The Usual Shop (as in ‘where did you get that? Oh, the Usual Shop’) is my family’s term for secondhand, vintage, pre-loved, used, scavenged, gifted, swapped, bartered or otherwise obtained outside conventional retail channels. It encompasses flea markets, charity shops, car boot sales, jumble sales, the area at the local tip where items too good for landfill are fished out and sold in aid of the YMCA, and even – without shame – skips and things left by the side of the road.
I was inducted into the delights of the Usual Shop at an early age, working out quickly that I could get a lot more pony books for my pocket money if I bought them for 20p each from the book exchange, and as a teenager realizing that I could get the clothes my mother wouldn’t buy me – ripped jeans, army jackets, anything in black – myself very cheaply secondhand.
This has never been a fashion (or anti-fashion) statement so much as plain common sense, and a thriftiness inherited from both mother and grandmother: we have always been people who save the postman’s discarded elastic bands, cut up old T-shirts for dishcloths, make and mend, rework and recondition, since way before the so-called credit crunch and slew of magazine articles suggesting the very same ideas. It’s not so much a lifestyle as a way of life.
The Usual Shop is not a shop, and I do not sell my finds as a commercial enterprise; in the real world, I make my living as a writer and journalist in an unrelated genre. Leave me a comment here in the first instance (it won’t appear live to the world unless/until I approve it) if you wish to get in touch.
The Usual Shop: charting secondhand purchases and alternative consumer behaviour since January, 2009…