30 November 2010

2/3 or Not?

Today we have yet another tale of separated siblings, the ubiquitous incomplete suit that is the bane of the thrift shoppers existence...or do we?
A matching jacket and vest, vintage mid 1960s, priced at $9.99 for the "set" of two. The cloth is a lovely brown mini-herringbone tweed, lightweight for tweed and very soft to the touch. And of course, all the details are there: 3/2 roll, hooked vent, two button cuff, etc.
Puritan, Cricket Shop, Hyannis. I am a sucker for these old house brand labels. I find them so much more meaningful than brand names, even good ones. Great...but where are the pants.

Of course, I snapped up these two pieces and headed straight for the pants rack looking for a pair of flat front, narrow cut trousers in brown mini-herringbone tweed, but to no avail. Can't win 'em all, I guess. So I left the two pieces in my cart and finished looking around. The whole time I flip flopped over whether to leave these two or keep them. I decided that for ten bucks, this was a nice tweed jacket, and the vest was like bonus points. Not as good as a three piece suit, but admittedly more useful these days. Then, as I was waiting in line to pay, I noticed something:

The vest is reversible, a really killing rusty brown doeskin on the other side. Now that's the corker. It may be a little weird having the buttons on the wrong side, but I think I'll manage. Before my turn comes up in line, I'm already thinking about how great this will work with some khaki moleskin pants and my vintage pair of British made Clark's chukkas in loden suede. And then I remembered something my Dad told me years ago. Not really sage fatherly advice or anything, just a thing he said in passing.

Back when I first picked up the old Clark's, my Dad saw them and said something like "I had a pair of shoes just like that when I was in high school (in the mid sixties). I used to wear them to dances with the brown tweed vest and jacket set I had." So apparently, these two piece sets did exists in the time this set dates from. Maybe then this group is in fact complete. Again, maybe not as good as a three piece suit, but maybe it never was one.

2/3, or one whole? Either way, it's pretty cool.

28 November 2010

History & Soul

La linea di questo vestimento stata creata nel mio atellier Catania a tutela dell'arte sartoriale Italiana nel mondo-Domenico Nicolosi

or, roughly:

This line of dress was created in my atelier in Catania to protect the world class art of Italian tailoring-Domenico Nicolosi

Wow, that's pretty serious. What follows is the story of a thrift shop find which to date clearly out dose everything I've ever found, and by a mile at that. But it's not so much about the garment itself as it is about history, soul, and even wonder. Bear with me.

You all know I'm cheap and broke with tastes that extend well beyond my means, for whatever inexplicable reason. You all know I've honed quite a knack over the years for turning up gems in the garbage, shall we say. I've told you how thrift shopping is fun, how you can own things you never thought possible, how it's "green", etc.etc. All well and good, but let's discuss the more ethereal and emotional things going on here. Just this once, I promise.

Tha label is sewn into the neck of a navy blazer I turned up on Black Friday at a 50% off sale in a truly filthy and chaotic place full of crazy people and wailing children. The coat is made of a heavy weight serge cloth the likes of which barely exists anymore. It's thick like something a military uniform might be made from, meant to keep it's wearer warm. Except the cloth is fine, not coarse. It weighs like a coat. It's 6x2 double breasted, has a ticket pocket, five button surgeon cuffs, and hand felled button holes, all ear marks of the fact that it was made by hand by a guy named Domenico in Catania, Sicily, likely in the mid 1970s by my educated guess. Domenico wasn't doing this just because some guy with enough money wanted to have a custom navy blazer, no. He was doing it to "protect" the art of Italian tailoring. This was a man who was serious about his art. That label, and the way it's sewn in with orange cross stitches, is packed with more guts and soul than anything I've found in the crazy land of thrift stores. It'll make a grown man cry.

Who commisioned this piece of art? Who was Domenico Nicolosi, really? I've tried to research hom for the past two days, but nothing. The buttons have all been removed. Is it because they were real gold? How did it come to be squashed into an ovefilled rack in a dirty and chaotic thrift store in Massachusetts? How did I come to find it? Divine Providence? I'm a creative, right brain type of guy, so this kind of stuff really turns my crank. You don't get that in most "normal"stores.

It's about a 48 long, and it's a thing of beauty. Alas, far too large for me. It's up for grabs in the Shop. Forgive me a momentary shill, please. While it's true that making money is nice, I do, in fact, take pleasure in the knowledge that these sartorial orphans are finding loving homes. If you're about 6'2", 220 lbs., and any of what I just said means anything to you, you know what to do.

