Broke and Bespoke

A site meant to inspire penurious sartorialists everywhere... Follow me on Twitter @brokeandbespoke


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Madras and End-on-End for Spring

I went thrifting for the first time in awhile the other day. This guy makes me feel like thrifting is no longer worth it around here (to you, Ian, I tip my cap…), and I just haven’t found the time or the energy to get behind it with the same verve as I used to.

I think this is both because I’ve become a much more discerning thrifter, and I rarely buy to flip any more. Things I would have bought no questions asked a couple of years ago, I now leave for someone else to add to their wardrobe, or to sell on ebay. Now that I have a steady job and too many clothes, I figure I ought to pay it forward as often as possible. But, as I’ve got a week off from work right now, one of the first things I did was check out a couple of thrifts that I haven’t been to in awhile. Old habits die hard, and so on.

Don’t get me wrong, this was no big score. But I did pick up a couple of things that I think will be great for the warmer weather. The first is this USA-made BB green end-on-end button down. I love wearing lightweight end-on-ends when the weather gets a little hot, and I can see myself in this one a lot over the next few months with the sleeves rolled up, paired with some jeans and sneakers. Maybe I’ll tuck it in, and wear it with no tie, an unstructured sport coat, and some suede loafers or chukkas. It was $9. There were a bunch of other BB shirts from the same donor I think, and I now regret leaving behind a whimsical patchwork OCBD. Oh well…

The next item is a great older madras tie from Lands’ End. Not only are the saturated colors and pattern stunning, but I love the imperfections in the weave itself like the blue spot you can see in the above picture. I think I’ll definitely be wearing this one as the temperatures rise here in the next month or so. The best part of this was that the store was having a 60% off all men’s clothing and accessories sale, so the tie cost me $1.14.

Don’t know why no one on ebay wants this. I love these PRL dotted ties and a green one is conspicuously absent from my collection. Plus, $7 is a steal in my book.

drivingincarswithpocketsquares:

Anyone want a tie for cheap?

I like the idea of quality used clothing finding a new and loving home. Unfortunately, this pin dot beauty, made right here in God’s United States, refuses to get any traction on Ebay.

First follower to reblog this and message me can add this sartorial wonder to their wardrobe for the low, low price of $7 (essentially cost plus shipping).

Hopefully we can find this tie a new owner, as I would really like to start doing things like this more often.

tomi233 asked: You seem to have really good luck in finding cordovan florsheim shoes. I honestly would not be able to pick out a pair if I found some while thrift shopping. What should I be looking for? Thanks!

I think the easiest way to describe the difference would be to use pictures. Calf leathers will crease and grain with age and use (which is quite beautiful IMO, when born of age and proper shoe care). Shell cordovan, on the other hand, doesn’t really crease—it bubbles and warps (for lack of better terms). Hopefully these pics will help you identify shell cordovan when you see it.

What often confuses matters even more is that people will often use the word cordovan as a stand-in for burgundy or oxblood as a color. This is especially the case on ebay and other sites where used clothing and shoes are for sale. Just because something is described as cordovan, does not necessarily mean it is made of shell cordovan. While vintage shell cordovan shoes do most often—in my experience at least—come in a kind of burgundyish color, newer makes of shell shoes can come in pretty much any color, Q.E.D.

Shell Cordovan:

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Calf:

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Another fruitful day at the thrift. Some Allen Edmonds ‘Camden’ penny loafers with shoe trees ($12), a handful of cotton hankies ($1 each), and 5 NOS PRL ties ($2 each).

I haven’t gone thrifting in awhile, but yesterday’s errands included driving my sweet ‘92 Celica through a car wash that’s pretty close to a spot I haven’t been to in some time. Lucky for me all ties were on sale for $2, and I picked these and a couple others up. The Faconnable Glen Plaid is of course out of season as it’s made of wool and cashmere, but I’m sure it’ll get plenty of neck time in F/W ‘13. 

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 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.

Some Advice for Aspiring Thrifters

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.   

Neapolitan Thrifting

I’ve mentioned one of my rarest thrift finds on here before, and it was two shirts from the atelier of Neapolitan shirtmaker Anna Matuozzo. I just uploaded a bunch of pictures from an old point and shoot camera the other day and found these on there—they must have been from an unused ebay photo session. Though the Matuozzo shirts were too big for me, I kind of wish I’d kept the Finamore shirt. It would have been a great shirt for this Fall/Winter, and I prefer the soft button down collar it had to the more trendy extreme cutaway that Finamore shirts that make their way through #menswear have.

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.

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.

One of These is Not Like the Other…

Four of the seven jackets in yesterday’s epic haul. The top one and the bottom two are vintage pieces from Brooks Brothers, J. Press, and Southwick, respectively, and all cut in the traditional ivy style: undarted, 3 roll 2 lapel, center vented, and with a 2 button cuff. The third jacket, a more recent Polo Ralph Lauren by Corneliani is a nice thick tweed, but features a regular soft rolling 2 button lapel, 4 buttons cuffs, and a center vent as well.

I thrifted some vaguely random—but very nice—things yesterday. Unfortunately, this was at a couple of the ‘pricier’ thrifts around here. But the items were still worth the money I think.

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J. Crew (circa 2009) Military/Field Jacket, $16

Saks Fifth Avenue (knitted in Great Britain) 100% cashmere crewneck saddle shouldered sweater in a beautiful heathered brown/navy, $35. I don’t usually look at sweaters too closely in the thrift shops, but I was immediately drawn to the fact that this was cashmere, and it is in excellent condition with no pilling whatsoever—so I thought it was a pretty safe purchase.

2 Borrelli ties, $8 each. I’m only lukewarm about the orange one, and it may hit ebay some time in the future, but the cashmere/silk brown one with purple and orange stripes is amazing.

Altea of Milano cotton/silk tie, $4. Altea makes some great ties, but their designs are often quite garish for my tastes. I thought this one would make a great Spring/Summer tie.

Sneak Peek: Thrifting Pays

If anyone still has misgivings about the benefits of thrifting, I hold up today’s purchase as an example. Today I spent $70, but saved about $6000 over retail prices on two amazing jackets. I think it was probably my greatest thrift of all time.

The items were like new (like for real ‘like new’), are very up to date in their cut and detailing, and they fit me perfectly with no alterations necessary. Though these jackets are of a quality that would have made me bend my general thrifting principle of not buying things that need extra money for alterations.

The one in the first picture is a Brioni (90% wool/10% cashmere) sport coat of fairly recent manufacture replete with double vents, hacking pockets, surgeon’s cuffs, and very lightly padded shoulders. It even had the spare buttons still in a ziploc pouch in the interior chest pocket. It cost $20.

The jacket in the second picture is a gorgeous reddish brown Borrelli (50% cotton/40% virgin wool/10% cashmere) of what appears to be very recent manufacture, with spalla camicia (shirt shoulders), a gorgeous soft rolling 3/2 lapel, patch pockets, double vents, surgeon’s cuffs, and tons of hand work. If it had the hang tags attached I would have believed it was an unworn garment. It cost $50. 

Even if you don’t live in an area where things like Brioni and Borrelli show up often, if ever, in the thrifts, I think you’ll be happily surprised by the things you do find if you look often and hard enough. If nothing else, you’re sure to find some great Brooks Brothers repp ties at pennies on the dollar. And if you get hooked, the thrill of the hunt is exhilarating indeed.

Wow…

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…

I haven’t gone thrifting in a while but…

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.

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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.

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Also purchased was this great silk pocket square for $3. It has hand rolled edges and a motif that is rather au courant.image

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More Thrifting Advice from the BrokeandBespoke Archives…

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.