearing the thrifted 1978 chukka boots may be more greatly revered than the guy with the new Nikes. The different perspectives of Anthropology help us better understand the use of money as outlet for self-expression.

– Alex F.


[1] Lecture: The Individual and Society, Part 1, 9-24-13, Carole McGranahan

[2] Anthropology Theory wiki: Symbolic and Interpretive Anthropology

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60 Responses to Only Got Twenty Dollars In My Pocket

  1. Hayleigh Houston says:

    Your use of symbolic-interpretive anthropology made sense in the terms that the youth of America are now using thrift shopping to be not only sensible with money but aslo trendy with fashion. I do not, however, agree that those are the main reasons thrift shopping has become so popular. I think that thrifting became popular when Macklemore released his song “Thrift Shop”. Since pop-culture is very hive like I think that most people just wanted to copy the music video and the positive consequences for this trend just happened to be easier on one’s pocket rather than low costs being the driving force of the trend.

    • I agree that this song sparked a popularity in thrift shopping. Living in the city of Chicago there are thrift stores everywhere in my neighborhood. Ever since I can remember my older sister would take me into the thrift store and we would get jeans for half off the regular price. I loved seeing all the clothes there and being able to spend my own money as a 7 year old. Thrift stores made me feel independent at a young age and I continued shopping at them. In high school I would invite my friends to go with me and they soon found out it was fun and they wanted to keep going back. However, some people were judgmental and thought it was gross and weird that we had some clothes from second hand stores. This all changed when one man was challenged that he could not write a song about just anything. Thrift Store by Macklemore was not written because he thought it was cool to thrift and that he wanted to promote it; it was just a simple bet. People started going to thrift stores more and more and soon people thought I was just going because everyone else was doing it. I did it because I felt a sense of independence and being just a little bit different.

      • Calvert Smith says:

        I agree with both of you that this song definitely caused a sharp spike in the popularity of thrift shopping, but I would argue that thrifting has been a growing trend across the United States before Macklemore was even a name. I can remember back to when I was still in middle school and my mom told me about my cousin in Dallas and his friends who had started only buying used clothes. While this was the first I heard of this, a couple years later when I moved to Asheville NC I found that it was actually a sizable trend there. Thrift store clothes are cool in the same laid-back, rebellious way that tattered shoes and holy jeans are, in that they challenge the traditional view that the “coolest” people are the wealthy kids that can afford the expensive new designer clothes and I think that this is the main appeal of thrifting

    • Megan Salzer says:

      Although the Macklemore song is very popular, I would say that thrift shopping has been a mildly popular activity for individuals all over our society. While the song was very successful in the sense that it made thrift-shopping seem fun and trendy, the activity of thrift-shopping has been around and popular for quiet some time. I know many college students who would go to thrift shops if just for an occasional outfit, to a less expensive Halloween costume. With fashion being defined in many different ways and styles constantly evolving, the use of thrift-shopping has become both an inexpensive and creative channel through which outfits could be put together. I would agree that through the use of symbolic-interpretive theory, materials from thrift-shops are both symbolic of the time period in which it was created and well as how fashion has evolved over time and has reused materials from its past.

  2. Blaine Wajdowicz says:

    I follow you on the “effortlessly cool” motivation a symbolic interpretivist could perceive with this phenomenon, but I think a functionalist would argue that the thrift industry serves a different function. Specifically, it creates a market of gently used goods marketed originally for members of society who cannot afford new, major label clothes (be it families, low income individuals, students, etc.). Now these individuals and families can obtain the material goods they need and contribute economically to their community, and,with their purchase, more actively participate in other social institutions (i.e. education). The popularization of thrifting for youth who can afford new, more expensive items serves to distribute money through different facets of the economy, diversifying the economic institution of a society. For example, if you only have $20 in your pocket, and you buy a couple shirts for $7 at Goodwill on Baseline, you still have money to go next door to Subway to get a sandwich.

    • Michaela Quinlan says:

      I agree completely with Blaine regarding the Functionalist perspective. Though the idea that a Goodwill could connect different socio-economic levels on the basis of buying donated clothing, I don’t believe that’s what a thrift store’s function is in society. Furthermore, I don’t think a lot of people realize that “thrifting” is a new kind of a so-called “fad”. Goodwill locations were put together in order to provide lower-income families and communities with an outlet for affordable clothing. People of all socio-economic backgrounds could donate all of their unused or unwanted clothing as a mode of recycling and giving back to the community. Recently (as mentioned before) the new “thrifting” craze has been brought out by many media outlets (ie Macklemore, etc.) essentially causing the “effortlessly cool” trend to take off. Regardless if this trend of buying used and perhaps outdated and “retro” clothing is a current influence on “thrifting,” the function thrift shops have in society is to provide low priced clothing for those who can’t afford to buy new clothes in brand name stores.

