Summer Classics – eBay and Thrifting

Summer Classics

A Madras plaid tie makes a sharp addition to the summer wardrobe.  The one I’m wearing is from Ralph Lauren.  I bought it last spring for $6.99 at Unique Thrift Store in Riverdale, NY.  The retail price of the tie was about $67.99.  Patches, our border collie, decided to do a walk on in this photograph.

Breakdown on the rest of the clothes, a combination of eBay bidding and thrift store purchases:

eBay

  • Brooks Brothers blue blazer:  3-button, undarted, sack cut with natural shoulders for $76.00 vs. $598.00 retail.  This is the only blazer design I’ve ever worn, and it took several weeks of eBay monitoring to find one at the right price.  I would have preferred a J. Press blazer, but people don’t part with them that often.  This blazer is in perfect condition with no signs of wear.  The lining looks brand new.
  • Ralph Lauren buckle back khakis: 100% cotton, plain front with 1 and 3/4 inch cuffs for $19.99 vs. $125.00 retail.  Buckle back khakis were worn for a brief period in the 1950s, if I recall correctly.

Thift 

  • Brooks Brothers pinpoint button down:  100% cotton, traditional fit for $8.99 vs. $87.50 retail at The Nearly New Shop in Greenville, SC.
  • Bass Weejuns in Logan Burgandy for $5.99 vs. $109.00 retail.  Purchased at The Salvation Army in Greenville, SC.
  • Dockers surcingle belt:  navy, braided cotton for $4.99 at Unique Thrift Store in Riverdale, NY.  I am unsure of the retail price for the belt, but I’d guess about $24.99.

The pocket square was a gift from my grandfather (priceless).  

Brooks Brothers Blazer - Retail

Preppy in the 90s

Me_1998

1999 – A professional headshot of me taken by a photographer in Tribecca when my wife and I were living in New York City.  I took my glasses off for this shot because the lenses, as I recall, didn’t have an anti-reflective coating, and because the photographer was going for more of an intense lawyerly look.  I have on a Ralph Lauren navy blue wool suit with gray chalk stripes that I bought for $50.00 at a thrift store in Asheville, NC.  It was memorable because, though a great suit, it was one of the most expensive thrift purchases I’ve ever made, but I still wear it occasionally.  I’m not sure where I got the button down shirt and foulard tie.  Both were likely thrifted.

Wedding_1999

1999 – My beautiful wife and I on our wedding day outside her aunt and uncle’s house.  They hosted the reception.  I have on a charcoal gray suit with suspenders, a paisley tie with navy background and a white button down shirt.

1999_Episcopal

1999 – Outside the small Episcopal chapel where our wedding ceremony was held in Greenville, SC.  I think my wife looks lovely here!  Opting for simplicity, we kept the invitation list to 50 and had no groom’s men or bride’s maids, just a priest, a crucifer and musicians.  We designed and printed our wedding announcement and program for the ceremony and asked that there be no gifts (though this was largely ignored).  We tried!

The coup in the do-it-yourself approach was my wife’s wedding dress.  While we were in New York, she selected her own material from a shop in the Garment District and took it to a boutique in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  She asked them to design a party dress, which cut the cost down considerably.  The cap toe dress shoes I’m wearing with the charcoal gray suit were polished, but cracked, and had a small hole on one of the soles – likely visible to our guests when we knelt at the altar.

We’ve been happily married for 13 years.  As we look back on the wedding, we’re glad that we kept it a simple ceremony.  The organist was wonderful.  There were solos from a friend who was a professional opera singer.  A string quartet of classically trained musicians, my wife’s friends since childhood, played for us.  It couldn’t have been a more prefect day.

Us_1998

1998 – My wife-to-be and I on the balcony of a friend’s apartment in New York City.  You can’t tell here, but we were on the 44th floor high above 9th Avenue near Times Square.  We had been invited to a Christmas party.  I have on a wool houndstooth sport coat, a sage turtleneck and a pair of khaki pants.  My wife is wearing a vintage (60s) green and black houndstooth jacket whose design was very Sherlock Holmes.  That was a thrift find at Anne Merchant’s Time Warp shop (now out of buisness) in Greenville, SC.  I still have that jacket, too.

