Thrifted items can be paired well with items purchased at retail, but it is always best to do your retail shopping with an eye for sales. This combination features a pair of soft all cotton Bermuda shorts from Covington (thrift: $4.99) with a grosgrain ribbon belt from J. Press (end of summer retail sale last year: $29.00), a piqued all cotton polo shirt from Old Navy with a 2-button placket, capped sleeves and ribbed edging (thrift: $8.00) and a pair of leather Sperry Topsiders (retail sale at Marshall’s: $39.99).
The wine/navy ribbon belt is really sharp against the light blue shorts, and it looks great with khakis – perhaps the most traditional pairing for this belt. I am not anti-retail. I am anti-markup. When a retailer puts something on sale, it’s closer to the actual value of the item. That was true of the ribbon belt, which I got for $10.00 off the regular price. While the store still made a profit, I got a better deal than I would have a week before.
J. Press Grosgrain Ribbon Belt - Wine/Navy
What I like about traditional retailers is that they don’t force you to wear advertising – preferring to keep their labels hidden. You don’t need to announce to the world where you bought an article of clothing. The quality of the piece should speak for itself. J. Press discretely stitches their labels on the inside of their ribbon belts.
Combining thrifted items with smart retail purchases creates huge savings. It would be a challenge for anyone to tell the difference between old and new at first glance. If you put colors and materials together wisely, you can achieve a decidedly understated and seemingly effortless preppy look.
Sperry Topsiders - Bought at Marshall's
OK, I know you can see a Sperry name on these shoes. I’m busted for an inconsistency. Would I prefer that the name not be there? Certainly. But this pair was on sale at $40.00 off regular retail at Marshall’s. I couldn’t pass up the sale. Actually, Marshall’s has become one of my favorite places to buy shoes. You can find the classics at ridiculously low prices – at 50% to 60% off retail, sometimes more. In the past year, I’ve bought Clark’s Desert Boots, black leather cap toe dress shoes and dirty bucks with crepe red soles from Cole Haan and the Sperry Topsiders above.
Posted in Belts, Shoes, Thrift + Retail
Tagged 100% Cotton, Bermuda Shorts, Covington, Grosgrain Ribbon Belt, J. Press, Marshall's, Old Navy, Polo Shirt, Sperry Topsiders, Wine and Navy
Remember the poster Are You A Preppie? It was printed in 1979 by University of Virginia undergrad Tom Shadyac, who went on to film school at UCLA and later directed Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Evan Almighty. The poster was wildly popular when it came out. I have to wonder whether it might have inspired Lisa Birnbach’s more in-depth anthropological treatment in The Official Preppy Handbook, which appeared one year later.
The layout of the Birnbach’s prep personae is very similar to Shadyac’s sartorial diagram. Birnbach also recognized The University of Virginia as one of the preppiest campuses in America.
The Prep School Years - From The Official Preppy Handbook (1980)
The College Years - From The Official Preppy Handbook (1980)
Elements of the preppy look never seem to change that much and have been appropriated by corporate culture as something of a uniform – khakis and button down shirts are now the norm instead of suits and ties. Nathaniel Elliot Worthington’s “flood level pants” have been a hot trend in men’s fashion for the last few years. The look was generated by prep school students who outgrew their khakis, but continued to wear them anyway. By the time those students arrived at colleges, floods had become a form of preppy rebellion and can be seen all over the pages of T. Hayashida’s 1965 book Take Ivy, a cult classic for devotees of men’s fashion, including Ralph Lauren. It was recently republished by powerHouse Books in Brooklyn, causing a hipster run on thrift stores in search of preppy items to wear around Williamsburg. Hipsters love irony; and what could be more ironic than a hipster wearing a Brooks Brothers button down while spray painting “Yuppie Go Home” on a luxury loft building wall?
In the shot below, Hayashida has captured a group of Dartmouth College students, who have stopped to watch an intramural softball game. Everyone is wearing floods, and the student second from left has gaffing tape on one of his penny loafers. Yes, preppies actually do this!
Flood Wearing Dartmouth College Students (Photo Credit: Take Ivy)
I taped one of my loafers the same way when I was in college because I didn’t want to pay for repairs once a sole had detached from the leather upper. It was a way of being frugal and playful at the same time. Not long ago, I saw a new pair of very expensive Tommy Hilfiger loafers – one of which had a grosgrain band stiched across the top as a reference to the practice of taping. Amazing!
Penny Loafers With Gaffing Tape Reference (Photo Credit: True Prep)
Posted in Comedy, Preppy History, Shoes
Tagged Are You A Preppie?, Brooklyn, Flood Look, Hipsters, Lisa Birnbach, power House Books, Take Ivy, Taped Loafers, The Official Preppy Handbook, Tom Shadyac, Tommy Hilfiger, Williamsburg
Bass Weejuns are perhaps the most versatile and identifiably preppy shoes around. They seem to go with just about anything – khakis, gray flannels, madras shorts or even a poplin suit. The only paring I can’t see them with is formal wear. I prefer the traditional cordovan color and don’t really care for black. The uppers will last a long time and simply need to be resoled from time to time. For those who don’t want to bother with the expense of shoe repair, duct tape will always do the trick. It’s not unheard of for the same pair of Weejuns to be worn for 20 years or more. They’re a bargain even new ($80-$90), but I recently found a pair in a thrift store – nicely broken in and in great condition – for a mere $9.00. Bass Weejuns have been around since the 1930s and were inspired by Native American Indian moccasins. They are truly shoes for the ages.
