Thrifting: 5 Tips for Getting Top-Quality Products at Rock-Bottom Prices

by A Manly Guest Contributor on January 14, 2011 · 52 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Style

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!

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jason January 14, 2011 at 11:09 am

MC Hammer didn’t do the parachute pants. His deal was the baggy Hammer Pants. Parachute pants were the multi zipper/pocket pants, that I think probably got there start with Michael Jackson.

2 matt January 14, 2011 at 11:33 am

In most cases, the better a shop is organized (and its merchandise cared for), the more likely the shop knows its merchandise and will be inclined to ask a solid price for it (and cover the cost of the premises and labor required to keep a nicer shop). That doesn’t mean such shops aren’t often the best source for quality items at good prices. Sometimes, though, less refined shops offer great finds at crazy low prices. A shop unfamiliar with Alden shoes would be less inclined to price them differently from Payless shoes. Shops like that often heighten the thrill of the hunt.

Of course, the better shops often add to their inventory by combing lesser shops for finds, and that kind of arbitrage deserves reward.

“Lenny Bruce never walked in a dead man’s shoes, even for one night.” – The Auteurs (from “Junk Shop Clothes”)

3 Dan January 14, 2011 at 11:49 am

this week I paid $5.75 for a pair of wingtips in great shape from a company that sells them new for $525!

4 Wayne January 14, 2011 at 12:07 pm

3 years ago I purchased a pair of nice mahogony shoes for $4.00 (no brand name on the shoes, so I don’t know how much they retail for). I have since gone through three pairs of black shoes that I purchased at Payless. I don’t wear the mahogony nearly as often, but they are still in fantastic condition and are probably my most comfortable pair.

I have to admit, though, that I have always felt less manly when I shop at thrift stores because, in my mind, I’m taking clothes from someone who truly can’t afford to shop at a retail store.

5 Marinda S. January 14, 2011 at 12:07 pm

You have to be willing to wear the clothes. Talk to your guy and ask him if he has a problem with working these clothes into their existing wardrobe. Go through what you have, repair and clean what works and then go out and purchase what you need, at good, clean thrift shops and at department store sales.

Know the labels that work for you. If there is a specific fashion house/designer/clothing line that is in your closet now and keep looking for that label. If you have plenty of black pants, go for another color. Buy new socks and consider having shoes cleaned and treated so you don’t get “the itchy” from them.

Laundry all things purchased, check the label, because many things end up in shops, because getting them dry cleaned is expensive and it just wasn’t worth it for the first owner.

Plato’s Closet has young, up to date clothing at a reasonable price. More for a casual office, but you may find some things there and they will not be dated. Also things are well organized. I do NOT work for them.

6 Andy January 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Just be sensitive to the plight of those who don’t have the resources that some of us have. There are people that need to be able to buy some nicer clothes for very cheap. Not saying don’t thrift, but be conscious.

7 Rick January 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm

+1 Recently paid $15 for a perfect condition 100% wool suit that was easily $600+ new, and $3 for a pair of like-new wool pants. Classic styling…both will be wearable for years to come. Needless to say I’m now in that, and a couple other stores weekly.

8 Nathan January 14, 2011 at 12:30 pm

No need to take a lady with you…a man should know when an article of clothing fits, looks good, etc. Perhaps for a second opinion. What about a gay friend? What if your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, partner, etc. doesn’t have good fashion sense? A little sexist are we?

Good tips otherwise.

9 Woofmutt January 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm

The idea that you need a lady friend to help you shop is a bit insulting.

People worried their thrift store shopping might be taking clothes from the less fortunate:

It’s not like you’re going to a clothing bank and taking free clothes. Most thrift shops these days have so many clothes they are literally falling off the racks.

I live in an under middle class part of the greater Seattle area and a lot of the really swell clothes aren’t what the majority of the people I see at the thrift shops are looking for.

Your purchases usually (but not always) support nonprofits.

If you’re still shadowed by guilt then only shop at thrift shops ran by nonprofits and make sure you donate your usable clothing to a clothing bank or nonprofit thrift shop.


Hold wool items (jackets, pants, sweaters, ties) up to the light to check for moth damage.

Check ties carefully in the light and at different angles for stains. Some stains aren’t obvious at first glance and there’s a good chance a set stain on a silk tie won’t come out. (Check suit lapels for stains as well.)