  3. Alyssa Ferguson says:

    I never would have thought of clothing as a way of connecting society like you mentioned. Usually when I think of connecting society its through personal relations or knowledge of historical events. And the fact that people think of connecting society even with out knowledge of who or where the article of clothing came from. It may be more apparent of connecting society when siblings take their siblings clothes or when a close family member passes away. But the “stranger” aspect of this interconnectedness bring a new light to how we might connect as a society as a whole.

    • Megan Salzer says:

      I think it is interesting how you said people connect society with personal relations and knowledge of historical events, but couldn’t clothing represent what is taking place in history. Clothing is able to illustrate an individuals social status, style, period in time which they identify with, and so much more. I believe how a person is dressed often time relates to how they socialize or preform within culture. “The better you dress, the better you preform” is the idea. I also think that while the materials gathered from a thrift shop might not be designer, they are able to help individuals express themselves, their pasts, and their ideologies. The time period in which an article of clothing relates to the historical events taking place at that time, and by dressing a certain way, your identity takes on a visual representation.

  4. Hunter Emmons says:

    This was certainly a well thought out analysis of the teen subculture, and I really appreciated all of the ideas that were put into it. I probably would not have thought about this from the functionalist view and I think it is interesting how you mentioned that this might be displaying the relationship between individuals and society. I definitely agree with Hayleigh that thrifting became really popular when Macklemore’s song came out, but I definitely saw a rise in thrift shopping before the song. I know that most of my friends and I would go thrift shopping mostly because we could get cute things for cheep and it was just a way for us to brag about how cheep something actually was; it is as if it makes the item that much better. It is also interesting that you mentioned that recycling items and creating something “effortlessly cool” makes people more inclined to thrift, because recycling and doing something that is new and “your own” is certainly becoming a huge deal in America and being individual is definitely what most teens and young adults seem to be striving for.

    • Nick Young says:

      I agree that I would have never thought about thrifting through a functionalist lens. It’s interesting that you and your friends would brag about how cheap you got something for. This seems like the exact opposite of what more westerners would do. Usually it is all about how expensive something is. I think this would be a positive change in our society if it were to catch on, but I have never experienced it in my life.

  5. Drake Williams says:

    I think your mention of the connection of groups is interesting. I would not have thought of that connection myself. If approaching thrifting from a functionalist standpoint I might even go as far as saying that thrifting is a way that people can get clothing (etc.) at decent costs in this economy, functioning to maintain the health of different socio-economic classes.
    I really like your idea of making something new out of a used item. It brings to mind this new “hipster” ideal going around the U.S. recently. These individuals do their best to take someone else’s garbage and turn it into something new and trendy, while at the same time being completely one of a kind. Your mention of the shift in material culture’s importance is the best way to describe this new appreciation of recycling. It’s almost as if being able to turn something fantastic out of what someone else considered garbage is the only way to be what people feel is “trendy.”

  6. Dakota Mendrick says:

    I think the Culture and Personality theory would also explain thrift shopping very well, along with the functionalism and interpretive theories you mentioned. When thrift shopping, a person is able to show self-expression. They can pick out clothing or other items based on what they like and what fits their personality for a cheaper price. This then effects culture because other people may have the same tastes as you and want to know where you got the item. This chain effect then makes thrift shopping more popular in society and can change culture by where people shop and what they wear.

    • Kayla Clancy says:

      Dakota,
      I understand that the Culture and Personality school believes the individual is shaped by society. However, the idea of thrifting is to go against what society normally pushes for—conformity. Although there are many different brands and stores to shop at, they all basically focus on what is “in style” and popular at the time. When you buy clothes from a thrift shop, they normally are not the up-to-date style. I believe we live in a consumer society that stresses getting what’s the newest and “best” thing that’s out there (ex. iPhone, video game, music). Some individuals also idolize people in media and try to be more like that person; an example of conforming to society. I see the lure in wanting to find something that you like in a place with a lot of things you don’t, but I’m not sure the consumer culture emphasizes that. Perhaps the fact that consumerism is pushed in our faces may be the reason thrifting has become a popular outlet for teens. I believe that the practice of thrifting somewhat goes against what society pressures, making me believe that the Culture and Personality school explains this as a polarizing effect of society.

