About the Author: Oral Blankson is an early 30-something whose hobbies include menswear, restaurant critique, public speaking, making new friends, and striving to be a better, more intentional man.
Thrifting as defined by Urban Dictionary: “When one visits several different thrift shops, second-hand shops, and vintage clothing stores in the hopes of buying several items of cheap and unusual clothing and other items.”
80% of my wardrobe is thrifted. Suits. Dress shirts. Ties. Slacks. Shoes. You name it – I’ve thrifted. Thrifting is great way to build or supplement any wardrobe with good clothing for cheap. Below, some hard & fast thrifting rules, and items which are usually a hit.
- Check stores often, as donations are made daily. Hop on the interwebs and find local thrift stores. Goodwill, Salvation Army, or mom-and-pop stores. Be diligent, persistent, patient, and prepared to dig for gold!
- Check garments thoroughly. Sometimes holes, stains, or damages are beyond repair. Thrifting only works when a garment requires little-to-no work after purchase.
- The dressing room is your friend. I’ve lost money by not trying something on, later realizing it doesn’t fit. ALL SALES FINAL.
- Thrift in affluent areas. Better area = better selection. I’ve even found clothes donated from local cleaners, or brand new donations from Target.
- Shop sales. Thrift stores will run “50% off Tuesdays” or senior citizen discounts. I wasn’t afraid to have my parents buy clothes for me – like the 20 cent slacks below!
Stick to those five rules and you should become a seasoned, successful thrifter. But some categories of clothes can be mined more than others. Here are what I consider to be the safer/more successful bets when it comes to the racks at thrift shops, with examples of my own personal finds:
SLACKS: Producer Pant by Express – $.20 ($69.90 – $98)
Average Cost: $4.99
Slacks are my #1 draft pick. There’s usually a pair of grey, brown, navy, or tan slacks to be found. Get the correct waist size – sometimes taking in the waist/seat compromises overall fit. Leg width and hem are easily altered (you might find some 70’s bell bottoms!).
These pants were purchased within a 5/$1.00 deal, so these were actually 20 cents!
SHIRTS: Polo by Ralph Lauren French Cuff Dress Shirt – $4.99 ($145)
Average Cost: $4.99-$6.99
You’ll usually find a white/pale blue dress shirt, or causal button-downs in stripes, ginghams, etc. Make sure neck size and sleeve length fit. You’ll find slim fits, but a tailor can reduce side billow inexpensively.
SHOES: Alden Loafers – $14.99 ($543)
Average Cost: $4.99-$19.99
If your thrifted shoes look like they’ve seen better days, all you need is some elbow grease. Take a Sunday afternoon, play your favorite record, crack a beer, and follow these steps to restoring the look of your shoes. Soles need restoration? A cobbler can help. Thrifted shoes, including repairs, are still cheaper than buying new. The loafers above were never polished, showcasing excellent purchase condition. Sometimes I’ve even found brand new shoes.
TIES: Various ties for $18 ($500ish)
Average Cost: $2.00-$6.00
I exclusively thrift ties. Most expensive? $6.00. Cheapest? 29 cents! The usual suspects: Stripes, repeating/neat patterns, and old school 80’s patterns (i.e. The Wolf of Wall Street). Great way to create or augment a tie collection, and you don’t need as many ties as you think.
Ties from Left to Right: Robert Talbott, Brooks Brothers, Paul Fredrick, Jos. A. Bank., Lauren by Ralph Lauren.