Today marks the third consecutive day after “spring” began where it’s been “nice” (at least in Maine). This is usually my key for when the spring thrift season begins. I’d say now might be a good time to refresh yourself with my Thrifter’s Manifesto, and more broadly my tips on thrifting.
Think of it this way. Are you itching to get out of your winter gear? Do you have bins of summer stuff squirreled away? Are you going to ditch some of your unworn winter stuff before you stash it? Are you probably going to realize some of your spring/summer stuff isn’t what you remembered it being and donate that too?
If you are you’re in good company, and if you’re a thrifter, it’s time to get your game on.
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,]
I know I’m on record saying you can’t “win” at thrifting. However, today I seriously started to reconsider.
2 Piece Royal Stewart Jacket/Vest combo
Vtg. Gray Plaid Car Coat
6” Bean Boots
Vtg. Brooks Bros Gray Glen Plaid Sport Coat
Navy Wool Unbranded Varsity Jacket
Vtg. Bleeding Madras Sport Coat
Assorted 70’s cookware & accent pieces (Fisherman Piggy Bank, Maine Lobster themed Coasters, 2 clocks, crock pot, weird kitchen info thingy, projector screen… I’m probably more excited about that stuff than I should be)
Vtg. Lacoste DB Tweed Jacket
Vtg. Oxblood Florsheim Longwings
EVEN MORE STUFF THAT’S LESS INTERESTING TO #MENSWEAR.
Seriously though. Online store opens soon (hopefully).
A couple fantastic vintage LLBean goodies today. Ashley found the sneakers at a different place while I found the jacket.
Points of interest — It’s a shooting jacket, not a barn coat. They can be distinguished by the action back, rubber lined game bag, and in-pocket elastic for bullets.
—These sneakers are super old dead-stock, unworn. I’m not even sure how old they might be, a cursory google search turned up nothing (and I’m supposed to be working on finals… maybe I shouldn’t be researching vintage Bean’s labels…). Anyone know anything?
I know that Italian stuff and #menswear approved labels are all the rage nowadays, but this is the real good stuff as far as I’m concerned.
EDIT: LLBean Signature has a replica of this coat for sale this season. It doesn’t have the action back, game bag, or elastic bullet holders, but you could do worse.
Thrift Hard or GTFO.
(Look, soft focus shots of buttonholes! It’s like I’m a real blogger now!)
And now back to your regularly scheduled programming…
So I said a couple weeks ago that thrifting season had started. I mentioned that I hadn’t found anything great to my girlfriend on the way to this goodwill today, when lo and behold…
3 Piece Tweed by Calvin Klein.
Fantastic flecked brown, works perfectly as a suit or as separates. Apparently looks great with tassel loafers.
Tan Gabardine by Cesarani.
I’ve been looking for a tan/khaki suit for a while now, this one is lightweight, but 3 pieces and a slightly darker shade which I think will be really great as a semi-casual item going into fall. Also looks great with tassel loafers.
Lavender Tweed by Josephs of Portland ME.
I’m super super excited to wear this. That’s really my only point, this color is infinitely better in real life and not through my shitty camera lens.
Harris Tweed by Cesarani (for Josephs of Portland ME).
The lesson here? People donate in lots, this clearly all comes from the same guy (maybe a shop employee at Josephs? perhaps just someone who grew out of their clothes) who just happens to be exactly my size. If you find one great thing exactly your size, look for others, odds are you’ll find other items in the same size nearby. And if someone has expensive tastes, and is your size? This is why I do this shit.
Oh, and I passed on this Hugo Boss (I think that was also from Josephs, but I don’t remember now).
because even if things fit, you probably don’t want to take stylistic cues from the early ’90s. At least in my opinion.
Public Service Announcement
It’s been cold the past few nights. That combined with the impending end of August can mean only one thing.
The Autumn thrift season is starting.
While thrifting all year round is the best way to hit big, if you have limited patience I’d recommend the next 2-3 weeks as the best time (also the end of winter/beginning of spring). People are putting away S/S stuff, pulling out F/W and realizing “oh wait, I never wore this jacket last year, better get rid of it and get a different one.
Get to it.
