Portrait of me with my cousin, Brandon, in 1986. He was not quite a year old when this photograph was taken. I was a sophomore at Wofford College at the time. My look hasn’t changed a lot since then…well, at least the clothes, because I now sport a shaved head and a goatee. Here I am wearing a wool argyle sweater from Brooks Brothers, a blue oxford cloth button down shirt and P3 tortoiseshell glasses. A few years ago, Brandon got his master’s degree from NYU and now works in marketing for Madison Square Garden. He’s getting married next spring. Time goes too fast!
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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).
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.
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 – 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.
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.
1993 – 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.
Andy Warhol, the son of Polish immigrants, left his hometown of Pittsburgh and arrived in New York City by train in June 1949 with $200 dollars in his pocket. He had just graduated from the art program at Carnegie Mellon and wanted to work as a commercial illustrator for a magazine publisher. But he was also obsessed with becoming famous. He really wanted to be a fine artist, but wasn’t sure how to make a living at it. In fact, he was unsure whether that was even was possible.
Warhol’s first job was working for Glamour Magazine, which was one of the Conde Nast publications. He was hired by the art director there, Tina Fredericks, to do illustrations for a story called, “Success is a Job in New York.” Fredericks wrote of her first meeting with this curious looking person in tortoise shell glasses,
“I greeted a boy with a big beige blotch on his cheek, possibly going all the way up to his forehead. He was all one color. Weird. There seemed to be something other earthly or offbeat, different, for sure. Elfish. From another world. He had a breathy way of talking. His voice was slight, unemphatic, whispery, covered over with a smile.”
As a child, Warhol had suffered St. Vitus Dance, a neurological disorder that left his skin permanently discolored. He would remain highly self-conscious his entire life about his physical appearance, famously choosing to wear an outlandish gray wig when confronted with thinning hair.
During the 1950s, Warhol became one of the most sought after and well-paid illustrators in Manhattan. His increasing income allowed him to move into his own townhouse. He began to shop for his clothes at Brooks Brothers. For the remainder of his career could be seen, even during the psychedelic days of The Factory in the 60s, wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and button down – sometimes with a repp tie. He apparently ceased wearing bow ties after the 50s.
Unsatisfied with his commercial success, Warhol longed for something more. He wanted to get exhibitions in important galleries. Presenting his portfolio of drawings, he was rejected time after time – partly because his work was representational in an artworld dominated by abstraction, and partly because of his homoerotic themes, which were taboo back then.
By 1956, the only venues willing to show Warhol’s work were Serendipity, a popular ice cream parlor on the Upper East Side that was also a meeting place for gay men, and the Bodley Gallery next-door. He did not sell a single drawing. Two years later, artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, breaking with the dominant mode of Abstract Expressionism, laid the foundation for Pop Art with their sensational one-man shows at Leo Castelli Gallery.
Warhol’s work was maturing, moving toward a critique of consumer culture and mass production (best represented by his Campbell’s Soup series) in which all traces of the artist’s hand – brush work, dripped paint or process – were eliminated. In November 1962, his one-man show at Stable Gallery in New York City took the artworld by storm and established him as the leading figure of contemporary art. It was instant celebrity. Warhol was on the way to becoming a superstar, one of the most important artists of the 20th Century.
Since 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.
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!
- 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.
I’ve been gearing up for summer lately. Some recent buys include a pair of patchwork madras shorts, a ribbon belt and a pair of Nantucket Reds. Today a Brooks Brothers long-sleeved, patchwork plaid madras shirt arrived via US Postal Service.
This shirt was a recent eBay purchase. Price: $24.94 + $3.65 shipping = $28.59. Compare that with the current Brooks Brothers retail price of $89.50 (not including shipping, although I could have gone to their Madison Avenue store). That’s a savings of $60.91. In addition, the brethren are only offering a short-sleeved madras shirt, and I specifically wanted long sleeves.
Nothing says summer more than the light, breathable fabric of an India madras shirt. It is a key item for the prep wardrobe. I like this pattern much better than the current Brooks Brothers offering. For more about how madras clothes are made, head over to Ivy Style for Christian Chensvold’s interview with Cape Madras cofounder Brian Sisselman.
At Columbia U. Consignments last fall, I found a Brooks Brothers bow tie with a maroon background and navy and white stripes. The asking price was $25.00. I hadn’t posted any photos of me actually wearing it. So here goes. An unironed and somewhat rumpled 100% cotton blue oxford cloth button hides under a classic navy blazer. But rumpled is preppy, a look that might be taken as an indication that I just don’t give a damn.
Having stripes that are straight rather than slanted, which is more common, makes this bow tie challenging. The correct look is to position the stripes on each end with a block of stripes in the middle, as I have it tied in the photo. Maybe I do give a damn. Mixed messages today.
Thrifting starts to get interesting once you’ve assembled the backbone of your wardrobe. Then you can begin trying different combinations of jackets, ties, shirts and pants – all with comfort, functionality, season and overall style in mind. Certain pieces will be interchangeable and will work well with many other items.
I found a combination that I really like, and nearly all of it is from thrift store purchases: tweed sport coat is a 3-button model from Brooks Brothers ($19.00), wool/cashmere sweater from Brooks Brothers ($9.99), button down from Land’s End ($5.00) and the khakis (not shown) are J. Crew ($8.00). The only item that was not a thrift store purchase was the bow tie. It’s from J. Press, but I got it on sale for $37.00 (regular $55.00). Sometimes you need to get just the right item in a retail store, and virtually no amount of thrift store expeditions will produce it. That was the case with the pattern on the bow tie, which brings all the colors and patterns together in a sharp and very preppy combination. Total cost: $78.99 (or the price of ONE Brooks Brothers button down oxford cloth shirt at retail). Think about that!
This is one of several Brooks Brothers 3-button, sack cut sport coats I purchased recently at a local thrift store. It’s 100% camel hair – perfect for fall and winter – and I picked it up for $15.00. The top button is rolled on the lapel and is not visible, while the top button hole (also rolled on the lapel) is visible. This is commonly called a 3/2 roll, and it is the quintessential look of the Ivy League. I just checked the Brooks Brothers website and found a solid 100% camel hair 3-button sport coat listed for $548.00. I think I did well!
Two minor alterations were needed: the sleeves were slightly short and needed lengthening. I like to show between 1/4 and 1/2 inch of cuffs. There was also a ridge just below the collar, which needed to be taken out. I got it back from the tailor yesterday, and I can’t wait for cooler weather so that I can wear it.