Sunday, November 29, 2009

Second Hand Man

In these trying economic times, people are trying to stretch the value of their dollar as far as they can. Eating out less and cooking at home more; renting instead of buying; walking instead of driving. Many men, who love clothing like I do, and don't earn 6 figure incomes...guilty again...are doing whatever it is they can to keep their hobbies alive as the nation tries to recover from the economic crisis. Hell, I've even forsaken ice-hockey, a three hundred dollar per season commitment, for roller hockey. Seventy bucks gets me ice time every week for 15 weeks at least, even if the ice is the asphalt on the corner of 54th Street and Ft Hamilton Parkway.

What many people, for reasons unbeknownst to me, still have a hard time accepting, is buying clothing second hand. Pre-owned. USED. Sure, if I use the "u" word it sounds a hell of a lot less appealing, but thats why companies like Lexus, BMW, and Mercedez-Benz paid their advertising teams millions to figure out a way to capitalize on an market they haven't tapped until the early 2000's. Those marketing whiz kids figured out, that if you make buying something second hand sound more appealing, people will do it. And do it in droves. The used car salesman became the nice man selling pre-owned luxury to Americans who couldn't afford new luxury. His hair became a little less slick, his mustache turned into a clean shave, and he exchanged that plaid sport jacket with the ugly lapels, for a nice slim silhouetted navy suit with a red tie and crisp white square. But how did he do that OVERNIGHT? He's still only a used car salesman for goodness sakes, and he's still working on crappy commission rates! He did it by scouring for the very same deals his customers were looking for, but not at some car dealership, but at thrift stores and online fashion forums.

I know what you're thinking, "why would I want someone else's crap that they don't want?" Have you ever bought a used car? Have you ever borrowed your older brother, or father's jacket? Chances are you have, and chances are it didn't bother you then, and shouldn't bother you now. Some of my favorite item's of clothing I purchased second hand, either from eBay, one of the many online marketplaces like StyleForum's B&S (Buying and Selling for those abbreviatedly challenged) Forum, AskAndyAboutClothes' Trad Thrift Exchange, or my local Salvation Army.

Now chances are that you won't find that diamond in the rough, a fully Canvassed Oxxford solid navy suit in a 40R new with tags, for $3.99, but you may certainly find it for 80% off the retail price of nearly $2,000 on one of the internet forums mentioned above. Thats the great thing about the internet. Its basically enabled EVERY thrift store, from every corner of the world, to sell their goods in one giant online thrift marketplace. I was able to purchase, two years ago, a brown bird's eye fabric Oxxford suit with double vents and flat front pants, used on eBay (Linda's Stuff) for $250 shipped to my door. The suit arrived at my door in pristine condition...maybe it was worn once, but it had obviously been cleaned, pressed and was ready to go. Naturally, when buying second hand clothing, you take precautions, and I did, and as soon as I got it, had it cleaned again, just to make sure. I got two good years out of this suit and it became a favorite of mine, until one day a few months ago, I decided that I needed to slim down my wardrobe, and put more money toward household expenses. I did a quick eBay search to see how much Oxxford suits were selling for, posted it on the B&S on StyleForum, and sold it within a day for $400. I even made a bloody profit! Why? Beacause someone else, like me, valued an Oxxford suit, and took advantage of a seller selling it at a price that wouldn't even be close to fathomable had it been new.

Here's another steal I found on eBay...a beautiful Turnbull & Asser Tweed Suit. This suit orginally must have cost the owner thousands of dollars. Its clearly very old, as the lapels are very wide, an indicator that the suit was originally made in the 1960's or 1970's but its shape flattered my body, even if the tie didn't (d'oh!). My cost? $200 on eBay. Now, after a year of working out at Dolphin Fitness up the block from me, I no longer fit into it, and I'm trying to sell it to another gentleman who loves him some English Tweed. Any 38S out there interested? I have it priced at $275. Still a value as fine clothing, that is well made, like this, will last forever with the proper care.

Now Ranger, you can't possibly want someone else's shoes? Sorry, I do, especially if the price is right, and the condition is good. In fact, I just bought a pair of Alden shell cordovan (for those of you who haven't experienced this type of leather on your feet, please do so immediately!) cap toe boots in No 8 Shell, a burgundy color. These boots new, retail for well over $600. My price for them, $230, shipped to my door, with polish and three Alden shoe trees! They have become my favorite pair of shoes, and fit me like a glove. With buying shoes second hand, it usually takes a wear or two to get them to mold to your feet, as they tend to stay in the shape of the foot of the original owner for a bit. Had these shoes been excessively worn, I may not have jumped, but based on the pictures and the owner's description of wearing them at most 6 times, I bit...and it tasted GREAT!

Gross you say? Well think about what could happen in a shoe, and then think about what could happen on the cloth seats of that 2005 Camry you're mom just got for $6,000. Now it doesn't seem so disgusting anymore does it? Sure, we tend to get "skeeved" because clothing is as intimate a possession as anything else we own. Its attached to us, a part of us; a part of who we are. But in order to be able to buy someone else's clothing that will work for us, we have to get past that. The clothing is not a part of us, no more than your mom's used Camry is a part of her, or a "pre-owned" Lexus is a part of its owner.

So, bottom line is that its all about the bottom line. Wise purchases enable to me to spend more on things that I can't get discounted. Things like the custom shirts from Ercoles that I love so much, or the custom jackets that fit me like a glove. Things like those custom trousers I'm wearing in the boot pictures, that have a few extra dollars in their pack pockets thanks to some wise purchases of "pre-owned" luxury items.

I'll leave you with a few other vintage purchases, some that I've passed on to others as I've grown at the gym, and others that still sit in my closet reminding me that all that glitters isn't always new, wasn't always mine, and never will be me.

Tweed jacket, wool tie, DB overcoat, cashmere sport jacket, longwing shoes, and tweed sport jacket:

And no, I don't buy used underwear...thats where even I draw the line. Thanks for reading!


  1. Nice to know that you draw the line at used underwear...just kidding. Gently worn used clothing is a great deal, especially the high-end brands like you've found.

  2. Love the break on your trousers. Especially, the pair you're wearing with the wingtips.

  3. Tweed is one of the things you must buy "pre-owned." Unless you have some deep pockets, the really thick, quality tweeds are all priced out of range these days, sadly.