Poppin’ tags, suburban style

By Mir
March 21, 2013

Know what Chickadee loves? Let’s take a brief quiz:

A) When I sing and dance along with Thrift Shop any time it comes on the radio.
B) When I refer to visiting our local Goodwill as “poppin’ tags.”
C) When I respond to any compliment on my attire—however slight—with a deep, booming, “I LOOK IN-CRED-UH-BULL!”
D) All of the above.
E) None of the above, and P.S., it’s not nice to taunt the teenager.

[Your quiz will not be graded. I am too busy cutting the plastic tag thingies off our latest haul. But here’s Licorice’s favorite video version as a reward for playing along.]

The thing is, I’ve been a thrift store shopper since I was a teen with babysitting money in my pocket. The fact that there’s now a popular song about it doesn’t automatically transform me into a hipster. (Especially when you consider that my most frequent purchases at Goodwill are t-shirts which still have their original store tags. I’m not after your “cool, old” stuff so much as I’m after the bargain on stuff I hope you don’t realize I got at Goodwill. Thank goodness I’m not telling the entire Internet that’s where I got my “expensive” clothes. Um. Oops?) Really the only thing that’s different now is that my kids think it’s cool instead of embarrassing.

Anyway, it doesn’t exactly fill me with joy that thrift shopping is suddenly all cool and whatever. It means there’s a lot more competition for the good stuff at the store, which is kind of a bummer. On the other hand, there was a time when I couldn’t really afford anything other than thrifting, and now I can, I just prefer saving money when I can, so there’s probably an argument to be made that I should stay out of Goodwill and leave the cheap stuff to those who really don’t have any other options. (But please don’t say that because I love Goodwill.)

True to gender stereotypes, if I’m going to go to Goodwill, Chickie wants to come. Chickie wants to shop and she knows I’m unlikely to say no to anything there, particularly if it’s a half-price tag color. And Monkey doesn’t want to go to Goodwill—or any other store—ever. Because shopping is BORING and DUMB and he already HAS CLOTHES, and why am I ALWAYS SHOPPING EVERY DAY? (I do not go shopping every day. Or even every week. But to hear him tell it, all I ever do is shop. (Then again, he’s also convinced all I do for “work” is play Scrabble on Facebook, so he’s not so much what we call a reliable narrator.)

This past weekend it was unseasonably warm, and when Monkey came downstairs in jeans I suggested he change into shorts. He looked at me like I had twelve heads. “It’s going to be HOT today,” I told him. “Like, close to 80 degrees. You’re going to be outside a lot. I think you’ll be too hot in jeans, please find some shorts.”

He went back upstairs, and came back down ten minutes later… in jeans. “Did you get lost?” I asked him.

“No, none of my shorts fit,” he said. At my look of surprise, he continued, “It’s fine. I like jeans. I won’t be too hot.”

“NONE of your shorts fit?” I asked him, boggled. “Do you want me to help you find a pair?”

“It’s FINE, Mom,” he said, eager to stop talking about clothes (stupid clothes!) and get going. “I’m not going to need shorts for months, it’s fine. Let’s just go.”

I thought this was weird. I mean, there’s no question that Monkey is mid-growth-spurt. Pants that he was cuffing and re-cuffing a few months ago appear to have magically shrunk, and after a lifetime of being at least a head shorter than his big sister, the difference between them can now be measured in ever-decreasing inches. But SHORTS offer a much longer wear period than jeans because the length matters a lot less. I remembered replacing most of his shorts last year. How did he outgrow them all? Particularly when this recent growth spurt has rendered him even more pencil-thin than usual?

Definitely weird. But Monkey doesn’t lie. Oh, Monkey sometimes… embellishes… a little. Or leaves out some pertinent info. But I knew he couldn’t possibly be lying, so I scratched my head and let it go.

Yesterday I had an appointment across town, over by the Goodwill, so I stopped in to look for some shorts for my boy-weed. I found two suitable offerings in the next size up from what’s in his drawer, although even as I hooked the hangers over my arm, I thought that they looked awfully big.

And then, of course, because I was there, I just did a quick run through the women’s section. (Why yes, BCBG blouse for $2.50, I don’t mind if I do.) Four shirts for me later, I checked out and went home.

Again, gender-specific reactions from the kids when they found out I’d been to Goodwill:
Monkey: I have plenty of clothes already!!

