“Hey, sorry. Are you gonna buy that?”
Looking away from the rack, I accidentally made intense eye contact with the girl on the other side of the aisle. She was pointing at the sweater hanging over my shopping cart, a well-worn striped number I’d grabbed from the men’s section. Her own cart was about to tip over, stuffed to the brim with baggy jeans and children’s T-shirts. In blindingly white platform sneakers, she towered over me; I immediately felt my ego shrivel up and dissipate.
“Uh,” I said, staring foolishly at her. “Yes?”
She seemed surprised at the answer, as if she’d never been denied the chance to scam someone out of a ratty cardigan at Value Village before, but nodded silently and turned to go. As she squeezed past me, her purse brushed my arm. It was Prada, or at least a good knockoff.
Growing up in Toronto, I’ve had multiple run-ins like this at the thrift. Girls in trendy clothes move in solitude around the store, rarely speaking, gazing coolly over me and my minuscule haul while they place another armful of low-rise jeans into their cart. In recent years it’s become an entire unspoken competition, leaning away from whose stuff is cuter? and towards how much can I charge for this argyle sweater vest?
All the Gen Z girls love Depop. And why not? Cheap, easy way to buy cute clothes, and sell your old ones while you’re at it, all while refusing to succumb to the lure of fast fashion! Begone, H&M!
But it’s not that simple anymore. There’s a neat little phenomenon unique to Depop, wherein predominantly white and upper-class girls flock to secondhand shops and buy as much as they possibly can, then turn around and resell everything, hiking up the prices by around 300% each time. The number of times I’ve seen tank tops made for actual toddlers go for upwards of thirty bucks is astounding. Sure, some people use Depop as a certifiable side hustle, or even to make a living, but these girls have no reason to do so—and no reason, either, to buy half the store when thousands of people are genuinely reliant on thrifting in order to clothe themselves and their families.
Depop “girlies” have become a meme at this point, their pages filled with once-worn Shein tops and hundred-dollar stained Levi’s juxtaposed with their preachings about sustainability and accessibility. They’ll judge others for buying fast fashion, blind to the fact that they’re the reason thrift stores are slowly becoming less affordable.
I will not delve too deeply into the ways that accursed app has affected my self-esteem, but I will say that if I have to see another photo of a stick-thin white girl selling size 30 pants while complaining in the caption about her super small frame and teeny-tiny waist, my brain will start leaking out of my ears.
I’m not here to preach either. I cannot even walk past these girls in real life without developing stomach pains from anxiety; I could never call someone out for reselling to their face. Think of me as a mere observer, a flaneur. I have no rigid ethical code. Indeed, I am a verifiable Depop connoisseur, plumbing its depths for vintage denim and overpriced “retro sage green 90s baby milkmaid” slip dresses. On any given day, if I do not have my little Depop package arriving in the mail, my mental state is noticeably worse. I’ve sold some of my old clothes there, too, because I’m a mildly broke college student with a decent fashion sense. Still, I’d never thrift to just resell. Whether that makes me a paragon of morality is up for debate, but I do think that some of these Depop girlies should think critically about what they’re doing!
There’s no ideal solution to this problem; there’s no all-seeing force of judgement that decides who is reselling to make a living and who is simply doing it for kicks. However, it is an unbelievable privilege to be able to walk into a thrift store and buy an outfit you won’t wear and don’t need. Watching Value Village prices skyrocket over the past three years has not been fun. What is deeply hilarious is the fact that one of the most popular Canadian resellers on Depop used to make fun of me in elementary school for wearing hand-me-downs. I’m petty, sue me.
The culture—and ensuing drama—that has sprung out of this once-humble app is deeply weird and so unique to my generation that if I tried to explain any of this to Prince Philip, he would die, again, immediately. I have been called an “internalized misogynist” for telling a girl that she shouldn’t charge eighty dollars for Brandy Melville sweatpants. I have borne witness to numerous scams, some so blatant I have to laugh a little at the teens who fall for them. I am become Depop, destroyer of worlds and the meaning of the phrase “Y2K.”
Wherever Prada girl is, I hope she knows that the sweater she coveted was itchy as hell. I bought it anyway, out of spite.
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