18 May 2013

Let It Come To You

Thrift shopping is, at its best, an exercise in optimism and open-mindedness. Far from being limiting, when done well it can offer a wealth of options you weren't even aware existed. It takes some vision and confidence, but it can tech to not only look for the things you know are good, but also to see good where you didn't look for it. At the very least, it offers an opportunity to experiment with very little financial risk involved. My most newly acquired shirt, a royal oxford in lavender from the Andover Shop, $5.49, helps me explain.

To put it bluntly, this is a purple shirt, and I don't care for purple. In the now iconic book "Class", Paul Fussell berates all clothing purple as the mark of a prole. "If navy is the upper middle class color, purple is the prole equivalent."-Class, p. 52.  Funny, and true. But let's not forget that books like Fussell's "Class" or, God help us, the infamous "Official Preppy Handbook" were never meant to be the hard and fast instruction manuals they seem to be regarded s today. They were meant to point out the foibles of both rich and poor in a way that was instructive in it's tongue in  cheek humor. Still, I'm not a purple kind of guy.

Then I find this shirt for next to nothing at a thrift shop. It's my size, it's made of a really nice piece of cloth, and it's from the Andover Shop. I try not to be blinded by brand name, but this is one hell of a shirt...and its not really "purple" so much as its "lavender"....and even our man Paul said "colors are classier the more pastel or faded" ibid. So, even purple is acceptable if its pale, I guess.

So I buy it, take it home, wash it, and iron it. I see it in my closet, and don't know quite how I'll wear it. Then today it's really warm and sunny, and I need away to throw some new life into the Spring uniform that is navy jacket and tan pants. How about that purple shirt?

Immediately, I see that this shirt is a lot more workable than I might have thought at first. Yes, its some kind of purple, but it's very pale, and its very well made. I quickly realize that this shirt will work like a blue shirt, but with a whiff more style. Today, in an outfit that otherwise consisted of navy/white/khaki, it added just the right bit of dandy, and it was something I would never ave considered had I not found it by chance, and cheap.

I often advise that if you want to be successful at thrift shopping, it helps to throw out your expectations. You just can't walk into such a place looking for something as specific as "charcoal flat front flannels size 34". You can start by walking in to see what they have, that day. Then keep coming back. Then learn not to be blinded by brands, then develop a discerning eye, then lastly look at everything and keep an open mind. I would never walk into a retail store looking for a lavender shirt, and I certainly would not pay upwards of $100 for one. But in the end, I'm glad to have one. Certainly, personal style is something that comes from within,but it gets better when you step back a bit and let it come to you.

12 comments:

Keith K said...

Very nice acquisition. May something like this in 15/35 come to me someday.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Very nice. And the tie is sharp too.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Jho78 said...

How DARE anyone suggest such a thing about Prince.

Anonymous said...

We'll see. This may be a simple case of infatuation. Let us know if the love affair lasts.

Christopher Redgate said...

Hear hear. The shirt looks great, nice collar roll. I like that gingham tie as well.

Anonymous said...

Fussel's Class is fascinating but struck me as a little out-of-date (or rather, of its time). For example, anglophilia seems less upper and more lower-middle now.

Roger v.d. Velde said...

Why the devil would anyone not want a lavender shirt? It's a classic among the second colours of basic shirts along with pink and ivory.

I don't see Fussell's connection of purple with 'proletarian' clothing at all. Classic working class clothing was always collarless striped shirts or denim or blue shirts. There's a reason for the term 'blue collar'.

Gordo said...

My lavender dress shirts are fun to wear year-round, suits or sportcoats, and show a slight twist in your look. It does, indeed, take a bit to 'break in' and fall in with the pinks and ecru's (aka ivory).

This summer I'm trying to roll with purple polo's, much deeper than Mr. G's and it's a bit easier than I thought. Colors and summers are for fun.

Anonymous said...

@ Keith K - I too measure in at 15/35. Finding such a treasure would be a miracle

Pigtown*Design said...

If you live in Baltimore, you have no shame about wearing anything and everything purple. No shame at all... especially on Purple Fridays before Ravens football games. And it's not a pale limp purple, it's vibrant go-to-hell purple, the kind worn by royalty and higher levels of religeous folk.

Ben Arnold said...

I've tried to love lilac/lavender as well and have found that it just doesn't work; the tie in your photo isn't right and I think you will quietly realise this in a few weeks and out it will go, Andover Shop or not. But perhaps you will prove me wrong. Either way this got me thinking about top five male sartorial faux pas:

Trousers worn too long (I am guilty of this, I'm afraid);

Turnups (cuffs) too mean - often 1 inch only, horrible;

Blue denims or khakis worn with black shoes;

Shirts worn untucked (formal evening wear for males in the North of England);

A suit worn with an open necked shirt - the infallible mark of a cad.

maven said...

The combo looks great!

I always wished that Fussell would do an update, but he sure did hit the mark back in the 1980s didn't he?

That book is so much fun to read.