This one is kind of gross but: Smell the clothes. Some odors won’t come out in cleaning. If you’re getting a shirt for a buck it’s not much of a loss, if you’re dropping $50 on a suit it’s going to be annoying if you realize after the fact it smells like cigarettes and sweat and always will.

If you’re looking for nice work clothes make sure there are no easily overlooked rips in the fabric (sleeves on shirts and the back of pants seem common) or tears at pocket edges or button holes. Check shirt collar tips and cuffs for wear. Check the elbows of older vintage jackets.

10 Brandon January 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Wayne, if you feel guilty about shopping at thrift stores, create something of a trade-off system. Go one week, and if you find something nice, bring something to donate the next week to “replace” it. You get some nice things, you get to clear all of the ill-fitting/unwanted stuff out of your closet, and the store gets the income and merchandise to keep in business.

11 Ed January 14, 2011 at 2:01 pm

I got a John Henry suit jacket at Salvation Army for $5 in perfect condition. I look like a million bucks in it, I love thrift stores for deals on ties and suit jackets.

12 Gabriel January 14, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Two tips:
1. Wear a shirt with a collar if you’re trying on sportcoats.
2. Wear a dress shoe if you’re trying on pants.

These items won’t look/fit right if you’re wearing a tee and flipflops.

13 Roger Hyttinen January 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm

After Christmas is a great time to hit the thrift stores – you can find a lot of brand new stuff that either didn’t fit or the person didn’t like.

Also – every Tuesday, our local Salvation Army store offers an extra 20% discount on everything in the store. Might be helpful to find out if any of your local thrift stores have a weekly “bargain day” as well.

14 Elliot R. January 14, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I can personally say that thrift stores are awesome- I’ve gotten 7 suit jackets, dress pants, dress shoes, a great wool v-neck sweater, ties. Lots of good stuff to be found.

15 Jason Bailey January 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm

For clothes, you can’t go wrong with hunting for big name jeans. Even if they’re worn, they’re usually in style.

I think the true gems in thrift stores aren’t clothes. They’re books. I’ve found incredible books for $.99 cents. The last book I bought for $.99 cents was selling on Amazon for $20!

16 J.D. Tuccille January 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm

My best suit — a tropical-weight H. Freeman — was thrifted. So was my classic, 1940s-vintage tuxedo.

You have to be willing to put some tailoring into a thrifted item — often that costs more than the purchase, but you end up with a properly fitting bargain.

And yes, be willing to give back. I still miss that linen sport coat I donated …

17 Ross January 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm

If you really think you’re taking clothes from the less fortunate when you thrift (which is silly, never heard that one before) then just donate your old clothes when you’re done with them. Not hard and better than just throwing it away.

Also it bugs me that no one mentioned tailoring. The great thing about thrifting is the chance of getting something really good for cheap. The problem is usually it’s ‘not in your size’. Let me break it to you: a lot of sizing problems can be easily (and cheaply) solved by tailors. Pants too long / too big? That’s like a 10-15 buck problem. Shirt sleeves too long? Easily fixed. Seriously, you still save money, you spend less time thrifting, you’re putting more money into local business and chances are the clothes will look better afterwards. No brainer.

18 Leif January 14, 2011 at 8:53 pm

I used to moonlight at a thrift store. Thats where I met my wife. She was moonlighting also. I tell everybody that I got my wife at the thrift store. Always gets a laugh or two! I highly endorse shopping at thrift stores. Not only for clothing, but for other gems as well. I’m a vinyl record collector, and even though mp3s are pretty cheap at a dollar a song, you can’t beat an entire album for the same price. Not to mention the quality (of course theres a debate over that). I’ve also bought antique study desks with dovetailed drawers a fraction of the cost that I would pay at Wal Mart for press board junk. Not only that, but its an adventure. You never know what you’ll find. Like I said, I found a wife there!

19 Sam January 15, 2011 at 12:35 am

As a young lawyer and an avid Goodwill shopper, I feel that the best advice is to consider demographics when choosing a thrift store to go to. By this I mean consider the people who live around the area, because the fact is that where there are affluent people living in the area you are more likely to find nicer clothing that is being donated. Contrary to what commercials and magazines tell us, looking sharp does not have to be expensive. You just need to know where to look. I know so many young people in my position who start a career and rack up massive credit card debt building a wardrobe. I’m proud to say that I argued and won my first case wearing a Burberry suit that I paid $33 for ($12 to buy the suit at Goodwill, $21 for alterations). I found this at the “good” Goodwill in my town. While well-fitting suits are kinda hard to find, nice slacks, ties, sport coats, and ties are quite east to find if you find the right store.

