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. 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:
Polo Ralph Lauren
Hart Schaffner & Marx Gold Trumpeter
Jos. A. Bank Signature Gold (reviewed)
Also, you may find high-end department store brands that include Saks Fifth Ave., Dillards ( I love their Daniel Cremiuex suits), 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.
These upper-mid level mens’ suit brands are usually sold second-hand at bargain prices on eBay. I have consistently purchased suits in this range for under $50.00 on eBay in excellent condition. For a sample of some of my best second-hand suit purchases, check out my Thrifting Menswear post.
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 Brand. 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 Brand suits which have lower-quality fused construction (see this post for a primer on suit quality). Paying attention to the label will help you to choose a superior 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.
A Personal Favorite: Hickey Freeman Suits
Since I do all of my own alterations, I get to see the construction details of the suits and sportcoats I purchase up close. Some brands have more style than quality (ahem, Hugo Boss…) but others reveal solid construction details that stand up to long-term wear. After having altered the jackets from a number of suit manufacturers, I have settled on a personal favorite. Hickey Freeman.
Hickey Freeman suits are made in Rochester, New York and have been the brand of choice for many captains of industry and presidents since its inception in 1899. This is the Lincoln Town Car of suits manufacturers. Modest good looks and rock-solid quality at a competitive price. Now, these are not cutting-edge designer-styled offerings. However, a well-tailored suit from Hickey Freeman stands the test of time and will look appropriate no matter when you wear it.
Here is a Hickey Freeman sportscoat I purchased second-hand on eBay for $18.00. I removed the center vent (making the jacket ventless) and trimmed the waist to give it a slimmer silhouette. As I did so, I was quite impressed with how well the jacket is constructed. Likewise, you may need to have some alterations done to obtain a perfect fit. Worth it! These suits will give you years of great service and timeless elegance long after the faddish mass-market designer-label suit brands have come and gone.
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 featured in Macy’s, Men’s Wearhouse, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Sears, or Target. The quality is much less predictable. 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 much 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 ultra-slim 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!