Like clockwork every Sunday morning at 10:45 am, chaos starts in a parking lot on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles.
Elbows are thrown. Guttural screams resound. It’s not unheard of to see a fistfight. The whole spectrum of the human experience – joy, panic, anger, fear – is vividly displayed. Here a few dozen people blindly grab arms full of clothes and rush back to bins or spaces designated as theirs along a stretch of sidewalk before returning again and again to the frenzied battle. Worn prom dresses, stained T-shirts, perfectly faded jeans, western style buttons, you name it. And then, poof, there’s nothing left. An eerie silence falls over the black asphalt as these scavengers begin to search and sort their treasures. And it’s not even 10:46 o’clock
Welcome, bargain hunters, to the Jet Rag $1 sale.
For the uninitiated, Jet Rag is an unpretentious thrift store with a maroon facade, sandwiched between Rick Owens’ gritty boutique and a bodyshop on the border of Hollywood and West Hollywood. For years there has been a weekly sale where each item, as the name promises, costs just a dollar. (Two racks of leather jackets at the makeshift cash register on a plastic folding table will set you back $10, though.)
Inflation may be a steep climb and the second-hand market may have gone from gloomy to glamorous thanks to Gen Z, but the Jet Rag $1 sale has remained as it always was, a fossil frozen in amber that the vintage enthusiasts of the city in search of their solution. Or as Brian Allen, a regular shopper going through Hurricane, puts it, “This is like a church.”
The day starts off much quieter, around 8 a.m., when Joe Reyes, a solid 69-year-old who works in sales, helps oversee the setup. On a recent spring day, with temperatures expected to reach the 80s, tents covered in blue tarps to provide shade were erected and then carts of cast-offs from the previous weeks were rolled out and placed in the sun-drenched parking lot in colorful hills that are reminiscent of the sculptures of Sheila Hicks. (The owners of Jet Rag declined to be interviewed for this article.)
Mr. Reyes and his team lined up about 20 plastic-wrapped bales of tightly packed used clothing to open later that morning.
One of the first arrivals was Lorraine Hall, who wore a wide-brimmed hat, latex gloves and a tireless smile. “Oh, we’re a small community here,” she said cheerfully. “We all know what each other is looking for and we look out for each other.”
Mrs. Hall, 67, who is retired, was introduced to Jet Rag 20 years ago through her daughter and now sells what she finds in her Etsy store, get up rug† She specializes in dresses from the 60s and 70s. Ms. Hall, once a graphic designer at the now-closed Robinson-May department store, said she saw many amazing things that made it through the $1 sale, including a fur coat.
The sun got higher and hotter as Akili Day took a break from picking through the piles. Ms. Day, 21, wasn’t shopping for later resale, but was looking for herself—specifically, a pair of yellow pants. Mrs. Day grew up secondhand shopping and learned the specific rules and rhythms from her grandmother. By coming here, she said, that tradition can be continued.
“We used to save because we had to,” she says. “And today, with fast fashion, that doesn’t give you the same joy and the clothes don’t last. There is something so real and so nice about looking for something, especially here when things are cheaper. You’re more willing to take risks.”
But not everyone shows up for the 10:45 rush hour. The strategy of some shoppers is to carefully search through the clothes, hoping to find something they didn’t know they were looking for. Orion Kamphefner, 22, who uses the pronouns she and she, was looking for throws and found a negligee she considered returning to their roommate. “I’m obsessed with old people stuff,” they said. “Our house looks like two 80-year-olds live there.”
“I don’t like buying things first hand,” they added. “I have a crippling climate debt – and also the concept of something being mass-produced – and then, like, being one of the many that likes it, going to consume it? I don’t know, it just makes the world very dystopian. ”
There happened to be plenty of rugs that day.
Other seasoned savers started trickling in. Mike McGill, 58, a graying surfer with tattooed arms and a raspy smile who sells vintage clothing, specifically searches for Americana-style and American clothing, such as old denim or Hawaiian shirts. “I take a lot for myself and a lot for my children, and I sell the rest,” he said. “It’s a great group of people. View the diversity of faces here. You look at it and think: why don’t people get along?”
When asked if he had a favorite item he found among the piles, he replied in one word, “Friends.”
More people arrived and the crowd began to gather at the wrapped packages to back up their claims. Mr. Reyes proclaimed the rules of sale: Throw back what you don’t want; those caught fighting will be expelled immediately, adding, “And please be gentle.” Then he took a box cutter and sliced open the bales like gigantic carcasses, and their guts of old rags exploded. With a quick gesture of his hand, the sale was opened and the whining began. Moments later it was over.
mr. Allen operates a shop called rich ass vintage on Etsy. He’s been coming to the $1 sale for about a decade, he said, after discovering it as he drove by. “I’ve always been thrifty; in old clothes,’ he said, dividing his bin full of clothes into a pile of ‘no’ and a pile of ‘maybe’. “They were made with so much more intent and purpose,” he said. Over the years, he has taught himself to date a garment using its texture, labels and stitching. He held up a pair of jeans. “See, feel this, it feels cheap. And look at that label.” He frowned. “Too new.”
Someone brought him a T-shirt and he bowed in thanks. “I have allies here and we all trade,” he said. “We always get what was meant for us, you know?”
SOURCE : www.nytimes.com