Posted in Shoes
Tagged Bass Weejuns
A new L.L. Bean store opened recently in Yonkers, NY just off I-87 at Ridgehill Mall about 15 minutes from where I live. Although this was a bit of a departure from my normal weekend round of thrift stores and consignment shops, I just had to go and check out the new Bean store. I’ve never actually visited one. This wasn’t an outlet mall version either — it was full retail with the regular merchandise prices. The store was well-stocked and very spacious, and there were plenty of sales people ready to help at a moment’s notice — but they weren’t intrusive or pushy in any way to sell me. That was refreshing. Unfortunately, the battery on my phone/camera died while I was in the store, and I won’t be able to post interior shots until another visit.
I looked at the classic men’s handsewn blucher moccasin and came very close – on an impulse – to getting a new pair at $69.00. For many years, I had a pair of these, but somewhere along the way I lost them, or gave them away — probably to a thrift store. But I passed on these – actually, they didn’t have the saddle color in stock, only the cactus color. The store is still trying out the clientele and guaging up what items will move. I don’t think these shoes will be easy to find in a thrift store. I’ve never seen a pair in that setting. It’s one of those items that I will probably have to pay full retail for one day soon. The gas I’d burn going to the L.L. Bean outlet store in New Jersey would more than swallow any savings.
Bottom line is – while I’d like not to pay retail – sometimes it’s both necessary and practical to do so to get just the right thing. That sums up my shopping philosophy. But I’m amazed at how many kinds of clothes in the L.L. Bean product line – shirts, sweaters, field coats and goose down vests – I’ve been able to find in thrift stores. The money saved has been considerable — hundreds of dollars.
My one purchase today: a pair of heavyweight 100% Merino Wool Ragg Socks for $8.50.
At Unique Thrift Store in Riverdale, NY on a sale day, I spotted a pair of classic tan Bass Weejun penny loafers that were actually my size (11 Medium). Their condition seemed very good, and I bought them at the sale price of $15.00. That was 25% off the regular price of $19.99, which I considered a bit high.
On the G.H. Bass website, the shoe that was most similar to this one was the Logan Tan Loafer at $99.00. My savings was in the range of $84.00. I’m very picky about shoes and tend not to buy mine at a thrift store unless they’re in really good shape, as these were. It appears that someone had put inserts of some kind in the back of these along the heel, and the remnants can bee seen. Easy enough to remove! I’ll need to put a shoe tree in these Weejuns to help them keep their shape.
There was a pair of Allen Edmund desert boots for $9.99, but they were the wrong size at 12 D. At any rate, I already have a pair of Clark’s desert boots, which are among the most comfortable that I own.
The only major flaw in these boots that I could find was a spot (stain of some kind) visible on the top of the left shoe. You can see it in this image. These Allen Edmonds will be a great find for the right person. If you were to buy them new at retail, you’d pay between $200 to $300.
At my favorite thrift store again tonight (Unique in Riverdale, NY), I found several items that I thought worth showing. L to R: Nautical belt from Leather Man Limited in Essex, CT ($6.99), navy surcingle belt from Dockers ($4.99)…not a preppy brand per se, but passable, dirty bucks with brick red soles from Bass ($12.99), crew neck heavy wool sweater from L.L. Bean (19.99), no name white 100% cotton scarf ($3.99) and a pair of no name 100% cotton, plain front khakis embroidered with whales ($12.99)…though I thought the whale motif just a bit too large. Total cost of all items: $66.94. My guess is that these items would retail for around $300. So what items did I buy? I got the L.L. Bean sweater. It was a large and a perfect fit, made in the USA of 85% wool and 15% nylon for strength. It will be great for winter. I also got the navy surcingle belt. Again, a perfect fit. The nautical belt from Leather Man was such a great find, but not the right size. It was the third belt from that maker I’ve come across in the last month. The Bass shoes were unfortunately 1/2 size too small. The embroidered khakis were not my size either. I passed on the sarf. The shots for this trip were taken inside the thrift store under fluorescent lights (please excuse).
The workmanship on the Leather Man belts always seems of the highest quality, and I wouldn’t mind making a trip to their factory/store. It’s about 90 minutes from where I live.
I’ve been looking for a while now for a pair of dirty bucks, but I can never seem to find them in the right size. I wear an 11 and these were 10 1/2. They were in especially good condition, which is rare for thrift store shoes. One guy in the store tonight had found two pairs of perfectly fitting canvas Sperry Topsiders. Most of the time I buy my shoes at factory outlet malls (Sperry, L.L. Bean, Bass and Cole Haan all have stores at a nearby outlet). I’ve also found leather Topsiders, Clark’s Desert Boots and Cole Haan leather, cap toe dress shoes for 50% off at Marshall’s.
Follow Up Note: All of the items that I did not buy on this trip were GONE the next day.
Posted in Accessories, Belts, Scarves, Shoes, Sweaters
Tagged Bass, Embroidered Khakis, L.L. Bean, Leather Man, Preppy, Sweater, Thrift Store, Whale Motif
Another find at Unique Thrift Store in Riverdale, NY was a pair of dirty bucks. These suede shoes with brick red soles are the fall/winter counterpart to the classic white bucks of spring/summer. There was no discernable maker name on the insole. The asking price was about $12.00. I didn’t buy these because they were size 10, and I wear an 11. I really didn’t like the white stitching on the uppers. The laces were not the originals. Had I bought the shoes, I would have found more appropriate laces (smaller, rounded and closer to the color of the shoe). As a point of comparison, Sperry asks $48.00 for their dirty bucks, and Florsheim asks $89.95. Of course, the prices can get much more expensive than that. Alden shoes, for example, run into the hundreds of dollars.
One interesting note about these shoes: the soles were apparently intended to withstand thousands of miles of walking. They’re made of Goodyear rubber like the tire. These shoes felt slightly heavier than most contemporary oxfords, but that would be a small sacrifice if they proved super durable.