We sat in a half-circle, as a blunt slowly moved in a clockwise rotation. A thick aroma slowly danced in our faces, as my neighborhood told her story. 

She was in the middle of an interesting story actually. She was recounting a time to her friend and I, where she was made fun of her in public, by this guy she knew, because of the type of sweatshirt she had on.

To be quite frank, I can’t even recall what the brand name of the sweatshirt was. Which pretty much conveys, how little I care about brand named items. Or things that equate to materialism and social status. 

“I can’t believe he tried to embarrass me for my sweatshirt. Don’t try to fuckin embarrass me for my sweatshirt. Like N*gga look at what you got on are you stupid?” my neighbor furiously expressed. 

She was pissed simply reliving it. But I questioned whether she was upset, because he made fun of the type of sweatshirt she had on. Or if she was upset because he didn’t know it was the “latest item to wear”.

Either way I couldn’t get with it. And I had to let my neighborhood know how I truly felt.

“Honestly, who cares what he thinks. You can wear whatever the heck you want to wear. You see this entire outfit I got on right now? This entire look is from the thrift store. I don’t think people need to spend a whole bunch of money, to look fly.” I expressed. 

A brief pause was created after my statement. Suddenly my neighbor broke the silence, and stated,

“Oh the thrift store?”

“Really?” as she took a double take at my outfit.

My neighbor frequently complimented me on my sense of style. But little did she know, most of my entire wardrobe is thrifted. 

“Honestly, I keep hearing about the thrift stores and stuff, but I ain’t never checked them out before.” She stated. 

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“Yea neither have I” chimed her friend.

This was the common response I often heard from Black people whenever I mentioned anything about the world of thrifting. Don’t get me wrong. There are certainly some Black people that enjoy thrifting. And see it as a hobby, just like I do. Many Black Millennials are starting to slowly get into thrifting more and more each year!

But I would be lying if I said it was a common thing to do, in the community. 

I will never forget, two years ago as I packed my bags to go to The Nationwide Resale Fashion Conference, in Minnesota. To further my knowledge in the field. I wondered what the conference would be like. I wondered if I would gain a lot of vital information. I wondered if I would meet guru’s in the field, and gain valuable expertise. But I also wondered…

Will there be any Black people there?

“Oh there ain’t going to be a lot of Black people at that conference.”

“Black people aren’t really into that kinda stuff,” my mother nonchalantly preached.

But she was right.

As much as I dislike generalizing Black people. And putting us all in the same damn soup. As society loves to do. I know thrifting is something that isn’t too common in the Black community. And in the past, at times it was often looked down upon, due to the long list of preconceived notions. 

I definitely had my own preconceived notions of thrifting…

I viewed thrift stores as dusty, highly disorganized, with a high stench of something indescribable, but also undesirable. And don’t get me wrong. Some thrift stores definitely fit that description. But a lot don’t.

In fact, a lot of them are filled with unique and individualistic gems, you may have never seen before. 

Before college, I never shopped at a thrift store before. But In college, I became a frequent thrift shopper. Constantly checking out my campus’s local Salvation Army. Excited to see what gems I could find.

The more I thrifted, the more my style began to evolve.

I loved the different prints, vintage styles, retro styles, and eccentric looks and cuts. That thrifting blessed my style with. I began growing into a daring fashionista, by trying styles that I hadn’t tried before. Probably because many of them I had not seen before. 

And that’s what I love about thrifting the most. The fact that you can find unique and eccentric styles, that you won’t see in mainstream fashion stores. The thrifting experience makes whatever you find more individualistic. And I can guarantee whatever you find will also be highly affordable. 

In college, I loved the shopping experience, that treasure hunt feel. My interest in thrifting began to grow, and soon enough.

I began to thrift everywhere. 

From stores in my hometown to thrift stores in other states. To even thrift stores outside of the country. I started to heavily submerge myself, in the resale fashion world. 

And after five years of a loved hobby, I was now traveling to Minnesota for 5 days, for the nation’s only resale fashion conference.

I will never forget, walking into the Minneapolis Hyatt Hotel. Slowly and carefully following the conference signs up to the main room. 

As I walked in, I was acquainted by a sea of white people. A sea. 

To the point the small specks of brown that I could see in the crowd, looked like small brown rocks. That were in the midst of a vast White Sea. That covered every end, nook, and cranny of the room.

I stood in the doorway. Half contemplating where I was going to sit. And the other half trying to scan for as many Black People that I could find. After a few seconds, I grew to overwhelmed to clearly look for other Black people. And proceeded to walk into the room.

I wasn’t foreign to this feeling though. After attending predominately white schools for most of my life. But for some reason, it was certainly a lot to take in.

All the way to the very front of the room, I walked and walked, and sat at a table with the only empty seats I could find. The table was completely filled with white people. But they were respectful to me. And I think they could also kinda sense, that I was taken aback by the lack of diversity in the room. 

I knew my Mom would be right. But damn, I didn’t think she would be this right. 