“Monkey,” I said, “this weekend you told me you didn’t have any shorts that fit. So I wanted to make sure you had some. Let’s go upstairs and go through your drawer, and you can try these on, too.” He hung his head and shuffled up the stairs, resigned to his fate.

First I made him try on the new shorts. One pair was laughably gigantic (with no way to tighten the waist), and he pulled the waistband aaaaaaaaall the way out while twirling around and telling me not to look at his underwear. (Uh… okay?) The other pair had buttonhole elastic (yep, my strapping 13-year-old is still wearing kids’ sizes, bless him) and by tightening it as far as it would go, rendered the shorts serviceable. Still, this was only making my confusion grow.

“Buddy, you told me you didn’t have any shorts that fit, but these are huge.” He nodded, picking up a book, already bored of this conversation. Suddenly I realized what had happened. At his last check-up, he’d actually grown four inches and LOST eight pounds. “Monkey?” he looked up. “Were the shorts in your drawer too BIG?”

He nodded, slightly sheepish. “I guess I didn’t try them ALL on,” he admitted, “but the ones I did were falling down.”

We went through all the shorts in his drawer and tightened the buttonhole elastic. Voila! His wardrobe fits again. And he didn’t need those new shorts at all, though given that I paid something like $5 total for ’em, I guess I can’t complain.

Besides, my new shirts are awesome. I LOOK IN-CRED-UH-BULL… and so does my adorable, emaciated son who apparently doesn’t understand how buttons work.


  1. JennyA

    GAHHH, I cannot get enough of that song. But I, too, have been thrifting for years for clothes and housewares. My most recent score? A set of vintage cocktail glasses that I’d been looking for for MONTHS for $1.99 apiece. The same ones are going for about 10 times that on eBay. I walked off with a whole set for less than one costs! Who has two thumbs and danced into the house, shouting, “THIS IS ****ING AWE-SOME”? This guy.

  2. Lynda M O

    Like you, I have shopped thrift stores all my life and suddenly it’s the IN place to be ?~! The prices are climbing, the competition getting fierce for the good stuff and the stores are crowded with people who don’t understand what they are getting. Hate it !~!

  3. Arnebya

    My 9-year-old told me all her uniform pants were “too tight and highwatery.” Amazing what undoing side elastic buttons will do, huh? Helps in the width AND in the length. Who knew? While the 9 yo cares not about where the cute clothes are purchased, the 12 yo still feels embarrassment at wearing someone else’s clothes. I simply go without either of them and never say where those name brand jeans we saw in Macy’s came from (hint: it ain’t from Macy’s. Although, now that I think of it, I don’t want her thinking I paid $80 for her jeans either. Life is hard.)

  4. Jamie

    Funny, my issue with the boys and their shorts is now that they are “too short” when they are only a couple inches above the knees. Apparently, the shorts style for 3rd-6th grade boys is now knee cap grazing. Ugh! I’ll have to see if I can find anything at Goodwill, then Target.

  5. RuthWells

    Last year Garrick grew 5 inches and didn’t gain a pound (between ages of 13 and 14, natch). All of the “easier fit” pants I had bought him to accomodate his solid derriere and trunk now reveal 3 inches of underpants.

  6. Tracy B

    I just brought 9 bags of clothes to Goodwill. And you know, I love looking at the knick knacks (one man’s junk is anothers treasure) in there but I don’t care much about clothes. I’m kinda like Monkey–I hate clothes shopping and therefore, do most online.

  7. Katherine

    Just wait until Monkey is wearing kid sizes in the waist and men’s sizes in the length. It’s sooooo much fun. Because they don’t make those elastic buttonholes for skinnying up mens pants. I have one there already (who has reluctantly agreed that sometimes belts are a need) and my 14 yo is fast approaching that stage.

  8. Hannita

    Thrifting is one of my favorite activities. But I’m more of the housewares kind of gal. Although my last trip to Goodwill yielded three clothing items, two of which I am wearing today. When my family gets together on vacation we go to thrift stores. When we talk on the phone we discuss out latest thrift/garage sale finds. We love a good bargain.

  9. Valerie

    You never fail to crack me up. This is fucking awesome.

