How to Thrift Shop for Menswear and Always Find What You Want

How to Thrift Shop for Menswear and Always Find What You Want

Do you want to build a complete wardrobe of well-coordinated men’s suits, sportcoats and related clothing by thrift shopping? That can be a challenge! Finding a specific garment in your size and color when you want it can be pretty difficult when thrift shopping. It often requires repeated visits to thrift shops to find something that meets your needs! Not the best way to build a carefully curated, well-coordinated wardrobe!

But it can be done! You can build a stylish wardrobe with only second-hand clothing that looks every bit as polished and well-matched as one purchased at full retail prices. With my strategy, you can thrift shop and always find what you want. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Plan Your Wardrobe Well in Advance

Think months ahead about all of the garments you will need for a seasonal wardrobe.  For example, if you want a warm weather wardrobe for spring/summer what will it include? What will be the dominant colors in the suits and sportcoats you plan to purchase? What color slacks, shirts, and ties will be needed to tie your outfits together? Do you prefer lightweight wools, silk, linen, or cotton? It can be helpful to create a lookbook. A lookbook is nothing more than a collection of photos of stylish outfits. This can be a collection of photographs from websites and magazines that show complete outfits you would like to copy and add to your wardrobe.

Let your wardrobe planning guide your shopping efforts. Rather than shopping randomly, you now have a blueprint for building a well-coordinated collection of garments. Once you have done that, here’s the next step:

Step 2: Start Thrift Shopping One or More Seasons in Advance.

This is the secret to always finding what you want when thrift shopping! Don’t shop when you need clothes. Plan your wardrobe and start your search at least three months (or more) before you will wear the garments. Why? This will give you plenty of time to find exactly what you are looking for.

You need to start planning and shopping well in advance to build a wardrobe of second-hand clothing that meets your needs.

Here’s an example: I am writing this post in early March, during the final days of winter. During the months of January and February, I have purchased a summer weight wool suit ($16.00), a lightweight linen sportscoat ($8.00), and (my favorite) a stylish linen safari jacket ($20.00) to be worn during the upcoming spring/summer. All were purchased second-hand on eBay and Poshmark.

I reviewed my summer wardrobe in December and decided that these were the items I wanted to include for the upcoming summer. I started my online search in December. I would also be on the lookout for what I wanted when I stopped by my local thrift shops. Slowly, I found everything I was looking for over a three month period. If I had waited until the start of spring to begin looking for these second-hand items, it is very unlikely that I would have them when I needed them.

Thrift Shop Find
A sportscoat purchased on for $8.00, the rest of this outfit is from local thrift shops.

The earlier you start your search for the specific items you need in your wardrobe, the better. Try to start your search two seasons in advance. Build your winter wardrobe in spring and your summer wardrobe in late fall. While local thrift shops may imitate retail stores in selling clothing by the season, men’s suits, sportcoats, ties and dress shirts may be sold as they become available year-round. Second-hand resellers of men’s clothing on online marketplaces such as eBay and tend to list everything they have to sell, regardless of the season. You will find lots of summer clothing for sale in winter and vice-versa. The prices tend to go up in the spring and fall when the demand for second-hand menswear goes up. By doing your shopping months in advance, you will have more time to find exactly what you need at the best price.

Step 3. Cast a Wide Net and Cast It Often

My search for second-hand tailored clothing (suits and sportcoats) always begins on eBay (the world’s largest online thrift store) since they have the largest selection. It only takes about 15 minutes or so to search a selection of items in my price range by fabric, color, and size from my computer. I do this three or four times during the week. As I visit local thrift shops I will keep an eye out for items that meet my needs. I will add, and other online reseller marketplaces to my search if I am not finding what I want. My persistence and regularity are usually rewarded. Have a range of reputable clothing brands you will consider purchasing. Be flexible. If you shop for timeless menswear styles you will find what you want and at a great price.

It Really Works!

Using this strategy, I have maintained a wardrobe of well-curated second-hand tailored menswear for nearly three decades. I haven’t purchased a new suit, sportscoat or overcoat in that time. I review my wardrobe months in advance, making a note of what items I want to add at least a season ahead of time.  As I do a search online or browse local thrift shops, that mental list guides my purchases. Of course, some flexibility is built into this strategy. Nevertheless, this is my secret to consistently finding exactly what I want by thrift-shopping without ever paying new retail prices. Try it! Your shopping methods will be frugal but your wardrobe will always be stylish and well-planned. -SplurgeFrugal!

One Final Tip!

I wanted to add this final tip! When shopping for suits in thrift shops you will often find lots of orphaned suit jackets without matching pants. If you come across a suit jacket you like, go over to the pants racks and search thoroughly to see if the matching pants are there. Many times the suit is inadvertently separated during sorting by store staff. I have on more than one occasion found a complete suit this way.