By Luis Olguin Santiago, Sept. 28, 2020

For the past decade, thrifting has become a social phenomenon influencing Generation Z and late-age millennials. Thrifting is now a staple group activity similar to Sunday morning mimosas and bi-weekly manicures. While thrifting continues to rise in popularity, so do the prices and the Rose Bowl flea market in Pasadena is no exception.

The Rose Bowl flea market has become a thrifter’s paradise where one can find any sort of jewelry, antiques, vintage items and clothes. For example, some memorable items I found at the market were custom-made body candles and zodiac-based jewelry and stickers. There are an abundance of items for anyone’s thrifting needs.

This flea market has been one of the most recognizable and influential markets in the country due to its unique vendors and high attendance over the last 50 years. Given that it’s only open every second Sunday of the month, I do believe it is worth all the hype it’s been receiving. From its vendors and staff, this flea market delivers a unique experience to all new attendees.

I would recommend the Rose Bowl flea market to anyone, into thrifting or not. However the pricing for all elements of entry, food, and shopping will be expensive.

The general admission is $10 per person with the event starting at 9 a.m. for the general public. There is an alternative option of $20 per person which grants an early bird special from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. All transactions must be paid with cash and exact change due to COVID-19 mandates.

The Rose Bowl flea market follows a color coordinated system which helps attendees navigate through area. Colors like blue, pink, red and yellow sell new merchandise. Purple is reserved for arts and crafts. Lastly, there is orange and white which is for vintage or antique merchandise. This color coordination system works for both visitors and vendors. It allows its vendors to know where they should open shop depending on their merchandise, and it cleverly allows attendees to know where they should shop at.

It is important to note that not all vendor spaces are priced the same, even though they can be selling the same merchandise, due to the distance of their booth to the entrance. Overall, this means vendors have to sell within a certain margin to make a profit on what they lost when reserving the space.

The Rose Bowl flea market is truly a remarkable place to attend and to window shop. It quite possesses an energetic and meticulous marketplace for first-time attendees or returners. The Rose Bowl flea market demonstrates a sense of serenity to the new age of open market thrifting. It genuinely delivers new attendees a grounded aesthetic to thrifting as thrift stores do.

However, this flea market does force its vendors to sell their foods, clothes, vintage items and collectibles at a higher market sale rate value compared to other locations.

There is a possibility in finding cheap items, but it requires time and patience under the hot Los Angeles sun. Opting in for the early bird admission to snag good deals is ideal to beat the heat. It is recommended to bring a hat, walking shoes and water to have a pleasant evening time in the market.

For those who cannot attend the Rose Bowl flea market, there is always the option to buy off the original second-hand thrift stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army. However, it is important to recognize that most of these stores were forced to raise prices to compete with the emerging growth of other trendy thrift shops around their area. On the flip side, the great thing about Goodwill is they have about 80 stores in California, and even a few warehouses, where anyone can thrift, making it more accessible.

The Los Angeles County does have hundreds of thrift shops, available for all thrifters, but most of these shops have the risk of being trampled by influencers looking to resell clothes on Depop for triple the retail price. Just like the Rose Bowl flea market, it will be packed by Generation Z teenagers who know what they are buying or what can be flipped for a profit. If one wants to avoid the expensive prices and long lines, then the best option is to shop locally.

There is an abundance of alternative options to thrift locally at a reasonable price around Cal Poly Pomona that still have not been fluttered too much by reselling culture or influencers. Some Pomona based thrift stores available are La Bomba and Eco Thrift.

The Rose Bowl flea market is a unique experience and representative of the mainstream thrift phenomenon, but it is only worth going once. Local thrift stores will always be the way to go.

Graphic courtesy of Justin Oo. 

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