05 January 2012

Rules of Thrifting: Go With Your Gut

Thrift shopping is addictive, but it's also a skill. As with so many things, skill is gained through vigilant practice, and eventually one develops a set of "gut feelings" about a place or time that can help guide them. Some thrift trips will require tedious hours spent rifling through the swill to turn up a lone gem, others will throw themselves at you. This morning, my gut told me to stop by a particular store for a quickie, and it paid off in spades, and not a moment too soon.
These are my old Florsheim Royal Imperial longwing brogues. I love these shoes. I've worn them a lot, polished them a lot, and even had them repaired, a lot. They were a regular favorite a year or so ago, before they were supplanted by a pair of tassel loafers that look like shoes but wear like slippers. Lately, I've been wearing them sparingly, as they are unfortunately on their last legs.

The leather has started to wear through...

...on both shoes. A hole in the sole or a worn heel are an easy repair, but a tear in the leather itself is the kiss of death, unless you happen to be a stylish British royal, which I most certainly am not.

I had all but resolved to go on out and purchase a (gasp!) new pair. I was ready to throw a heavy stack of dollars at Alden or Allen Edmonds, really, I was. But being the consummate cheapskate I am, I just couldn't part with the dough. The very idea seemed reprehensible. So I went to Ebay. I don't do Ebay, because I have no patience for bidding, but I figured I could find something in good shape with a reasonable "Buy it Now" price. I found a nice pair of Allen Edmonds "Mac Neil" wingtips in calf for $65, and I almost bit. At the last minute, I realized that it was 2 a.m., and I had been drinking rich oak-aged beer ( more on that later), and I was feeling more than a bit impulsive and perhaps I should wait. So I went to bed instead.

This morning, after dropping the boy at school, I ran some errands. After a trip to the supermarket, I had the feeling I should stop by a local thrift shop I pass on the way. The place is disorganized, chaotic and filthy, and I don't often do too well there. But I felt compelled to pop in, you know, just for a minute. The shoe racks are right by the front door, and within 30 seconds of my arrival, I spotted these:
A pair of Allen Edmonds "Mac Neil" longwings..in shell cordovan! I'm sure of it, no tiny creases, only soft, supple leather with the tell-tale "waves". Never one to push my luck, I decided to leave at once. The trunk was full of groceries, and Mrs. G was sending "where are you" text messages. Best to high tail it home. There was no price on the shoes, but I already knew that whatever they would charge would be a mere fraction of what they are worth. The kind lady at the counter looked them over, frowned a bit, and said with trepidation, as if expecting an argument "seven dollars?" I gladly agreed. She said "these are not so good." I said "I buy them here then pay my repair guy $50 for new heels." "That's expensive." she says. "Not as expensive as new shoes" I say. "No, I guess not." she says.

Later that same afternoon, after a cleaning and a shine, they're looking well and right at home with some argyle socks and flannel trousers.

I almost forgot...

While waiting in line to pay, I stood by a big plastic bin full of silky things. I poked through it and found two ties, and one more at the last minute dangling from a rack of ugly sweaters while she rung me up:
Block printed pink paisley by Liberty of London...
Italian made navy and tan stripes by Dunhill...

and a navy/red/white weave from H. Herzfeld of New York. $1.99 each.

I was in the store for a total of five minutes, maybe. I knew it was worth stopping there this morning.

Go with your gut.

p.s. the Shop is busting with new goods, including items from Cording's, Brooks Brothers, and USA made vintage L.L.Bean. Stop by.

19 comments:

Jho78 said...

What a great find! I picked up my own pair of shell longwings for $5.50.

Scott Alexander said...

Congrats! The new wingtips are amazing. Shell cordovan has alluded me but maybe I'll have the same luck when I hit my local shops tomorrow. I agree, when you get that lucky feeling you just have to stop in. Thanks for posting the tie photos as well. It's nice to see your variety of finds.

Kionon said...

Awesome find. I'm quite impressed.

Mike said...