Make our man Domenico proud.

as per my recent absence: the Pink Eye. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

24 November 2010

Minimize The Pretension

Ascots are so damned hard to wear. I have a few, but I hardly ever wear them. Truth is, they are the very height of pretension in America in the times in which we live. Wear one with a suit, you're a chump. Wear one with a blazer, you're pushing it. But I like them (I think) so I keep trying. Maybe the answer lies in comfortable casual.
With s striped button down and cotton crew neck sweater, you'd hardly even know it was there, would ya?

Brought down further with dark denim, grey socks and brown shoes. Though it may be to the chagrin of many of you, I think it's time to admit that brown dress shoe/grey sock/dark denim as a combination has reached full "classic" status.

As a side note: those $20 Wranglers that I wash all the time are looking pretty stylish...and they don't have a years worth of filth on them, nor did they cost hundreds of dollars. Imagine that?

So anyway, if you're going to wear an ascot, do yourself a favor and minimize the pretension by keeping it casual. Do yourself an even bigger favor and eliminate the pretension by not even wearing the damned things. Ascots are useless and obnoxious.

But I do like to wear one, from time to time...

22 November 2010

Blazer Alternative

For ages I wanted a hunter green blazer, as an alternative to the standard navy blue. After finally finding one, I'm glad to say that I love it as much as I hoped I would. Sure, it gets the occasional "Masters Tournament" crack, but I'm used to jokers by now. The trick, I find, is to pair with the same things you might pair with a standard navy.

Can't go far wrong with a white button down oxford (Brooks Brothers, made in U.S.A., $4.99) and a repp tie in burgundy and navy (Andover Shop, made in England, $1.00). A simple white square drives the final nail.

That classic shirt and tie combo turns out to be a pretty good foil for some Black Watch tartan pants. If you're gonna wear a green jacket, may as well take it to the wall with some plaid pants, right? Given that this outfit may have been considered casual a million years ago, I find it's best to stick with leather goods in brown (Coach belt, made in U.S.A., $1.00)
I know the old skull and bones is just about the very definition of "played out" by now, but who cares? I read a lot of guys in the blogs who like to claim that only certain dusty Yale guys have earned the right to sport the motif, but those guys only stole it from pirates in the first place (aargh!, not the baseball team). 

A green blazer makes for a fun outfit.

19 November 2010

Secrets of Thrifting: Know When To Say No

This isn't about the work of Tom Wolfe. If you find his books at a thrift store they make a worthy purchase. This isn't about white suits, either, If I found the right one, I'd snap it up in an instant, then bring it home and hang it in the closet right beside the tuxedo that will also likely never be worn. 

This is about the 6x1 double breasted suit, as seen here on our Mr. Wolfe. He gets a pass, because, you know he's Tom Wolfe. You would do well to avoid this style of jacket like the plague.

For those of you who may not know, here's a brief rundown of the terminology. Double breasted jackets come in many different button stances, the most classic and time tested being 6x2, meaning the jacket has six buttons, on the front, two of which are actually functional like so:

This is a style that works well on a suit, and is particularly effective on a navy blazer. Give one a try if you've got it in you. Even if double breasted jackets aren't your thing, it's pretty hard to argue with a guy like Prince Michael of Kent.

6x1 refers to the type of jacket seen on Mr. Wolfe in the first photo, with a six button front and only one functional. It's a style that was popular in the late 80s until the mid 90s, and it can stay there as far as I'm concerned. It's been my experience that the great majority of clothing available at most thrift stores is between fifteen and twenty years old, so the places are currently loaded with these things. Besides closing in an awkward spot across the hips that flatters nearly no one, these monstrosities frequently have a vent-less back (bad) and heavily padded shoulders (also bad). The pants, if we're talking suits, are always pleated, but never with inverted pleats and side tab adjusters (cool). Rather, they feature the standard office jockey style pleated pants (bad) that have fortunately fallen from most men's favor lately.

In a comment made to my very first post in September of 2008, a fellow called Charles, who turned out to be the illustrious Longwing (remember him?) had this to say:

"Thrifters have too much shit. You get used to not getting exactly what you want so you tend to buy everything that even comes close."

He makes a good point. It's easy to get blindsided by cheap prices in a thrift store, and wind up with a bunch of junk in your house. In a sense, you have to be infinitely pickier in these places than you would paying full whack in some nice shop where a modicum of quality is to be expected. In the wine shop where I work, we carry a selection of wines by the front door for twelve bucks or less.I tell customers all the time that we're probably pickier about what we choose for the bargain bins than anything else in the store. It's easy to get a great bottle for $40. For $8.99, there's a lot more crap to sort through. Get it?

