Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jonathan Smoyer.
“I believe thrift is essential to well-ordered living.” – John D. Rockefeller
So you’ve decided to update your wardrobe and step out with a more dapper look. Then you realize there’s no way you will be able to pay $300 (maybe more) for a new suit. Not to mention the shoes, the tie, and the dress shirts. So what is an innovative, fashionable man with a limited budget to do? The answer lies no further than your local thrift store. Most thrift stores carry top quality, gently used products that can be bought for a fraction of their original cost. This article will cover a few tips and tricks that will help you find those hidden gems in your local thrift store.
Tip #1: Know what can be used and what can’t.
99% of the time all of the things found in a thrift store are donated items. Make absolutely sure you know what you’re getting and what condition it is in. Most clothes have been donated because they don’t fit, are out of style, or just don’t look good anymore. Be sure to check clothing for rips, missing buttons or zippers, stains or other obvious damage. Also keep in mind that the size tags (if any) may not be accurate; fortunately, most larger thrift stores have dressing rooms where you can “try before you buy.”
Tip #2: Know when to say No.
Just because MC Hammer made a fashion statement with parachute pants does not mean you can do the same thing. Let’s face it, some clothes are just downright ugly and should be left on the rack. Now you may not be looking at a pair of bell bottom jeans but take the time to make sure that suit coat actually looks good on you before you buy it. Take a trusted companion with a sense of fashion (ie., a wife, girlfriend, or some other member of the fairer sex) who will be honest about how things look on you. Just because it’s a bargain does not mean it will look good.
Tip #3: Know where to look and what to look for.
Not all thrift stores are created equal. Make a point to visit all of the stores in your area and take the time to really search through them. You will soon find out which stores carry the best merchandise and where to find it. Some stores are organized and others are more of an organized chaos that will take more time to search through. Also know what is quality and what isn’t. Feel the cloth things are made of, is it a cheap weave? If you’ve found a coat, is it cheaply made? Are the buckles plastic or metal? Know what makes a quality product and what doesn’t.
Tip #4: Know when to clean it.
Most of the clothes in thrift shops are clean. However, it is a good idea to invest in some dry cleaning for those secondhand suits, and maybe a run through the washer for those new old pants. This will get rid of any lingering smells that may be unpleasant and leave you with no question of its cleanliness.
Tip #5: Know when to return.
Expert thrift shoppers go every day to their favorite stores and most go to more than one. Set up a time each week to go to your favorite stores. Figure out which days the stores in your area restock their racks and at what time they do it. Try to arrive as close to that time as possible. However be forewarned you may have to fight a crowd to get through the store. Be consistent and visit as many times a week as you can manage.
Follow these tips and sooner than later you will turn up some hidden gem that your friends will ask you about. For example, I found a Ralph Lauren tie that retails for $115, for $2 at my local thrift store. Don’t be afraid to turn your trips to the thrift store into a family affair. I learned these five tips from my father, and we still take trips together and compare finds. You will cover more ground, find more deals, and have some quality time with your family. It’s win-win for everybody.
Good Luck, and Happy Thrifting!
Got any tips for successful thrift store shopping? Score any remarkable finds while doing so? Share your comments with us!
Last updated: December 15, 2015