      • Jake Bradshaw says:

        Kayla,
        I can see why you write that Culture and Personality theory goes against “what society normally pushes for-conformity,” when conformity is seen as purchasing new products such as clothing from department stores. But as Dakota tried to explain how, there is a current shift, as other contributors have pointed out with “hipsters” and “Macklemore,” towards thrift shopping that would suggest conformity in America is making a shift towards the wearing of used clothing, and not “new” clothing, as the norm. This is a small and not universalized transition but important when dealing with the Culture and Personality theory because it presents a clash within culture. You touch upon thrifting as an “outlet for teens” to seek individuality and this plays right into Culture and Personality theory. There exists strong support for consumerism in American culture which also values individuality and originality as important. The teens and young adults the author and you mention are in the midst of a struggle to develop a personality from a culture that paradoxically advocates both conformity and individuality. The increase in societal recognition and acceptance of thrifting has presently presented a middle-ground refuge for individuals seeking to create an identity between these two clashing values.

  7. katie van amson says:

    I liked the way that you approached functionalism, although I think that thrifting does a lot more for a person than just that. amongst our biological needs are health and growth. this new form of self expression help people grow in my opinion. going thrifting gives the shopper a lot more freedom to express him or herself than just shopping at the same few stores on 29th street. one of my friends who is an expert thrifter always has the coolest outfits because no one else wears them. I really liked you interpretive/symbolic anthropology piece. I think that thrifting is kind of means that you want to identify yourself as an individual and wear what you want, not just what a department store wants you too buy. I really liked the way that you explained that in your essay

  8. Colton Erickson says:

    I thought that the way in which you used Symbolic-Interpretive Anthropology to connect thrifting and the idea of self expression was very interesting. I agree that the idea of being individual and expressing yourself is a heavily present cultural trait among American youth. I also liked your statement regarding the revision of cultural values of affluence as well, and I think it is a very valid point in a changing teenage society. However, I believe that a functionalist would actually explain thrifting as a cultural reaction to a poor national economy and a growing desire throughout the society to save money. It serves as a increasingly accepted function within our culture that allows us to save money during a time when money is short.

  9. Kyle Santi says:

    I agree with both perspectives. Clothes do have a lot of symbolic power, and they are capable of connecting all kinds of people. Bypassing socioeconomic boundaries would be wonderful in helping to reduce the stratification in our society, and clothes can do that. The desire to make a statement with clothes is an old desire that goes back thousands of years, and “thrifting” would simply the latest trend in that desire. Also, saving money is important, and it is good that such an attitude is becoming “trendy” as it encourages people to be smarter with their money. What would be bad is if such an attitude stopped being popular and was just another fad.

  10. Colleen Godfrey says:

    I agree with this take on thrifting from a functionalist perspective. Clothing throughout history has been a way of distinguishing social status and now with thrift store clothing gaining popularity amongst higher classes, clothing is less of an indication of status amongst classes. As it is stated in the essay, thrifting can connect people who normally wouldn’t, and I think this trend of thrift store shopping also leads to more social mobility for lower classes. It is now more acceptable to be wearing the casual clothing found in thrift stores and it is harder to distinguish who might have a lower income. The fiscally responsible bargain shoppers are now preferred when compared to the luxury designer hunters; and it is almost impossible to distinguish between the bargain shopper and the person who really only can afford Goodwill.

  11. Alyssa Janssen says:

    This was an interesting essay, especially regarding your application of Functionalist theory. I never would have thought of thrift shopping as a way to create meaningful relationships, however it definitely creates a bond between people. I am curious though if it creates enough of a bond to satisfy the “basic human needs” proposed by Malinowski (perhaps bodily comforts?). I probably would have said that thrift shops function to provide clothing rather than relationships. I really liked how you used Symbolic Anthropology to say that thrifting is a way of self-expression. I think it would be interesting to look at this through Culture & Personality Theory. As a consumerist society, American youth are constantly trying to stay on top of trends, and currently that trend is thrift-shopping. I believe the thrift-shopping phenomena has less to do with youth wanting to find cheap clothing (though it is definitely a perk), and more about following the current fad and doing it better than everyone else.

