CHARLOTTE, NC — As the Charlotte Hornets begin their home campaign in the regular season, some of their fans may be wearing vintage merchandise.
Hornets fans and the rest of the country are finding new ways to shop for athletic apparel.
A growing second-hand clothing market in the United States is helping new businesses, and advocates say it’s also helping the planet.
what you need to know
Secondhand clothing is a growing market in the United States
Vintage items from sports teams are even more popular, according to Charlotte sellers
Vintage sports team merchandise can fetch hundreds of dollars depending on design and condition
National online resale company thredUP notes in its annual report that the second-hand clothing market is set to explode in the coming years.
Sales in the United States in 2021 reached $35 billion, and the market is expected to more than double by 2026, according to the report.
In fact, thredUP said 244 million consumers said they have made or are considering second-hand purchases.
A vintage shop in Charlotte agreed that there is a growing demand for vintage clothing, particularly sporting goods.
Jessica McDonald and her best friend Joshua Hallums founded Public Interest CLT seven years ago. Through a combination of online, social media and pop-up shops, the two sell vintage t-shirts, outerwear and other memorabilia.
Most of their current inventory is in storage units that McDonald says it frequents.
“I’ll probably come here four days out of the seven days a week. And I come here to either fulfill orders or start sourcing for our next market. We also sometimes bring people into private deals,” McDonald said.
About two years ago, increasing sales and increasing demand enabled McDonald to make the business her full-time job.
“I am a single mother and I wanted to start a business. This is my best friend and he has always been interested in fashion. I’m attached to the nostalgic part of vintage, it just made sense,” added McDonald.
McDonald and Hallums find, clean, and sell vintage clothing and specialize in sports teams. According to McDonald, the store is a combination of nostalgia, style and eco-friendly shopping.
“Everyone can identify with any sport somewhere. We get excited, it’s something we can all kind of stand behind,” McDonald said.
Both thredUP and McDonald said the growing second-hand clothing market is an opportunity to help reduce emissions and help the planet.
“Clothing waste is terrifying every year and we want to do our part and help our customers reduce their carbon footprint,” added McDonald.
Despite what you might think, McDonald said it’s not an easy deal. The job requires constant saving, trading, buying old stock and watching sales.
“We work very hard, we travel a lot, but what you see here now is probably worth seven years of build and procurement time from us,” McDonald said, referring to one of the duo’s two storage units.
Hallums said part of the appeal to sports fans is that older items often have a bit more character.
“There’s definitely something to be said about a big bold graphic that’s colorful, the quality of the garment itself that just stands out from some of the items that might be sold in stores today, you know?” Hallum explains.
The thrift sporting goods store is lucrative depending on the item and can bring in hundreds of dollars, especially if the items are in good condition and have an outstanding design.
“I honestly think it’s the graphics, it starts with the graphics,” Hallums said, admiring a vintage Hornets sweatshirt covered in bright colors and eye-catching graphics.
With new collections, the retro trend is also finding its way into the mainstream sports scene. More recently, several college football teams and the National Hockey League have attempted to capitalize on fan admiration for vintage logos and designs.
However, the collections are new clothes to buy and not second-hand pieces.
Here in Charlotte, McDonald said used Panthers items are the company’s best sellers, but it’s difficult to keep a team stocked.
“With the Hornets in particular, I think that’s such an iconic logo, and the colors are unlike any other NBA team from the ’80s through now,” McDonald said. “That teal and purple, people just love it.”