Charitable deeds make for hot steez

Feature by Lindsey Johnstone | 15 Jun 2006

Summer's arrived and you are desperately searching for a new and exclusive look. Need any advice? Here's one, hit the charity shops. First of all, remember not to combine charity shopping with a trawl up the high street: the need to buy something shiny and new is not the same as the need to see what crazy piece of nonsense you might be able to salvage and resurrect. Remember, charity style is about juxtaposition and pushing your luck.

Next up; some say you need to rake to find the best stuff. Yet, life is short, and wading through piles of hideously normal clothes is just depressing. Usually, as soon as you go into a charity shop the good stuff jumps out, providing you with the instantaneous high that is part of the joy of "thrifting" - this is the fashionista's term, while those who think they are being comically plebeian by shopping in charity shops call it "chazzing". Buy something there and then if you love it, it's probably only a pound, and what else are you going to buy with a pound?

Also try to remember that charity shopping is about style, not fashion. Charity shopping is, in theory, an anti-fashion activity; although, ironically, if you minced along to some uber-hip party in Shoreditch right now wearing anything other than this season's Marie Curie, you'd be a sartorial outcast. Yes, secondhand is super chic these days, with Sophie Dahl and Sofia Coppola declaring themselves "so over" designer stuff (except the clothes and accessories they get paid to advertise, that is). But don't worry, fashion is a fickle master: the moment will pass, and you will be left secure in the smugness that, for you, charity is for life, not just for fall.

Besides sartorial autonomy, another perk of charity shopping is the knowledge, and material proof, that you are in fact a good person. It might take you a few years of charity shopping before the realisation hits that by spending you've actually been donating, and that the shops are there to make money for the needy.

So where to go to attain such fulfilment in this shallow age of consumerism? Hit the slightly less bourgeois parts of town, and your hardiness will be rewarded: in Glasgow, this means the East End and the South Side, and for the E-Burghers try Leith Walk, Dalry Road and Clerk Street. Anywhere too leafy and the shops will have cottoned on to the faux-bohemian local residents' buying power and bumped up the prices.
Just think, the clothes you will be buying are interwoven with other peoples' joy, tragedy, anticipation, and memories, albeit it in the form of sweat and stains - what could be more life-affirming and romantic?