It didn’t take long enough before I was getting acquainted, with the 7 other Black people that attended the conference.

7 out of hundreds.. I mean hundreds of people. 

But l learned a lot from the fellow Black attendees. And their journeys and determination to come to the conference, intrigued me even more. 

Some of them were managers of stores. Some of them were owners of stores. Two of them managed high-end consignment shops. Two of them owned a men’s consignment shop

Another person oversaw a non-profit shop that was run by her church. Another person was a speaker for the conference. And the other was a former business owner, who was currently a resale fashion consultant. Actively teaching people ways to obtain and grow their business in the field.

Networking with the other Black attendees was inspiring in the sense that although we were small in number, we were large in vision. In the next 10 years, thrifting and secondhand shopping is predicted to be one of the highest realms in fashion. Even becoming higher than mainstream fashion. 

And the changes are already happening!

Currently, I’m a resale fashion blogger, with the blog titled KeyToFashion.com. With my blog, I focus on teaching Black people more about resale fashion. Budget-friendly fashion. And the essence of not needing to spend a lot of money, in order to achieve a fashionable look.

My vision for thrifting is that it can serve as a way to combat the excessive need for materialism, for some people in the Black community. Materialism, and the prominent need of having the latest or most luxurious designer item, is very evident spending behavior in the community. 

For some Black people, materialism brings upon a sense of worth, or greater importance. This greater sense of importance trails all the way back to the 1950s. 

A few months back I watched a video on YouTube called, The Secret Of Selling To The Negro. The video was created by John B. Johnson, the founder of Jet and Ebony magazine. 

Being transparent, the video is rather creepy, but simultaneously eye-opening. In the video, a white man is narrating the entire film; as the viewer sees various clips of Black people in stores potentially buying items. 

As you view these various clips though. You are also hearing the narrator discuss the psychological aspects of “Negro Spending”. It almost feels as though the Black people in the film are lab rats. Watching, analyzing and dissecting their every move.

Throughout the video, the narrator heavily discusses the need for materialism in the Black Community. He states how Black people want high-quality purchases because,

1) we already know there is a potential the seller might offer us low quality. So we want the higher quality items to also prove a point. 

2) It makes many of us feel a greater sense of self-worth. 

3) Many Black people care a lot about what their friends or family will say. And are influenced to purchase certain items based on social acceptance or validation. 

The video essentially breaks down in more ways than one, to white advertisers, ways that they can successfully get the Black Dollar.

I won’t go too in-depth discussing the video here, because I rather you check it out for yourself. But I will admit, that after watching the video. I began to question if the video further influenced the excessive need for materialism in the Black Community. 

One thing I can conclude from that video, is that the need for materialism is not only generationally embedded into the community.

But it’s also how many advertisers get us into buying their items, because they know many people within the community are highly materialistic. They know they can sell their items to many of us, less because of the item, but more so because of the materialistic stamp. 

Think about Gucci. 

If you ask me, Gucci is not swag to me. And I’m sure there are people who will disagree with that statement. But hear me out here. Gucci is a luxury brand, an expensive brand, and a materialistic brand. There is nothing unique or individualistic about Gucci; but if you are into material goods; than you might personally favor Gucci.

But if you feel as though these expensive items grant you with a higher sense of self-worth. Than I suggest rethinking your about your true motive for buying these items. And your spending power. It’s important to try to rethink what you equate to self-worth. Because material goods shouldn’t equate to it.

Growing up, I observed the need for materialism amongst many of my high school peers, with the Jordan craze. Sometimes it felt as though some people were getting the sneakers; simply to say they purchased them, or the latest number of Jordan’s. Whether it was the 6’s; the 7’s or the 8’s . If you didn’t have the latest pair, you weren’t “swaggy”.

I know some people were big time Jordan fans, and his brand alone encouraged many of his fans to purchase his sneakers. But sometimes I felt as though, the need to always buy the latest pair of Jordan’s, symbolized for many people the basic need to fit into mainstream materialistic trends and fashion.

On the other hand, resale fashion provides shoppers with greater support for individuality; at a very affordable price. As naturally creative beings, and the trendsetters of many fashion trends and looks …I want more Black people to learn that we don’t have to spend a lot of money on the clothes we wear. 

Or on the brands we wear; in order to feel better about ourselves. Or in order to feel a greater sense of self-worth. Our true personal power, comes from within, not from what we wear.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been complimented or asked where I’ve purchased certain items from. And when I tell people’s there from the thrift store. I’m immediately met with confused stares and looks. But I guarantee those same people checked out the thrift stores afterwards. 

I believe fashion is a form of art, and a unique form of self-expression. And I strive to influence more Black people to see it in that way. I see thrifting not only revolutionizing the way some Black people think about fashion and materialism.

But most importantly, I envision thrifting revolutionizing how more of us feel about ourselves. I want more Black people to value who they are; and I want more Black people to realize that an excessive need for materialism will never make you feel whole. 

Always remember that your true personal power comes from within. 

And that will never change.