    • Sam Calahan says:

      I think what “Alex” meant about thrift shopping creating meaningful relationships has more to do with the thrift-shoppers themselves, in that it allows them to recognize supposedly like-minded people and thereby make deeper social connections. Of course, I agree with you that these bonds are probably not as strong as he gives them credit for, as different people probably have different motivations for thrift shopping. I doubt that the affluent college student who pours cash into dozens of cheap, needless accessories is going to form a lasting friendship with the family on food stamps that can’t afford to shop anywhere else, just because they shop at the same store.
      I also think your Culture and Personality approach is interesting. For many, especially since Macklemore’s song, thrift shopping is merely following a trend, as you say. In these cases, the “conditioning apparatus” is hard at work churning out individuals that conform to societal norms. However, for others (let’s call them “Pre-Macklemore Thrift-Shoppers”), it represents the opposite – these are the people who either shop at thrift stores out of necessity, or just don’t feel the need to spend absurd amounts of money to keep their style up to date. These counter the dominant norms of our society, which say that you must look a certain way to fit in with the “right” people, and to do that you have to buy the right clothes from the right stores.

  12. Jacklynn Sanchez says:

    I agree with what Hayleigh posted above, that thrift shopping may not have been popular without the song Thrift Shop. Prior to the song I also think that a lot of people went to the thrift store because of where they lived. Thrift stores have always been a huge thing here in Boulder, and other cities in Colorado because of the people and the environment. Depending on where an individual lives already, their culture is different along with social norms. I think it’s hard to generalize this sort of topic because there are a lot of teens and young adults who don’t purchase clothes from a thrift shop, but use these types of stores more for buying a really cheap couch for their house, etc. Of course what individuals wear expresses who they are, but I don’t see how thrifting automatically makes everyone “effortlessly cool” to connect together. Is dressing “effortlessly cool” a new social norm?

    • Ashley Sanks says:

      Jacklynn,

      I think that your point of generalization can be applicable to Practice Theory. You brought up how “it’s hard to generalize this sort of topic because there a lot of teens and young adults who don’t purchase clothes from a thrift shop,” and this ideology reflects a deeper meaning of what people do versus societal says we do. I very much agree with it.
      Does the fascination of thrifting for vintage/older clothes correlate with what society does as whole in picking and wearing their clothes? I don’t think so.
      To answer your question (even though it may have been rhetoric) dressing effortlessly cool may just be what society says we should do. “Hipsters” and the 1990’s are alive and well in Boulder, and also many other cities in the United States. However, looking deeper at maybe a particular group of people, I think we can see that people always are breaking away from cultural trends of clothing and staying to what is comfortable to them. In a very general example, most guys in fraternities do not partake in this “effortlessly cool” trend, but perhaps instead, boat shoes and a collared shirt. This is beneficial to illustrate because what is “popular” in culture is not the only way people can express themselves. Individuals choosing what they wear is an importance of examining what people actually do versus what society says we should.

  13. Anastasia M. says:

    Under the Symbolic-Interpretive Theory, it could also be considered that some people may thrift shop for the communal benefit. For example, thrift stores such as Goodwill, Arc and Habitat for Humanity use their proceeds to benefit their personal foundations for the less economically fortunate, those with physical disabilities or to buy supplies to build homes for those with insufficient funds to purchase a homes. The act of thrifting in these stores could be considered a symbol of charity or charitable intentions, even though the benefit is mutual.

    Also, for the Functionalist perspective, this same thought could be utilized but more thoroughly. Thrifting functions in a full circle. Briefly, people buy clothes from the thrift store, donate other clothes to the thrift store, etc. More thoroughly, thrifting functions by people buying the clothes, then donating these clothes, other people buying said clothes second-hand, the money used go towards causes such as building houses or helping the less economically fortunate buy clothes, then those people donate clothes, etc…

  14. Isaiah Grayck says:

    I thought that the symbols you said were made by thrifting accurate and related well with what you had to say about them. The cost efficiency is a big upside for thrift shopping because it eliminates the gap between the poor and wealthy by having them all wear similar clothes. For the functionalist, I liked how you stated that clothing can be the connection between the individual and society. Also the reusing and recycling example worked really well and made a solid point.