Great article! I feel that thrift store shopping is not so much an exercise in saving money, but it is more of a rejection of the consumer-culture that we find ourselves in that urges us to take the easy route to the over-priced department stores in order to achieve “style.” I take pride in knowing that I look just as good in my $33 suit as the guy next to me looks in his $900 suit. I also take joy in using the money that I didn’t spend on an over-priced suit to take my girlfriend out to a nice dinner, or apply it to other meaningful purposes.

20 David January 15, 2011 at 1:19 am

@ # 4 Wayne and # 6 Andy,

The major thrift stores like Goodwill actually were formed with the purpose of providing jobs for indigent people, the mentally handicapped, and other people who have trouble finding gainful employment elsewhere. Most of the others are founded by churches which provide admirable public services in their communities. I have no moral problems with giving these businesses my money. I just wanted to publish these facts in case some other readers were for some reason giving credit to your opinions which were clearly not thought through before posting.

21 RJ January 15, 2011 at 1:58 am

Well, my momma taught me well , I guess. She lived in California for 36 years.. I loved down to live near her and a brother had a baby and she moved to Ohio to play Grandma.. Me still living here missed her a great deal. Her Favorite thing was to go Yard Saleing and Thrift Store shopping. During that first year.. I was struggling and also found myself missing our trips to the Thrift store. Here I am nearly 10 years later.. and I have been schooled a bit. I have found Garnet Ear rings , Nice one’s which I gave to a Great Lady friend i know.. they cost 5 bucks.. i found out they were antiques and made in Russia.. closer to 600 bucks if bought in a store. An Electronic Wine Cellar , By Hier.. which was in my Wine magazine as 800 bucks.. with the Registration Papers inside.. Unused. got it for about 60 bucks. Hard to find Books.. Lots of Clothes.. a 300 buck Leather long coat.. for 6 bucks.. Italian Made shoes.. i priced them at 250.. for 8 bucks. Collect able Cut Glass.. I just had to look twice and figure out what i was looking at. Brass items.. even an Expensive Picnic Basket set.. with a Wine Basket.. Nice Blanket.. cloth napkins.. Nice Silverware.. and Wine Glasses.. 20 bucks. This has come very useful. All of above was in one set. They often just don’t know what they are selling. a Little washing.. Tailoring.. Checking up on Names and Brands.. and bingo.. i get a NICE deal. i have , as you can see , often been very surprised at what i can find. Although i have slowed down on my visits.. I still find time to call my mother and tell her what i found This Time. She enjoys it.. and even though i am not the mama’s boy.. Father is passed.. I still enjoy calling her up and telling her all about my more recent finds. I am now in my 40″s and Find No shame at all dropping off old clothes and Finding Nice one’s or Odd Items in a used store. Was a real help in school days.

22 Brian January 15, 2011 at 3:53 am

My advice is to also use thrift stores for things that you’re not going to wear much. Got an ugly sweater party to go to? Thrift stores have some hideous sweaters in stock, for cheap (also, some very nice sweaters, also for cheap). Got a teenage son with a school dance coming up? Goodwill it. My first suit as a teenager was an almost new Nordstrom’s suit that I paid $3 for. The tie was $5. The second suit was a $15 Ralph Lauren at a thrift store. Cheap, but I was a growing boy and by the next year they didn’t come close to fitting.

23 Jake January 15, 2011 at 5:25 am

You know what’s not manly? Getting your panties all in a knot over somebody suggesting you take your lady friend shopping with you. Even less manly is claiming it’s sexist. Geez guys, if you like to go alone then go alone, if not take a friend, lady or otherwise.
Most men I know would rather have their wife or GF along to get a second opinion or to just spend time with them.

