Goodwill Hunting

Let’s face the facts. You’re not as indie as you wish you were. Cloud Cult has never been anywhere near your eardrums; there is simply too much Fall Out Boy and Mariah Carey to squeeze onto your 4GB Nano. You don’t own a pair of vintage Ray-Ban shades or Converse All Stars. Those great-fitting Baby Phat jeans were purchased off the rack at Macy’s by your loving mother (with her Macy’s card for that extra 15 percent, mind you). The closest you’ve come to “thrifting” is the time you picked out that burgundy plaid three-piece suit because your girlfriend decided to drag you to her Kentucky Derby-themed formal.

How, pray tell, in your ultimate indielessness, can you ever justify shopping in the secondhand clothing store frequented by exactly what you’re not? Those frumpy, striped cardigans refuse to stretch around your nourished body, and you’ve no interest in anything that’s entirely polyester.

So let’s ease into the idea of walking a mile in someone else’s slightly tacky but totally legit Coach shoes, shall we? Boutiques that specialize in secondhand clothing actually purchase clothing back from their original owners, which means the image you’re conjuring of trashy “My mom went to Wall Drug and all I got was this shirt” shirts with pit stains and cigarette burns is a little further from the truth than you’d expect.

Depending on what you’re looking for, whether it be a mildly used pair of gold gladiator sandals to flaunt at your next Barbie-themed party or a cozy, vintage Harley tee to snuggle and doze in, there’s a thrift store that’s dying to a few gems.

Recycled designer/vintage

Buffalo Exchange
2727 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis

Via’s Vintage
2408 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis

If you’re looking for name brands or high-quality vintage clothing, there are several places that do the tedious legwork for you, but it may cost you a few extra bucks.

Buffalo Exchange, a national chain marketing both “new and recycled fashion,” opened in Uptown in December. The fresh-painted interior, neat racks and organization sell more like a designer boutique than a store for recycled anything, and their selection reflects the same sentiment.

The racks are packed with everything from men’s jackets by Michael Kors and Kenneth Cole to a little black Burberry sweater and Jessica Simpson pumps. Best of all, the store boasts a teeny Marc Jacobs denim dress actually worn by Kate Moss in an advertisement for the designer.

It isn’t that you really need to be a brand name snob to appreciate Buffalo Exchange. Instead, the fact is that quality reigns because this place is picky about what it will buy back. Just try shopping for your next Halloween costume here.

If you’re looking for something that promises a night on the town, Via’s Vintage is the direction you should head. It may be on the pricier end, but the eclectic racks of clothing are loaded with vintage sequin mini-dresses and flapper accessories from the Victorian era up through the 1980s. What’s more is the store actually has a glorious stretch of quality men’s clothing, which is something of a rarity for stores of this “fashion.”

Bold Secondhand

2928 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis

Everyday People (2 locations)
323 14th Ave. SE., Minneapolis
2912 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis

Once you’ve mastered the faux-thrifting of designer re-retailers, you’re feeling confident, slightly hipster-ish and ready to push onto something a little more challenging. Keep in mind that as the prices drop, the work required swiping a Ferragamo man-blouse increases.

Secondhand stores, as the next breed of shops can be loosely described, are considerably less selective when purchasing clothing. The stores are often a little more picked over than chic vintage boutiques, but don’t let that get you down.

The most talked-about secondhand store used by students is Everyday People, with Dinkytown and Uptown locations. Though Everyday People has snatched City Pages’ “Best Used Clothing Store” in 2000 and 2004, the retailer appears closer to a reseller of Gap Inc. clothing. While that’s by no means a terrible thing, there isn’t much variety to choose from when it comes to men’s clothing or women’s party dresses, unless you’re looking for a gently used mess of pink ruffles.

Keep digging, though, for they’ve stocked up on a few gems like AG and Monarchy denim, not to mention their surprisingly large collection of women’s flats.

Tatters, another Uptown vintage store that, apparently, is one of the only stores in the world still selling Zubaz, houses racks and racks of vintage tees, Levis of every cut and color, and tuxedo coats. Fellas, think before you run out to buy a new tuxedo for your mother’s third marriage. At Tatters, it’s likely that you could find a full suit for what it would cost you to rent at a specialty retailer. Ladies, the slightly see-through vintage tees make sexier pajamas than the S&M wear you’ll find at Victoria’s Secret for 10 times the cost.

Hardcore thrift

Salvation Army
900 N Fourth St., Minneapolis

553 Fairview Ave. N., St. Paul

This is where thrift shopping can get severe. The classic secondhand stores, like Salvation Army, Goodwill or Savers, are usually better for picking up unique glassware, knick-knacks straight from your grandma’s bedroom (in a good way) and cheap Danielle Steele reads.

The clothing, usually organized by color or style, can be tedious to sift through. Since the stores are stocked mostly by donations, there is no prefilter to eliminate digging through piles and piles of junk. Perseverance is key.

The expansive Salvation Army, a nonprofit organization that funds everything from disaster relief to rehab clinics, can be found in the North Loop neighborhood. Good finds are hard to come by in this two-story thrift store, but they exist in the form of classic J. Crew sweaters and Banana Republic khakis. The basement boasts corporate Target’s overstock items, where you can find samples of the Mizrahi and Mossimo clothing lines, miscellaneous home décor, and even discounted Method and Seventh Generation cleaning products.

The Goodwill on University Avenue in the Midway, with its lime-green walls and considerable attention to visual detail, looks surprisingly closer to a department store. Well-organized shelves accommodate Beethoven and Jane Fonda vinyls and economical hardcover books actually worth a read. It’s easy to walk out with more than you thought you were looking for.

Giving Back

The joy of browsing the expansive racks of secondhand retailers depends fully on the donation of previously owned items. Much like the larger world of economics, it’s all about supply and demand.

Twice a year, examine what you’ve stopped wearing and what has stopped fitting. The most philanthropic way to feed the thrift store cycle is to donate to the non-profits like Goodwill or Salvation Army, but you’re a poor collegiate student subsisting on the Ramen your uncle keeps shipping you. Pull out a few of your nicer items and see if you can pawn them off to your favorite places to encourage someone else to morph into a slightly more indie version of their original self.