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I love Salvos. I love Vinnies. I love that random Church op shop as much as I loved Newtown’s Cream on King (RIP).

In fact, I love op-shopping so much that I actually had my own online vintage store when I was 19, selling with a “Comment SOLD to purchase” Facebook system. I think it was part me wanting to be Gary Pepper Vintage, part not being able to leave bangers on the rack, just because they weren’t in my size or style.

As you can imagine, the obsession really sent my mother up the wall, who had to designate a spare-room wardrobe to this activity of mine.

op shoppingtrue story

A full decade later (and then some, I’m old), I’m still concerningly obsessed. I’m pretty sure I spent the better half of a two-day Wellington trip just op-shopping. I’m not sure why it makes me so giddy when someone comments on my 1985 pair of Levi’s 501 jeans and I tell them I got them at Salvo’s. It’s like a badge of honour that you were able to find something gold on a rack of $5 muu-muus. IYKYK.

If you’ve gone through the op-shopping process you likely know the feeling. You walk in, it’s racks galore, and you have a well-calculated system of what clothing categories you’re going to focus on first. For me, it starts with jeans, followed by bags and dresses.

The reasons are obvious – jeans hold up the best over the years (the quality kind, at least), a good leather bag is usually sturdy as all hell, and dresses of the past used to come in lengths appropriate for my daddy long legs.

Op-shopping alone has told me which brands I can buy as vintage; because of their quality, durability and timeless style. I’ve had my aforementioned Levi’s for about four years with no signs of slowing down, so imagine if I bought them fresh? That’s a purchase I could justify. Even more so now that Levi’s are doubling up on their commitment to sustainable fashion.

It’s not even about finding the designer labels, though, even though I almost had a heart attack buying a $4 Josh Goot tank that wasn’t in my size at a Wallsend Salvo’s on my way home from uni. I actually sold it at Terrigal markets on the Central Coast a few months later, and this is where I realised why I was weirdly attracted to secondhand buying.

It’s because pre-loved clothes are a damn story. Seeing your own pieces go to someone else is heartwarming. They’re breathing new life into something that stopped being loved by you (imagine if we could feel the same way about our exes).

I remember literally seeing someone, in the flesh, wearing something they bought from me. It was absolutely the opposite of how I would’ve worn it, and for that I froth.

In one jacket I bought, I found a $20 note in the pocket. But not a current one – a very, very old one. It blew my mind. I actually dug into my 2010 Tumblr to find it, so enjoy.

op shoppingcould probably buy a house with this back then

Who was this person? What kind of life are they living? Are their grandkids nice to them? Did they have their first pash in this jacket? Find another way to feel more connected to a stranger you’ll never meet – I’ll wait.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes op-shopping can be gross. I’ve found used tissues in pockets before, and that’s not a way in which I wish to connect with others. Sometimes there are stains on things in places you don’t want them to be.

But much like dating, you’ll sort through a few questionable options before finding something quality that’ll last a lifetime.

Image: Ladybird