24 Leon A January 15, 2011 at 9:36 am

A few may chuckle at the thought a “family outting to the local thrift store”….I have 3 children (10,12,14) and they were all on board when I suggested a trip the the thrift store a few weeks back…even my teenage daughter….who wouldn’t wear anyting but name brands 4 months ago. But she was diving in and sure enough, found some items she would wear. And since the prices are so cheap, I was more than willing to purchase them for her …….it’s always nice finding time together as a family in this hecktic era…even if it’s only to the local thrift store.

25 Andrew from Canada January 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve always wanted a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, but being raised by a single mom, it was just too expensive. Two years ago at a Value Village, I found a Leafs jersey from the 90s for $5. This was the jersey I grew up coveting. I ended up going to my first Leaf game in it.

26 Mark Petersen January 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm

I know that one thrift store here in the western U.S. (Deseret Industries) actually has some new merchandise. They usually sell new suits all year round and the seem like they are decent make.

Also I found a 200 USD tactical vest made by UTG that I bought for 7 dollars. It isn’t just clothes, but fun toys too.

27 Wes January 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Know what kind of store you’re going to, too. There’s a big difference between a “resale store” and a “thrift store.” The former has a much nicer selection, since they only accept items they first look over (offering cash or store credit to the person bringing in the items), while the latter offers just about everything that anybody puts in their drop boxes or leaves at the back door. While you can get some good deals at resale stores, the steals are at thrift stores. Just don’t expect resale store quality at the thrift store.

That said, the key to finding resale store quality at the honest-to-goodness thrift store is to visit often. For every time I’ve walked out of the thrift store with a bag of goodies at fantastic prices, I’ve walked out empty handed five or ten times. But those few trips where I find some great things make up for all the trips where I find nothing.

28 Jake January 15, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Wow. I can honestly say no man I have ever known has “noticed” an article of clothing I wore, nor asked with any interest how much I paid for it.

29 Mike M January 16, 2011 at 12:56 am

If it’s a personal-feeling thrift store, sometimes it’s worth befriending the owner or manager and asking them to keep an eye out for certain things for you. That way, you won’t miss it if it comes in.

Talking to merchants is a good way to get good deals even apart from thrift stores. If there are certain stores you like to shop at, it’s worth telling them the kind of stuff you like to buy, but tell them that you don’t always have the cash to pay full price. For example, I like an occasional good cigar… every once in a while a nearby tobacconist is trying to boost his standing with a particular cigar maker and so he wants to move their product… he’ll call me and offer them at about wholesale.

You can also contact sellers on e-bay directly. There are a lot of e-bay sellers who keep an inventory of products.. if you see something you l like on e-bay, it’s sometimes worth e-mailing to the seller to ask if they have any more and if they’re willing to sell it to you for whatever you want to pay, or if they can e-mail you if they’re ever looking to sell a particular item quickly at a discount. I found a guy who sells lightly used dress clothing and told him a few things I was looking for. I told him that I couldn’t afford what he usually charged, but that if he found certain things in his inventory and he wanted to get rid of them, he should give me a call. Now he occasionally sends me notices of stuff he thinks I’d like that he’s looking to get rid of, and I can get them pretty cheap.

30 Jason Stambaugh January 16, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Thrift Shopping can be extremely time consuming. The only way it works for me is if the shopping has been done locally. Looking for that deal can take months. I got a great deal on my wife’s car, but it took probably 35+ hours of looking and test driving. If you have thrift stores and dealers near you, develop great relationships by stopping by frequently. Do the thrift store a favor and let friends and families know about the deals. It will keep them in business and help you win favor with the store owner.

31 greatzamboni January 17, 2011 at 1:55 am

Patience and re-visiting is key.. you won’t hit gold visiting Salvation Army once- you will hit gold casually stopping by every week, one day on that shoe rack will be a pair of weejuns that some old gentleman has kindly worn in for you..and scan the blazer racks for quality brands first , Harris tweed, polo, and even better old defunct made in america brands, Southwick, etc, then try it on…
If it doesn’t fit perfectly, perfectly, replace it on rack… i’ve ended up donating items right back that i got too quickly…

32 Riley January 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I feel like this article wasn’t very insightful. It didn’t have any really unique info about the topic. Thanks anyway tho.