Oh G. Thrift shopping is so expensive in Germany. Check my latest post:
http://inner-city-style.blogspot.com/2012/01/about-thrifting.html

Cheers
Mike

Liam said...

Those are niece enough AE's to be totally worth sending them in for a recrafting.

Nice find!

HosMan said...

Good thrifting,G!Gorgeous ties--bet they were $1 ea or so,eh? I`m sort of developing that "gut feeling"(or spider sense?) with my frequent thrifting.

Had that "feeling" this evening,so I hit a shop I`d not gone to in several weeks.BINGO! Scored a lightly use,very nice grey wool overcoat by Japanese mfg. FUJIGOU.Also snagged three nice ties--vtg Collezione Splendido di Gisso Paoli,American Standard,and a Classix.

Viva la Thrift!

John said...

Spectacular. Found and sold a pair of McNeils last year, too big! However, I have the same story. Hit the Goodwill in town last week, found a wonderful pair of Hanover black gunboats in my size. They wanted $10, which is too much for my cheap blood. Go back on Thursday, and the $10 is crossed out, they were back to $3. Now I have to get the marker off the sole.....

Dave T said...

Thrifting is a funny animal. I've scored some great finds; however, there can always be that one piece that eludes you. I found a fantastic bespoke Wells of Mayfair tweed coat (fully canvassed, surgical cuffs, Beautiful flecking, etc.). Put the coat on and found myself swimming in it. Must have been a 48L, at least, compared to my 40S. Just makes me sick to be tantalized by those pieces.

Prinz Ulrich von Boffke said...

Wow! What a find. I've run across a number of pairs of Allen Edmonds shoes here in the last year, but they are always way to big for my size 9 feet. Yours look really sharp.

Best regards,

Ulrich von B.

pandionknight said...

Congratulations on the excellent finds. I recently found three odd jackets (a dark brown moleskin, a brown tweed, and a navy blazer) all in the same shop, and my size and length.
This was my first navy jacket after a long patient search and I paid the princely sum of £8 each! I'm sure I felt just as lucky as you did.

JKG said...

I marvel at how tough shell is. I ebayed a pair of AE wings that came with what looked like a burn mark.

Nylon brush -- like you'd use on the kitchen floor. 10 minutes of serious and fearless elbow grease later and you can scarcely see it. I suspect that additional rubbing will yield continued improvement.

That said, they're B's and, frankly, probably a mite too tight. But boy do they look awesome. I'm on the prowl for a replacement.

Anatomically Crap said...

Good call, Affordable; going without my gut never works for me.

Andrew M. said...

I think it still would have been worth it to pay full whack for quality footwear. But you are one lucky guy. I wear a size 7, and live in a small midwestern town, so I have not had much luck in the footwear department. Cheers!

francis jones said...

I need to find something like this soon. do any of you guys know a reasonable shoe repair in or near london? theres a place inside vauxhall station I want to look at, but im wary of chelsea prices.

My favourite stories on here are the great successes, you haven't shown off an entire outfit for a bit though.

Mr. Sean said...

If you ever find size 13s, you have a guaranteed buyer here.

oxford cloth button down said...

What a run of luck! Or as I like to say about thrifting, it is more about persistence than it is luck.

Metcarfre said...

Good find! I've had no luck with shoes in the thrift stores around here - being on the large end (13) will do that - so I just the other day sniped a pair of AE Park Avenues in brown on eBay. True, I paid $66, which is much more than the, say, the $12 you might pay in a thrift store. But it's much, much less than the $325 I'd pay at retail - more, since I'm in Canada.

Also, FYI, if you loathe the bidding process on eBay (understandable), consider using a sniping service like Gixen.com. I entered the max I would go to for the shoes ($90) and it sniped them for me. Just my 2 cents.

Pigtown*Design said...

I call that feeling my "inner junk whisperer" and that's how i found the two hermes scarves... for $2. each. something just told me to go to that shop that day.

Anonymous said...

Excellent find! I happened to find a rather cool video about how cordovan is made. It also has some footage of Allen Edmonds factory floor. Very interesting!

http://vimeo.com/4814754