The reason that I wanted to start a style blog in the first place was my love for thrifting. It became a hobby of mine when I started college and has been close to my heart ever since. This post has been a long time coming! Most of my friends know that I have a tendency to find ridiculously awesome pieces while thrifting, some of which I’ve already shared on my Instagram, while others have yet to make an appearance. Although I hand out ideas here and there, I have yet to compile my secrets for finding a great deal. Thanks to all of your pestering, I’m about to spill some piping hot tea, the first in a series of guides if you’re lucky.
1. Don’t miss your chance
The best part about thrifted/vintage items is that, for all intents and purposes, they are one of a kind. Rarely, I might even say never, will you find a piece like the one that you’re holding when thrifting. Popular stores with good stock have hunters just like you, looking to pick the racks clean. If you love it, chances are someone else will too – don’t strike out! Pictured above and below is a herringbone Polo Ralph Lauren vest to which Anthony had a hard time committing.
After some peer-pressure and seeing himself in the mirror, he bought it. Doesn’t it look nice? Pictured below is how it looked layered into his outfit.
2. If you don’t love it, leave it
Conversely, you shouldn’t pick up something just because it’s a name brand. I’ve made the mistake of buying something without inspecting it just because it was a high-end brand. Either the garment had a defect that could not be fixed by a tailor (too big or small) or it had stains that wouldn’t come out. My favorite mistake was picking up a tie without trying it on just because I liked the pattern. When I eventually did put it on (for student clinic, mind you) I finally realized that it was a CHILDREN’S TIE -__-. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Inspect, Inspect, Inspect
Yes, you may only be spending cents to a dollar on a piece of clothing, but realize that sometimes you really get what you paid for. There will be random stains like those mentioned above, some of which will come out, others will not. I’ve been lucky removing some stains from very nice Brooks Brothers silk ties by using isopropanol (using isopropyl alcohol as an organic solvent, never thought orgo lab would actually be useful). With other stains I had less luck, but my point is that sometimes you have to gamble on a piece and envision the greatness it can achieve even if it means you wasted a few bucks. A few other tips:
- Try everything on, put on fitted clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty. You may have to try some pieces on over your clothes since you may not always have access to a changing area (more often the case when shopping at flea markets versus a thrift store).
- Be sure to hold your haul up to the light (natural is best). It’ll help show you holes, stains, or discoloration that you might have looked over otherwise.
4. Visit often
Like I said in my first tip, a lot of these stores have a high turnover, especially if they’re popular. It’s actually completely normal to not find anything during a thrifting trip. Is it disappointing? Yeah. But it makes that one super awesome piece that much more worth it when you eventually stumble across it. Vary your store locations too. One store may get particular types of items likes accessories, but another store may have a large selection of shirts and suit jackets for example.
5. Compromise isn’t always so bad
A large component of thrift and vintage shopping is compromise. Whether or not it’s the piece itself or the price, you may not be 100% satisfied with something. With standard flea markets or thrift stores like Salvation Army and Goodwill, you may have to sift through a lot of trash to find a treasure. However, finding that treasure may only set you back a few dollars. Vintage Polo, Brooks Brothers, Florsheim, and Hart Schaffner Marx are among the brands I’ve picked up at these kinds of stores. Otherwise, you may more easily find these types of brands at more highly curated vintage shops or bazaars (like the Brooklyn Flea). The good thing is that you can do exactly what these vendors do. All it takes is a good eye, persistence, and the willingness to be earlier than other people at your regular thrift stores and flea markets. After that, most vendors will triple the price of the piece and sell it to you. Is it worth it? For certain pieces that fit and are made well (like the Polo Vest above), maybe, but that’s up to you and your wallet to decide. The vest was the most expensive piece, in the $50-$70 range, while the jacket was around $10-$20, and the sweater was less than $1.
Once you put together an outfit and hear “Where did you get that?” for the first time, I promise it’s actually kind of fun to say “Oh this? It’s vintage.” 😉
Let me know about your thrift store hauls, successes, and disasters in the comments below or on my Instagram. If you’re a redditor, this subreddit is a fun community to check out!
German Military Jacket: thrifted, Mission Thrift San Francisco
Vest: @poloralphlauren via@kingstontwentyone
Pants: @zara, @zaramen