29 December 2012

The Virtues of Patience (or Bang for the Buck)

I recently found the opportunity to wear a new/old shirt that had been hanging in my closet for some time. Made in Italy of very fine cotton, a bargain for $5.49:
Note how nicely pressed it is, courtesy of the Rowenta iron Santa saw fit to bring me. More on the later.
I couldn't find out much about this "Louie" label, but my gut tells me it was a house line from Louis Boston. It's Italian, clearly expensive, and in keeping with the overall style of the clothing that came out of that store in the 90s.
It's touched with all the little details you might expect to find on a custom shirt, like these reinforced tabs at the shirt tails,
nicely rounded cuffs, and very thick buttons.
The contrast club collar is appropriately short, though the collar band is fairly wide, giving it a bit of a 90s look, but in a very Alan Flusser kind of way that I can happily accept.

So, what's this got to do with patience? Readers may remember that back in December of 2009 I received my first made to measure shirt from online outfit Deo Veritas. That shirt, with it's contrast button down collar and three button contrast cuffs, caused no end of stink amongst the commenters who rightly pegged me for a rube. But I liked that shirt and still do. If I weren't an inch bigger in the waist than I was then I'd still wear it. Shortly following, I ordered two more. They arrived in January of 2010. Both were ordered with contrast club collars, and both arrived with a collar round at the tips and long in the points. Not exactly what I or many of you would call a club collar, they too sparked no end of comment. While ironing the shirt pictured today, it occurred to me that this is more what I was after when I placed that second order with Deo Veritas. A similar shirt, in blue and white stripes, but with a better cut club collar and a roomier fit. Back then, I preferred closer fitting shirts, but the older I get the more I appreciate some room to move. Not to take anything away from my experiences with Deo Veritas. The service and quality were great, and I would still recommend them to anyone that asks.

The point, which I'm sure I've made before, is that too much thrift shopping will spoil you. After years of having committed myself to the effort and time commitment, I know that almost anything I want will turn up eventually, even something as unusual as a striped shirt with contrast club collar and round cuffs. It makes it hard to pay full whack for anything after a while. The shirt I had made for $75 languishes now in my closet, while it's $5 replacement will enter the regular rotation. As this photo of laundry drying in the shower proves, blue and white shirts are a silly thing to by at high prices:

So here come the bad advice. What about a gift certificate? Christmas having just passed, I'm sure many of you have some to spend, and the fact that you read this blog means there is a likelihood that you were given that gift certificate because someone knows you're just too damn picky to be given clothing as a gift. When given no choice but to pick out new things, how does one use free money most effectively? I'm of the belief that gift certificates may be best spent on some sort of crazy frivolity, something you would never sensibly by yourself. 

Despite being a fully grown man, my parents still insist on giving me money in an envelope for my birthday. I have long since given up on politely scoffing at the act, and instead accept it graciously and then use it to pay some bill or other. This year, that money was presented in the form of a gift certificate to the Andover Shop (filled out on the old Royal typewriter no less). My father said " now you have to spend it on yourself. Maybe you can go get some new shirts." Well, I just proveed that new shirts are a wasted opportunity. What about that doeskin navy blazer by Southwick I've been eyeing? A good, solid choice, and investment to last me years no doubt. But then good friend and fellow veteran thrift shopper Zach pointed out " The chances of you finding a nice Southwick blazer in 42 regular at a thrift shop are pretty good. Get something crazy." And he's right. Something like pink cords with the wales set horizontally, forward pleats and side tabs, that's more like it.

Nothing allows for a heavy dose of frivolity now and then like a lifetime of patient cheapness.

p.s. my apologies for my recent absence. Call it a self imposed Christmas vacation. I needed it, trust me.

p.p.s. look for a revamp of the Shop next week, after my self imposed Christmas vacation ends.


Anonymous said...

Even if you wanted to get shirts done there (as I do, they're fantastic) Charlie says that the factory they use was badly damaged by Sandy so MTM shirts are on hiatus for the foreseeable future.

Old School said...

Looking forward to details of the Rowenta iron.

Roger v.d. Velde said...

I'm not going to negatively comment about the collar because it looks good to me - tall collar stand and all. I'd wear it without a second thought.

However...thick buttons are not the mark of a custom shirt. They are often put on overpriced ordinary shirts to (for some odd reason) give an impression of quality. Forcing those huge buttons through the buttonholes is a pain more than anything else! A quality shirt commonly uses rather thin buttons.

A lot of online shirtmakers are scam artists. Detail is nothing compared to genuine fitting, but that is what they do: put details like collar/cuff choices and little hem gussets onto standard shirt blocks.
I'm not snobby about that, but I object to the prices they charge for these so-called 'custom' shirts.

But then, $5 is not to be scoffed at for a decent shirt.

Still Searching for the Perfect Iron said...

Add my vote to Old School's request for more details on the iron.

Anonymous said...

Make that 3 votes iron details. Thanks.

Georgia Coal said...

I couldn't agree more about the use of gift certificates. I got a bunch of Brooks gift certificates for Xmas. And I just couldn't see how I could use them on shirts trousers etc.. Between thrift stores and eBay it is unbearable to pay retail. I opted for a pair of Brooks velvet slippers w the gold BB on them. Completely unnecessary and ridiculous. But so much fun and something I would have never purchased......
I also am looking forward to the post about the iron.

Anonymous said...

If contrast, club collar shirts from the 90s are "ok"/"work", than everything works. And, of course, not everything works...esp not when attempting to dress in a traditional, untrendy manner. This shirt is just plain ugly. No personal offense intended.

Giuseppe said...

That's like saying if little white lies are "ok/work", so is murder.
That's the trouble with sweeping generalizations, isn't it?

I dress in a way that has its roots in a trsditional look, but I don't believe in binding nyself to a set of rules that has no room for variance, or for that matter, enjoyment. There's traditional, and then there's boring.

Given some of the crazy stuff I've shown myself to wear, I find it odd that something as simple as a blue and white striped shirt with a white collar could be so offensive.

Anonymous said...

I can't say how much I appreciate hearing the angst of others when forced to shop retail!

As I was out and about with a friend who was doing some holiday shopping, I was dismayed at the dismal quality of the clothing offered. I said to my friend, "I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but this is why I prefer to thrift shop. You can find things of much better quality." It seems paradoxical yet so true.

I, too, was given a gift certificate and chose a pair of black velvet, monogrammed house slippers - which I have often thought about and would never have purchased on my own. They make me smile.

Dickson W said...

I like my 2 pairs of purple T&A forward pleat horizontal cords (royal & lavender), but my girlfriend threatens to break up with me every time I mention them.

Of course, mine were $10 a piece from Goodwill, so...

Pigtown*Design said...

can't wait to hear your comments on the rowenta iron. i've had a few, the first introduction when i lived in the uk. the second, when i came back to the states and actually found one at a thrift shop. that one bit the dust after a few years, and numerous drops. i have another one now that's a steamer with something like 400 holes on the soleplate for steam. got this one at the big lots store.

Philly Trad said...

Interesting how many of us are looking for a good iron,

Anonymous said...

@Philly Trad

Apparently it's easier for engineers to design good tablets, mobile phones, etc., than it is to design an iron that glides smoothly and produces constant, abundant steam.

James Redhouse said...

Still waiting for the Rowenta review.

Broadstroke Trad said...


When do we get the long-awaited review of the Rowenta iron. Or has it died on you?