30 January 2014

I Can Smell A Bargain


"while I have not visited too many Thrift Shops, I have never seen anything like a Barbour Coat, or real British Tweed at the ones I have visited. You are like a pig sniffing out Truffles."
-A.A.W. reader R.D., via email

Most people would't exactly cotton to being compared to a pig, but I'll take that as a huge compliment. Oddly, I'm usually dressed a lot like the gentleman in the photo when I'm out "sniffing".

29 January 2014

Auld Lang Syne

I recently accepted a very last minute invitation to a Robbie Burns Supper. It was a lovely evening filled with friendly company and sparkling conversation, three holes of Caledonian golf (read, grown people playing mini golf indoors), haggis dinner, and of course, plenty of Scotch Whisky, all of it in a lovely setting representative of old Boston. Not a bad place to wear the trousers from a vintage tuxedo with a vintage tartan jacket and a dress shirt with a Marcella bib, cuffs, and detachable collar with a body in Black Watch

Thanks for the invitation, YWP (remember him?) Scots Wha Hae and Gie Her a Haggis!

28 January 2014

AAW for Tie-A-Tie.Net

I was recently interviewed by Hendrik Pohl of Tie-A-Tie.net for a series he's doing on menswear insiders. Honestly, didn't really know I was on the "inside", but I'm still flattered. You can read the interview here.

p.s. the online Shop is as full as ever, with tons of new goods. Check it out.

24 January 2014

A Matter of Proportion, part 2

...or "Just because you can doesn't mean you should."
I recently found this really great tweed check at a thrift shop. It's thick but soft and has a great earthy color scheme accented by a punch of burnt orange, very British. The combination of details it carries is pretty cool too: natural American style shoulders, 3/2 front, with darts, three button cuffs and a center vent. The flap on the breast pocket is the icing on the cake. But if it's going to be mine, it will need some work.
It fits me great through the shoulders and chest, but it's a size "long" and wear a "regular". I'd need to be two inches taller at least. As you know, I'm a big proponent of utilizing the skills of a good local tailor on good clothes found through thrift, but an educated consumer also needs know what realistically can and can't be done. Obviously, the sleeves are long and shortening those would be no trouble or great expense. However, in this case, the skirt of the jacket needs to come up by about two inches. It can be done, but it's a costly job averaging between $35-$50 when done well. Still, that's not the kiss of death.

No, the decision not to alter this coat is a matter of proportion. Even if done well, shortening this coat will drastically change it's lines. The pockets will set too close to the hem, and the button stance won't look right. In back, the vent will become too shallow. A good tailor can do the work, but an excellent tailor will refuse it for these reasons. I recently came across a double breasted navy blazer by Paul Stuart at a thrift. It was obvious immediately that the coat had been shortened for all the reasons I just listed. The work had been done well, but the coat would never look right again, no matter how nice it may have been in the first place. I threw that one back.

Finding a good tailor doesn't only mean finding one who can execute your requests well, but also one who knows when to say no. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

21 January 2014

Maine Hunting Tassels

This time of year, Bean Boots, what were once called Maine Hunting Shoes, are a staple for me. I have a high pair that I wear when the weather is really bad, and a pair of low cut mocs like the ones pictured above for rain or just when there's snow and slush on the ground. I plan to round out the collection with an even higher pair lined in shearling. They're comfortable, relatively inexpensive, and they keep my feet dry. I like the mocs for the same reason I like my tassel loafers so much, easy to step into.

Trouble is that newer Bean Boots tend to run not just a little large, but huge. My normal shoe size is 10, sometimes 10 1/2, but at a size 9 my Bean mocs are still a little large. They can flop off the at the heel and pull the socks down, and the rawhide lacing comes undone, if you keep it ties like they are in the photo above.
I've modified mine just slightly. First, I pulled the laces tighter and tied them in a tight double knot. This keeps a bit more tightly fitted to my feet, and they don't slip at the heel anymore because the knot no longer comes loose. But tying them this way leaves a long strand of unused rawhide at each end. Cutting it is one option, but I find it make the shoes look truncated. Instead, I tied the ends into an Eastland Knot,

 creating something of a rugged woodland tassel loafer. The shoes know work better for me, and have one little tweak that sets them apart. A little modification can go a long way.

