Clothes as Currency: Grahamstown’s thriving thrift culture

Just in case you were of the opinion that Grahamstown’s geographical positioning as a small town situated somewhere in the middle of nowhere on the southern continent of South Africa, rendered it immune from the influence of this global trend, I’m about to burst your bubble of ignorant bliss. Grahamstown is not immune to the cultural phenomenon called thrifting.

This is largely thanks to a number of factors including the diverse population of our humble hamlet and its rich history that not only lends itself as a tourist attraction but has resulted in multiple higher education institutions that lure in more and more young blood every year.

Students come with their own set of stereotypes, and among these are the typical ‘hippies’, ‘punk-rockers’ and ‘arty-farties’ (aka BFA and Drama students) who all need a place to shop for clothes because I can guarantee you Woolworths generally doesn’t  cater for this elect majority.

So enter Nearly New and Hospice second-hand clothing stores, and the multiple online second-hand community platforms that Grahamstown boasts.

I recently took a stroll down High Street, stopping at number 118’s Nearly New store: The station for pre-loved clothing and then continued all the way down until I reached Frontier Hotel. Then I turned down Bathhurst Street and journeyed towards number 67, home of Grahamstown’s Sunflower fund Hospice shop.

My journey, however so pleasant, was not in the slightest a product of my own flippant fancy; I was on a mission to get the two cents worth on Grahamstown’s thriving thrift culture.

For a one-donkey town with only three main streets, Grahamstown certainly boasts an abundance of second-hand outlets. There’s Nearly New, The Hospice shop, the shop under the Drostdy Arch plus two online Facebook groups, and that’s only covering the sale of second-hand clothing.

How do these platforms thrive, why do they thrive, and who supports them? That’s what I set out to find out.

Photos: Jade le Roux


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