How to Give Vintage Men’s Clothes a Modern Look

How to make your men's vintage thrift shop suits and sportcoats work beautifully in a contemporary wardrobe. You can be both stylish and frugal!

Vintage Men's Clothes, Modern Look

The jacket shown above is a beautifully tailored Italian three button lightweight wool sportscoat that I would estimate to be fifteen to eighteen years old. I recently purchased it second-hand on eBay for $21. How can an older sportscoat or suit of this age be made to appear more contemporary?

Here are a few useful tips for men looking to build a usable modern wardrobe by thrift shopping.

First, when thrift shopping, choose older clothing wisely. Select timeless, moderately styled suits and sportcoats that age well. Anything that is too extreme or trendy should be avoided.

Second, make sure it fits you well. An older garment that fits poorly screams “thrift shop!” Basic alterations will make the jacket or suit truly your own, and update its look.

Used Sportscoat Maestrelli
Second-Hand Maestrelli Sportscoat Purchased for $21.00 on eBay.

This jacket (shown above) reveals its age in its three-button design (circa 2003), the pattern of the fabric, and the overall jacket length (modern suits and sportcoats are cut a bit shorter). How do we make it feel more modern?

By combining it with monochromatic slacks, shirt, and tie, it gives the overall outfit a modern look. If I were to match a patterned tie and shirt or add more colors, the overall outfit would appear ‘loud’ or garish by modern standards. By keeping the colors of the shirt, tie and slacks simple and muted, the overall outfit feels more contemporary.

Vintage Sportscoat - Gianfranco Ruffini

The sportscoat above personifies the padded shoulders and lower gorge made popular by Giorgio Armani in the early 1980’s. I like suits and sportcoats from this era as they are more comfortable to wear than the slim suits currently in fashion. To make this sportscoat feel more contemporary I matched it with quiet colors and tones that give the entire outfit a more conservative yet sporty feel.

Here’s another example. The suit below is a Calvin Klein Collection grey flannel (fully canvassed) made nearly twenty-five years ago. The broader lapels and 1930’s profile of this suit reveals its vintage ‘power suit’ heritage. It is exquisitely tailored and one of my favorite thrifted garments (purchased second-hand for $25.00 on eBay).

Grey Flannel Suit - Thrift Shop

While this would never be confused with the slim fit ‘skinny suits’ that are currently in vogue,  it still makes a stylish statement. The key once again is keeping things simple. A crisp, timeless white shirt and classic regimental silk tie are always appropriate, along with a crisp white handkerchief in the breast pocket. Be sure that the width of the tie compliments the width of the lapels.

With good taste and well-chosen colors and patterns, you can wear clothes that defy age with style. Just remember to err on the side of caution – avoid fads and use fewer colors and more muted tones.

Enjoy your thrifting adventures!