As consumers – wait scratch that, that’s a horrible phrase – as people, we’re confronted with an enormous amount of options when it comes to choosing how to clothe ourselves.
That’s especially the case with buying printed t-shirts. Department stores, designer brands, independent boutique and street styles – there’s just a tonne of stuff out there whether you’re hitting the high street or searching online.
But there’s another alternative to these places. One that’s growing in popularity more and more, but one that’s pretty easy to overlook despite being a regular presence on our high streets since shortly after the second world war.
And that alternative my friends, is the charity shop! A lot of people pass them up without a second thought. Personally, I’m almost incapable of going by one without popping in to see what treasures may lie within…
Okay, I’m sure some of you like myself are already dedicated aficionados. And well you might be, because there are manifold reasons why the charity shop / second hand route is a great way to go, so let us explain a little bit further.
The Power of Charity Shops to Find The Best T-shirt Deals Ever (and do some good)
First and foremost getting your gear from a charity shop is an ethically considerate thing to do, and there are two reasons why: one, you’re supporting the parent charity; two, you’re helping to protect the environment.
Buying a t-shirt from, say the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research or the RSPCA, you’re directly donating to the cause, raising awareness and helping these excellent organisations to continue their great work.
The Charity Retail Association estimates that UK charity shops raise an annual sum of around £290million. That’s an incredible amount of money going to support a range of fantastic causes including help for the homeless, caring for the terminally ill, deprived children, the mentally and physically disabled, medical research, animal welfare, overseas aid and environmental initiatives.
It’s a nice feeling knowing you’re contributing to that. Consider also, that the vast majority of charity shops are staffed by volunteers, so by making use of these great amenities you’re helping out your own community.
Contrast that to the shameful working conditions of millions of people in the developing world. Whether we like it or not, we’re all responsible for helping to sustain these conditions whenever we buy anything first hand produced in these regions. But I’m not here to put a guilt trip on anyone.
Benefits of T-shirt Charity Shopping
So what about the environmental benefits of charity shopping? Well, according to a recent report from recycling experts Wrap:
“UK consumers throw out almost one million tonnes of textiles, mainly clothes, every year…….these unwanted items, which currently end up in landfill, could be re-used or recycled – and generate millions of pounds.”
By opting for the charity shop, you’re giving new life to and getting full use out of items which would otherwise end up as landfill, further damaging our environment. That’s a great reason why we should donate to, as well as buy from, the charity shop.
It might seem like a small gesture, but it’s one that can have a great impact if enough people are doing it. Remember that episode of My Name is Earl where Christian Slater guests as an eco-warrior? “Think global, act local!”
So, why else should you choose a charity shop? Ok let’s face it, there are also questions of style, originality, and individuality. Not to mention price.
Note: You might also be interested in ‘Looking for Charity Fundraising Ideas? T-shirts are the solution!‘
Let’s be honest with ourselves. We all want to be different. We all want to be unique. We all want to have cool shit that no-one else has. Buying from a charity shop, you’re not likely to see someone else walking down the street, expressing their individuality, wearing the exact same t-shirt as you. Maybe I shouldn’t care so much but I hate it when that happens!
There’s a sense of satisfaction that you get from rifling through those racks and sniffing out something special. Even more so when it’ll likely cost you no more than £5!
Four of the coolest t-shirts I ever got, for a combined £30 (actually pretty expensive), were bought from a charity shop. That included Stussy, Ames Bros and Bantum Clothing. Conversation starters all.
You might not find something every time – in fact most of the time, I emerge empty handed – but all that searching pays off when you find that one hidden gem. For me, it’s the clothes shopping equivalent of searching for old vinyl, of DJs digging in the crates.
And being second hand, I like the idea that there’s a bit of mystery behind these items. Who had them before you? Where did they come from? Where have they been, and how did they get here? There’s a certain amount of romance about all that.
And it isn’t only t-shirts – there are plenty of other treasures to be found…shoes, accessories, books, games, furniture, ornaments…you can find it all in our beloved charity shops!
Charity Shop VS Second Hand Clothing Store
One important distinction to make is the difference between second hand charity shops, and second hand vintage / retro clothing stores.
The latter may be awesome too, and many have become local institutions in the areas they serve – Wild Clothing in Nottingham springs to mind – but these are independent clothing stores, completely separate entities from your high street charity shop.
Don’t get me wrong, I love these places too. Aged 17, my 1970s deep-blue retro Yugoslavian football shirt, bought from the Silver Arcade in Leicester (a wonderful Grade II listed 19th century building) was my most prized possession. In the mid 1990s, half the kids in our school were wearing variations thereof. Basically we thought we were Jamiroquai, with our adidas tracksuit tops and our sambas. Good times!
When you open the door to a charity shop, there’s a sense of stepping back in time, a tangible nostalgia that you get when you step inside. If you’re in any way a fan of the kitsch, ironic, retro or chic, these places are a goldmine!
The charity shop scene – and it’s really not over-doing it to describe it as a sub-culture – remains a largely British institution. Having lived outside of the UK for several years, and noted a general absence of charity shop culture, I’ve become more aware of how uniquely British a thing it is.
And for me it’s something we can be proud of, something we should cherish. The CRA estimates that there are over 10,000 shops across the UK a figure which has grown by 30% since 2008. It’s great that these places are thriving, and more and more people are cottoning on to the delights that can be found there.
So, where can I find these stores?
Below is a list, by no means comprehensive, of the largest and most commonly found UK charity shops. For more information, please visit this site.
They have over 500 charity shops on the high streets throughout the UK, where you’ll find quality books, CDs, DVDs, clothes, accessories and much more. Find the closest one to you here.
With almost 700 Oxfam shops, you’re sure to find one close by. Whether it’s to drop off unwanted items or to browse the rails – they’d love to see you. Find one near by here.
Barnardo’s shops are a great place for the community to donate their unwanted items as well as shop for quality goods at fantastic value. Find yours here.
Macmillan is a team of many people helping in many ways to provide support to anyone affected by cancer. They can only do so because of your generosity. So fill your shopping bag with lots of goodies and every penny you spend will make a real difference. Shop with them here.
They have over 190 charity shops across the UK. Marie Curie Charity Shops are full of high-quality items at great prices – you never know what you might find from stylish clothes and jewellery to kitchenware and toys. And the money their shops raise helps them care for more people living with a terminal illness and their families. Buy for yourself, and feel good about it!
For every £1 they receive, they spend 88p on their activities to benefit children, 11p to raise the next £1 and 1p on governance and other costs. Find out more visiting their site.
They were the first to introduce a law to protect animals and they work hard to ensure that all animals can live a life free from pain and suffering. If you stand against animal abuse, you have to check out their website.
The Mind shop offers a range of information booklets, books, Christmas cards and other resources. Find out more here.
Age UK is the country’s largest charity dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life. They believe in a world where everyone can love later life and they work every day to achieve this. Learn more by clicking here.
Unicef UK raises funds to support Unicef’s work to protect children’s rights worldwide.
The official online charity and gift shop of The Royal British Legion. Pretty cool stuff.
The Salvation Army is an integral part of the Christian Church, although distinctive in government and practice.
Remember, by supporting charity shops, you’re doing the right thing. Feels good doesn’t it? It’s nice to be nice.
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