33 Kyle January 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Thifting is a fine way to get fine articles of clothing at dirt cheap prices. It takes some luck, and some skill.
My only problem with this article is the suggestion to bring someone of the fairer sex with you. Having worked as a men’s clothier before, it’s been my observation that while many men don’t know what makes a good fit or what is appropriate for certain occasions, even fewer women do. Much of the men who I’ve served ended up being dressed up by their wives and girlfriends, rather than dressing themselves.
Don’t rely on salesmen either. I know there’s some irony there, having held that job, but retailers typically don’t include a decent sartorial education as part of their training. I saw it in my coworkers, who either made poor recommendations with genuine intentions, or held more concern with closing a sale than making sure the customer looked his best.
It’s important for men to take it upon themselves to learn how to dress well. For the benefit of anyone wanting to increase their knowledge, here are some useful resources: | Dressing the Man | The grandaddy of clothing books, Alan Flussier teaches the essentials in this large book of men’s style. | Real Men Real Style | From the makers of A Tailored Suit. Check out the blog and style guide for solid advice on how to dress. | The Black Tie Guide | Learn the history of the the tuxedo, and what separates the timeless outfits from dated prom night rejects. | Put This On | A web series about dressing like a grown up, with frequent, short updates. The videos they have, while few in number, are put together very well. | Less.Gentle.Men.of.Meager.Means | For men who like a little prose with their clothes. | Nerd Boyfriend | Photos of stylish men, and links to articles of clothing to emulate them.
Stay stylish.

34 Brittanie January 18, 2011 at 1:05 am

Personally, being a woman, I didn’t take this offensively and either should the men. By the author saying that you should bring a “fairer sense” is simply saying “get a second opinion before you go out on the streets”. It’s not rude. It’s not sexist. And being a woman, I ask my boyfriend for opinions on clothing all the time…because i TRUST him. Not because he has fashion sense, but because he will tell me the truth and I’ll look at it a different way.
I think that this article was good and men and women should look into the idea of thrift shopping. :)

35 Brittanie January 18, 2011 at 1:06 am

*fairer sex

36 Grown up tomboy January 18, 2011 at 4:25 am

A few more points ….

Don’t rush it. It can take time to go through the stock, check it thoroughly, talk to the staff and other customers etc. On the other hand, you can walk away if you feel overwhelmed and come back another time.

Know your measurements (chest, waist, inseam etc.). The shop assistants should have a tape measure to hand so that you can check the size of a particular garment, especially as there may not be a size label (or an accurate one!) inside.

If something is really undervalued and you can afford it, pay extra for the item. I’ve never found a store that will turn you down.

If you find a really good shop, volunteer there. Not only are you giving something back, you can learn about clothes quality and retailing too. (And get first pick of the stock!)

37 Dave January 18, 2011 at 8:27 am

Best advice in there is the bit about visiting a store regularly.
Also, getting to know the owners and asking them to keep an eye out for something “speacial” for you is a good way to build a relationship.

In my neck of the woods, bow ties are pretty rare and asking a store to keep an eye out for some of those for me got them into the habit of calling me when something “interesting” came in.
Like the unicycle.

On the “lady friend” debate, I can probably stock a thrift shop with items I bought without lady friend assistance.

Boy George wouldn’t wear most of it.

38 Collin January 18, 2011 at 11:30 am

If you’re in the wrong part of town or the wrong store, it likely won’t matter how often you go. There just isn’t going to be much nice stuff. Even if you have to drive a little bit, you’re much better off finding a thrift store in an extremely affluent area of town. I recently paid $6 for a Jos. A Bank seersucker sportcoat in great condition that I’ll be wearing quite regularly once Easter rolls around. Sure it’s slightly too big, but that’s what a tailor is for.

39 Chris M January 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I’ve been an auto mechanic for years, and just started a job I really like cutting meat. Both jobs can be trying for clothes, be it grease or cleaners. I’ve been buying my work clothes at the thrift store for years and have probably saved upward of a thousand dollars doing so.

40 Gal @ Equally Happy January 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Goodwill has become one of my favorite places to go both for acquiring and getting rid of stuff. Between Freecycle and Goodwill, I never throw away anything usable and the cheap deals I find at their stores have lowered my clothing budget to almost nothing.

I tend to take a different approach though. I use Goodwill for all casual clothing like jeans, tshirts, shorts and so on. If it’s something professional I’ll probably go buy that at a non thrift store. However, the money I save by buying everything else at Goodwill, allows me to pick out something of real quality when it comes to professional clothing.

