In this surprising new look at how clothing, style, and commerce
came together to change American culture, Jennifer Le Zotte
examines how secondhand goods sold at thrift stores, flea markets,
and garage sales came to be both profitable and culturally
influential. Initially, selling used goods in the United States was
seen as a questionable enterprise focused largely on the poor. But
as the twentieth century progressed, multimillion-dollar businesses
like Goodwill Industries developed, catering not only to the needy
but increasingly to well-off customers looking to make a statement.
Le Zotte traces the origins and meanings of "secondhand style" and
explores how buying pre-owned goods went from a signifier of
poverty to a declaration of rebellion.
Considering buyers and sellers from across the political and
economic spectrum, Le Zotte shows how conservative and progressive
social activists--from religious and business leaders to
anti-Vietnam protesters and drag queens--shrewdly used the exchange
of secondhand goods for economic and political ends. At the same
time, artists and performers, from Marcel Duchamp and Fanny Brice
to Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain, all helped make secondhand style a
visual marker for youth in revolt.