So what's this all got to do with the dreaded 6x1 db jacket?

Just last week, on a hunter/gatherer mission I came across two suits made by Oxxford of Chicago. The construction was as great as you'd expect from a high end maker like Oxxford. The fabrics were beautiful, soft to the touch, one navy with pale blue stripes, the other, a muted glen check in a dark tan. Of course, they were painfully cheap. They were too big for me, but I considered picking them up for the shop. In the end I left them behind. Both suits were cut in a vent-less 6x1 style, hopelessly dated. Don't get me wrong, I put them in my shopping cart and schlepped them around the store for a while before I finally admitted the truth: even though they were made of such nice cloth by such a well regarded manufacturer, these suits weren't going to flatter me or anyone else.

Sometimes, frequently, you just gotta say no.

While it's true that I tend to favor a single breasted jacket and plain front pants almost exclusively, double breasted jackets and even pleats have their place. Just be sure and keep it classic. Remember, the styles of the mid eighties were just as bad in their way as anything we saw in the mid seventies. In both decades, classic clothing was still available for the man who cared, but the perils were great. Be careful.

17 November 2010

Secrets of Thrifting: A Tale of Two Pieces

Thrift stores are full of orphans; suit jackets without their pants,suit pants without their jackets or worst of all, a matching jacket and vest without pants. It's unfortunate, really, because often these items are useless in their separation. Sure, you might be able to wear a seersucker jacket with summer weight grey slacks, or salvage a navy suit coat with some brass buttons, but that's about it. Often, suits make it all the way into the thrift store and wind up separated there. Always check. For example:
 The other day, I came across this beautiful pair of pants, in navy blue herringbone, with an incredibly soft hand. Sure, I suppose you could wear these alone, but I've got a thing against navy blue dress pants. Don't know why, but I do. It's a separate post. Anyway...
 They're vintage, probably early 1960s, with all the right details, like a longer rise and a steel zipper,

Waistband notched at the back, brace buttons on the outside. So nice, but half a suit. This happens all the time in the dirty and disorganized madhouses where I find this stuff. Rather than feel pity for the orphan, I decide to do what I can to reunite it with it's family. Pants in hand, I head to the jacket rack, to see if I can match the fabric. Nine times in ten, it's a strike out, but it's worth the effort for the one time it's not. This time, I was in luck:

There, alone, was this jacket, the top half! Three button front, two button cuff, un-darted, and a pretty damn good fit, to boot. By the way, that's "Bill", my mannequin, newly arrived from California. This is good news for all of you, as it means I can now take proper photographs of jackets and suits, which in turn means such items will be making their way to the online store soon. Anyway...

The corker: it's vintage Andover Shop, a score the likes of which shocks even me. J.Press and Brooks Brothers are (relatively) easy to come by out there once you get the knack, but you rarely see Andover stuff. I've turned it up before, but I've never seen old vintage from them before.
 Reunited and it feels so good! Being apart, the two pieces were priced separately: $5.99 for the pants, $5.99 for the jacket. But it was half price, so I got the whole rig for $5.99. Good thing too, it wouldn't be fair to pay twice for what is essentially one garment (tongue firmly in cheek).

Shopping this way really is a time consuming pain in the *ss, but that's how you get an Andover Shop suit for $5.99. If you find a nice half, take some time to see if you can make it whole. Don't get discouraged when you miss, because when you hit you hit big.

p.s. Store Policy Update:
Getting to the post office can be tricky when you've got two kids. For that reason, all items purchased at the online shop will ship the following Wednesday, arriving in about a week in the US. 

p.p.s Thank You
Sheesh, you guys are ravenous! I can barely keep stuff in the shop! To all of you who made a purchase this week, or even stopped by to look, my sincerest gratitude.

15 November 2010

New Life for Old Silk

My newest bow tie arrived by post recently, courtesy of Ellie of Cordial Churchman fame. No surprise, it's a winner. Best part is this used to be an old Brooks Brothers Makers necktie, circa mid 1980s. In that guise, I wore it often, frequently with this same Brooks brothers shirt. Then one day I spilled a big drop of olive oil on it, right by the point. Being of Italian decent, I bet I have more of a problem with spilled olive oil than your local W.A.S.P.

