Wedged in between Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, UCLA students have no shortage of places to shop for clothes. However, high price tags can limit shopping options for money-conscious students on a college budget. Each week, columnist Linda Xu explores different secondhand shops in Los Angeles and discusses her thrifty outfits.
Walking into American Rebel is like accidentally stumbling into the costume department for an old Western film.
The two-story shop upholds the typical, hip Melrose atmosphere with ivy vines and fairy lights twisted around wooden arches that extend from the entrance to the back. The idyllic storybook decor is an appropriate backdrop for the niche Western fashions the store specializes in.
High-collar floral dresses and huarache sandals line the front of the shop, while the upper level contains shelves of cowboy boots and heavy-buckle belts. The prices were on the expensive side – around $18 for the belts and $40 for the boots – as if patrons were paying more for the novelty of the Wild West image than the clothes themselves.
In addition to Western garb, American Rebel also sells more trendy pieces such as bomber jackets and flannels. For cowboy hopefuls, however, the open second level of the shop, accessible by two sets of stairs, is a treasure trove of leather goods and statement accessories such as colorful straw hats. The space is split evenly between men’s and women’s fashions, although cowboy and combat boots are unisex styles in my opinion.
Walking back down the rusting, industrial stairs near the back, I began exploring the room farthest from the entrance. On my left, I saw a row of fur shawls and coats hanging from a rack attached to the wall, but I didn’t even look at their inevitably high price tags.
I noticed two open trunks off to the side filled with delicate silk scarves priced at $5 each. I dug through the selection – as they were the cheapest items I found in the store – and picked out an ornate blue and red paisley one, draping it around my neck.
At first, the price tags prevented me from purchasing anything else. The cheapest T-shirts were priced around $20, and shirts emblazoned with coveted band names such as Pink Floyd and The Who went up to $65.
Although American Rebel is more of a vintage store than a thrift shop, I feel as though any used clothing, especially a threadbare T-shirt, should be sold for a much cheaper price.
However, I was not to be deterred.
I defaulted to my longtime technique of scavenging the empty dressing rooms for clothes that people had picked out and left behind. This way, I didn’t have to do the tedious work of looking through every piece of clothing in the store. What can I say – I’m an opportunist.
Unfortunately, I didn’t account for the fact that most shoppers scouring the store had a far larger budget than I had. I saw a pair of lace-up pants that intrigued me, but the $95 price tag had me reeling.
I finally found a wide brown leather belt jumbled in the corner of one of the rooms and decided I could use it to accessorize some of my plainer tops and dresses.
After I checked out, the cashier stuffed my items in a plastic bag imprinted with a black-and-white picture of a reclining Marilyn Monroe.
As I left the store, I passed by a couple of vintage cigarette posters tacked on the wall near a wooden pioneer wagon, cementing American Rebel’s old-fashioned image.