  15. Kait Bashford says:

    I also think that the Culture and Personality theory would describe thrifting very well. If we view our recycling of clothes as an integrated whole, we find patterns of culture based on geography and possibly psychologically. I’ve been a thrift shopper since I can remember, and I always knew which stores had the best clothes for me. Whether it was showing up on Thursdays (when most thrift shops in my hometown would rotate clothes from the back out to the front) to find new items, or knowing which stores were best for shirts while others were best for shoes, I’ve made choices of what to by based on what type of person I am as well as the type of people who donate to my area. I think that the recent trends in thrift shopping are thought of as trendy, which is funny because most people who buy from thrift stores aren’t trying to be cool, they’re just being themselves within a cultured society.

  16. Lana Porter says:

    I agree with Dakota that culture and personality might be able to explain how thrifting serves as a way for young people to express individuality in a culture that strongly values originality. Americans are also value being “green” and “eco-friendly”, so by thrift shopping, one may feel that they are not participating in consumer culture and are recycling clothing.

  17. Allison Kessler says:

    I really like this topic and can see how prevalent it really is every day as I walk around campus. I appreciate how Drake brought in the ideal of ‘hipster’ and how that is a new social norm. I would like to point out that by making it a social norm, what used to be individualized is now cultural. Those who thrift shop are generally thinking that in doing so they have an individual take on what in fashionable and in style. In all reality, by making thrift shopping popular it is no longer and ‘individual’ style but a conformity within a group that is hoping to be individual. The idea itself is even a conformity as everyone who wants to be an individual is thinking that is the best way to live and taking the loneliness aspect out of it.

  18. Annika Sandberg says:

    I wonder how long it will take before designers start modeling their clothes after a “thrift store look.” I agree with Allison that the new trend is taking away the individuality aspect of buying clothes at a thrift shop, which was the original intent. Purchasing clothes at a thrift store is becoming less a symbol for individuality and more a symbol for keeping up with the trends.

  19. Ariana Ross says:

    I think there’s also an aspect of downplaying ones entitlement of shopping at thrift stores. It somehow got cool to look like you just rolled out of bed, threw your hair up and stumbled out onto the street, instead of putting effort in to compose oneself. As much as I personally oppose this trend, I do think it’s interesting and worth analysis. In terms of its relevance to thrift shops, it seems like people are embarrassed of or trying to conceal their “white entitlement”. Or they’re hesitant to admit to have put effort into their appearance. This trend of appearing apathetic extends into many topics, one of which is definitely in manner of dress.

  20. Taylor Rose Martin says:

    I enjoyed your topic of “thrifting” as it is very relevant in popular American youth culture, particularly with the release of Macklemore’s song “thrift shop”. However, your theoretical approaches were a little off point. I understand your analysis of thrift shopping through functionalist theory; however,, you did leave out how thrifting satisfies basic needs. This “basic needs” component is essential in interpreting a cultural phenomenon through the lens of functionalist theory. You do bring up the topic of saving money, but it would have really enhanced your example if you explained how this money-saving trend helps to satisfy basic needs. For your symbolic and interpretive approach, it would have been interesting if you picked a specific location for your analysis. It is obvious you are speaking about the United States, but would the act of thrift shopping be different in the city than it would be in the country? Are “hand-me-downs” thrift shopping, or does it need to be in a store? It was a great interpretation of style, but a location would have strengthened your analysis.

  21. Saskia Newkirk says:

    I appreciate your choice of such a creative and current topic. I hadn’t previously thought of the approach you took when discussing the symbolic approach to thrifting. Your analysis of “thrifty” clothing as an emerging symbol of the “effortlessly cool” in some segments of American culture was, in my opinion, very insightful. I wonder, however, if a Functionalist might incorporate the view of “universal biological needs” into his view of this phenomenon. Perhaps he might say that thrifting helps to fulfill the universal need of “bodily comforts” during tough economic times?

  22. Sophia Kolybabiuk says:

    The Functionalist and Symbolic Interpretive perspectives are strong view points for describing the transition between designer clothing to thrift store clothing being trendy. However a stronger view point may be a Materialist view point, as Karl Marx had. While the functionalist view is strong in describing the connections of society through thrifiting and through the deeper meaning within thrifting to society, I do not believe clothing is a strong enough subject/item to bring a society together as an organism. The symbolic idea is very strong in describing how clothing is a way to express one’s self and it’s deeper meaning, but I feel that Materialism would be a better approach to take in the analysis of “thrifting” becoming trendy because materialism is how a society finds itself. It means human cultural is affected by material conditions, and thrifting, cheap or not, is a material condition, and the fact that it is affecting large populations actions and style, represents how culture is affected by material conditions.

