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It’s out with the new and in with the old, as thrifting has become an increasingly popular mode of shopping in Denver—and around the country.
While mainstay vintage outposts on Broadway as well as secondhand shops occupying Colorado’s rural corners have long been repurposing wares, dozens of new shops and entrepreneurs selling pre-owned clothing and home furnishings have popped up around the Mile High City in recent years. Along with new brick-and-mortar stores, many local vintage enthusiasts are also now creating “shoppable” Instagram accounts, amassing thousands of followers and selling their thrifty finds via recurring weekly or monthly “drops.”
It’s easy to see why the outlets have grown so popular: Not only are these sellers sourcing one-of-a-kind items that are becoming trendy again (we’re looking at you, bold Y2K fashion), but their gently used pieces are also significantly cheaper. And reuse is a sustainable alternative to constantly shopping for new goods that are often cheaply manufactured using practices and materials that are detrimental to the environment.
“[The thrifting lifestyle] is about sharing exposure to sustainability in whatever way [we can],” says Tristan Bego, who co-founded Capitol Hill secondhand shop the Common Collective with her partner Jenny Neal in 2021 after seeing overwhelming interest in her social media posts that showed how she was styling upcycled pieces. Bego hopes to teach Coloradans just how easy it is to shift their consumer habits to create a ripple effect. “If you take 10 people who you can influence—from Instagram or whatever—about sustainability, how many other people can they affect with the same [sustainable] mindset?”
To help you find your own thrifted treasures, we gathered some tips from Bego—and mined our own personal experiences—for how to best navigate Denver’s growing world of secondhand shops. Plus, we tell you where to find the best home goods and vintage threads along the Front Range for every budget and style.
Be consistent and patient. Bego says you’ll want to commit to shopping at secondhand stores as often as you’d shop at the mall—or, OK, online. You’re not going to find a gem every time you browse. It’ll be piece by piece, which can seem slow, but it’s the only way to start building a sustainable (and supercool) closet.
Follow local Instagram-based shops, and turn on notifications for when they post. The one-of-a-kind nature of thrifting can sometimes make snagging that iconic piece—or winning the occasional bidding war—feel like a competitive sport. Turning on story and post notifications for your favorite accounts will put you one step ahead of the competition when new items drop.
Be kind. For some sellers, scouting and delivering upcycled goods is their full-time job. For others, it’s just a passion project. Either way, thrifting is essentially running a small business—even if you’re just doing it part time—so respect each individual seller’s bidding rules, community guidelines, and time. (And be kind to your fellow thrifters, too!)
Share your favorite finds loud and proud. Post that killer new blazer or pair of oval shades on social media. There’s no need to gatekeep your sweet, sustainable finds!
Don’t miss the large-scale pop-up markets happening around the metro area every month. The below list of shops encompasses just a mere fraction of the Coloradans selling unique thrifted wares, so hitting the racks at the city’s frequent line-up of collaborative thrift events is the easiest way to discover new finds. (More on this below.)
For Clothing and Accessories
Sustainable shopping becomes an entire experience at this vintage retail concept, where you can sip margaritas from the full-service bar (don’t miss happy hour, Monday through Thursday, 4 to 7 p.m.) and play a game of Pac-Man, all while browsing the vinyl collection and buzzing around a sea of ’70s-patterned silk blouses, retro Nuggets jerseys, nostalgic enamel pins, and other statement jewelry from dozens of local vendors. Garage Sale, which opened its flagship in Larimer Square three years ago, has since expanded to Lakewood, Edgewater, and even gone nationwide. Stay tuned for the shop’s forthcoming shoppable website, plus a new fifth location on Pearl Street in Boulder, slated to open this fall.
Founder Lydia Peacock only picks the finest fabrics for On Beat’s offerings, which you can shop online, buy in curated style bundles, or browse at monthly pop-ups around the Front Range. Whether you gravitate toward perfectly weathered cowboy boots and a Western fringe leather jacket or a silk scarf with a tweed, Chanel-like blazer and a pair of Prada kitten heels, Peacock stocks vintage threads that are guaranteed classics. More shopping and personalized style bundle options are available at onbeatvintage.com.
