Ratty Sweatshirt from the Yale Co-op

Yale Sweatshirt

I have a very old sweatshirt from the Yale Co-op that I bought as a grad student in New Haven in the early 90s.  It is full of small holes here and there and is fraying badly on the collar and cuffs.  It’s 100% cotton – very soft – and I wouldn’t part with it.  I’ll wear this sweatshirt until it falls apart.  Unfortunately, the Yale Co-op, which served generations of students, is no longer around.  They had to file for bankruptcy in 1999 and went out of business the following year.

This shot was taken with a forward facing camera on my iMac, using Photo Booth, and then modified with the oil paint filter in Photoshop, experimenting with a few things there, I guess.  Also visible is the collar of a frayed Brooks Brothers button down shirt (thrifted:  $2.50).  I have on a Timex watch with a red, white and blue striped grosgrain band from J. Press and a pair of P3 “tortoise shell” (acetate) glasses from Coastal.com.  They have great deals on glasses.  I got the frames with progressive lenses and had them shipped for a total of $149.00.

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Thrifted Brooks Brothers Poplin Suit

Poplin SuitSince the move to South Carolina last summer, I’ve had a chance to scout thrift stores in my area and have found some really good ones.  But the Brooks Brothers olive poplin suit I’m wearing above is one that I bought while still in New York City.  It’s from Unique Thrift Store in Riverdale, a short walk from where we lived at the edge of Van Cortlandt Park and 242nd Street.  We were so far north in the city that the Westchester County line was only a half mile away.  Riverdale was a great place to go thrift shopping.

The Brooks Brothers suit was a nice find at $15.00 and in perfect condition, showing no signs of wear.  But I’m picky about suits.  This has a 2-button front, and I like 3/2 roll.  It also has darts, and I prefer suits without them.  However, I couldn’t pass up this find.  A poplin suit is wonderful for summer, and the fit was correct (44 regular).  The the sleeves were precisely the right length, allowing 1/4 inch of cuffs to show, and the only alteration necessary was to have the collar lowered in the back, taking out a slight ridge that showed when standing still.

As for the suit pants, they are exactly what I prefer:  plain front with cuffs and the slightest of breaks.  The bottom of the pants just touches the top of my loafers.  These cuffs are 1 and 1/4 inch, which I wear most often.  But some of my pants have the more traditional 1 and 3/4 inch cuffs.  The suit pants needed no alterations at all.  This is the sort of find that is the best when thrifting.  Having to have several alterations done for a single suit can quickly become expensive.

The closest comparable suit to this one on the Brooks Brothers website is the sage colored Madison Fit Poplin Suit for $498.00.  The cut is a good bit different.  This one appears to be tapered on the sides, while mine is roomy and more of a sack suit cut.

Sage Poplin

The other thrifted items I’m wearing are a pair of tassel Bass Weejuns with a beefroll from the Salvation Army ($5.99) in nearly new condition and a silk rep tie from Christian Pelini also from the Salvation Army (.50 cents).

My button down is a 100% cotton oxford cloth traditional fit model from Brooks Brothers.  It came from the flagship Madison Avenue store and was a birthday gift from my wife last spring.  However, she did use her 30% corporate discount card to buy it ($55.65).  My cordovan leather belt is from the men’s department at Sears ($19.99).  We’re penny pinchers to the end!

SAVINGS BREAKDOWN

  • Brooks Brothers suit ($498.00 retail vs. $15.00 Thrifted) = $483.00
  • Bass Weejuns w/Tassel ($109.00 retail vs. $5.99 Thrifted) = $103.01
  • Brooks Brothers OCBD ($79.50 retail vs. $55.65 discount) = $23.85

TOTAL SAVINGS = $609.86

Note:  Christian Pelini no longer appears to be a retail brand and is considered a vintage tie.  So I don’t have any information on the savings for that item.

Poplin Close Up

Thrifting Plus Smart Retail Shopping

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.