I dropped some things off at the thrift shop yesterday, but was in a hurry with no time to really look around. Out of habit, I scanned the tie rack on my way out and this tie caught my eye, draped as it was out of place from the rest of the ties on the rack. I walked over to check it out and it was a great Etro tie, and only $2.50 to boot. It’ll be great to pair with some navy jackets in the warmer months to come.
I’ve got a lot of mail piling up in my tumblr inbox, and for that I apologize. I generally try to respond to everyone that writes to me, even if it takes me awhile to do so. But I do have several messages in there now asking for thrifting advice, and though I’ve written on it before, and despite the fact that there is tons of information out there on strategies and tips (especially over on StyleForum and PutThisOn) for thrifting, the desire for ease in the internet age makes sifting though archives and old threads seem like a chore—even though much can be gained by the work. To that end, I thought I’d share some very basic thoughts in response to the queries in my inbox.
Some people seem to think I have a ‘gift’ or a special talent for thrifting. That certainly isn’t the case. What I have had (more so in the past, less so now that I’m quite busy at work and have less time to thrift, and also because my wardrobe is excessively large) is time that I dedicated to consistent thrifting, and some knowledge of the kind of garments I was looking for.
Time (and by extension, timing—a factor over which one has little control beyond learning the days new items are put out on the floor of your local thrifts) is the most important dimension of successful thrift shopping. Setting aside time to visit thrift shops with frequency is how you guarantee that you will find at least some of the good stuff that will inevitably make its way to the racks.
Knowing what you’re looking at and for is probably a close second in importance to the time you invest in the thrifting process in terms of determining the success of the outcome. Spending hours sifting through your tumblr dash looking at pictures of dudes that have the #menswear seal of approval is not going to teach you much about thrifting. It might teach you something about how you might want to dress, but knowing how to turn that aesthetic sense into the material reality of a wardrobe that contains those items of clothing, or your local thrift stores’ best approximations of those items, requires research beyond reblogged photos.
To learn about spotting quality garments and thereby being able to eyeball the details that you know you want but don’t know how to describe (high buttoning stance, high gorge, peaked lapels, lapel roll, soft shoulder, goodyear welting, double leather soles, etc.) you’ll have to read words, and not just absorb images. The best place, in my opinion, for you to learn about these aspects of men’s clothing is on text-heavy forums like StyleForum, TheLondonLounge, the much shat-upon AskAndyAboutClothes, and in a more concentrated (and less abusive) form, over on PutThisOn. Your favorite menswear bloggers, whether they choose to admit it or not, have lurked and or participated on StyleForum (in my opinion, the biggest and best of the forums) and have learned much from the experience.
This part might not be the most fun, and you will have to wade through a lot of useless i-gent logorrhea (especially on the forums, not so much on PutThisOn which is generally very concise and snark-free), but you will come out on the other end a more knowledgeable person about men’s clothing, and that knowledge can be parlayed into successful thrift store shopping trips.
Follow these tips and gone will be the days when you buy a jacket you probably won’t ever wear just because it was $5 and had a pattern similar to one you’d seen on #menswear. It sits in your closet because it is—though of the correct pattern—unvented, double breasted but with an anachronistically low buttoning point and a 4/1 button configuration, and has shoulders that look like they could support a heavy house plant. You’ll know to leave those things behind, and patiently await another sport coat of similar pattern, but with softer shoulders, a 6/2 button configuration with a higher buttoning point, double vents, and fully canvassed construction (I’m clearly channeling my own desire here, but you get the point).
Finally, as the adage goes in real estate, so too does it go in thrifting, ‘location, location, location!’ Unfortunately, if you live in an area where the thrift stores are terrible your chances of success in shopping there are much diminished, though not absolutely without possibility. Just remember, productive thrifting is a practice anyone can hone (though where you live is a huge factor) with time and diligence, and if you know what to look for patience and perseverance will reap rewards.
This jacket was part of last week’s rather epic haul, which included the heavy tweeds from J. Press, Brooks Brothers, and PRL. This green hopsack blazer is a bespoke piece, with lots of handwork and a nice silk paisley foulard 3/4 lining and a traditional 3 roll 2.5 lapel, undarted front, and patch flap pockets. As you can see, the person for whom this jacket was originally commissioned had similar dimensions to me.
The blazer is pretty slim fitting and cut a bit shorter than is my preference, though it is very much in line with current trends. I think this jacket is best worn with pieces that comprise the traditional ivy look: rep ties or simple neats, OCBDs or other more robust oxford cloth shirts, chinos or cords, and longwings or other casual bluchers.
I haven’t gone thrifting in awhile, but stopped in today at a place I haven’t been for several months and had what was probably my best thrifting come-up ever. Just two items, but they fit me with no alterations necessary, and are very, very nice indeed. More to come…
So I’ve been super busy at work and with other things lately…So much so that it’s been a good while since I’ve gone to my favorite thrift store. Several weeks at least, which is not good if one hopes to catch the best stuff.
As is the case more often than not, yesterday ended up producing a pretty great haul at this shop. A nice vintage herringbone tweed sack jacket by Southwick for Cable Car Clothiers with a nice 3 roll 2 lapel and patch flap pockets. It was incorrectly labeled a size 46, and was only $10. It’s a nice enough jacket that I am going to pay to have the sides taken in a bit at the tailor, something I usually only reserve for great finds, which I definitely consider this to be.
I also picked up this great Norman Hilton tweed jacket for $10, and though labeled a size 38, it fits a 40 just fine. There’s some beautiful coloring in the tweed that’s not really coming through in these pictures.
Also purchased was this great silk pocket square for $3. It has hand rolled edges and a motif that is rather au courant.
Here’s another old post about going for the shoes first…
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I hit up my favorite spot after work today and found some great stuff, including the shoes pictured below. I also picked up a nice seersucker shirt for the S/S, and 3 more pocket squares. The show-stealers are these Allen Edmonds Brookwood tasseled loafers though.
They are in excellent condition, and were only $9.
Finding these shoes today made me think of some thrifting advice that may come in handy for those of you who are just beginning to discover the joys of the art of thrifting, and that is this: TRUST NO ONE.
While you are in the thrift shop, with the exception of the employees, everyone is your enemy, if only because you cannot guarantee that they are your friends. Though the shop may be quaint (as was the one where these came from), it is, beneath the thin veneer of civility and charity, like Thunderdome.
This requires some strategizing; and bearing that in mind, I almost always look at shoes first. Why? Because it’s easy to scan a rack, or two, or three of shoes quickly and determine what is and isn’t going to catch your fancy. Ties take longer to sift through, as do jackets/suits, and shirts. Speed as well as precision are fundamental calculi in the thrift game. If I’d gone straight to the jackets without looking at the shoes today, I might have missed these, because a sworn enemy could have come and snatched them from right under my nose…But since I look at shoes first, I had these in hand within 15 seconds of entering the store.
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!