I know I've sung Ellie's praises here before, but it's a topic that bears repeating. To be fair, Ellie did this as a gift to me. She'll gladly give new life to your old silk for a scant $26. It may not be a buck at the thrift shop, but that's a bargain any way you cut it.

Shame on you if you don't have a Cordial Churchman bow tie yet.

13 November 2010


Mary Lin Moore christens the U.S.S. Impervious in 1952

An Affordable Wardrobe is proud to announce the official launch of it's new online store! You can go there by clicking on the link in the sidebar, or find us at http://www.shopanaffordablewardrobe.com/

So far, I have only a small sampling up of what's available: ties, sweaters, shoes and some sportswear. Jackets, coats, suits and trousers will be added soon. Shipping is available worldwide, and rates vary. In most cases, shipping cost will decrease per item for multiple item orders. Payments can be made securely using Pay Pal or credit cards. I do my best to make sure that all my stock is in top condition, and my prices are always low. Please bear in mind that all sales are final. (this is  second hand shop, after all)

I'd like to thank the many of you who have been emailing me looking for menswear for giving me the kick I needed to get something like this up and running. It's a work in progress, so bear with me as I learn the ropes and do what I can to improve the site. Feedback is always welcome.

So...check it out, tell your friends, buy my stuff, etc., etc.

Thanks and happy shopping,

Giuseppe Timore
Second Hand Haberdasher

10 November 2010

The Jams

I've heard this song so many times it's inconceivable. You probably have too. FM radio...in the car...at the beach...on a construction site...in the supermarket. You name it. It's easy to ignore. That is, until you hear it on an original vinyl 45.All the sudden you're on the verge of tears as you realize that this little old song is in fact the jam to end all jams. I've played this record at least a dozen times since I got it yesterday. If you don't get what I mean, I don't have time to explain. If you do get what I mean, you're probably digging through your 45s right now.

99cents well spent.

For the love of God, Otis Redding:

Don't argue with me....

09 November 2010

Better Than a Baseball Cap

Is there such a thing as a cricket hooligan? Probably not, but if there was, they might look something like this:
I was recently sent this lovely cricket cap from Smart Turnout, an English company producing regimental ties, cricket sweaters, striped watch bands, these caps, and a thousand kinds of socks. Seriously, the sock page is full blown geeked out menswear accessory porn. Be careful. They were actually kind enough to let me choose something from their site, and I went with the cricket cap as it's the thing I'm least likely to find in a thrift store.

Smart Turnout's goods are all British made of quality materials. If this hat is any indicator, it's pretty solid stuff. The cap is made of heavy British weather grade wool, with bullet proof construction. All of their goods are based on regimental or university designs. To be honest, I'm sometimes conflicted about stuff like that, but mostly I'm over it. I won't wear a uniform or emblem I didn't earn, but stripes have been all over the place for way too long now. Why miss out?

The stuff is not cheap, but it's very cool, and Christmas is coming. Ladies, the gifts for your man abound here. Gents, start dropping hints. Smart Turnout has been kind enough to offer readers of An Affordable Wardrobe 20% off their order through this Friday, November 12, and 10% throughout the following week by using discount code BROCHURE2010 at checkout. Hurry.

Seriously, the sock page...dangerous.

08 November 2010


In the old days, I used to drop my shirts off at the cleaners, medium starch on hangers. I loved the way they would come back all crispy and flat, and a little bit stiff. The way the back pleat would "crack" when I put the shirt on was the best. But that was in the days before children and full blast adulthood, when I had a tiny bit of disposable income. These days, I wash and iron my own shirts. Money aside, with two children in the house I do about 200 loads of laundry a week. Sending the shirts out is extravagant. What's one more load? I still like 'em crisp and bright, though.
Niagara Original Spray Starch may be an old lady product, but it does the trick. While it doesn't give me the stiff and crispy shirt of yore, it does allow me to press the collar, placket, cuffs and back pleat of my shirts super flat, while leaving the rest of the shirt relatively soft, yet neat. At $1.99, it costs as much as the commercial laundering of one shirt. I'll take it.  Besides, a man should know how to press his own clothes. Sometimes, the experience can be mildly therapeutic. It forces you to slow down a bit, and there's nothing quite like putting on a warm, freshly ironed shirt on a chilly morning. You'll see.
I just found Mrs. Stewart's concentrated liquid bluing today at the supermarket. I washed a load of white and blue shirts, and added a quart of cold water with a few drops of bluing to the wash. The whites are gleaming. I'd be leery of using this stuff too often, maybe every fourth or fifth wash, and sparingly. But I'll be damned if it didn't give me a "like new" brightness, without the poison that is bleach. At $1.99, this bottle will likely last me more than a year.

