Men’s Suits: Best Brands to Buy When Thrifting
FIRST OF ALL, let me explain who this guide to buying second-hand men’s suits is for. Are you are the sort of professional thrift shopper who hunts down top designer-label men suits that retail for well over $1500 when new? Are brand names like Oxxford, Zegna, and Isaia part of your daily vocabulary? Then this post is not for you. You don’t need my help. Rather it is for the more modest menswear thrifter looking for lower-priced second-hand suits that offer the best overall value when shopping on eBay or in local thrift shops.
The truth is, it is rare to find top men’s couture suit brands like Oxxford, Brioni, Kiton, and Zegna at bargain prices second-hand when shopping online. eBay sellers and other online vendors know that these luxury brands command a premium price even when sold used. Personally, I prefer menswear brands that do not have a highly prized designer-label but offer exceptional quality and value.
The Best Quality for the Lowest Price
There is a sweet spot when it comes to buying second-hand men’s suits. Generally, you can find excellent men’s suits that retail when new in the $500-1500.00 (US) price range. Typically, these suits offer half-canvas interlinings, high-end fabrics, durable construction, and excellent tailoring. You are getting much of the suit quality that couture brands may charge well over $1500 for without the added cost of a high-priced designer name on the label or some styling detail that is largely superfluous.
What are the mid-high level mens’ wear brands that you should look for? Here are a few that offer excellent value when buying second-hand:
Brooks Brothers (Brooks Brothers dress shirts reviewed)
Polo Ralph Lauren
Joseph Abboud (reviewed)
Hart Schaffner & Marx Gold Trumpeter
Jos. A. Bank Signature Gold (reviewed)
Here are additional American brands that were producing world-class quality suits and sport coats during the so-called Golden Age of the US economy, roughly from 1935 to 1975. American factories were filled with highly-skilled suitmakers that by default produced high-quality menswear. These conservative and timeless suits can often look just as impressive today. If you like classic menswear, these brands may be found in thrift shops and on eBay at ultra-low prices, in excellent second-hand condition. They are generally overlooked by modern thrifting enthusiasts seeking trending brands. For that reason, they often languish on eBay as undiscovered gems. Just ensure that there is no moth damage.
H. Freeman & Son
Powers & Goode
Anything made with genuine Harris Tweed
Oritsky of Reading
The Lawrence Shop
Neiman Marcus Sandhurst
Of course, this is not a complete list. View it as a starting point. I’ve focused on quality brands that do not have the stratospheric prices of high-end luxury brands. You will discover more quality brands to seek out as your knowledge of menswear expands. Also, you may find high-end department store brands that include Saks Fifth Ave., Dillard’s ( I love their Daniel Cremiuex suits -reviewed), Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. These stores generally offer better private-label men’s suits that can be a very good value when purchased second-hand on eBay, Poshmark and other online vendors.
Another popular brand for business suits is Hart Schaffner & Marx. I would seek out their premium label ‘Gold Trumpeter’ or ‘Gold’ suits. I also prefer the premium ‘Signature Gold’ label from Jos. A Bank. The premium labels of these brands offer half-canvas interlinings and better fabrics. Generally, they cost no more when sold second-hand than the regular label Hart Schaffner & Marx and Jos. A Bank suits which have lower-quality fused construction (see this post for a primer on suit quality). Paying attention to the label and doing a bit of research will help you to choose a better quality men’s suit.
It is quite possible to find suit brands that are completely unfamiliar, especially if they are manufactured in Europe. Here is where online men’s wear forums like askandy and styleforum can be very helpful. Often, these forums will discuss the quality and value of less familiar brands. That will give you a good idea of what you are buying. I have generally had a good experience buying Italian brand wool suits with unfamiliar labels. Often, you can get a good sense of the quality of these suits if clear photos are posted by the online seller.
When buying high-quality second-hand suits, it is important to care for them properly. With proper maintenance, they can last for years. Check out these ten tips for making your second-hand suits last longer.
When To Thrift Shop for Suits
For the best prices and selection, it is good to know when to thrift shop. The month of January and the summer season are generally the best times to search for suits and sport coats online. These are slow months for online menswear vendors on eBay and they will usually reduce prices to move inventory. I usually buy all of my suits and sportcoats during summer months that will be worn year-round. Outerwear as well. Some local thrift shops may sell clothes according to the season but online vendors tend to sell as items become available. A great strategy for building a well-coordinated wardrobe of suits and accessories (and always finding what you want) is discussed in this post.
What Suits To Avoid When Thrifting
Generally, I avoid buying second-hand suits that retail for around $200-$300 or less when new. That includes brands currently featured in Macy’s, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Sears, or Target. The only dept. store brand that I have found provides exceptional quality vintage suits and sport coats is the Stafford brand by JCPenney (I would not recommend their current collections due to decline in quality). The quality is much less predictable from department stores whose menswear suppliers must manufacture suits to lower price points. Plus, cheaper suits tend to be well-worn by the time they reach the thrift market. More expensive suits often come from individuals who have an extensive wardrobe ( less wear and tear per suit) and typically are in nicer condition when donated to thrift shops.
When thrift-shopping, I seek out the brands I could not afford if I were paying retail prices. By being selective and informed, you can find higher-quality suits for your thrift-shopping dollar.
Buy Suits For Longevity
The suit brands I have listed as desirable also have something else in common. These are not brands that slavishly follow every fad that pops up in menswear. They all offer timeless styling suitable for business environments. The current fad in extreme skinny suit tailoring is not a good choice if you want a suit that will stand the test of time.
I wrote a guide to buying second-hand suits on eBay that provide essential tips on finding suits that fit well while offering great quality at the lowest prices. You may also enjoy my post on getting started in thrift shopping for menswear. Also, there are plenty of Youtube videos and helpful blogs that will deepen your knowledge of men’s wear. The more you know, the more you will save while finding good-quality second-hand suits online!