I recently acquired two shaggy Shetland sweaters, on separate occasions, in the same thrift store, for the same price. This is something of a score, as I find good sweaters are among the hardest things to come by in these places. A good sweater is like an old friend, and I think many people hold on to them until they reach the end of their usefulness, eventually becoming too moth eaten or perhaps accidentally shrunken in the wash. If those two things don't kill a good sweater, then the hangers that most thrift shops display them on will almost certainly throw them out of shape. But now and again, they do turn up.
The navy blue one is the real thing, and iconic J. Press "Shaggy Dog", highly coveted by preppy/trad/ivy/whatever enthusiasts everywhere. I've wanted one for ages, but never owned one, as even on sale the price of these things is prohibitively expensive. Last I checked, $139 was a sale price direct from J. Press, and even on the internet folks are getting upwards of $100 at auction.
The second is something of a knockoff from the defunct (and soon to be collectible?) Ralph Lauren "Rugby" line. Made in China, but just as shaggy, and rendered in a classic shade of burgundy. This one had silly elbow patches on it, but it was nothing that ten minutes with the seam ripper couldn't cure.
Of course, anyone's initial inclination would be to assume that the J.Press is the superior sweater, but it may not necessarily be so in this case. Note that both are size "large", an arbitrary designation at best. The Rugby sweater fits me perfectly, with a hem that falls right at the belt line and just enough room to move without being so bulky as to fit under a tweed jacket. The Press sweater is enormous, with a hen that falls almost two inches longer and so much bulk under the arms as to be tight under my Barbour. I've worn each of them, and I hate to say that I feel frumpy in the Press sweater, and the Rugby has fast become a new favorite.
Thrift stores have a way of leveling the playing field. In truth, the provenance of these two garments clearly means the press sweater is "better". But in some cases, by the time a thing has been purchased, used and donated to charity, it's original provenance becomes less meaningful. A great item will always be a great item, but a lesser item becomes not so bad when it's no longer on display in some awful macro-store, at some inflated price. For the same price in a thrift store, the difference in quality of these two sweaters becomes almost negligible, but at full retail it would be hard to justify choosing the lesser item. I've said it so many times, but it bears repeating to mention that brand allegiance can be a stumbling block in the thrift store, causing you to choose a less than flattering garment because the name is better. I'm not suggesting the you should settle for less, but rather that there's a degree of relativity that needs to be taken into account in a thrift store. It's worth remembering that no matter where you purchase your clothes or how much you spend on them, fit is always the most important consideration.
In the end, I won't be keeping the J. Press sweater, instead getting to a larger man who will look better in it. I'll keep the Rugby, happy to have given my money to charity to get it. Better isn't always best the second time around.