  23. Christopher McKeown says:

    Alex F, I really enjoyed reading your paper, ‘Got Twenty Dollars in my Pocket,’ and the striking connections you make form our modern through the cultural anthropologist theories we have learned. When you state that “thrifting can be viewed as a mechanism for providing a network between people who might not be connected normally,” I really wanted to hear more into your thoughts about this. I had never thought of the idea of hand-me-down clothes as being a medium for connecting social levels across a culture, specifically the US. This is an interesting concept that I think could be taken even further into a functionalists’ standpoint. How do both sides, wealthy or not, interpret the continuing of this notion across other aspects aside from clothing? Do you think this hand-me-down connection can be made through other material and social influences?

    • Nick Young says:

      Definitely. Think of what your parents have handed down to you. It could be keepsakes, or it could be your values and morals. While this post focuses on one aspect of hand-me-downs from other people that you will probably never meet, there are many different physical and non-physical hand-me-downs that we never think about.

  24. Stephanie Grossart says:

    I agree that thrifting is very popular now but that does not stop ridiculous spending. I can say from my life that I know many people who buy from thrift shops for jeans and shirts but spend insane amounts of money on shoes, hats, jewelry, and watches. It is all about priorities and labels. I believe teens have realized that you can wear a watch or ring everyday and no one will criticize you for it. However wearing the same Gucci t-shirt everyday would be frowned upon. They are becoming more aware of what their money should be spent on. What is worth it and what is not.

  25. Molly Atkins says:

    I agree with your argument for functionalist theory and agree that thrift shopping is a great avenue for connecting people especially from those from different socioeconomic classes. Because it is a both a trend followed by the younger generation as well as a normal form of shopping for older generations it links those two together as well as those who are well off and those who are not. One could use the functionalist theory in explaining thrifting that it came about because of the recent economic downturn and that because people are incapable of spending a lot society created this trend as a solution to many american peoples lack of spending money.

  26. Molly Atkins says:

    Your argument for the symbolic theory of anthropology is a really good one and it makes a lot of sense because in my mind people who do go thrift shopping and are able to snatch “great finds” come off as very resourceful as well as trendy. Thrift shopping is a great symbol for our generation who is greatly affected by economic downturn and expresses to society our “effortlessly cool” view about the world we have created.

  27. First off, great choice of a title. Your analysis of thrifting from a functionalist perspective was interesting, I’ve never thought of thrift shopping as a means of interconnecting members of society, but it makes sense. Who knows what kind of person wore an article of clothing before donating it?

  28. Ellis Hughes says:

    I’m glad that you used the concept of thrifting as an indicator of shifting attitudes in regards to money. Where typically designer brands are looked upon as signifying high fashion available only to those who can afford it, many are subject to being placed on the other end of disparity. It’s very interesting to consider the fact that this shift has recently been the consequence of pop culture and it’s prevailing influence. But will it stick or will the trend somehow be roped into a new style of high fashion, subsequently maintaining a disparate culture?

  29. Mateo Hajek says:

    I like how you draw on thrifting as a symbol for innovation and practicality.

    Taking points from your interpretive argument, a structural functionalist may then draw correlation that trendiness and being fashionable is a constant among contemporary US society. The arena however, has changed from overpriced department stores to moderately priced thrift stores. As such the structure of trendiness has remained constant, while the stores and identities that serve its function have changed considerably.

  30. wesley gordon says:

    i like the way you explained what symbols are in anthropology to help the reader get a clear understanding of what your talking about. Also i think that it was cleaver to use “effortlessly cool” and explain how it is portrayed to society and tying it in to thrifting.

  31. John Cooper says:

    Wile the modern day interpretation of thrifting may be that it is a cool thing to do I think that it is important to recognize that just a year ago it symbolized poverty. There are people who shop at thrift shops not to find the coolest new thing but because they have no other options. Shopping there has and in some cases still does symbolize that a person doesn’t have engh money to get closes anywhere but a thrift shop.

  32. Miles Agan says:

    I enjoyed reading this, “Thrift Shop” gained national popularity very fast. Symbolic anthropology is the perfect theory in regards to this song and the effect it had on a cultural level. Thrift shops, which often get a bad rap, are glamorized in Macklemore’s song. While the song is pretty goofy, I think the message in the song is important and also satirical in an interesting way because most rap artists are talking about spending large amounts of money on clothes and jewelry. A song like this by such a mainstream artist sends an important message to a large audience: saving money is a good thing and it’s also trendy.

