22 March 2012

Secrets of Thrifting: Keep an Open Mind

It's been interesting to watch the explosion of menswear writing online over the past few years in the form of blogs, fora, and other sites. Along with that, its been gratifying for a guy like me to realize that he's "not the only one" who cares about this stuff. Apparently, far from it, in fact. More and more men, especially younger ones, seem to be taking an active interest in how they present themselves, and with it has come some small return to a gentility we've been lacking for too long. Bravo!

There is, of course, a down side to this. There is an underlying tendency among many of these online resources to encourage personal pigeon holing. The "preppy" guys only do preppy, and are ready at a moments notice to decry anything that falls outside of their own iron clad code of rules. So too the European tailoring guys, the British Savile Row guys, and so forth. Heaven help the fellow who dares to appreciate more than one school of thought, or worse, actually attempt to combine them within his own wardrobe. It borders on fetishism. This kind of close-mindedness will only spell defeat for anyone attempting to build a suitable wardrobe built on thrift shop finds and ingenuity. Keeping an Open Mind may in fact be rule #1 of successful thrifting.
For today's example, I offer this jacket.  100% silk tweed by Polo, made in USA, $5.49. I suspect given its US provenance that this coat dates from the 1990s some time. Generally speaking, I prefer a natural shoulder, undarted, three button jacket. This coat has a more built up shoulder, hanging a bit off my natural shoulder in a soft drape kind of way. It's two button and darted, with a lower button gorge and a high cut notch in the lapel. It's also a hair tight, but that's what happens when 80 plus temperatures hit you two months before you've gotten into your "Summer body". Hell, I only got the bikes out three days ago.
Its even got four button cuffs, a veritable sacrilege to the "Ivy" crowd. It's not "preppy", it's not "Ivy", it's barely "Trad", and because it's Polo, a million other nitpickers will find ways to hate it. Those are the things it ain't.

What it is is a well made jacket rendered in beautiful silk tweed in my size for less than ten bucks. A perfect coat for an unseasonably warm day in March. It looks well paired with a white shirt with short pointed spread collar (not a rolling button down) and an Italian knit tie.
Adding insult to injury are the forward pleats and side tabs on these Italian made Ralph Lauren pants.

My point is this: I may generally prefer a style based on the basic tenets of American traditional tailoring, but I won't toss an item away out of hand if it happens to lie just outside of those guidelines. Nice clothes are nice clothes, and fortunately for men, the minute details that differentiate one style from another are just that: minute. Truth be told, the only people likely to notice these little things are fellow clothing dorks. The rest of the world just sees a guy who looks nice in nice clothes. Additionally, real style is found in easy blending of various elements, not in rigid adherence to secret codes. In that regard, being at the chaotic mercy of the thrift store can actually help a man sharpen his skills in a way that makes his eye keen and his choices solid.

All this only works if you keep an open mind.


Mike said...

G, what's the story behind 4 button cuffs vs. Ivy?

Anonymous said...

I agree. Living in Glasgow, Scotland it is very hard to thrift sack suits, ocbds, loafers etc. much as I like preppy style. So when you find a three piece saxony twist bespoke suit in green herring bone with an orange windowpane overcheck, hacking pockets, twin pleats, turn ups and buttons for braces, you buy it and then set about wondering how you can wear it without looking like the head ghillie from a Russian oligarch's sporting estate in Perthshire, or ADG on one of his quieter dressing days.....

Roger v.d. Velde said...

Well said. There's nothing more limiting than joining one of the "schools" of dressing and spending half the time condemning all the others.

Why would anyone want to shut out the possibility of taking on good elements from many styles? It's just parochial. And in thrifting you need that open mind to be able to pick up a wider range of bargains.
Maybe you have this mentality because you buy for resale as well as for yourself?

Gents Outfitters said...

Absolutely agree!

I just found a beautifully aged belted brown leather jacket in the Salvation Army this lunchtime, for a score. Would easily be $2000 at Ralph Lauren. I never knew I wanted or needed one until I found it, or maybe it found me.

The joy of the thrift store is the surprises it turns up and the way it coerces you into being open-minded. Because it is cheap, I always give it a go and ultimately end up falling in love with these pieces that I would never have considered or known about had I shopped on the High Street.

Thrifting - Its about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on!

Yankee-Whisky-Papa said...

I just did a post inspired by this one. I'm with YOU on this!

Commodore Codswallop said...

An open mind... good heavens, you'll be advocating artificial fibres next! I tremble in anticipation.

Almost Unbelievably Crap said...

Helpful advice for anonymous Scottish preppy: lend it to your gardener to wear for a week, or, if you don't employ one, sleep in it a few times before you wear it in public.

Young Fogey said...

All my suit jackets, and many of my odd jackets, have four button cuffs. (All of my Ralph Lauren jackets, suit or otherwise, are so festooned.)

Maybe it's a West Coast thing.

Unashamedly Crap said...

Forward pleats are the only acceptable kind as any fule kno.

gee said...

goes well, that tie is the perfect one for grey