Middleburg_19931993 – With friends in Upperville, VA after the fall Piedmont Hunt Point-To-Point races.  I’m wearing a light windbreaker, a classic Norwegian Fisherman’s Sweater from L.L. Bean, a pair of rumpled khakis – rumpled being their usual state – and Bean Boots.  Among my friends is a sampling of Barbour, Burberry and Brooks Brothers.

Preppy in the 80s

I recently opened a box of old photographs and college annuals and blew off the dust.  The images here are all from the 80s, an era that I fondly recall as the days of hair.

1983 -  This photo was taken just after my 17th birthday, and I would be going off to college the next year.  I’m wearing a pair of white cotton pants (white ducks), a navy surcingle belt, a light blue button down shirt and a rep tie.  I have a blue blazer draped over my shoulder and a hand in my pocket, stock gestures that class photographers back then encouraged.  Do they still do that?  If so, someone should tell them to stop!  It doesn’t look nonchalant, but rather silly.

Before College 1986 - Class photograph from my sophomore year of college.  Wow, where do I begin?  The hair was huge!  My wife refers to this as helmet hair.  The tortoise shell glasses were also huge, a style trend in the 80s, and should have come equipped with windshield wipers.  My smile was David Letterman-esque.  I’m wearing a tweed sport coat, a button down shirt (starched from the looks of things) and a rep tie.

Sophomore Year - 1986

1986 – With friends in the courtyard of Silliman College during the Summer Studies Program at Yale.  I’d changed to a smaller pair of tortoise rim glasses.  I’m wearing a polo shirt and a pair of Bermuda shorts.

Yale - Summer 1986

1988 - Senior year of college.  Preppy on steroids in this photo just a week or so before graduation.  Madras plaid button down shirt, Bermuda shorts and a ribbon belt with a sailboat motif.  Yeah, those were the 80s.

1988 - Senior Year of College

Thrifted Ralph Lauren Madras Plaid Tie – $6.99

I always check the tie rack of any thrift store because there will inevitably be a gem lurking among the horrid polyester designs.    Yesterday, I found a perfectly good 100% cotton madras plaid tie by Ralph Lauren.  It was priced at $6.99.  One man’s last season tie, is another man’s treasure.  But I’m not sure whether I will actually wear this one.  I really don’t like logos on my ties – just a personal preference – so it may go up on eBay.

In one store, I found a slew of fine 100% silk Brooks Brothers rep ties for .99 cents each.  There was no sign of wear on any of the ties – you always have to check the section of a tie where it is  knotted (where friction occurs) to see if the material is worn.  You should also check the tip of the tie, where it is pulled through the knot, for signs of wear.

I wanted to compare the price of my thrifted tie vs. the Ralph Lauren retail price. There were no madras ties on the main website, but I did find an example on Lauren’s Rugby site.  The asking price was $69.50.  So my savings through trifting = $62.51.  Ties are usually priced low in thrift stores, and the asking price vs. retail creates a huge savings opportunity.

Huntington 3-Button Wool & Silk Sport Coat

Total Cost of Sport Coat, Tie and Shirt: $16.99.

This combination features a Huntington plaid sport coat of wool and silk in a spring/summer weight.  The sport coat has several traditional features:  3-button front (3/2 roll) with 2 buttons on each sleeve,  natural shoulders and a single hooked vent in back with 1/4 inch welted edges, an Ivy style afficionado’s dream.  This was a great find at the Salvation Army in Greenville, SC ($6.99).  At the same store, I found a silk and linen jacquard tie ($2.00) made by Jacobs Roberts for Rush Wilson Limited, a local clothier.  The 100% cotton button down is Polo by Ralph Lauren, which I found on another outing ($9.00), and the pocket square was a gift from my grandfather.

