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Hip-hop hit from Macklemore, Ryan Lewis makes thrift-store shopping cool

| Monday, March 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Whether they're looking to “pop some tags” or simply shake up their style, thrift-store shoppers are often influenced by pop culture, industry insiders say.

The latest trend is a catchy hip-hop song by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis called “Thrift Shop,” which celebrates the ability to find great used clothes even if someone “only got $20 in my pocket.” The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February and was featured on “Saturday Night Live” earlier this month. The edited version is in constant rotation on pop-radio stations, and an unedited version of the official video has had more than 165 million YouTube hits.

That kind of exposure in the world of pop culture could translate to a bump in sales at resale shops, owners say.

David Tobiczyk, vice president of marketing and development for the 25 Goodwill stores in southwestern Pennsylvania, says there's been a ton of buzz about the song among employees and shoppers. The store gets a mention in the song: The video was shot at a Goodwill in Seattle, Tobiczyk says.

“We think it's great,” he says. “We think it will promote more interest among younger shoppers.”

Tobiczyk says the stores have seen an increase in sales recently, though it's “difficult to say” if it's all thanks to “Thrift Shop.”

Judy McDonough-Opel, manager of the Centre Avenue Goodwill Store, says customers love the song and “go nuts” when it plays in the store.

“The song makes it cool to shop and look for the items that we process on a regular basis,” she says. “My 11-year-old daughter used to refuse to go into Goodwill stores. Now, she begs me to take her after hearing the song. I see it as a great way of changing how the youth perceive thrift-store shopping. Years ago, kids were embarrassed that their moms bought things at Goodwill. Now, young folk want to come to our stores.”

Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale Professionals, says the industry has seen a spike in sales ever since the downturn in the economy several years ago. Traditional resale shops offer items 1- to 2-years-old, she says. Not quite “your grandad's clothes,” like those referenced in “Thrift Shop.” Meyer says those would be more vintage items.

“The majority are selling very current styles,” she says.

It's not just catchy songs getting shoppers to thrift stores. Richard Parsakian, owner of Eons Fashion Antique in Shadyside, says he's seen shows like “Mad Men” and “Downton Abbey” peak people's interests in period dress.

“Every designer is copying vintage now,” he says. “A lot of people come in and know they want an individual kind of look.”

Hats are hot commodities these days, as are bow ties.

“It's a look everybody's going for right now,” says Parsakian. “It's very old school.”

$20 in my pocket: Celebs also hit the thrift shops


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis aren't the only ones poppin' tags at thrift shops:

Debbie Harry

She loves to search for unique items at thrift shops, but there were times the Blondie frontwoman had to do it because times were hard. “At various times in my life (it has) been really necessarily to shop like that,” says Harry, 67. She also hit thrift shops to fuel her creativity when deciding what to wear to an event or photo shoot. Her favorite used item? A silver 1960s Betsey Johnson jumpsuit.

She also enjoys thrift shopping because it's somewhat of an adrenaline rush. “In a way. it's a sense of adventure, too, because you're not walking in and seeing a rack of clothing,” she says. “You have to go in and hunt, and it can be very entertaining.”


While on his latest international tour, Los Angeles-born Miguel was happy to meet his fans — and visit thrift shops. “I tried to do it while we were on tour in Europe. I did a little bit in Stockholm, Sweden, a little bit in London,” says the Grammy winner, who prefers clothes from thrift shops because “it's like clothes with character.”

Elle Varner

When Grammy-nominated Varner made her debut to the music world with her first music video, she did so in a hand-me-down. “The jacket I'm wearing in the ‘Only Wanna Give It to You' (music video) was $4 at Goodwill,” she says of the bright orange blazer that got attention on urban blogs when the video was released in 2011.

“It's hot — and wasn't everyone wearing colored blazers after that?” she asks happily, giving herself credit for helping to push the trend.

Ryan Tedder

The 33-year-old OneRepublic singer and songwriter says his favorite shirts are the ones he bought when was a teenager — and they're from thrift shops. “I've thrift shopped since I was 13, and half of my wardrobe to this day are still the same shirts I had when I was 17, 18,” says the producer behind hits for Beyonce and Adele.

Janelle Monae

Monae says she's an avid thrift shopper, but when she's not working, she loves to rock used clothes simply because others can't jock her style. “I like one-of-a-kind pieces,” the singer says. “I don't like everybody walking around in stuff that I have on.”

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