21 July 2011

Secrets of Thrifting: On Luck and Perseverance

Successfully navigating the world of thrift stores is not for the faint of heart, or lazy. To do it well requires perseverance, patience, creativity, vision and a little bit of luck. Usually, luck has the least to do with it, other times it's everything. To wit:
You also have to know the rules, and when to break them. A lot of suit jackets turn up "orphaned" at these places, forever estranged from their matching trousers. Many times this means game over, as in the case of pinstripes or glen checks, even solid greys and navys. These jackets will always look like the truncated half of a suit that they are. Stay away from these, no matter how nice. They will never look right without their pants. Summer clothes, such as the pincord jacket in the photo, are a different animal.

And what an unusual pincord this is. Pincord is sort of like seersucker's kid brother, featuring pencil thin stripes that appear as a solid color from a distance, most often found in cotton or cotton/poly blends. The most common color for these is oxford blue/white, with tan/white coming in second. This one here is really tan, but has a wonderfully distinct pink cast to it. Only the pants are missing. No matter, because pincord, along with seersucker and khaki or olive poplin, actually fake it well as sports jackets, best paired with white duck trousers or tropical worsted in charcoal grey. The orphaned trousers of these same suits exist well alone, too, with navy blazers or just a tennis shirt.

This isn't to say that all hope of a suit is lost. Frequently, as I've written before, the pants can be found separated from the jacket in another part of the store. Whenever I find a really great suit coat missing the pants, I take it with me to the pants rack to find a mate. This works maybe 25% of the time, generously speaking, but when it does it's worth it.Such was not the case with this number, but I nabbed it anyway as a nice Summer jacket. If only you could see the ones I throw back, it would break your heart.

And then...
A full ten days later, at the same shop, the pants turn up. This almost never happens, but it speaks to the importance of perseverance. You can't expect to hit big in these places by only dropping by occasionally. You have to be relentless, and visit often, and not be discouraged if you strike out, a lot. In other words, you have to be kind of nuts, driven by a certain madness to devote yourself to this. Being a cheapskate isn't a hobby after all, it's a lifestyle choice, or an addiction if you'd rather.

Or you can use the internet and pay a small premium to let crackpots like me do all the time consuming dirty work for you. (Cripes, Giuseppe, talk about a shameless plug).

This suit does not fit me, by the way, and will available in The Shop soon. Meanwhile, other new goods have been added recently. Check it.


Emily said...

I like this suit. The beige color isn't my favorite though. Maybe navy would be better?

Tobias said...

Found a Hickey Freeman/Saks 5th Ave navy pinstripe suit jacket sans pants in the suit rack today. Took it over to the pants rack and low and behold, matched up the jacket and pants all for $15. Made in the USA. Good advice.

Jho78 said...

10 days later? Forget Anne Sullivan. You, sir, are the Miracle Worker.

Jho78 said...

I hope you charge less than $700 for this, otherwise you've got competition...


Adam King said...

I really like your blog, G.
I'm a dad with a stay-at-home wife and don't have the coin to pay retail for my clothing habit anymore. Your thrifting scores inspire me. Recently I grabbed an almost new YSL 3-piece tweed suit and an old Saks 5th pincord suit (Here I was calling it seersucker, like a sucker!) in thrift stores.

I feel like I've got to disagree or at least challenge you on the odd jacket/pants thing. I feel that rules like this are really pretty arbitrary.

Honestly, 99% of the population is not even going to notice. I don't know about the town you live in but here (Austin), if you tuck your button up shirt into your jeans people will remark about how dressed up you are.

You can't wear an odd blue or grey suit jacket but you can wear a blue or grey blazer? Why not just change out the buttons on the suit jacket? Same goes for the pants. A pair of charcoal grey suit pants looks pretty damn similar to a pair of charcoal grey dress pants to me.

There's also something a bit stuffy about wearing a suit of one color and pattern - at least in the non-business world that the vast majority of people inhabit. Mixing things up a bit as long as colors and patterns don't clash seems like a perfectly OK thing to do.

It just seems a shame and a bit silly to pass up a beautiful jacket that can be had for cheap just because you can't find a pair of matching pants. I don't know, I'm a young guy and maybe there are less rules for us folks under 40.

The Inspired Shopper said...

Just discovered your blog and love it. There are too few blogs for stylish gents on a budget - most of the frugal fashion blogs are aimed at women. Like the suit too.

Jim Windisch said...

I've been reading your blog for the last few months, and am really loving it! I used to read "A Suitable Wardrobe," but knowing that I'd never be able to afford a bespoke suit (much less a closet-full for each season), I was overjoyed to find a style blog that was much more my speed. Thanks.

Anyway, I hadn't been out thrifting in at least 5 years and this post inspired me to go out again. The second shop I walked in had two pairs of Allen-Edmonds in my size for $4 each! Thanks for getting me out there.