  33. Scout E. says:

    I think this was a great piece about thrift shopping in America. But I do think that there is a more practical reason for why people thrift shop. While I do think that a thrift shopper is definitely portrayed as “effortlessly cool,” many people thrift shop because it makes sense monetarily for them to do so. I don’t believe there any symbols are associated with this practically because it may be the individual’s only option.

    Also, symbols associated with the thrift shopper go way beyond monetarily wise and sensibility. In American culture, it is definitely seen as cool and trendy if you contribute to a non-profit or charity organization. An example that pertains to thrift shopping is Goodwill. The symbols that are associated with individuals that give to charity may be a factor in why America is one of the most charitable nations in the world. In our culture, it is definitely seen as selfless to be a generous giver to those who are not as fortunate.

  34. Jon Mastman says:

    This is a very interesting topic. Though nobody that I know of thrifts just to camouflage in better with another group like the functionalist perspective suggests. Personally, I would consider the symbolic-interpretive to be of the correct opinion in this situation. For example, I would not consider my family in need of second hand or perviously owned clothing, but I have bought several items from thrift shops to through together a string of halloween and other costumes. In my opinion, most people would not choose to have a full closet full of thrift store clothes just to fit in with new people, they use the wide variety as a way of creating something new quickly and affordably.

  35. Brianna Larkin says:

    I also think it’s interesting that when Macklemore came out with that song that it suddenly became a fad to go to the thrift shop to buy some clothes. I also have noticed that a lot of people relate thrifting and being a hipster together. If you shopped anywhere that had second hand clothes and looked different than the fashion that we have today, you would be considered a hipster. I had no idea of the term hipster until my friends started talking about it and more songs and people got into it. Going off of Miles post up above I agree that more people in todays society think that it may be more cool to save money. I go up to people and say oh I really like that shirt, where’d you get it? They say at the thrift shop and it was only 2 dollars! Then excitement rolls over their face when they see peoples reactions to how much money they saved. I wonder if this will stay a popular thing or will it just go away as most phases do.

  36. Hannah Hilden-Reid says:

    I found the functionalist theory to be good, but not as strong as it could have been. I found the argument was a bit of a stretch and perhaps required a little more expansion to strengthen the main points the author was focusing on.

  37. Hannah Hilden-Reid says:

    Also, replying to the comment above by Brianna, I agree that it appears as if Macklemore’s song has made this cultural phenomenon more apparent . I think thrifting has been something that has been around and rather popular for a while but the song contributed to giving the activity more visibility in the public sphere.

  38. Stephen Fleming says:

    in class last week Professor McGranahan talked about how in the moral code of the Awlad ‘Ali that the higher groups and lower groups have responsibilities to each other and i somehow see a connection between that and richer people buying clothes from a thift shop. A majority of my wardrobe has come from various thrift shops across the US and every time i wear/buy/donate something from/to one of these stores i feel like i am giving back to the lower groups because a percentage of the money from the salvation army goes to schools and homeless shelters. I think its the back and forth of the shelter and respect portion of the moral code

  39. I think that a huge factor in the rise of popularity of thrift shopping did come from pop culture and the release of Macklemore’s famous song “Thrift Shop.” There will always be exceptions to every situation and to say everyone shops at thrift store because of hearing one song would be nothing short of absolutely wrong. A rise among a younger generation, whom may not always have seen thrift shopping as “socially acceptable,” are seeing how affordable and convenient it is to buy and use these clothes from thrift stores. The fashion statements in modern time is having made your own clothes (DIY). Having older, unique, clothing allows you to set apart yourself from the crowd. I agree this serves a functionalist standpoint by reusing clothing to serve a new purpose.

  40. ElisabethDiMarco says:

    It is very interesting to read an essay on this topic. Ever single the pop song “Thrift Shop” I have noticed that GoodWill has been emptied out. Its funny because I too shop at more frequently at thrift shops now and didn’t really know the cultural impact it has made and how it can be so “picked a part” as a phenomenon.

  41. McKenzie Ammerman says:

    I agree with many of the previous posts. It is really amazing how much influence pop culture has over our society. After the release of “Thrift Shop” I found me and my friends starting shopping at thrift store more and more often, so I can relate to this essay. I like really liked the themes used in this paper. I see how a symbolic/interpretive anthropologists might say that thrift shopping symbolizes practicality among the youth in American but this also could be taken from a different prospective. Thrifting can also symbolize rebellion among US youth. The need to stand out and go against what is the “norm” is so prevalent in American teenagers and apparel is one way to set yourself apart from the crowd.

