A Fistful of Style’s Top 5 Things That Will Make You A Better Thrift Shopper
As someone who grew up in thrift stores there are some things that come really naturally to me that I see people doing “wrong” all the time when I’m in the racks.
Also, though thrift blogs have started to proliferate, they typically focus on the “what” rather than the “how”. I think how you shop has a profound effect on your experience and doing it “right” will make your trip faster, easier and far more enjoyable.
Golden Rule. Only buy things that fit.
Never anything that “kinda” or “mostly” fits. If, with all the relevant buttons buttoned/zippers zipped/snaps snapped, the garment (no matter what it is*) hangs cleanly with no baggy excess (too big) or weird pulling (too small) then feel free to buy. Else, put it back.
If you do this you’ll be amazed how easy all the other rules are to follow.
1. Slip on shoes, undershirt, collared shirt, sport coat.
Trying everything on is the most time consuming part, so make it easy on yourself. Wear some kind of top layer so that you can try on outerwear. Wear a collared shirt so you can see how sport coats and suits will look. Wear slip-ons so you don’t have to lace and unlace your shoes a million times.
2. Get a cart. Shoes first. One loop.
Efficiency is your goal. Walk the racks one time. Shoes are the easiest to peruse first (both because they get laid out, but also so you don’t throw shoes on top of your clothes). Then go through each rack end to end doing a scan for things that catch your eye. Put everything you’re considering in your cart.
In the fitting room separate things into “yes” and “no” piles**. You’ll notice there’s no “maybe” pile. Remember, a “maybe” is a “no” until you really know what you’re doing.
3. Don’t drive yourself nuts.
Skip the women’s section***. I know I know, every thrift blog ever says "don’t forget the women’s section!" But if you’re just wandering around don’t make yourself crazy hunting every rack in every store every single time. You’ll hate going. Once you shop quickly and efficiently, and have enough time, you can start shopping more of the store.
Think speed, not endurance. If you can shop a store in 20-30 minutes (maybe quickly after work or on your lunch hour) once a week, you’ll find more than if you take 2 or 3 hours searching the entire store but can only muster up the energy once a month at the end of the week before they restock. Plus, you can easily hit 5 or 6 (or more) stores in one day if you do decide to do it on the weekend.
4. Remember you’re wardrobe building just like anyone else.
Keep your eye out for navy blazers, OCBD’s, brown wingtips, etc… Remember mid-level retailers. Buy the best you can find then improve on it. Donate stuff that doesn’t pass muster anymore. Get things tailored to fit better. If you remember the golden rule, you won’t find yourself too flooded with stuff and can spend your money where it’ll do the most good.
5. Enjoy the weird.
I’m always a little saddened when blogs only emphasize the quality things you find at thrift stores (which abound, no doubt). What about the crazy crap? Stuff that makes you go “Wow! People worked together at great expense and time to make this.” Isn’t is great to know that stuff exists? You wouldn’t believe the crazy crap I run across. Maybe I don’t buy it, but I’m glad I’ve seen it. You should be glad to see all that weird stuff too. It’s part of the fun.
Once you get this stuff down you can start toying with “can I get this tailored” and “I found these Nudie jeans in the women’s pants”, Til then, try shopping with this stuff in mind and marvel at how much better you feel when you get out of the store.
*[Ed. Note: Well… not shoes]
**[Ed Note: well, not piles, keep your stuff on hangers so as not to be a dick].
***[Ed Note: Unless you are looking for women’s clothing, in which case shop as much of the store is appropriate for you and your style,]
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