  10. Stephanie

    I’ve been thrift shopping since I was in my very early 20’s…that would be getting close to 35 years. Definitely before it was “cool”. Sometimes, in my life, I *needed* to thrift shop…other times, I just enjoyed the hunt for a great bargain. When she was *much* younger, Sydney would accompany me, though she didn’t like shopping. Now,she loves shopping, but for the past several years, she’s been horribly embarassed by my thrift shopping and I have been SWORN to secrecy about it. With the popularity of “Thrift Shop”, the song, she has now *discussed* thrift shopping with some of her friends…she still doesn’t want to go with me. Ugh! Anyway, I’m hoping the “novelty” of thrift shopping wears off quickly. Hopefully, the bigger crowds will result in more people finding less great deals, which will make the hunt much less attractive and then the REAL, long-time, thrift shoppers will be able to shop again, in peace and bounty. :)

  11. Chuck

    So he’s getting taller – and skinnier? Odd. I guess everyone grows up in different ways…

  12. Michele

    As a SAM of a pre-school age I have VERY few opportunities to listen to any music that is not on my little Hobbit’s Pre-Approved Play List. I’m behind in the real of pop culture. Somehow, I think I have fallen nearly a decade behind and my kid is only 4. I’m sure it has something to do with that New Math. ANYWAY, “Thrift Shop” totally made my day.

  13. My Kids Mom

    My boys are skinny too, and the shorts just keep getting shorter, while still fitting around the waist. Can’t find any long enough. We’re due for the spring try-on (they hate) and then my bi-annual run to the thrift shop without them. Altho the young one (9) has begun being picky about what I buy so he might have to tag along, like it or not.

  14. Andrea

    Scene from the car the other day:

    (me bopping and singing along with Thrift Shop)

    My 12 yr old son: You’re the only mom I know who likes this song. I can’t believe that you do.

    Me: Does that make me cool or weird?

    Son: Both.

    I love the song and I love thrifting. I too love the housewares and especially the relationship that Target has with Goodwill. I’ve found so many NIB (New in box) items at awesome prices.

    “They had a broken keyboard, I bought a broken keyboard…” LOL

    Thanks for sharing Licorice’s video too. We just adopted a dog from the shelter down the road three weeks ago!

  15. Little Bird

    Wait, when was thrift shopping NOT cool? I have found some of the best things there!! If it becomes “trendy” the prices will go up!

    Also? Goodwill is an excellent place to buy paperback trashy “novels”. When you read fast, cheap is the way to go. Most go for 50 cents.

  16. Rosie

    I live in Wisconsin. It was 7 degrees when I left for work this morning. I…kind of hate you right now. (Not really, but I LOATHE winter!!!)

  17. Paige

    I got turned off thrift shops at a very young age. When I was a kid, that’s where my mom bought ALL my clothes, because that’s what she could afford. At first, I didn’t really care. The floors were grungy, and we were always instructed to try things on at home so we could immediately go shower. So the idea that Thrift Shop stuff was somehow ‘dirty’ was embedded early. But at 8 or 9, I didn’t really care.

    Then, while I was in the fourth grade and wearing a pair of awesome brown corduroy overalls from Salvation Army, a girl approached me at recess. She said, “Hey! You’re wearing my brother’s overalls. We gave those to the Salvation Army. YOU’RE POOR. AND you’re wearing BOY’S CLOTHES.” My stunning reply was: “No I’m not.” (I was poor. I was wearing boy’s overalls and probably a boy’s t-shirt as well. But I was not going to admit to either one.) She fired back with: “Well, his name was on the tag, so you can prove it. Just let me see the tag.” Now, I knew full well that the tag had a boy’s name written on it, and I was not about to let her look. They probably were her brother’s pants. It was a small-ish town with only one Salvation Army store, and we did routinely shop there. I said no, and then she chased me all the way across the playground, where I locked myself in a bathroom stall. My teacher was mad when I showed up late after recess, but I refused to leave the bathroom until the girl had gone to get in her own class line.

    My mother was confused as to why I refused to wear my favorite overalls ever again. I don’t think I explained it to her until I was in my 20s. I also started cutting out any tags with names on them on any of my thrift store clothing. When I was old enough to shop for my own clothing, I bought name brands, preferably on sale, at places like Mervyn’s and Target, where I knew I was getting NEW clothes. It stuck with me my entire life. I’m in my 30s, and I still only *donate* to thrift shops. I do not shop in them myself, even when I had no money and it would have made the more sense to do so. Kids can be cruel.