18 January 2014

Best of AAW

I've just set up a new blog at Tumblr called Best of An Affordable Wardrobe to serve as an archive of all the best items that have passed through the AAW Shop. You can find it by clicking the new link in the sidebar here. Go there to gawk at clothing porn (you know you love it) or reminisce about the one that got away. To this day I still wish that bright red Harris Tweed was four sizes bigger.

16 January 2014

Exceptions to Every Rule

This is my new favorite pocket square. It's a true classic in navy on white, with a varying pattern that gives it a nice modern vibe. Because of the varying scale of the dots and stripes, it's incredibly versatile as it can be folded so any bit you like shows. Lately, I've been wearing ti with the tiny pin dots at the center showing, with a just a little bit of the big stripes sticking out behind.
But it's made of (gasp!) polyester. That kind of stinks, but for 99¢ I ain't complaining. I'm the only one who knows anyway.

There are exceptions, after all, to every rule.

14 January 2014

A Good Suit

Last Saturday, my first customers in the shop were a boy, about twelve, and his dad. The boy wore sweats, a ball cap and sneakers, and the dad looked like, you know, a dad. My first thought was that maybe the dad was going to make the boy suffer through an awkward vintage shopping experience. But I was wrong.

Turns out, the boy needed an outfit for an upcoming school production of "Guys and Dolls". It just so happened that I had a recently acquired Brooks Brothers blue glen check suit in less than 36 short, likely from the boy's department anyway. Not exactly period correct, but the kid tried it on and the coat fit him like a glove. Trousers were good too, but for a bit big in the waist. I also had a small size grey fedora hat in stock, and offered to throw in a couple of vintage 1940s ties I had laying around if they bought the suit and hat.

"Well sir, do you need a new suit" said the dad. "Really?" said the boy, beaming. "It's a good suit. You'll even be able to wear it for a few years if someone gets married or something. I bet your mother would approve." I said. The dad bought the suit, the kid was happy, and I was reminded of the best reasons why I do what I do.

p.s. new stuff today in the Shop. Check it out.

10 January 2014

The Forgotten One

Just the other day, I had a massive thrift shop haul. Among the items I gathered was this chocolate brown corduroy sports jacket, for $6.99, less 50%, $3.49. It's missing a button and needs to be cleaned and pressed, but it's definitely a worthy acquisition. I call it "the forgotten one" because a corduroy jacket is something I tend to forget about as an option.

I don't find many of them out there, and when I do they tend to be a little too worn to salvage. Being cotton, corduroy doesn't hold up as well as wool. Frequently, they are worn down at the elbows, edges and other stress points.  This one shows just a pinch of that, but not to an unwearable degree. 
This one is from Brooks Brothers, and is very comfortably tailored, with no darts and barely any padding in the shoulders, which suits the overall laid back vibe of such a garment. I have seen similar jackets in a more tailored cut, but they never quite click for me. A cord jacket should be slouchy and comfy. Worn over a shirt and tie with flannels or khakis, it should have a softening effect. Worn with jeans and a sweater, it can bring things up just half a notch, but just enough. I plan to put this one with charcoal trousers, tassel loafers knit ties, and blue shirts. Turtlenecks should work well too.
Tres Wes Anderson perhaps, but that's not a bad thing. Don't forget the corduroy sports jacket.

p.s. I may be late to the party, but I just joined Style Forum, user name Giuseppe Timore. Drop by the "introduce yourself" thread and reply to my post there to say hi.

p.p.s Tons of new stuff in the Shop this Saturday. Hits the online store early next week.

08 January 2014


In response to my last post about my new favorite suit, which has pleated trousers, Anonymous said:

"Pleats are for Squares. Period."

