The One Euro Bin

By Celina Colby

The One Euro Bin

A collection of thin, chain-smoking men and women crowded around the 6’ x 8’ wooden bin. A few women spoke to each other in low, irritated French, the rest were silent. Everyone scoped each other out, throwing professional side eye and death glares that could melt stone. I stood at the end of the bin, a good foot shorter than the genetically blessed glamazons. A large man weaved through the group carrying an enormous canvas bag. Muscles tensed. He opened the drawstrings and out poured pounds of leather, cashmere, and sequins. The thrifters respectfully waited until the man had stepped away from the pile, then they pounced. In two seconds I went from standing in a Parisian thrift store to dodging elbows in a WWE ring.

This is the One Euro Bin: The famous, the feared, the worshipped One Euro Bin. For Parisian thrifters this is the Holy Grail. Nestled in a small shop on a side street in Le Marais, the bin is restocked every 15 minutes by the shopkeeper. The store can only fit 20 packed-in bodies at a time, but hundreds of Parisians filter through every day. The appeal is undeniable. In America a one dollar bin is full of plastic princess wands and off-brand chapstick, but here you can find high quality, one-of-a-kind, vintage garments. The only thing you have to do is risk your life for them.

My first mistake was a slow start. A woman elbowed me in the stomach reaching for a suede vest, and I came back to my senses. This wasn’t shopping, this was war. And it was going to take every bit of my black belt martial arts training to leave this store with something cute.

My first battle was over a red tutu. Tutus are kind of my thing, and this one was perfect, a beautiful, full tutu with an attached silk chemise top. I grabbed for it and locked eyes with a woman across the way gunning for the same piece. I sized her up. She was small but well built and clearly a veteran, she already had a huge pile of garments next to her. For a moment I had it, then a man behind me reached over my head for a gold belt, smacking me into the waist-high plywood wall. I turned around to glare at him, and when I looked back the woman was triumphantly holding the tutu. She basked in her victory for a brief moment before tossing the piece in her pile and going back in. I contemplated taking it out of her stash, but I wasn’t yet hardened enough for that kind of covert operation.

This is the secret side of Paris. You would never know that lurking in these hallowed streets is a veritable fight club for the stiletto set. Just an hour earlier I was sipping espresso at an outdoor café, schmoozing with the cute waiter and smiling at passing children. I went to the Louvre and looked quietly at beautiful Baroque paintings, I walked reverently through Notre Dame and lit a candle for my family, I fangirled over the painters and musicians lounging by the Seine, but I never expected this. Sure there are crowds, tourists, but no one told me a trip to Paris would require heavy-duty weaponry.

That night I went home with nothing but a vengeance and a constellation of thigh bruises. But I had one more day in the city, and I wasn’t going to waste it.

In the morning I suited up. Flexible leather leggings for maximum agility, spiky stilettos for foot crushing, my sharpest rings, and a fashion girl’s best weapon: my condescending smirk. After all, the key to succeeding in fashion is acting like you couldn’t be more bored if you were reading an encyclopedia aloud in a nursing home. I repressed my gleeful delight at being asked for directions in French and maintained my façade all the way to Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie. I strutted into the store; hip checked a teenager out of the way and settled into a spot at the bin. That was when I saw him. A thin man of average height, his hair perfectly styled, wearing aviators, a gold silk shirt and a pair of leather pants. He took a slow drag on his cigarette and glanced at me, unimpressed. I knew then that this man would be my greatest competition, not just because he was directly across from me but because he had the kind of flamboyant style favored only by pimps, drag queens and myself. This was the Cain to my Abel.

“Ugh, studded jackets are so ugly,” he murmered to the woman next him who smirked at me. I ignored him, refusing to break psychologically before we even started.

The woman, realizing his tactic, chimed in, “Americans just don’t know how to dress.” I felt like I was back in the middle school lunchroom, so I responded accordingly.

“Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were American.”

He glared at me, and I knew I’d crossed a line. There was no going back now.

At that moment the first canvas bag appeared, bobbing its way through the throng of luxurious fabrics and Chanel No. 5. The first ten minutes were a blur; I snatched up a leather skirt, a chiffon top, something unidentifiable that I just didn’t want another shopper to have. But at precisely eleven hundred hours, time slowed down. That was when I spotted the sartorial love of my life. He was a rich purple mohair jacket, oversized of course, with a silk lining. He had gold and black embroidery embellishing his back in an abstract, almost amoeba-like pattern. He was perfect. When I reached for him, I knocked into Cain.

“This is my jacket,” I hissed at him, no time to translate into French.

“You can’t even wear purple,” he said, tugging one arm while I tugged the other.

“Wait,” I said. “We’re going to rip it. Grab the body.”

In a sign of mutual deference to a beautiful piece of clothing, we both stopped fighting momentarily to adjust our holds on the jacket. Then we were back.

“You don’t deserve this,” he spat at me. “You’re nothing but an American child.”

“Oh yeah?” I fired back. “Well I can tell that shirt is from last season!”

He gasped and several people around us turned in horror to watch. We were equally matched in strength; I could tell I was going to have to win this another way.

“You shouldn’t even be allowed in this country,” Cain was spitting venom at me,

“You’re wearing leggings for god’s sake.” The crowd collectively looked down at my legs.

“Honestly, I can’t believe you’re being so disrespectful on the day Karl Lagerfeld leaves Chanel,” I said, dispatching my greatest weapon.

“What?!” Cain yelped. “Karl Lagerfeld is leaving Chanel?!”

I took advantage of his moment of weakness and yanked with all the strength I’d built up from toting around Venti lattes and spare shoes. The jacket slipped from his hands. I had won.

“HA!” I shouted. “Who can’t wear purple now?”

Cain had murder written in his eyes.

“Is Karl Lagerfeld leaving Chanel?” he asked me through gritted teeth.

I looked him right in the eye. “Don’t be ridiculuous, that’s his life’s work.”

Cain looked like he might explode with rage. He lit a cigarette and stared around him at the watching crowd.

“What are you all looking at? Go buy some polyester or something.”

To this day the jacket sits in my closet. Other people look at it and simply see an eccentric pimp jacket owned by an overenthusiastic fashionista. But I see the spoils of war. I see the biblical victory that never was.

“How was your trip?” My friends ask me.

I smile. “Just lovely.”

Because the first rule of the One Euro Bin, is you don’t talk about the One Euro Bin.

About this writer

  • Celina Colby is a Boston based writer and the founder of the style blog “Trends and Tolstoy.”

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to “The One Euro Bin”

  1. Celina, what a fun and frisky look at the underbelly of Paris. That store sounds like Filene’s basement.

Leave your mark with style to Linda O'Connell

Comment in style

Stand out from the crowd and add some flare beside your comment.
Get your free Gravatar today!

Make it personal

avatar versus gravatar Close