Welcome to Y2K heaven. Stocked with all the kitschy hair clips and graphic tees of your favorite childhood cartoons that are all the rage right now, Show Pony is the thrift destination for stylish Gen Xers and millennials. The shop opened near the University of Denver in early 2022 and is home to a rotating community of secondhand vendors and their curated throwbacks from the ’80s, ’90s, and early aughts. Spin through Show Pony’s racks to cop your next band tee, Denver Broncos bomber jacket, Instagram-worthy neon matching set, and more.
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Score tough-to-find clothing items with one of the metro area’s more robust selections of masculine styles and throwback sports merch. At this Englewood outfitter, count on everything from old-school University of Colorado crewnecks and Grateful Dead tour tees to knitted button downs and popular utilitarian picks like perfectly worn-in Carhartt carpenter pants. Check out the sneaker wall for resale Air Jordan 1s and other rare pick-ups, but don’t get so distracted that you miss Snatchy’s massive discount bins piled with miscellaneous last-chance gems, priced at one garment for $8 or three for $20. Bonus: Students get 10 percent off everything in-store with a valid university ID.
Channel your main character energy at Strawberry Mountain in the Santa Fe Arts District, where you can buy, sell, and trade your way to a sustainable wardrobe that feels aligned with your individual vibe, thanks to thoughtfully procured staples and hand-picked statement pieces as vibrant as the neighborhood itself. Snag everyday classics like Levi’s jeans and leather moto jackets or maxi skirts and cottagecore babydoll blouses; then build on your capsule collection with a pastel mini shoulder bag, a pair of platform Oxfords, checkered pants, or other playful pieces fit for your personal mood board.
This two-year-old Capitol Hill space, founded by Tristan Bego and Jenny Neal, is your one-stop hub for Black-owned and women-owned small businesses selling everything from gender-neutral, sustainable clothing to hand-crafted candles, ceramics, and other artisan goods. Don’t miss TCC After Dark, a monthly after-hours event that happens on the third Saturday of each month, to score anywhere from 20 to 50 percent off the whole store.
For Outdoor Gear
Outdoor goods are notoriously pricey, which is why Berkeley-based Feral is on a mission to make adventure more accessible by distributing gear and garb at a fraction of retail cost. More than half of the store’s footprint is dedicated to a bounty of gently used performance apparel, so you can add essentials like snow pants, daypacks, sleeping bags, and base layers to your stash—or hunt for that prized Patagonia fleece and North Face puffer—without breaking your budget. Even better, the Tennyson Street store offers in-house repairs, as well as gear rentals for seasonal must-haves like snowshoes, trekking poles, bear-proof sacks, and more.
For Furniture and Home Goods
Close that tab with the online CB2 cart you’ve been eyeing, and head to Nicole Balgley’s posh, shoppable Cap Hill showroom, where decorative disco balls and house plants galore provide inspiration for how to style the refurbished mid-century modern furniture and décor in your own space. Think: coveted Cesca chairs, Art Deco glassware and mirrors, and sleek antique brass etageres.
Looking for more of a hippie-dippy, granola aesthetic? Shop upcycled Boho-style home goods for any down-to-earth abode by bidding on @restingthriftface_’s frequent Instagram sales or perusing in-person at Resting Thrift Face’s booth inside Colorado Antique Gallery. If Littleton is a little out of the way, keep an eye out for the shop’s regular pop-ups around the metro area, like at Nova Beauty Bar on September 23 for the collaborative vintage market, where artisan rugs, hand-woven macrame, and rattan chairs abound.
Pop-Up Markets and Events
Shop markdowns on vintage wares, enjoy live tunes, and maybe even get some body ink while you’re at it during this “monthly market for spontaneous people.” Launched in spring 2022 by Sydney Swing of Manic Pixie Thrift, a local thrift shop and styling service, each pop-up party hosts more than a dozen clothing and accessory vendors as well as other Colorado-based creatives. Past events have also featured tattoo artists offering on-site flash tats—a simple pre-drawn permanent tattoo design artists offer for walk-up clients at a flat rate—hence the name. Entry is free; follow @manicpixiethrift for info on upcoming events
Founded in Denver in 2019, this annual convention—which now has events in six other cities, including Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Los Angeles—draws hundreds of vendors to the National Western Complex each spring for a full day of vintage and thrifty hauls. The group also hosts recurring Thrift-Pop marketplaces outside of the Denver Central Market on the last Sunday of every month. Find updates on 2023 dates and upcoming Thrift-Pop events at thriftcon.co and @thrift_con on Instagram