...um, what?

p.s. F**k Eddie, duke of windsor.

update, 10 January: thanks for the show of solidarity, NSV.

07 January 2014

The Perfect Suit

Persistence truly is a high virtue, if not the high virtue, for anyone wanting to succeed in the crazy world of thrift shopping. In this post, I am pleased to announce that after more than twenty years of active and regular thrift shopping, I have finally managed to acquire one of the most elusive, and yet most basic, wardrobe items via thrift: the perfect grey flannel suit.
You may think that given some of the crazier things I find in a thrift store that something as simple as a charcoal grey flannel suit would be easy, almost a commodity. After all, despite the fact that standards of common dress have fallen so very far in the past couple of generations, a charcoal grey suit remains one of the few things still considered bread and butter among those who still work in suits. But it's for that very reason that they are so hard to come by. Men in suits still buy and wear dark grey suits, but that's just the problem: they wear them. Being men, they wear them until they are no longer wearable. For many businessmen, the jacket is removed upon arrival at the office, and as a result the trousers wear more quickly. Eventually, the orphaned jacket winds up at the thrift, while the trousers go to the trash. The same is largely true of navy suits. In a very real sense, you have better chance of finding a tuxedo.  Not only is this one complete, but it is especially excellent and perfect, and my acquisition of it involves the story of a convoluted three way thrift shopping trade.

A a few months ago, I found a wonderful polo coat from the Andover Shop. It was in great condition, had all the right details, and fit me well. Trouble was I already had a polo coat by Polo (also acquired through trade), and even though the more recent one was technically better, I found I preferred Ralph's number. That peaked lapel he was doing back in the 90s is a force to be reckoned with.( I'spoken of the "better isn't always best" rule here.) So I traded it away to Zach, for a suit in taupe nailhead, also from the Andover Shop. A great suit with great details, but too small for me. I figured I'd sell it for about as much as I might have gotten for the coat.

Enter D, a fellow I know who is very thin, and also a mad thrifter. He visited my shop one Saturday, tried on the taupe number, and it fit him like a glove. He offered to trade for a suit he'd gotten that was far too big for him, the elusive grey flannel. Goods were exchanged, hands shook, and in the end we all wound up with a worthy item. Andover Shop second hand love triangle. Crazy.
Besides being made of beautiful heavy but butter soft flannel, this suit has what I consider to be the perfect combination of details: a three and a half inch lapel, and classic soft, natural shoulders,
a two button darted front and four button surgeon cuffs (i.e. working button holes). Surgeon cuffs are great, but they can be the kiss of death in second hand. If the sleeves need alteration, you're basically s**t out of luck. In this case, the length is perfect. All the button holes are hand stitched,
and side vents for the final Anglo-American touch. I used to hate side vents, until the first time I tried on a jacket that fit well that had them. Now I prefer them, but not exclusively. 
But it's the trousers that are the real corker here. Double forward pleated with side tabs set below the waist band, brace buttons, and a slightly fuller cut leg. What's most striking is the fact that this suit is a matched set of clothes coming from two places. 
The suit hails originally from the Andover Shop, which explains the perfection of the synthesis of English and American details in the jacket. Nobody pulls that off like Charlie. Put the final dash of insouciance on it with a button down oxford and knit tie.  The jacket was made in the USA, likely at Southwick, a made to measure job. The trousers were made elsewhere.

The Andover Shop employs an elderly Italian man named Benito as it's trouser-maker. Customers who order custom trousers will have them hand made in an apartment in Cambridge, Mass. Such is the case with these. The set of the pleats and the shape and placement of the side tabs are his signature. The man who bought this suit must have made a special request that Benito cut him some trouser from the same cloth. Awesome. I can only assume that this man either gained or lost a significant amount of weight, as I can think of no other remotely good reason to get rid of something as wonderful as this. 

