01 November 2008

On Hidden Potential

Anyone who has read this blog more than once realizes that I am a thrift junkie. I can't help it. I love the hunt and the 'thrill of the score'. But I also enjoy wearing good clothing, and refuse to settle for junk just because I'm shopping 'creatively.'

For years, I have been a long time champion of thrifting with an upscale frame of mind, by which I mean being an avid thrifter who knows the importance of a good tailor. Keeping the tailor and the thrift shop closely linked in one's mind opens a world of opportunity. It's all about finding hidden potential, and then having your tailor exploit it for you.

When shopping in a thrift store, it is important not to take everything at face value. Maybe there's a great jacket that's your chest size, but is huge in the waist, for $5. Don't think 'It's too big', think' it fits in the shoulder and it's $5. I can have this taken in for $15. 15+5=20.' Twenty bucks is pretty damn cheap for a quality sport coat, let alone one that has been tailored for you specifically.Similarly, remember the power of dry cleaning. Don't think 'this suit is a little musty' think 'what a nice suit. for 15 bucks it'll be fresh as new.'

By way of example, I offer two of my latest finds, the Harris Tweed and the Tartan Slacks.

In the case of the Harris Tweed, we have a really great jacket that is hard wearing and versatile, but smells a bit like the attic, for $7.99. Add $10 for dry cleaning and a three day wait, and I still come away with a jacket for $17.99.

The slacks are an even better example. To start with we have vintage wool Tartan plaid slacks for $2.99. Not only are they about 6 inches too long, but a close look at the run of the plaid lines along the seems reveals them to be (gasp!) quite flared. Not to worry. I took them to the tailor, had the length measured and then explained to him about the flares. He measured the existing hems, which were 10 1/2 inches, and said 'I can make the 8 1/2'. So, for $2.99 for the pants+$10 for the hems+$12 for the tapering I get a striking pair of pants that are both unusual and fit like a glove for $24.99.

My point is, any well dressed man ought to know that the clothes he buys are usually not fit to wear until the tailor has worked on them. This is why any real men's shop has a tailoring staff, and insists on fittings and alterations. A thrift store find, when it is of sufficient quality, should not be viewed any differently.


Anonymous said...

"My point is, any well dressed man ought to know that the clothes he buys are usually not fit to wear until the tailor has worked on them."

Very well put. Unfortunately, most men shy away from alterations and don't realize that a well- altered/fitted jacket may look to others as if it's been tailor made-to-measure.

Pitboss12 said...

This is great advice that everyone should take into consideration when thrifting.

Love the blog.

heavy tweed jacket said...

Excellent post! Cleaning and tailoring can give new life and purpose to older garments. A couple of months ago, my brother gave me a new/old stock herringbone 3/2 sack that just needed to be let out in the waist and lengthened on one sleeve. Result: $25 bucks and it was like new!

DAM said...

Once again, well done. I appreciate and admire your point of view, keep it coming.

initials CG said...

Keep your tailor a close held secret!

Seriously, therein lies the dilemma.
Finding a good tailor isn't as easy as looking in the yellow pages...at least in my experience when I was in CA (land of flip-flops, tattoos and tank-tops for lawyers).

What I like about what you do is that it requires a certain degree of sartorial knowledge. You learn fit, proportion, color, and all that at a fraction of what it costs idiots like me. It has taken me year, big bucks, and lots of amorous wrecks...live and learn. Wish these blogs were around a decade before.

Did you learn the basics before thrifting or was it more of a trial and error experience?

Toad said...

great site. I didn't know options to thrifting existed.