I just arrived from a four-day trip in Baguio and in my duffle bag are pieces of musty clothing that are about to be sent off for immediate washing. To the well-informed, besides wooden lodges, below 20C weather, and pasalubong from Good Shepherd, the City of Pines is teeming with treasure troves for the dauntless thrifter.
The thrill of thrifting is not for everyone, and I’ll admit I wasn’t always a fan. You see, for as long as I can remember, either every Holy Week or sometime during the Christmas season, a year wouldn’t pass without the family spending one or two holiday breaks up North. My cousins, the ones responsible for my introduction to segunda mano, would dedicate an entire afternoon during these vacations to scour through racks of used garments in the hopes of finding something good.
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To my then-fourteen-year old self who had already developed an appreciation for clothing, I didn’t see the point of going through all this effort when I could easily just purchase something in a snap at a store or online. Thrift shopping was just one of those things I knew people did but never saw myself doing, much more enjoy, like watching European films with subtitles. Or yoga.
I finally gave it a shot in the summer of 2014. Some friends and I headed North for four days. One friend was studying in U.P. Baguio and knew the nooks and crannies of the city quite well. Prior to the trip, he had already given a show-and-tell of the various pieces he had collected during his earlier years in university, greatly exciting the hunter in me. On our third evening, we searched through the night market on Harrison Road and emerged triumphant. My loot that comprised of a light blue striped Oxford button down which I still wear up to this day and a pair of Red Wing moc toe boots that I never wore and probably never will.
That is not to say thrifting isn’t a challenge—because it is. I’ve given up one too many times but everyone who’s had his/her taste of victory knows that the joy you get from digging up gold through mounds of coal is priceless. So how does one excel in this veritable treasure hunt?
While Lady Luck does offer her blessing from time to time, it’s best not to depend on chance. Besides, any veteran will tell you the secret is simple: Make time and be patient.
Knowing your personal style is also greatly helpful because when you have a clear idea of what you want, that serves as filter as you flip through hangers lupon hangers, like turning pages in a book.
Anyone with conviction in their own way of dress would also have a roster of brands that cater to their tastes, making the search much easier—as soon as I see a tag by one of my favorites, I immediately pluck the item out, examine, and decide whether it goes home with me or not. I’ve returned several pieces by Visvim, Porter, Champion, BAPE, Carharrt, etc. that I’m sure would be coveted more by someone in another lane.
There are different reasons as to why thrift shopping intimidates and, in some cases, appalls. Sanitation is usually the most popular of excuses but let me tell you that if you’ve gone through your deceased granddad’s dusty closet and have inherited a piece or two, segunda mano is not that different. A thorough wash-and-dry is all you need for most garments, while more sensitive pieces—like this handsome Woolrich buffalo checkered hunting jacket I picked up in 2017 that don’t respond so well to ordinary washing—are best sent off to the dry cleaner’s.
Footwear, on the other hand, is an area where many people draw the line. I’ve had my doubts but discovered via Google and word-of-mouth that a good cleansing with some ethyl alcohol and a disinfectant (I use Lysol) is all you need to sanitize what could be your next favorite pair of shoes.
I’ve returned several pieces by Visvim, Porter, Champion, BAPE, Carharrt, etc. that I’m sure would be coveted more by someone in another lane.
The next consideration is authenticity, and I applaud anyone who cares about this as wearing fakes have always been something I’ve frowned upon—it is always better to wear something no one has heard of than to put on the label of pretentious dishonesty. Anyway, when it comes to thrift shops, be warned that you will be faced with plenty of counterfeits. To detect a fake is an article all its own but from experience, an eye for quality is your best identifier. Cheap fabric, sketchy tags, and inconsistent details are some dead giveaways. Sometimes, when you put something on and it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Don’t force it and move on to the hundred more pieces waiting for you to skim through.
Lastly, there’s the question of who wore it last? Which can only lead to more obscure, sometimes bothersome, follow-up queries. The reason I got into thrifting? It stems from a deep appreciation for clothing that grew through the years. I began to look past its superficial qualities and recognize it for what it really is— just like food, music, and architecture, clothes are objects indicative of culture, tastes, and lifestyles of a certain time and place, and even more so, a certain person. Clothing is history you can literally wear, and being a history buff, it was no surprise thrifting appealed to me. Say what you will, but it’s that exact question that excites me most.
Incorporating a secondhand garment to one’s wardrobe adds a unique sense of soul to your clothes on rotation. You’re borrowing details of a character, a stranger, from perhaps a decade when you weren’t even born yet, and using that imagined reality to make your otherwise ordinary ensemble into something, well, storied. In this world of people who often dress the same, be it with fast-fashion or head-to-toe Gucci, it’s always nicer telling the story of a segunda mano.
Photographs by Anton Miranda