The devil wears ‘ukay’: How thrifting is done in the new normal

Branded and off-brand items for as low as ten pesos? Count us in!

Thrift shopping has been a popular option for many Filipinos to get inexpensive and fashionable clothing. People go to thrift shops because they genuinely have the clothes that you won’t typically find on mall racks.

thrift shops

For one thing, thrift shopping is like a game of finders keepers. When you see anything similar to those expensive branded looks, you can’t get enough of it. Because let’s face it, once you put it down, it’s over — only for someone to pick it up and make you regret not buying it.

But have you ever really thought about where it all started?

thrift shops

Via Google

“Ukay-ukay” is said to be derived from the Filipino word “hukay” or “halukay,” which means “to dig.” Unlike how the clothes are placed on racks, older thrift shops sold goods in piles called “wagwagan” where customers had to actually dig through these piles to locate anything they liked.

Cities such as Baguio, Manila, and even Cebu pioneered the practice of thrift shopping. Most prominent is Baguio City’s Night Market which has a broad range of new and secondhand products to fit any budget.

thrift shops

Via Google

Another ukay gem that can be found in Metro Manila is this mall in Anonas. The building, Lolo Oboys Commercial Center, in Anonas, Quezon city  is among famous “ukay-ukay” places. Many aspiring vloggers have visited this mall as it has a wide range of high-quality items that even goes from on all four floors.

thrift shops

Via Google


Ukay culture among famous personalities

When it comes to famous personalities, Shaira Luna, a photographer and self-professed ukay enthusiast, has revealed in previous interviews and on her Instagram that some of her luxury clothes are actually thrift store finds.


A few tops I found last week 😊 #fashiontiktok #ukayukay #ukayhaul #jadonmax

♬ original sound – Shaira Luna – Shaira Luna

She even Tweeted a picture of her with YouTube sensation Mimiyuuuh at Makati Square, another famous location for thrift shopping.

Aside from Luna, Heart Evangelista has shocked everyone when she posted an Instagram photo of herself wearing a dress that she scored for only 20 pesos from a thrift shop in Sorsogon.


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A post shared by Heart Evangelista (@iamhearte)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Heart Evangelista (@iamhearte)

The ukay culture doesn’t stop there as former band IV of Spades have recalled in their past interviews that they have do thrift shopping.


Ukay gentrification and the new normal for thrift shops

However, thrifting has recently become a trend rather than a resource. Thrift stores were originally established to supply low-cost clothes to underprivileged populations, but that has since changed.

Even pre-pandemic days, there has been a surge of online shops that sell “vintage clothes.” This led to the gentrification of thrifting wherein shops style the pieces to appeal to the taste of the middle-class and sell them at a much higher price.

thrift shops

Via Google

Now that there are numerous online thrift shops available on Instagram today, it is up to you on how you haggle, and how you look for items worth of your money.

Aspiring vlogger, Joy Licuan shared that she usually buys from online ukay shops as it’s more convenient.

“It’s easier because I don’t have to go out and it doesn’t take too much of my time. Ukay shops are much affordable and sometimes those from ukay are better than those that are available in malls,” Licuan said.

She also mentioned that when shopping from online thrift shops, it’s important to check if the shop is legit and sells quality items. However, despite the convenience brought by the online shopping experience, there are still cons to it.

“A disadvantage is that you can’t see the clothes for yourself. If for example the fabric is nice, whether there are flaws, and if it actually fits true to its size.” She said.

Another ukay enthusiast and aspiring artist, Anne Santos, shared that what led her to shopping is how, unlike in malls, the clothes are sold at half price.

“I thrift occasionally since it’s half the price of buying new and it’s easy to find the style you want here; typically, I’m looking for a coat, jacket, or dress that can be altered,” Santos said.

However, she admits that buying from thrift stores online can be “kinda risky”.

“The only disadvantage of ukay is that it’s kinda risky. Sometimes there are stains or holes on the clothes and you still need to wash to make sure it is odorless and safe.” she added.

A previous study has noted that ukay influenced the practice of online resale of pre-loved items, may it be from aspiring entrepreneurs or of Filipino celebrities. This practice and its items are regarded as sustainably safe now with the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

Unlike the usual ten pesos shirts on the racks of ukay shops, today’s online shops’ price range is no less than a hundred that can go up to even 4,000 pesos.

But in hopes of decreasing the amount of pollution coming from consumerism and fast fashion, does selling thrifted goods for a higher price justify doing business as usual?

There are several options to sell second hand clothes without raising costs for those who cannot afford it.



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