Broke and Bespoke

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Some Basic Thrifting Advice

I generally try to respond personally to most questions my readers send in, but I’ve let a decent number sit idly in my inbox of late, and many of them have to do with thrifting advice. Though there is a ton of information on the web about thrifting: how to do it, how often to do it, where to do it, and so on…I thought I’d reblog a post from deep in my archives that lays out some basic rules that will help streamline the process (though it’s not really about streamlining…) and hopefully yield some nice finds one might have otherwise overlooked. For whatever reason, I don’t seem to be able to reblog myself, so I’ve just pasted the text below…

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There’s a ton of excellent information out there on thrifting, but I’ll share some of the most basic approaches I take that often yield substantially rewarding outcomes…

1) Go thrifting often. Do not be discouraged if you have an outing and find only crap—that’s going to be the case 90% of the time, especially if you’re on a quest for high-end menswear.

2) Be thorough when you go through racks and stacks. For example, there’s been a lot of talk of late about Anna Matuozzo’s Neapolitan custom shirting—one of my greatest thrift finds ever was two Anna Matuozzo shirts mixed in with the usual stuff by Gap, Van Heusen, Geoffrey Beene, etc. This was at a Goodwill. They weren’t my size, and at that time I’d never heard of the brand (around 8 months ago, when this happened, a Google search for Anna Matuozzo yielded few results), but I could discern their quality by all the handwork. I flipped them at a substantial profit. While a cursory glance at the shirt carousel might have suggested that everything was blah, a thorough flip-through netted me ~$200 in profit…This brings me to my next tip…

3) Sure, search for labels you know to be good, but be on the lookout for quality too. This can be determined by the feel, or hand, of the fabric on jackets, or by the stitchwork and buttons (i.e., real mother of pearl) on a shirt. But don’t hesitate to buy something you like, especially if it fits well, because it’s by a maker you’ve never heard of—it might end up being the next label to be drooled over by #menswear.

4) Contrarily, don’t hesitate to buy something that you like and fits well because it is from a brand or of a type of construction that gets pooh-poohed in the blogosphere. Sometimes the things that make a garment of particularly high quality and price point are things that only matter if you want to keep the garment for a lifetime. Sure, fused jackets bubble in the chest if you dry clean them enough times, but if you find a jacket for $10 that’s fused, and it fits you like a glove, and it’s in a fabric you like, buy it and dispose of it if and when it does begin to come apart in the chest. I’m guessing you’ll have moved on in your own personal stylistic evolution long before that happens.

5) Examine items closely. 90% of the stuff is there because something is wrong with it—it’s stained, it has a hole in it, it’s threadbare. I’ve definitely come home with a haul that I thought was flawless, only to find a stain, discoloration, rip, or run on a shirt and/or tie. It’s going to happen, but try as best as you can to examine items in good light—near a window or other reliable source of illumination. 10% of stuff is there because someone died and it was donated by a relative, or because someone outgrew something—either by gaining or losing substantial weight, or by changing their sartorial sensibilities. This is the stuff that is gold.

6) Don’t buy stuff that gives you any reservations—that Zegna tie that looks super early-90s, that Brioni shirt that has sort of disgusting ring around the collar, that pair of longwings that’s a little too narrow. If you’re buying for yourself—that is if you’re not planning on flipping it for a profit—then leave things behind that do not meet your exacting specifications. You will, if you thrift often, come across something that fills that same gap in your wardrobe/soul sooner or later.

7) This isn’t always true, as there are varied logics behind how donated things get distributed, but it is generally true that the things in thrift shops located in affluent areas are nicer than those in less affluent ones. If you live 30 minutes away from a well-heeled suburban area where many professionals who wear expensive clothes reside, drive (or take public transportation) there and scour their thrift shops. And this brings me to my final piece of advice…

8) Go to yard, garage, and estate sales in fancy neighborhoods. The people who are having them are well-to-do, they probably buy and wear nice stuff, and they’re clearly trying to get rid of it. It’s a win win situation. 

I could go on, but this ought to help get you started. Good luck!

  1. rawwwricky reblogged this from brokeandbespoke and added:
    Good advice
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