41 DY January 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Great post and great tips… I’ve been thrifting for years, my mother actually got me into it, mostly out of necessity but now we do it for fun. And, you never know what you’ll find. On my most recent trip I bought two Brooks Brothers ties for one whole dollar.

42 Emily January 18, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Thrift stores can have awesome clothes and shoes, but we’ve also furnished most of our apartment, from the kitchen table and dressers to plates and silverware, from things we’ve found at thrift stores. We’re living in this city for only a few years, so when it’s time to leave we’ll donate it all back, and the charities the thrift stores support will get more money out of it all again.
As a lady friend, I think my partner likes getting a second opinion on the clothes he’s looking at, and I do as well. It’s generally helpful to have someone around for advice when it comes to clothes.

43 John Lasater January 18, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I used to get put off by my dad’s thrifting ways. Now it’s pretty cool, but something in me still says if I don’t ever buy anything new, then how can I ever contribute to society items worth reselling.

44 Jon Smoyer January 18, 2011 at 10:31 pm

I believe some clarity is needed. First of all, a trusted companion refers to just that, a trusted companion. No sexism or any doubts of a man’s ability to dress himself was intended. Secondly, for those who consider this article a waste of time or not very insightful, it was simply meant to encourage those who have not visited thrift shops. Or for those who have not thought of some of the things outlined in this article. To some it would seem common knowledge but not to all.
I simply wished to address those concerns and appreciate all of the feedback both positive and negative.

45 Johnnie January 21, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Just a little add on to tip 3: If you go to the towns that have a higher income, you will often find a lot better thrift stores. Also, places where they are highly conservative/religious tend to have a bigger selection.

46 Jack January 23, 2011 at 11:59 pm

It’s always good to bring someone along, male or female. I value a second opinion especially from someone I trust

47 Kikimaru January 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Thrift stores: where “pay what you think it’s worth” is used with common sense.

48 Alister January 31, 2011 at 5:11 pm

short-time reader, first-time poster.


I love going to thrift stores and finding things, it can be an excellent way of picking up things that are either; hard to find, or; usually very expensive. I got a brilliant deal on a grey wool suit, which i needed to dry clean as it smelled like an entire football team had worn it during a game in a very humid environment. And then they died in it. Unfortunately i still haven’t managed to get the smell of BO out of it, which is a shame as its a badass suit and the cut fits me really well. Ah well.

Cheers for the advice though, some good tips there I hadn’t thought of!

49 Richard February 2, 2011 at 8:49 am

Good article and good tips in comments, as well. As a recent (now devoted) convert to thrifting, I can barely enter a retail establishment anymore! I strongly suspect that the recession has led some clothes hounds to unload much of their wardrobes. Best find to-date: Canali burgundy cashmere blazer (w/my state’s best men’s shop label sewn in), $75.00 Comparable retail price around $900+ It was in like-new condition and fit perfectly off the rack! My one tip would be to not get addicted to the deals–the purchases can still add up. With a few exceptions, I only buy what I need AND love. Too many lessons in my youth getting a great ‘deal,’ only to have it die from neglect in the closet.

50 J. February 6, 2011 at 11:35 pm

One time, I got me a real nice business suit for five dollars at a thrift store (normally, the suit would have cost a hundred dollars at a normal store). It is worth searching them, as you will be surprised at what you find! BTW, There’s a point in the Boy Scout Law that says, “A Scout is thrifty.”

51 -k- February 7, 2011 at 4:19 am

Alas, I am one of those women with no fashion sense. Believe you me, I can find a good book, record, piece of furniture or appliance in a thrift store, but I wouldn’t know if those $5 pants originally came from McSketchy’s or McSwank’s.

I agree with the idea of shopping frequently, though — I’ve recently realized that the *only* way I will get stuff I like rather than almost-right-but-not-quite Pants of Desperation is to thrift more often, so the not-quite-right items can be cast aside. I haven’t acted on this, but I feel like I’ve had an epiphany, and I now begrudgingly see a reason for shopping as leisure activity.

52 Andrew S. February 7, 2011 at 11:18 am

I have a grandmother with an excellent fashion sense and the time to monitor and scavenge the best items from her area’s thrift stores. She has kept my uncles, my cousins, and myself well dressed for years. The added benefit is that she does it for free. She just enjoys finding quality clothes for $5 and then finding a good home for them.

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