This really is the perfect suit, at least for me anyway. It's a deep rich grey, the fabric is superb, and the distinct combination of details is everything I'd have chosen myself. In fact, this is more like what I had in my mind when I had my Imparali suit made a while back. You'll remember I ordered a grey suit then sighting the difficulty I'd had finding one thrift. I still like that suit, but only wish I had communicated what I was after a little better. Now that I have this one, the problem is solved. I suppose the hidden moral, or "rule of thrifting", here is not to underestimate the power of trade. Thrift crazy people tend to attract one another, and by trading amongst themselves everyone's net gets cast a little wider.

Here's to many more icy cold, flannel appropriate weeks. You won't find me complaining about the cold, as long as I can wear this suit under my polo coat.

02 January 2014

Best of 2013

I may be a day late and a dollar short in my Happy-New-Year-2013-We-Hardly-Knew-Ya post, but so be it. As a hardened retail veteran, I've been working a lot these last few weeks, and I took most of the first to be lazy and have fun with the kids. Besides, regular readers know that I've never been one for the typical holiday posts, preferring not to write Happy (fill in the blank) just because thats whats done. We have enough of that everywhere we look these days. But 2013 was a big year for me and An Affordable Wardrobe, so this time out I feel a few words are in order.

January saw the launch of the infrequent series of posts called "Thrifty Kids", in which  I feature the thrift store finds that we (mostly Mrs. G) turn up for the children. Perhaps a bit too precious for some of you, but I do have some cute kids, who wear some cute clothes. February saw Boston get buried under some old school deep snow, and I wore my incredibly heavy vintage 1950s L.L. Bean black and red hunting pants for the first time. As I write this, the snow piles up outside and it looks like I'll be digging them out of the closet again tomorrow.

March saw some big hauls for the personal closet. In a matter of weeks, I acquired a cashmere navy blazer and a cashmere glen check jacket, both hand made for the same man by tailor Virgil Carducci of Manhattan. The two have become such frequent favorites that I find it hard to believe I've had them less than a year. That's good clothes for you. It was in those same weeks that I unearthed a killer tartan jacket that kept my mood festive throughout the hectic Christmas weeks.

In April someone told the internet at large  that "what's wrong with this country" has something to do with guys like me bringing folding chairs to watch our kids play soccer. No big deal. But May and June were the big ones. That's when I decided that the online store branch of AAW had outgrown my house, and I appealed to you through an Indiegogo campaign to help me move to a tiny version of brick and mortar. It was with your generous help that I was able to secure a small room above an Irish  pub, right near my home, to ply my trade in the second hand haberdashery business. I moved in early July and opened later that month. As though that weren't enough to keep any man busy, I was also privileged to be featured in a short film by some gracious students at Tufts Universirty, and we all got to revel in the gossip party that was the outing of "Richard" aka "WASP 101" in the now embarrassingly notorious muck-raking witch hunt that happened at Ivy Style. A busy Summer indeed.

As the year rolled on, so many other good things happened. The vintage tuxedo I'd been needlessly keeping in the back of the closet made an appearance, even if it was only as a Halloween costume, and one of the most personally rewarding transactions since starting my business involved yet another antique formal suit, and I closed the year with what may the best thrift store restoration project of my career as a cheapskate to date. And all of this is only a slice of the ways I've been blessed to be running this blog this past year. Looking back, it's been a lot of hard work and sweat, but I could't ask for better. It's been a great year at AAW, and I owe all of that to you, my readers, customers, family, and friends. Here's to a great 2014!

p.s. Don't forget the 20% off sale runs through Sunday 5 January, using discount code NEWYEAR2014 at checkout. Also good in the store Saturday, 4 January from 10-2. Stop by to say hi, and maybe have a Mimosa.

01 January 2014

New Year's Sale

Now through midnight, Sunday, 5 January, enjoy 20% off your entire purchase in the AAW online Shop. Use discount code NEWYEAR2014 at checkout. Offer also good in the AAW Store, 249 Elm Street, 2nd Floor, Somerville, Mass. Saturday, 4 January, 10 am-2pm.