17 August 2009

Making The Best of a Bad Time

Sartorially speaking, the 1970's are nearly universally regarded as a disaster best forgotten by any and all who experienced it. Just look at this recent post by our man Tin Tin. But in order to work the world of thrift stores to their fullest extent, one must develop a skill for spotting the gems among the junk, and nowhere is this truer than with men's clothing, much of which includes at least some percentage of (gasp!) polyester. Of course, I know there are those of you who will wail and gnash your teeth at the very thought of it, but remember that good old J. Press and Brooks Brothers carried plenty of blended cloth back in the days. (J. Press tropicals and "Brookscloth" come to mind, not to mention the now-classic poplin suit.) It's all about integration, proportion, and of course, style.

Take for instance this:

These pants, recently purchased for $5.49, the cloth is seersucker, but with really narrow stripes, almost like pincord. They're certainly not all cotton, which really is a shame with seersucker, my guess is maybe 60%cotton/40% polyester. But the cut of them is trim and sharp, no egregious wide legs. They have no label at all, which leads me to believe they're half of a suit.

This weird Lacoste tennis shirt, with a pocket and plain (i.e. not banded) sleeves, in the palest shade of yellow known to man...

...coton/poly blend. Made in U.S.A., which is good, except that Lacoste shirts are supposed to be made in France. Free from ebay.

Off topic tangent: I get asked from time to time about my thoughts on ebay shopping. I hate it. This is the only item of clothing I have ever acquired that way. After winning the bid for five bucks, I promptly mailed the check. After a week, when it hadn't arrived. I left a negative comment about the seller, who was so desperate to have said comment removed that he sent me the shirt and my check back. Lucky me. A hell of a lot of trouble for what really is kind of a crappy shirt. Left a bad taste in my mouth. Besides, as far as I'm concerned, a computer auction is a poor substitute for the thrill of the hunt, and the avaricious euphoria of finding something and paying near nothing for it on the spot. Must the almost the same rush that keeps the criminals going. But I digress...

Anyway, add these less than spectacular and somewhat "grandpa driving a golf cart in palm beach" threads to a year round hopsack J.Press 3/2 navy blazer, possibly also a blend, possibly also seventies vintage, and everything works out fine: finish barefoot with boat shoes

and, as always, bring the whole thing alive with accessories. Lately I've been very happy with this particular paisley pocket square (heisted from dear old Dad 15 years ago):

and ribbon belt ( Polo, $0.99)

My point is, while polyester may be less than desirable, it's presence in a a garment needn't necessarily be a deal breaker. True, that thick, double knit, rubbery stuff is an abomination, but some of those cotton or wool blends ain't half bad when used with a clever eye. Remember, Clint Eastwood didn't look half bad in all those "Dirty Harry" flicks.
Dressing well is all about having an understanding of style, pattern, color and proportion, as well as some dash and a good deal of disregard for what the chumps will invariably say about you. If you don't get that, than the greatest tailor in Naples won't be able to help you, but if you do get it, really get it, you can practically pick your clothes out of the trash and knock 'em dead every time...or at least shop at the thrift store. It's amazing the things that most people throw away.

Style doesn't care about money.

p.s. a million points to Michael Williams at A Continuous Lean for giving Jack McCoy the credit he deserves. I always thought that dude dressed well...he's got Mike Cutter beat by a mile.


Pigtown*Design said...

I agree with you on several points:
1) ebay feels like cheating. there's no thrill of the hunt. no stumbling across a hidden treasure in some dark corner of some ratty thrift shop.

2) you've got to know what's good in order to know what's bad.

3) a little poly can help some fabrics maintain their shape.

Having said no.1, I've sold a lot on ebay. When i was moving to the UK, it was the best way to deaccession tons of things that i'd collected over the years, including issue #1 of Martha Stewart Living for $250.

JKeohane said...

Dirty Harry was far better than not bad, style-wise. I hadn't seen that movie in years, but I caught it on TV a month ago and kept thinking, "Goddamn that guy's dressed well." The funny thing is, it was part of his 70s rebel persona in the film: The long (for a cop) hair, the foppish colors. He was like George Plympton with balls.

Some Assembly Required said...

I have made some great finds on eBay, but as with many other situations, it depends on what you are looking for and what it's worth to you in terms of both money and time. It can be almost as much fun as finding a deal in person.

The biggest problem with eBay is that most sellers fall into one of two categories: either they have no idea what it is they are selling and so don't know how to provide useful info in the listing, or they are trying to make a living off it and overprice everything because they misjudge its worth.

Paul said...

Your duds today look fantastic! Great match up all around - and from here - they look new.

Anonymous said...

Great outfit - looks timeless.

Can't completely agree with you about eBay, however. I've gotten some fantastic deals on brand new or perfect condition classic clothing, like my 2 houndstooth jackets. One by Brooks Bros (tan and brown), and one by Hickey Freeman (blue and black). Both wool and silk. Both looking like they were never worn, and both fitting me perfectly. I only paid $65 each for them. A good deal I thought.

And I've gotten a lot of new or perfect Brooks Bros, J. Press and Robert Talbott ties - from $5 to $20 each.

Anonymous said...

Inevitably, whenever I poke around a thrift store, I see folks checking out the racks and filling their shopping carts with military like precision. Dollars to donuts they are either eBay sellers or vintage clothing retailers (or both).

In my efforts to save money I iron my own clothes. You know what? 100% cotton for all it's snob appeal is a pain to press. Polyester is not a bad word. It's all about cut, quality and style.

The Urban Marauder said...

Have been lurking your blog for a few weeks now. REALLY enjoy it. From the sartorial tight-rope walking to the sincere and eclectic vinyl collection with the occasional recipe, and somehow only you could unearth the virtues of polyester. Your site is a true pleasure to read! As a fellow blogger, I doff my cap.

Anonymous said...

I have some seersucker shorts that are blended as well. Perfectly acceptable and still the ultimate in preppy

dandy nihilism said...

although I'm wearing those same shoes today, I'd have to say I'm a little jealous mine aren't so worn in

ADG said...

I respect you man. You know that. It goes without saying. However, any garment that has a greater percentage of synthetic fiber versus the natural stuff is morally wrong. I was a victim of the 70's so maybe it's just me-working out my own trauma on your blog site!


Archi said...

Full agreement with the Marauder.

Always a great read, and I couldn't help but link to this post today.

A tip o' the hat, good sir.

The Handsome Man's Guide To Life.

Giuseppe said...

Marauder and Archimedies,

Thanks for the flattery.


succesful cheapskating often involves a bit of distasteful compromise to the dark side. The trick is to keep it a secret, but I guess I just blew that part of it.

Ebenezer Howard, Jr. said...

With all respect, you're the ass in the ebay transaction. To leave a negative after waiting only a week for a package in the mail is very poor form. It's the post office you're dealing with after all. And to think that someone would actually be in a hurry to own that shirt...

Otherwise I enjoy your thifting. Thanks.

Giuseppe said...


I only left the comment after repeatedly emailing the seller without response. Personally, I just don't find it to be an easy or enjoyable way to shop. I know plenty of people love it and do well by it, it just doesn't suit me.

As for the shirt, I wasn't in any hurry to own it, I just wanted to know that it was on its' way, you know, having paid for it and all. Calling me an ass might be a bit harsh, don't you think?

Jean Martha said...

And the naked chick standing behind you? LOL

Anonymous said...

Cool article you got here. I'd like to read more concerning that theme.
BTW look at the design I've made myself High class escort