How to Buy Used Dress Shirts

A crisp, well-pressed dress shirt is an essential element of the well-dressed man’s attire. Quality dress shirts can easily cost $30.00 to $90.00 or more when new. However, for a fraction of that price, you will often find a good selection of quality used dress shirts at thrift shops such as Goodwill and Savers. This is a great option for the frugal man who wants to dress well. In this post, I show you how to buy used dress shirts at thrift shops and get your money’s worth.

When Buying Thrift Shop Dress Shirts, Seek Out Quality Brands

All dress shirts are not made equal. 100% cotton fabric is superior to polyester/cotton blends or shirts made of synthetic fabrics. Cotton breathes better, making it more comfortable to wear, and has a more luxurious look when compared to polyester and other synthetic fabrics. Often, the top quality shirts in any manufacturer’s line are made of pure cotton. Personally, I only buy 100% cotton shirts when thrift shopping. At most thrift shops they are priced the same as lower quality shirts made of polyester blends.

Seek out high-quality menswear brands when thrift shopping for dress shirts. Rather than give you an exhaustive list of brands in this post, I encourage you to do a bit of research. Bring your smartphone and look up the brand name of any shirt you are interested in. That will give you an idea of the retail price when new and if it is sold by reputable retailers.

Why You Should Buy Pure Cotton Dress Shirts When Thrift Shopping

Pure cotton releases odors during washing more easily than synthetic fabrics (i.e. polyester). They wash more cleanly, releasing perspiration buildup and sweat odors. With proper laundering, your thrift-shop cotton dress shirts will have a better look (and smell) than polyester blend shirts. For that reason, they are the better choice when thrift shopping.

Don’t use bleach when laundering cotton shirts as it is corrosive over time and shortens the life of cotton. Instead, use baking soda or hydrogen peroxide in the wash water to brighten whites and pastels. In fact, oxygen cleansers such as Oxyclean are great for brightening light colored dress shirts. I share a tip on a low-cost alternative to Oxyclean in this post.

Check Thrift Shop Dress Shirts Carefully for Wear and Missing Buttons

There are two areas where wear is most likely to appear in second-hand dress shirts. One is the edge of the cuffs. If the prior owner of the shirt wore a watch or some form of jewelry on his wrist, it may have caused fraying on one of the cuffs. Second, check the collar. Collars tend to wear out more quickly than the body of the shirt. Some shirts can become discolored or frayed on the collar and are beyond repair. Inspect the shirt carefully for damage and for missing or broken buttons. If there is a broken or missing button check to see if extra buttons are sewn on the bottom or inside the shirt placket.

Thrift Shop Dress Shirts
Inspect thrift shop dress shirts carefully, especially on the cuffs and collar for wear.

I recommend passing over dress shirts that appear to be faded or near the end of their lifespan. If the shirt is dirty, it can be laundered to look like new (especially if it is pure cotton). Check out my laundering tips in the article “How To Iron A Cotton Shirt.” However, it is best to avoid shirts that are stained. It may be impossible to remove stains that have had time to set in a dress shirt.

A Final Tip: Missing Collar Stays …

Tip: Buy a set of inexpensive replacement collar stays

More than likely, when buying second-hand shirts, the collar stays will be missing. I recommend buying an inexpensive set of plastic collar stays that can be used with all shirts that require them. I purchased an inexpensive set of plastic collar stays on ($6.99 including next day shipping) that includes 100 collar stays in 4 sizes. They work just as well as the default collar stays that come with new shirts.

Where to Find Used Quality Dress Shirts

I have written posts that review three of my favorite brands of dress shirts, Brooks Brothers, Roundtree and Yorke Gold Label, and JCPenney Stafford Tailored Culture dress shirts.

I seldom pay more than $6.00 for a second-hand dress shirt in excellent condition at my local thrift shops. You can find a plentiful supply at your local Goodwill Thrift or other thrift shop chains. I prefer to buy second-hand dress shirts locally instead of online. Because of shipping costs, buying used shirts on eBay is generally more expensive, unless you buy shirts in lots (plus, you can inspect the shirts closely before purchase if buying locally). I have purchased used shirts in lots on eBay and at bargain prices. Check your local thrift shops and online vendors. Bargains await you! This is a great way to find high-quality shirts for a fraction of their retail price when new.