Clothing Brands You Should And Shouldn't Look For While Thrifting

Traditionally, it takes true commitment to find success while thrifting. You need to spend hours dedicated to sifting through the aisles of chain thrift stores and local shops to find something worth buying. Thankfully, those with less time have the option of buying their pre-loved clothing online through outlets like Poshmark, ThredUp, and Depop. You can search by brand on these sites, which makes them even easier to manage. 

There are smaller resale shops popping up across the U.S. that carry a more curated selection if you feel like these apps are somewhat limited. The caveat to these second-hand sources is that the items are often sold by resellers, so the price is discounted from new, but the items are still marked up. Therefore, if you want to get the best deals, you'll want to go straight to the source.

Whichever way you decide to thrift, you'll save money, find unique items, and help the environment in the process. According to Wilson Griffin, who is the COO and co-founder of Recurate, people are catching on to these benefits. "The resale market is growing 11 times faster than traditional retail, which is due to a combination of factors from customer demand for more sustainable and affordable ways of shopping, to advancements in technology that power resale"(via Forbes).

Inspired to join the thrifting bandwagon? We've researched tips from long-time thrifters, resale shop owners, and professional resellers to show you what it takes to make the most out of second-hand shopping. Here are the clothing brands you should and shouldn't look for during your next trip to the thrift store.

Look for these current brands when thrifting

Certain brands are synonymous with quality and hold their value long-term. Generally, the same labels worth investing in when the items are brand new are also worth seeking out when you're thrifting. Long-standing, reputable brands are what you want to search for, whether you plan to keep the clothes or re-sell them later. Buyers at the popular Denver resale boutique, Second Love, told The List that the brands that fly off their shelves are Madewell, Free People, Reformation, MOTHER, Rag & Bone, Daydreamer, Rails, Lovers & Friends, and Aritzia. These brands offer a mix of unique and classic designs crafted with quality materials.

Thrifting experts and professional resellers on Reddit shared that Patagonia, Lululemon, Eileen Fischer, L.L. Bean, St. John, J. Crew, and Theory are some of their top brands to scoop up secondhand. Bonus finds are any high-end designer brands, leather pieces, and clothing items with the tags still attached. Coming across designer gems like Saint Laurent, The Row, or Comme des Garçons is a bit more rare, but when it happens, it can make thrifting worth the hustle.

Let's remember that there are certainly high-quality pieces made from lesser-known labels, too. Bring your phone with you to research a brand on the spot and learn more about its standards before making a purchase. Many times, niche brands produce their pieces in smaller quantities to keep their quality top-notch.

These vintage brands hold their value

The reason vintage clothing pops up at thrift stores decades later is simply that clothing used to be produced with more quality, and was made to last a very long time. The best brands to buy vintage are well-known heritage labels like Levis, Wrangler, Pendleton, Coach, Ralph Lauren, Frye, and Diane von Fürstenberg. Recognize a pattern? Yes, most of these brands were made in the USA, which was the norm for clothing before the production mainly shifted overseas in the 1990s, per Goodwear.

Frequently what makes a vintage piece a treasure is its unique patterns and luxe fabrics, and not necessarily the brand name. When shopping vintage, you'll want to swiftly locate the material of the clothing on an inner tag to ensure it's crafted from a natural source. Textiles like leather, wool, silk, linen, and cotton will hold up for years, and they often get better with age (per The Luxe Strategist). If you're lucky enough to come across Italian leather shoes and accessories, don't pass these up! You know the names we're talking about: Gucci, Prada, Fendi, and Valentino.

Perhaps the best thing about vintage (and what to look for on your search) are those one-of-a-kind special designs that you just know are a rarity to come across. Emily Hoover, who co-owns the store Feathers in Austin, Texas, looks for unique beadwork, embroidery, hand-painted items, and artisan-made pieces (via Stylecaster).

Skip these brands and fabrics

Trendy, fast fashion finds may seem like a steal at only $2-$3 a pop, but mass-manufactured clothing isn't constructed to last longer than a few wears. If you thrift brands like Target, Forever 21, H&M, and Zara, you get the opportunity to try out trends at a low cost, but it won't take long for the item to fall apart (via The Good Trade). The poor quality is partly due to the use of synthetic materials, which are the fabrics you should avoid in your thrift store hunt. When you're perusing the aisles, avoid pieces made from rayon or polyester blends in particular (Style Wise).

However, buying fast fashion and synthetic fabrics second-hand is significantly better than buying them new. A recent report from online thrift store ThredUp estimates that, "If everyone bought one used item this year, it would save 5.7 billion pounds of carbon emissions, or the equivalent of taking half a million cars off the road for an entire year" (CNN Business).

In the end, thrifting should be enjoyable and help you discover pieces that elevate your personal style. Keep in mind that it's important to make sure you love the silhouette of the item before you buy it. You wouldn't want to purchase something just for the brand name if it doesn't work with your wardrobe, says High Latitude Style. Take your time, go to your local shop consistently, pop into thrifts when you travel, and the right brands will present themselves. Don't forget to trade in your gently used apparel, and the process becomes even more rewarding!