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The Best Places for Thrift Shopping in Berlin

Berlin thrift shop

Thrift shopping in Berlin (Photo: Getty)

Berlin is the coolest city on the planet — not that it cares about that kind of stuff. In Breakfast Club speak, it’s equal parts Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy — rebellious, dark, brooding. Berlin operates on humility, and promises to stay affordable and grounded — for your benefit and for its residents’. We have enough Londons, Parises, Milans. We don’t have enough Berlins.

This groundedness plays a big part of Berliners’ style. Overall, it’s a poor city, and its people are smart in how they spend. If they buy something expensive, then it’s for good reason—not for a display of superiority or feigned wealth. For every boutique, though, the German capital has a dozen thrift stores, packed with unique pieces — all affordable and meaningful opportunities for self-expression. If you study the locals, you might feel like you’re living in 1977, 1995, and 2004 all at once. Shop owners carefully curate their selection—a selection that is constantly replenished — in hopes of helping each customer create his or her well-considered look.

Herbert Hofmann is the Creative Director for Berlin’s VooStore. Voo is not a secondhand store, but Hofmann curates its selection with this Berliner mentality—the one that allows thrift shops to thrive. Voo has a mix: high price points and low ones. If you shop at Voo, you aren’t shopping impulsively. You’re searching for the thing that fits your give-no-fucks expression. The fashion, then, is intentional. It is patient, and unrestrained.

The Time For Vintage Starts Now

“People here just don’t have the same budget for their outfits,” Hofmann says. “It makes shopping more exciting. Much of what we’re wearing was the main fashion many years ago.” But it also inspired modern designers: “If you look at brands like Balenciaga now, it’s the same silhouettes that Berliners were wearing just a couple years ago. We have the attitude to wear it, because everything is tolerated in Berlin.”

Hofmann posits that this attitude stems from a freedom that exists there; it allows Berliners to be whatever they want to be. Like any well-styled Berliner, Hofmann often frequents Berlin’s secondhand stores for his own wear. Here then are his three personal favorites, and the three you should check daily when you visit Berlin. You may leave empty handed on a Friday, only to find mint-condition Margiela sneakers on Saturday, and a fitted herringbone suit on Monday. It’s all part of the fun.

Berlin’s Best Thrift Shops

Trendy Army Store
“There is a lot of uniform and workwear here,” Hofmann says. “All these things that are not meant to be sexy, but they are sexy. Blue suits, nice jackets in denim fabrics. You can find things like the basic Margiela sneaker for 25 Euros, which I think is nicer than what you pay full price for now, because it’s the original inspiration. There is also a lot of great adidas stuff there — lots of throwback stuff you could never find if you tried.”

PICKnWEIGHT Vintage Kilo Store
At PICKnWEIGHT, you pay per kilo of clothing — and it’s the same rate, no matter how fancy your pile may be. “We are seeing lots of colors coming to back to Berlin, and that is a specialty at this place. The last few years we have been told to only wear black, especially with the popularity of Berghain, where everyone says you have to wear black just to get inside. But eight years ago you had all these birds of color showing off the most amazing things here, and now color is finally coming back. And, if you still want to go to Berghain, you can absolutely dress up in color, because they will look at you at the door and decide if you can handle what goes on inside. Even Voo started in a dark, heavy way, but now it’s more in line with nature and feeling jolly. That’s exactly what you find at PICKnWEIGHT.”

“I know a lot of people who don’t understand this chain of stores. There are several in the city and lots of people think they are just thrown together since there are so many. But you can find amazing basics and lots of sexy tees from the 1970s. I got an amazing trench coat that could be a design piece from a current top label. When you take time to go to Humana and look for pants, you can get the most amazing ones. Just keep checking back to find one in your size. The seams are done very nicely, and they have terrific accessories, like really nice caps.”

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