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What is the Off-the-Back Challenge?

The Thread

To an insider, the “off the back challenge” may seem like a mainstay in the ever growing vintage community. But to an untrained outsider the off-the-back challenge  would likely seem foreign and weird. So let’s start from the beginning: 

The origins of the off-the-back challenge are somewhat muddied. Based off of a non-scienfitic Instagram search we saw the term start coming into popularity in Late 2018 when users started posting images and videos of unsuspecting older folks wearing tees of particular value to vintage buyers and collectors. 

So it usually works like this-

Step 1: Find old person with a tee, or jacket, or hat of particular value that is being worn

An off the back by @hmnrmns for a vintage Nike center swoosh hoodie

Step 2: Vintage dealer inquires about the item being worn.

Step 3: Small talk and an offer by the vintage dealer usually ensues that buying price is usually way below market value.

Step 4: Unsuspecting original owner is usually surprised of the value of their shirt and quite often sells immediately on the spot, thus resulting in the owner quite literally taking their item of clothing off their back giving it to the buyer.

The whole transaction would look a bit weird to the untrained eye, but to a vintage dealer, this is akin to striking the lottery. And what started as a cool thing to post about has only grown more popular by the day. 

The first instance of a videotaped “off the back” came in January 2019, when @re_run_vintage posted a short clip of a Tommy Hilfiger jacket he was able to scoop off of an unsuspecting lady. You can hear the excitement in his voice in the clip. 

Since then, there have been countless instances of vintage dealers engaging in the “challenge” of scooping up highly sought after items for steal prices. And while many love the videos, the stories, and the steals, others have a more dismissive view of the challenge.

@Gravityalwayswins said, “if you are giving the person a fair offer on their piece its all good. If you are taking advantage of someone’s lack of knowledge it’s clown shit… We as humans should be trying to elevate one another”

But what determines a fair offer? If the item is worth $100, is $20 a fair offer? But what about a shirt that might be worth $500 or $1000? Where do we draw the line at what is a fair offer for someone who does not know that value of what they have?

While the “off-the-back” challenge grows more popular, and vintage continues to raise in value, it leaves the vintage community in a bit of ethically questionable dilemma as to the ethical implications of the challenge.

Is the off the back challenge a fun aspect of a diversifying and expanding resale market? Or is it a predatory act that requires reconsideration?

Voice your thoughts in the comments!

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