A framed picture of a random man at Hooters. Blackface figurines. Crusty clothing items from fashion trends that have not and will not come back. Homemade lavender-scented soaps made by a woman with no other hobbies.
What if there was a place, nay, paradise, where you could find all of these items for sale at sometimes reasonable costs? If it was not clear, there is. Your local thrift and antique stores in the greatest place on Earth, Central Pennsylvania.
The crowd at thrift stores is as diverse as its merchandise offerings, but they usually fall under three main categories: the elderly, people who have fallen upon hard times, and the future gentrifiers of the world. The third group likes to come and dig for the best things the store can offer despite being able to afford similar items at retail price, acting as sort of a reverse Robin Hood, indirectly taking from the poor. I happen to be part of that third group.
There are many cases when stereotypes are so wrong, but when it comes to stereotypes about millennials who thrift shop, I think every single one is accurate. Never have I ever seen a young adult thrift shopping who was wearing low-waisted jeans. The words “hipster” and “millennial” have been beaten to death to the point of absolute meaninglessness, but I cannot honestly say baby boomers are wrong for having made fun of us so much. This group of people that I would like to pretend does not include myself can always be found in the men’s section of any given thrift store, regardless of gender. Women’s clothes at thrift stores are far too normal. The extra-large to 5XL section is home to the greatest treasures, like leather, fur-lined jackets that previously belonged to a larger motorcycler and will soon be owned by a small girl who likes the androgynous, “fugly” look and will be too scared to put her hands in the pockets because it grosses her out. Or an oversized sweatshirt that says “I am Canadian” on the front which will be purchased by a girl who is not Canadian but thinks she is so funny and so quirky for owning it. I am the girl who purchased both of those things.
Female thrifters will at times visit the women’s section in search of jeans, but they will only buy them if and because they are Levi’s. Jeans made by any other brand, even if they look exactly the same as the Levi’s, will be ignored. Thrift stores have caught onto this trend and have marked up the price of Levi’s, making them more expensive than jeans by brands that have a greater original retail value. In the women’s section, there will also be a few girls in the fur jacket section, trying to find the gaudiest leopard-print fur coat.
The shoe section of the thrift store is less populated than the aforementioned sections because we are a little grossed out by sticking our feet in someone else’s shoes. And washing shoes requires putting in a small amount of effort, so it is not worth it. The women’s shoes are completely a lost cause as they are always feminine, with most being ugly kitten-heeled flip-flops covered in rhinestones, but the men’s shoes do have promise for men and women alike.
Another reasonably popular section is the home décor section. It is filled exclusively with items from the homes of peoples whose grandparents have died and they inherited their grandparents’ objects and they have no idea what to do with them but don’t want to throw them away, so they just donate them. The home décor section always contains at least twenty of those crystallized glass vases shaped like vintage ice cream sundae dishes. The objects of this section look like the things that you see when you go to a garage sale at the end of the day and all of the good stuff is gone, and that’s because that’s exactly what they are. The section is filled with Christian figurines, specifically of the Virgin Mary. One may think that this section does not get much foot-traffic from the youths, but they would be incorrect. These items are exactly what is being sold in the apartment section of Urban Outfitters because the Virgin Mary is honestly kind of hot and really improves any rooms’ aesthetic.
Antique stores are the thrift store home décor section on crack. Every antique store in Central Pennsylvania has a hefty amount of hate paraphernalia, from swastika-laden Nazi merch to fun little KKK artifacts. All of these items are insanely expensive, being the store’s prize possessions and all. How on earth these items from Germany and the South got to Central PA is unclear to me, but they are there and ready to find a new home. I do not fully comprehend why someone would want to own these things other than them being a Nazi trying to compensate for the fact that they are secretly very gay, but the only time person I’ve seen own something of the sort is Ricky’s dad in American Beauty so my point of view on the matter is probably a bit skewed. Next to the hate paraphernalia, there is always, without fail, a hefty selection of knifes. Whether or not the stores are trying to facilitate hate crimes is uncertain, but a knife blazoned with the confederate flag placed near swastika pins certainly sends that message. Not all the knifes look so intimidating though. The other day, I saw a sparkly pink hunting knife that a six-year-old was begging her mother for. Very cute.
The products at antique stores, though mostly garbage, aren’t all terrible. One could get a vintage milk jug that may just be the same exact thing as a jug from the craft store, but it’s twice as expensive, so it’s obviously better. Or a vintage sign that is 78% of the time an ad for Coke products but is still somehow kind of really cute. Or a VHS tape of anything from Indecent Proposal to hula dance workout tapes, my favorite finds being tapes entitled “Hee Haw Laffs” and “The Mouth Yelper A to Z”. Another cornerstone of antique stores is the abundance of dolls. Many are the creepy types that you might see in a horror movie, but there are also some collector’s edition Barbie’s that I inexplicably want even though I do not collect Barbie’s and was always more of a Bratz girl myself. My favorite antique store is known for plastering pro-gun signs all over the display window, with one of such gems being a list of the “top ten reasons men prefer guns over women”, acting as a sort of alternate universe Buzzfeed article.
Thrift and antique stores are, upon any amount of examination, some of the strangest places of all time, and that’s what makes them so magical. Anyone can go into one of these stores and they would never feel out of place. Except for maybe non-white people but that’s beside the point.