How to Buy Dress Shirts at Thrift Shops

How to Buy Dress Shirts at Thrift Shops

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 $60.00 or more when new. However, for a fraction of that price, you will often find a good selection of quality 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 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 manufacturers 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. Secondly, 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 color and are beyond repair. Inspect the shirt carefully for damage and for missing or broken buttons.

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

I would 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.

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). Check your local thrift shops. Bargains await you! This is a great way to find high-quality shirts for a fraction of their retail price when new. -SplurgeFrugal!