Recently, I purchased a second-hand suit online for a bargain price of $20.00 (from Poshmark.com). It was a classic blue wool pinstripe made by Jones New York, a menswear brand popular in the 1990s. It was a three button suit that would have retailed for between $200-$300 when new. This is a business suit that would more likely have been worn by a bank clerk, not a bank president.
On inspection, the suit revealed a bit about its former owner. There were a few corporate business cards in the breast pocket with his name penciled in. He was obviously an entry level employee, and this was most likely one of his first business suits. Also, the suit was obviously worn frequently. The telltale shine on the rear of the pants being a rather obvious clue. This was a reminder why I generally stick to certain rules when buying used men’s suits online to ensure that I get the most for my money. They are the same rules I apply when buying a used car:
My Rules for Buying Used:
I have always bought my cars used from private owners. I believe that it is always better to buy from someone who clearly has the means to maintain the car (typically an older driver). Also, I stick to conservative models favored by older drivers. Why? It is far more likely that the car has been properly maintained and driven with care. You won’t be paying for problems that the prior owner could not afford to repair or repair issues caused by reckless driving.
Likewise, when thrift shopping for suits and sportcoats that will be a part of your wardrobe for years, seek out higher-priced menswear brands that are usually purchased by more affluent businessmen. Because they have an extensive wardrobe, the suits they donate to thrift shops or sell online are less likely to have any major signs of wear. They also last longer because they are better made. Cheaper suit brands worn by their lower-paid staff are likely to show more signs of wear and tear and not be as durable.
Especially when buying second-hand suits online, you are more likely to find fabric shine from wear in cheaper suit brands. That wear cannot be seen in online photos of the item. This is a problem I rarely come across when buying better quality second-hand suits. But it does tend to turn up in used suits that retail when new at lower prices. The simple truth is that we ‘working poor’ tend to wear our suits to death while the ‘well-heeled’ update their wardrobes long before their clothes show signs of wear.
When buying a used car, I always shop for vehicles in economically advantaged neighborhoods with lots of older residents. In fact, retirement communities are some of the best places to find well-maintained gently-used cars for sale at great prices.
The same holds true when shopping for menswear in local thrift shops. The wealthier the neighborhood, the higher the quality of the clothing offered in its thrift shops. Thrift shops located near malls that have higher-end department stores and shops often will have an in-depth selection of better quality menswear as well.
I decided to keep the suit discussed at the beginning of this post (I’m wearing it in the photos above). Overall, it was in good shape and looked rather nice after a good cleaning and pressing. Also, a clothes steamer and a light misting of white vinegar will do a great job of removing shine from wool fabric so that problem was minimized as well. It is not the most durable suit in my collection, but it doesn’t need to be. It will be worn once or twice per month at most.
Of course, buying quality does not always mean buying the most expensive. Sometimes modestly priced menswear can offer very good quality. This Club Room brand khaki jacket was purchased second-hand on Poshmark.com for only $8.00. It is an affordable brand sold at Macy’s. I was quite impressed with the construction and details of this jacket. It’s made of a sturdy cotton twill fabric that is quite durable. It is worn quite often during the colder months and holds up very well.
When you are building the essentials of a good wardrobe, look for quality. Select timeless items that will endure. The second-hand suits that form the ‘meat and potatoes’ of my wardrobe are all from manufacturers with a reputation for quality. Once you have the essentials, then you can experiment with items that are more fashionable and less enduring. -SplurgeFrugal!