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.

Thrifted Ribbon Belt, Polo Shirt and Khaki Shorts

For a total of $17.97, I recently thrifted a navy/cyan grosgrain ribbon belt ($4.99), an all cotton J. Crew polo shirt of matching cyan with 2-button placket, cap sleeves and ribbed edging ($7.99) and a pair of plain front Bermuda length 100% cotton khaki shorts from Merona ($5.99).

The ribbon belt has no label, but it looks very similar to one made by Vineyard Vines.  The cyan color in the detail shots of the belt looks different from the color of the shirt, but to the eye, it’s an exact match.  Unfortunately, the lighting changed slightly between shots.

All of these items are in excellent condition.  The belt seems well-made and durable, and the quality of the J. Crew polo and Merona khakis is surprisingly good.  You need not have particular brand names or “status symbol clothes” (i.e. with a crocodile or oversized polo player and horse stitched to your shirt) to look preppy.  If you are discerning, you can get away with no name items of classic design and natural fibers, and you will be practicing two key prep traits – thrift and discretion!   Preppy is not about being flashy, unless you count the occasional go-to-hell item.  But that’s really another discussion.

A word about shorts:  I always buy plain front.  In my opinion, pleats are fundamentally wrong (this applies to long pants as well).  I avoid cargo shorts.  Although many people like them, I think they have a very unflattering silhouette.  They seem to be most often combined with legible t-shirts, fanny packs and flip flops.  Enough said.  I regard their popularity as a sure sign of cultural decline.

Detail of navy/cyan grosgrain ribbon belt.