All of these items are in excellent condition with no visible signs of wear.  I won’t buy a sport coat unless it is my exact size – 44 regular.  I realize that taking any good find to a tailor for minor adjustments is almost a given – not so in this case!  Not only was the item a perfect fit in the shoulders and chest, but the sleeves were also the perfect length, allowing just 1/4 inch of shirt cuffs to show.  Apparently, I have a doppelganger in Greenville.  To top it all off, I found a traditional Haspel sport coat of go-to-hell yellow linen with a faint turquoise window pane pattern.  It had a Rush Wilson Limited store label and was a 3-button model with 2 button sleeves and  natural shoulders.  This item was half-lined on the interior and will be perfect for a late spring steeplechase race.  The fit of this sport coat was absolutely perfect,  and I’ll post images of it in the next week.  The same person must have donated both sport coats.  Lucky finds!

Prepped Out & Layered Up

Some accessories are just hard to find in a thrift store.  One example is this navy and maroon grosgrain watch band which supports a cheapo – but very accurate –  Timex watch.  I bought the band at J. Press for $9.00.  Grosgrain watch bands come in many colors and various stripes.  They are quintessentially preppy, and some people change them frequently depending on ensemble.  I think the navy/maroon band works well with the Brooks Brothers tattersall shirt (thrift store purchase:  $5.00), green L.L. Bean wool sweater (thrift store purchase:  $7.00) and navy Ralph Lauren duffle coat (outlet mall purchase:  $279.00).   With a little more patience, I probably could have found a duffle coat in my size in a thrift store, but the weather in NYC turned cold, and I paid the higher outlet mall price for mine.  It’s very warm and has a hood.  I’m all prepped out and layered up!

New Preppy: Mainstream American and International

With designers like Tommy Hilfiger updating the preppy look for a younger mass market, as in Feast Interruptus with its Vampire Weekend soundtrack, it is no longer the exclusive domain that it once was.  You need not have attended an elite prep school to qualify as a preppy.  Assimilating the right look and attitudes –  conservative clothes, good manners, good sportsmanship, fun loving and carefree disposition and  appreciation of traditions – might be enough.  Lisa Birnbach makes this point in True Prep, her update of The Official Preppy Handbook published last year.  In fact, preppy has become mainstream in America and is now an international trend.  “Whereas once upon a time it seemed unlikely that Europeans would be attracted to our aesthetic,” writes Birnbach, “now they’ve adapted it and made it their own.”  A German college student/model in the video below looks right at home in his Nantucket reds, button down, bow tie, blue blazer and Clark’s Desert Boots.

In a new book from Rizzoli, Preppy:  Cultivating Ivy Style, Jeffrey Banks and Doria De La Chapelle, take off on the mainstream aspect of this way of dressing:  “Intrinsically American preppy has progressed, reflecting, in its way, the social and educational progress our country has achieved.  What started out as an exclusive, white-Protestant, male, clubby way of dressing for the Elite Few has morphed into an inclusive, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, pan-gender, meritocratic way of dressing for the Elite New.  Aspirational preppy is the American dream, and it speaks eloquently for us all over the globe.”  Nobody does aspirational preppy better than Ralph Lauren.

Keep in mind that preppy clothes can be very expensive at retail.  The purpose of my blog is to show you how to find the clothes you’re looking for in excellent condition at bargain prices.  Why pay retail when you don’t have to do so?

Of A Crocodile In The Wrong Place

Izod items have been turning up in a lot of thrift stores lately.  Today I came across one of their sweaters – a  bright orange crew neck 100% lambswool model complete with the famous crocodile emblem.  For a moment, I was tempted to buy it.  The price seemed reasonable at $9.99.  But something just didn’t seem right about wearing the crocodile emblem on a sweater.  Aside from Lacoste shirts and older Ralph Lauren polo shirts (which I’ve found in great condition as cheap as $1.50), I have a problem in general with wearing most external designer brand logos/emblems.  I suppose Vineyard Vines might also qualify as an exception because their emblem is discrete, which is key for me. Lauren has really gone over the top with the newer polo emblem, supersizing it to such a ridiculous degree that I wouldn’t  be seen wearing it.  Lisa Birnbach makes a point about this in True Prep.  I think the clothes should speak for themselves, and for that reason I passed on this sweater.  I found a bit of history on the Izod vs. Lacoste brands (see below).  While I’m not big on Izod, I’ve always liked Lacoste.