What’s at Material Objects this week? 7/31/12 - 8/4/12 (500 Congress St. Portland ME)
Ed Note: This morning a guy came in and bought the whole outfit off the mannequin. If you wanted it you’re SOL. Gots to be fast in the consignment game. This will be in the window til Sunday, unless someone snaps this up too, just sayin…
Suit - Brooks Bros. Makers, Made in USA, Sz 42L, $60
Shirt - Tommy Hilfiger, Sz M, $12
Tie - Vtg. 100% Silk, Woven in India (boss sauce), $8.50
Shoes - LLBean Signature Saddle Shoes, Sz 8.5- $29
Cole Haan Green Label, Made in Maine, Sz 8.5 - $22.50
What’s at Material Objects this week? 7/29/12 - 8/4/12 (500 Congress St. Portland ME)
Suit - Vtg. “Gordon’s of Portsmouth NH” Sz. 42/44, $50
Shirt - Calvin Klein, 100% Cotton, 16x34, $15
Tie - Vtg (?) Lord & Taylor, 100% Silk, Made in USA, $8.50
Shoes - Vtg. Dexter Oxblood Longwings, Sz 10, $36
Vtg. Black Oxfords, Sz 8ish, $22
What’s at Material Objects this week? 7/22/12-7/28/12 (500 Congress St. Portland ME)
Jacket - Vtg. JC Penney, Cotton/Poly Blend (I assume, no tags) Sz 40/42ish (again, no tags), $30
Shirt - J Press, OCBD, 16.5x33, $12
Tie - Daniel De Faison, 100% Silk, $8
Jeans - Levi’s 511, $16.50
Shoes - Allen Edmonds “Berkshire”, $39
LLBean Camp Mocs - $25
What’s at Material Objects this week? 7/15/12-7/21/12 (500 Congress St. Portland ME)
Jacket - David Wood, 100% Silk, Sz 39R, AWESOME, $45
Shirt - J Press, OCBD, 16.5x33, $12
Tie - Pierre Cardin, 100% Silk, $7.50
Pants - “Foreman” White Trousers - W. 34, $12
Shoes - Vintage “Dexter” Tassel Loafers, Sz 10, Made in USA, $19.50
Vintage LL Bean Wallabee Style Lace Ups, Sz 11, Made in Italy (seriously) - $30
Shades - AJ Morgan $9 (multiple colors/styles available)
What’s up AFOS? What you wearing these days?
Sorry for the radio silence. WIWT’s are the least popular part of the blog and since I haven’t had a good screed against common wisdom lately, I’ve just been accruing a bunch of pictures of myself against a brick wall (also in a driveway).
So what have I been wearing this summer?
Simple outfits with some bracelets (I’d call them “man bracelets” or “mewlery” BUT BRACELET AND JEWELRY ARE NON GENDER SPECIFIC).
Vtg. No Tags OCBD
Levi’s 505’s (inherited)
Bass Brown Suede Bucks
White Converse Chuck Taylors (Gifted)
Levi’s “Movin’ On” Red Gingham Shirt
No Brand Woven Leather Belt
Levi’s Web Belt (Made in USA)
Bracelets by Ashley
When I’ve been getting a bit more complex I’ll wear some vintage madras. Either a shirt or a jacket (or some pants, though not in these pics).
Vtg. “Career Club” Madras Shirt
Levi’s 505’s (Inherited)
Levi’s Web Belt (Made in USA)
Vtg. “Triton” Madras Jacket
Oleg Cassini BD (complete with unlined collar, which I think was to save money or something, but still, interesting detail)
B Republic Chinos
Allen Edmonds “Grayson” Tassel Loafers
Vtg. “Golden Weave” Irish Linen Pocket Square
Oh, also I wore that ridiculous floral tie I own for First Friday. That was pretty fun.
Vtg. Lanvin DB Blazer
Remick’s of Quincy Floral Tie (Made of real Oiana Nylon!)
Church’s Black Horsebit Loafers
So that’s it, that’s what I’ve been wearing since I (apparently) vanished last week. You can resume not noticing in 5… 4… 3…
Thrifter’s Lesson… I dunno, let’s say 27: When it Rains it Pours.
I wrote last week about finding a pair of Allen Edmonds tassel loafers* for $5 and how as you get to be an experienced thrifter it’s less and less of a big deal. Of course there’s the flipside to that, the bonanza.
I was back at the same spot today (I do my weekly buying runs on Wednesday) and found these sitting on the shoe racks. Made in Italy, Brown (not burgundy) and my size. Apparently someone liquidated their supply of high end tassel loafers recently to my benefit. And as I said last week, I’ve been looking for about a year now, maybe a bit longer, and boom 2 pairs, 7 days, 11 dollars.
Keep at it, you get there eventually.
*Also, those previous ones were a smidge tight across the instep so I took them to my shoe guy who stretched them for $5, now they fit perfectly. Which I guess is a lesson about the importance of having a guy to go to for… you know… clothes stuff.