  18. Wendy

    Speaking of that song, my school made a parody video of that song to motivate the kids for state testing season. It’s pretty funny. The kids are singing the new version now! http://youtu.be/_fWZVd_kX3o

  19. Liza

    You know, I was JUST going to post a question for you about how to re-create almost a whole wardrobe from scratch. Thank you for apparently reading my mind! (I am down to the last 6 lbs of my 42 lb weight loss goal, and am astonished to find myself in a size that I have not inhabited since I was, um, in 7th or 8th grade.) I found a few pair of work pants in the clearance section at Kohls, but Goodwill seems like an even better prospect.

  20. Jenn

    Love that song! Ever since my husband met the guy who sings it at SXSW, we all sing it ALL THE TIME. At my house, everything is f*&%Ing awesome (the children are required to change that to “freaking” but NOT ME, That’s why being a grown up is amazing).

    Went to Goodwill tonight and bought 5 pairs of shoes. Clark’s? For $6.99? Don’t mind if I do.

    Clearly I’m out of control. Also, don’t think I don’t recognize how lame it is that I talked about buying Clark’s and singing hip hop songs in the same paragraph. Ahhh, middle age.

  21. Brigitte

    Aw, Paige, you’ve let those mean kids make you miss out on years of bargains!
    We grew up in a foofity rich town where our hand-me-downs and thrift-store clothes were made fun of too, but since those kids teased us for everything under the sun no matter what we did, that didn’t stand out as the single issue.

    90% of my wardrobe is still from thrift stores. Though I’ve been already finding that I can, in many instances, get brand-new Kohl’s clearance stuff for cheaper. I guess that tune will make it worse! Even though the song is fuckin’ awesome.

  22. Liza

    Brilliant, pretty Mir, thanks to you, today I bought an Ann Taylor suit for $14, a Brooks Brothers camel hair blazer for $5, a pair of Ralph Lauren jeans for $8, and a silk knee-length blazer for $6. Plus a bunch of pretty little shells and tops for $3 each. Thank you, and thanks to my local Goodwill! :)

  23. Flesher

    I admit, I detest shopping… except for… books – no surprise there.

    I buy two things at thrift stores – books and flannel shirts. Many of the books go in my school library – they replace stuff kids have “misplaced” or have walked away (or Wimpy Kid books – who would have figured that students at the high school level would still be requesting those?). But I am sure you are wondering about the flannel shirts. Flannel shirts tend to wash up either very well or very poorly. The brand doesn’t seem to make a difference. At the thrift store I don’t gamble over the launderability or quality of the shirt, someone else has done that for me. That being said, my daughter claims I am the ultimate lesbian.

  24. Becky

    Katie has NEVER had that problem. If anything, she outgrows stuff in days.

  25. Kristin

    That, my friend, is boys for ya. Not just a Monkey thing. Boys.

  26. Kayt

    We love thrift stores for the kids’ clothes! I scored my jogging stroller (on half off day!) for $25, and it only needed air in the tires. I am plus size, so finding pretty clothes is a tough one for me. I always check in hopes that someone has lost a bunch of weight and donated their extensive collection of designer fat clothes.

    In Colorado, we have half off days once a month or so, and I stock up. We also have Club Blue, a membership club at Goodwill where you get an extra 20% off if you spend over $25 in a transaction, including half off day! I’ve started squirrelling away bigger sized jeans and tees for the boy, who is four. He’s still young enough that he enjoys picking out shirts, for now.

  27. ste

    I’m not a good thrift store shopper and I wish I were.

  28. Brenda

    The emerald green shirt I have that is super flattering and have received many compliments for? Less than 5 bucks at Goodwill. Seeing as quite a few of my shirts are starting to wear out, I think it might be time to visit more frequently. I just hate pawing through racks and racks of clothing looking for something in my size. I don’t know if this is Goodwills everywhere, but it drives me crazy that things are organized by color rather than by size. I’m looking for something that fits first of all. Color is negotiable. Would that I had Monkey’s problem of things being too big.

  29. Leslie

    I’m with Monkey, shopping blows. Luckily I’ve been blessed with a daughter that can’t get enough of shopping and a son that freaks out every time we have to go. The fun never ends. And yes, I love that song too.

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