  42. Matt Kiriazis says:

    Great essay! I like the discussion that is being had about the interpretive/symbolic theory. In regards to that I think Hayliegh had a great point that music has a definitely had an impact on the trendiness of thrifting. However, I am truly surprised that anyone thinks that Macklemore has anything to do with its perceived coolness. Thrifting has been around much much longer than Macklemore and has been just as cool. I started thrifting with my friends about ten years ago and we knew that our coolest clothes would be found there. It was something we’d be doing about once a week for years. We even used the term “thrifting” back then.
    Because of my insight into the punk scene I have a different perspective on it. I think that the interpretive anthropologist might see it in that context, of hardcore and punk ideology, that thrifting is really one of the key components of maintaining an anti-establishment, anti-corporate, activist appearance.

  43. kristoferboguniewicz says:

    I wonder what your thoughts might be on the more broad topic of recycling in general, as I’ve seen a phenomenon the emergence of this phenomenon in the past few decades, in which cultures are more ‘Earth-concious’ and caught up in recycling everything. Is thrifting a pinnacle and outworking of this broader phenomenon or a unique one all on its own?

  44. Emma Simpleman says:

    I really enjoyed the relevancy of this topic to our current society and our generation overall. I thought the functionalist viewpoint was very interesting as well. I thought it would been seen more as a way of saving money rather than connecting people within a society. I definitely believe yu had a good argument, it was just not what I was expecting.

  45. Elliott Cairns says:

    Definitely loved your paragraph about your symbolic interpretative outlook on thrift store shopping and how status is elevated when someone compares older more worn clothes compared to newer clothes. There is a fine line between what is trendy and what is downright threadbare. I myself have always grown up going to a Goodwill and seeing if I could find a funny shirt or a genuine snapback. The minimization of money used to buy older/worn clothes that do appear trendy creates an immense feeling of satisfaction. Especially with the financial instability that America has seen in the past 5 years, thrift store shopping is becoming cooler and cooler like the comments earlier have already said.

  46. Kitman Gill says:

    I have thrift shopped all my life. My family has never had a ton of money, so back to school shopping has always been at a thrift store. I enjoyed reading about this form of shopping in your essay. However, I would like to ask a few questions about it.

    In my home town, most people only went to the thrift store to get outfits for crazy dress up days. Whether it was Homecoming, Halloween, or a dance, the only time my classmates would step foot in a thrift store was to buy clothes that were cheap and slightly off kilter, for a wear-once-and-throw-away type thing. Thrifting was never a trendy thing. Then, Macklemore and Ryan released “Thrift Shop” the summer before my junior year. All of a sudden, thrifting was cool. My question is this: is thrifting a growing trend because of the reason described in your essay, or because a cultural icon like Macklemore made it cool and culturally acceptable?

    I realize that college students are usually die hard patrons of thrift stores because of their shortage of funds, but given the choice and a wad of cash, would most people still go to thrift stores? In years past, probably not. In recent days, maybe so. Macklemore made the thrifting sphere more accessible for people who had a choice not to go.

  47. Meg Fleming says:

    I loved how you explained the current popularity of thrift shopping, it made it interesting and easy to read. Your analysis from a functionalist perspective was spot on and I could relate because I wrote about the same thing. Your symbolic perspective was a fresh take on it and I appreciate how you incorporated “American Youth” into it. Our youth is finding new ways to be innovative everyday and “thrifting” is one of them, so nice job!

  48. Autumn says:

    I agree with how you used symbolic-interpretive anthropology to show how the youth of America is now using thrift shopping to be sensible with money and trendy with fashion. However I feel another reason this way of buying clothes is popular is because people simply cant afford a lot of clothes anymore. Things are becoming more and and more expensive yet people are not making more money to buy these expensive things. Just in regular stores and half shirt for a girl may be $26 and it only covers from the shoulders to right above the belly button. People simply need cheaper clothes!

  49. Brianna Dascher says:

    I think Marxist anthropology might provide an interesting perspective as well. I think from this lens, thrifting could be seen as an adaptive response to how expensive and really, unavoidable, paying for education is. I think older teens and young adults are the people you’d most see thrifting, and this is a result of how much debt is already incurred and incurring at this age.

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