Thrift Like a Man -6 Tips For Successful Thrift Store Shopping

Originally published – July 23, 2013

Thrift store shopping has gone through a bit of a revival in the last few years. When the unemployment rate sky rocketed and the economy tanked, many people turned to thrifting to keep clothes on their backs. But we all learned something during that time. Thrifting is pretty cool. People donate all sorts of great stuff; brand name,  good condition, classic style stuff. You can be extremely well dressed for a ridiculously low amount of money if you do it right.

And thanks to Mackelmore, it’s not just for women anymore.

So, there is no shame hitting the local thrift store. It’s a bit of a treasure hunt, but you can find some amazing pieces. Follow these tips and you can’t go wrong. And if you do, just donate it.

Thrift store shoes, pants and tie.

6. Know Your Closet 

OK, that was really vague, but really true. First of all, know what you have hanging in your closet. Are you replacing, adding to or matching? You must be careful or you will have a closet full of used clothes that you never wear. Also, know your style. What do you have in the closet vs. what do you want to have in your closet? With prices so low, you can afford to try new styles, push your own limits, but be careful not to go too far. Just because you can buy a leopard fur jacket doesn’t mean you should. Well, maybe you should. If it’s $0.99.

5. Size Matters

You should know what size you wear in shirts, pants, suits and shoes. If you don’t, visit a tailor or men’s store. This is really important; don’t guess. A cheap suit can look great if it fits, but any ill fitting suit looks terrible, regardless of cost or material. You should also know what can and can’t be tailored. Is there enough fabric if the pants are too short? Are the sleeves too long? Can this jacket be taken in? It’s easier to make something smaller that bigger. I’m the worst about this, but find a tailor and use him.

4. Know The Brands

Obviously some jump out like Gucci or Prada, but know what your looking at. Look for others like L.L. Bean, Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers. If you see something you don’t know, Google it. Also look for vintage brands. Chicago is full interesting vintage names.Never be a slave to the brands, but also know who makes quality goods. There are a ton of online resources that will list quality brands. Also, avoid mediocre brands that are already inexpensive, like Old Navy, Cherokee, or George. You are on a treasure hunt, not trying to fill a closet. Keep to the best of the best so you’ll have room for the right finds.

3. Where And How It’s Made

So you found an amazing pair of slacks but after much searching, you can’t tell what brand they are. Many older or custom made garments don’t have brand names. See if there is a “Made In” tag. Things made in the United States, Italy and England are probably pretty solid. If it’s made in China, better take a pass. If you can’t tell where it’s made, feel the fabric. Are slacks lined to the knee? Can you feel the lining within a jacket? How thick are the buttons on that shirt? Learn about where quality clothing is made and how it’s made and you may find some steals other people pass up.

2. Not All Stores Are Created Equal

I can’t stress this enough, know the area. Find the rich part of town, the part where old money lives. People in general have too much stuff. That stuff often times gets donated. Also, older people pass away and a bulk of their worldly possessions become grade a prime thrift store items. I love a retro throwback look to the 50s and 60s. Look around the area and visit a few different stores. When you come across vintage silk ties, custom wool slacks and Italian shoes, you’ve arrived.

1. Make Friends 

If there is one thing I’ve learned from my genius wife who hates it when I mention her in my blog, it is to make friends with the staff. The staff will tell you the best day to come in and when the new stuff is put out. They may let you look through the back for unlisted items. They may hold things for you specifically, or give you special pricing. The power of relationships applies in all areas of life, especially if you are going to be a regular thrift store treasure hunter.

Shopping at a thrift store is fun, and economic. But let’s not forget the other side. It’s helping someone. Donating your old items and shopping at your local thrift shop is probably helping a nonprofit group or organization. Find out more about who your local thrift store supports. It might even make you feel good.

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