Jennifer Le Zotte: Poppin’ Tags: How Musicians Helped Make Used Clothes Fashionable

Macklemore’s 2013 tribute to thrift shops articulates the enduring association of creative output with secondhand commerce. Voluntary secondhand dress persists precisely because it suggests both cultural and economic distinction. It satisfies a desire to be seen as different than the average consumer dupe, as willing to invest time in the cultivation of originality without utilizing class and wealth privilege. In reality, however, secondhand economies and styles throughout the twentieth century are much more complicated; studying them reveals the futility of pursuing an effective anti-consumer consumption. But whatever the continuing or resurgent stigmas and social critiques of secondhand products may be, many creative dressers continue to agree with Macklemore’s concise assessment: “This is fucking awesome.” Continue Reading Jennifer Le Zotte: Poppin’ Tags: How Musicians Helped Make Used Clothes Fashionable

Jennifer Le Zotte: Before Target, There Were Thrift Stores: How Postwar Secondhand Commerce Supported LGBTQ Rights

In recent years, corporate support of LGBTQ rights is not unusual, but in the 1950s and 1960s, major retailers were often complicit in the systematic anti-homosexual campaigns known as the Lavender Scare, firing gay employees and alienating or even arresting cross-dressing patrons attempting to try on clothing. In most states, wearing clothing “intended for the opposite sex”—even briefly in dressing rooms—meant risking a rap sheet. Commercial support of queer communities came instead from alternative retail sites— such as thrift stores. Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, and the hundreds of small, locally owned secondhand shops multiplying in the postwar years, became queer shopping havens. Such places did not issue public responses of solidarity with non-normative dressers, but most did extend a sort of benevolent neglect to all customers. With no clerks angling for a commission, and a staff untrained in suggestive retailing, thrift stores were much safer places than Weinstein’s for cross-dressing men and women to try and buy the clothing of their choice. Continue Reading Jennifer Le Zotte: Before Target, There Were Thrift Stores: How Postwar Secondhand Commerce Supported LGBTQ Rights