CHARLOTTE, NC — As the Charlotte Hornets kick off their regular-season campaign at home, some of their fans may be wearing vintage gear.
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 do you want to know
Second-hand clothing is a growing market in the United States
Vintage sports team merchandise even more popular, Charlotte sellers say
Vintage sports team merchandise can fetch hundreds of dollars, depending on design and condition
National online resale company thredUP says 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 reports that 244 million consumers said they have purchased or would consider purchasing second-hand.
A vintage company in Charlotte recognized that there was a growing demand for old clothes, especially sporting goods.
Jessica McDonald and her best friend Joshua Hallums started Public Interest CLT seven years ago. Through a combination of online stores, social media, and pop-up stores, the two sell vintage t-shirts, outerwear, and other memorabilia.
Most of their current stock is in storage units, which McDonald’s said it visits frequently.
“I probably come here maybe four days out of the seven day week. And I come here to fill orders or start supplying our next market. We also sometimes bring people to a private store,” McDonald said.
About two years ago, McDonald’s was able to make the business his full-time job, due to increased sales and demand.
“I am a single mother and wanted to start a business. He’s my best friend, and he’s always been into fashion. I’m attached to the nostalgic part of vintage, it just made sense,” McDonald added.
McDonald’s and Hallums find, clean and then sell vintage clothing, specializing in sports teams. The business is a combination of nostalgia, style and eco-friendly shopping, according to McDonald’s.
“Everyone somewhere can identify with some kind of sport. We’re excited, it’s something we can all support,” McDonald said.
Both ThredUP and McDonald’s said the growing used clothing market is an opportunity to help reduce emissions and help the planet.
“The waste of clothing each year is appalling, and we want to do our part and help our customers reduce their carbon footprint,” McDonald added.
Despite what you might think, McDonald’s said it was not an easy business to run. The job requires constant saving, trading, buying old inventory and monitoring sales.
“We work very hard, we travel a lot, but what you see here now is probably seven years of building and sourcing,” McDonald said, referring to one of the duo’s two storage units.
Hallums said part of the appeal for sports fans is that older items often have a bit more character.
“There’s definitely something to be said for a big, bold graphic that’s colorful, the quality of the garment itself, that stands out among some of the items that might be sold in stores today, you know?” Hallum explained.
The used sports trade is lucrative, according to the article, and can fetch hundreds of dollars, especially if the items are in good condition and have a great design.
“I honestly think it’s the graphics, it starts with the graphics,” Hallums said, admiring an old Hornets sweatshirt covered in bright colors and flashy graphics.
The retro trend is also taking hold on the mainstream sports scene with new collections. Just recently, several college football teams and the National Hockey League have sought to cash in on fan admiration for old logos and designs.
However, the collections are new clothes to buy and not second-hand pieces.
Here in Charlotte, McDonald’s said used Panthers items are the company’s best sellers, but it’s hard to keep a team in stock.
“Specifically with the Hornets, I think it’s such an iconic logo, and the colors are unlike any other NBA team from the 80s to today,” McDonald said. “This teal and this purple, people love it.”