My routine is to wash the dress shirts separately, then hang them to dry on hangers with the top button closed on the shower curtain pole in the bathroom. I hang them wrinkled in the closet, and press them one by one just before wear. Ironing a bunch at once is pointless, since they tend to get wrinkled in the closet anyway. In a pinch, when a stiff starched shirt is not required, I'll throw a soft oxford in the drier alone for five minutes to knock the wrinkles out of it. It's a perfect quick fix if you're wearing jeans, or even with khakis, a knit tie and a comfy old blazer or sweater.

Wash your own clothes.

07 November 2010

Relativity: Free Goods Through Thrift Shopping

The relative nature of successful thrift shopping as it applies to price comparison may be something I've discussed before, but it's a subject that bears frequent reiteration. The following is a prime example.

This past Saturday, I made a pick up trip at the worthy Mr. Lee's tailor shop. Three pairs of pants, all second hand, of course.
Two fresh pairs of khakis, one in a classic English tan shade and the other in it's paler cousin, frequently known as "stone".

Both from J. Crew. One, a "dressier" pair of "Essential Chinos",
The other, from the more relaxed "broken in chino" line. Now, I know J. Crew is essentially mall junk from a sweatshop, but I'm tough on khakis. I run through them like water. As much as I'd love to support a company like Bill's, it'll be a cold day someplace before I spend $195 on cotton pants, no matter how nice they are. I find J. Crew khakis happen to be cut just how I like, and there isn't a thrift store on earth that doesn't have hundreds of them in stock at any given time. Besides, I know better than to pay $65 for them at the mall. Cut me a break, they're not Dockers after all.

The third pair are a gem, though. Bulletproof moleskin, the real stuff.

By Johnstons of Elgin,

Made in England. I've already worn this pair two days running. Easily my new favorites. Warm as toast and hefty, yet indescribably soft, and cut with a military style high waist and dead straight leg. Excellent. Still available at the Johnstons website, a new pair will run you 75 GBP, or roughly $120. So lets talk relativity, and how two of these pairs of pants were effectively free.

Each pair of these pants cost $5.49. It cost $12 per pair for hemming, putting the total cost of each pair at $17.49. Admittedly, that's a steal for even a pair of J. Crew khakis, never mind the fact that these have also been tailored to my specifications. Or...

The total cost of the three of them, alterations included, was $52.47, or roughly 33 GBP. So I paid less than half price for the moleskins, free alterations by my own tailor, no shipping, and got two pairs of J.Crew khakis, also with free alterations, as a bonus, a "spiff" as they say in the mens clothing trade, or "free goods" as they say in the wine trade.

That math is convoluted as hell, to be sure, but why not?  It's this kind of relative thinking that helps me be so successful in the thrift stores. If you're going to pull off the crazy bargain hunting like I do, you've got to be willing to see potential and think creatively. And find yourself a good tailor, of course.

06 November 2010

Cottage Industry

Prior to the recent Top Shelf Flea Market II, I received numerous emails from my far flung readers to convince me to go live online. I'm in the process of setting up an online store. Forgive me for the lack of posts recently, and please bear with me. More vain drivel coming soon.

03 November 2010

White Suede and Grey Tweed: Casual Editon

Four days later, white bucks and a tweed jacket get a second airing, this time in a more casual feel:
With a Brooks Brothers shirt in navy gingham, a tan wool v-neck from the House of Tweed in Scotland, and my favorite paisley square.

Dark blue jeans, washing and wearing nicely, and argyle socks. In the past, I wore my jeans with big cuffs. These days, I like them in a proper length. Every now and then, a small cuff is the trick. It gives just the right tiny nod to a 1950s look, kinda Pat Boone, but without the dorky aspect.

I titled this post the "Casual Editon". It's true, this outfit is relaxed and comfortable, but the original combo of tweed and khaki would have been cosidered fully casual not so long ago. Many people might have considered todays combo to be dressed up. How times change.

I can remember when I was 12, in 1988, the older kids would wear wrecked white bucks with a button down oxford and a crew neck school sweatshirt, in the Fall. It was a look. The more dashing among them night finish it with a scarf or a sports coat, likely stolen from dear old dad.

I'm telling you, white bucks in Fall are the jam. Don't knock it till you've tried it.