Let's begin with an old style AAW run-down of the days ensemble focusing on the crass subject of the low prices I paid for all of it, you know, like I used to do in the old days: Navy pinstriped double breasted suit, recently acqured from ebay, $30; Brooks Brothers point collar shirt, $5.49; Robert Talbott tie, trade; Albert Thurston bright orange braces, new-in-box (not pictured), trade;
and a pair of black tassel loafers by W.S. Foster and Sons of London, $9.99. Total cost of outfit= $45.48.
This suit represents the end of a long trip for me. After all, I'd been wanting the very suit for about twenty years, since the first time I laid eyes on it as a teenager in the 90s. To be sure, I thankfully no longer desire most of the same things I did as a teenager, but this particular cut of Polo suit has stayed the course. Readers may remember my excitement a while back at having also acquired a navy blazer in the same cut.
Soft shoulders, some drape in the chest, and the inimitable wide, knife sharp Ralph lapel.
And of course the 6x4 double breasted front with the option to be worn at either point, a detail I have never seen on any other make of jacket. Even the staunchest of Ralph's detractors will have to admit that there is some excellent attention to detail in the better American and Italian made lines form Polo.
Forward pleated trousers, standard issue for Ralph in those days. People like to hate on the dude, but back then the only other place offering forward pleats outside of Britain was the Andover Shop, Yes, it's true, Charlie and Ralph have things in common. In fact, for as much as Charlie likes to rail on Ralph and his minions, a complaint I fully understand, I have heard him say the Ralph and Julia Child are responsible for rescuing American middle class taste in the 1970s. I'm inclined to agree. I've spoken in Ralph's defense here before. An entire generation may have grown up with no knowledge at all of good clothing and French cooking. To think of it.
I can remember being sixteen years old and seeing ads like this one in my Dad's copies of GQ, back before that magazine had become the complete cartoon it is now. And I wanted that suit so bad, but they were expensive. Even when they turned up at Filene's Basement (the real one) they were pricey, and besides, what business does some punk-ass teenager have wearing a pinstriped suit just for the hell of it? Talk about pretension. I suppose it went hand in hand with my underage preference for Dewar's or Johnnie Walker over cans of Natural Ice. Damn, I must have been an annoying kid. All of which brings me to my point.
Thrift shopping is of course a random and haphazard thing, but if you keep at it long enough, trends begin to emerge. Just as there are current trends in clothing, such is also the case in thrift shops, the only difference being that you'll see the trends of the past. Much of what you'll find tends to be fifteen or twenty years old, with the oldest things reaching back about fifty years. There are of course exceptions, and you may find brand new items with tags or true antiques.
A lot of whats out there now is from the 90s, and a lot of that is as dated and ugly as you might imagine. But in a time when adults first began to dress wholeheartedly like children, Polo was one of the only mass market brands producing better quality clothing in cuts and styles that don't look dated today, and there's a lot of it. Sure, there's still Brooks and Press to be found, but if we're going to survive the impending "dark times" in the thrift shops, it will largely be Polo that gets us through. Then we can breathe a sigh of relief when the young men of today who were fortunate enough to be a part of the current menswear renaissance begin to donate they're old clothes.
You can wear well made nicely tailored and styled second hand Ralph, or else wear Armani with an absurdly low buttoning point, massive shoulders, no vent and lapel gorge set two inches too low. The choice is yours.