IZOD vs. Lacoste

The Dilemma: You want to look preppy. But how?

People You Can Impress: everyone at the country club, polo players, Republicans

The Quick Trick: Get a Lacoste shirt and you’ll have the best of both worlds.

The Explanation: 

As it turns out, Lacoste is a subbrand of IZOD. As Aristotle would put it: All Lacostes are IZODs, but not all IZODs are Lacostes. These days, both brands are owned by the garment giant Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation, so the difference between Lacoste IZODs and non-Lacoste IZODs is primarily marketing. But the difference between the men behind IZOD and Lacoste is vast indeed.

Jack Izod owned a tailoring shop in London, and billed himself as the “Shirtmaker to the King.” Indeed, he made shirts for King George VI (1895–1951) in the 1930s. One day in the late ’30s, a women’s apparel magnate named Vin (no relationship to Diesel) Draddy visited IZOD’s tailoring shop. Looking to start a line of men’s clothing, Draddy recognized that his own last name would make a poor name for a clothing line, but he quite liked the ring of IZOD. So he bought the rights to IZOD’s name and began making clothes under the IZOD moniker. Oddly enough, the brand’s namesake, Jack Izod, never designed a single item for the company.

René Lacoste, on the other hand, really did design the famous shirts named for him, which is all the more remarkable because he was not a tailor. He was a professional tennis player. Between 1925 and 1928, Lacoste won seven Grand Slam events, and might have won more had he not become ridiculously rich by inventing the world’s first good tennis shirt. In the 1920s, tennis players wore long-sleeved, heavily starched dress shirts (often with ties!). Lacoste grew weary of the outfits, and by 1929, he’d designed a short-sleeved shirt with a longer shirttail in the back and a flat collar. Further proving he was ahead of his time, Lacoste generally played the game with his collar turned up, though it was more to block out the sun than anything else. But back to the shirts! Light and comfortable, Lacoste’s garments were an immediate hit when he began mass-producing them in 1933. By 1951, he’d sold the brand to IZOD.

Lacoste’s other significant contribution to fashion has to do with the iconic crocodile (it’s not an alligator—see below) on his shirts. Known as “Le Crocodile” for his on-court tenacity, Lacoste added the crocodile to his shirts in the mid-1930s—the first time a logo is known to have appeared on the outside of a shirt. Not a bad fashion record for a guy who mostly just wanted to win tennis tournaments.

Alligator vs. Crocodile 

So how can you tell the Lacoste symbol is a crocodile not an alligator? You can’t, really, unless you know the story of Le Crocodile. But a real alligator and crocodile have many differences. For starters, crocodiles are much more likely to kill you. But also:

Crocodiles have a narrower, almost pointy snout. A crocodile’s lower teeth are always visible; an alligator’s disappear when its mouth is closed. Alligators are usually gray; crocodiles, a light brown.

Read the full text here:  http://www.mentalfloss.com/difference/izod-vs-lacoste/#ixzz1YdMd8J1q

Khakis Embroidered With Tennis Racquets

On a recent trip to Greenville, SC to visit family, I had a chance to scout some of the local thrift stores there.  The best one by far was The Nearly New Shop run by The Junior League.  Lots khakis and button downs (pinpoint and oxford cloth), silk ties by well known makers, great suits and sport coats and lots of items from Rush Wilson, Ltd., a traditional clothier in town, where I started shopping as a teenager.  The find of the day was a pair of Ralph Lauren 100% cotton khakis with a plain front – never buy pleated – and embroidered with tennis racquets.  They were a perfect fit in the waist and inseam and needed no tailoring.  The bottom of the khakis just touches the top of my penny loafers. I wear my pants with little or no break.  The price:  $8.00!!  (Retail price at Ralph Lauren is about $79.50).  My only regret about these pants is that they weren’t cuffed, but they were still a great find.