As someone who has maintained a personal wardrobe by thrift shopping for nearly three decades, I get a bit of sticker shock when looking at the high prices currently demanded for better-quality menswear. At the same time, there is a discernible decline in quality in men’s clothing sold at more affordable prices. Either way, getting good quality menswear at a reasonable price is more challenging than ever. Why is that?
This Casual Era & the Decline in Menswear Quality
With the emphasis on casual dressing that is currently in vogue, both clothing manufacturers and consumers have adapted in ways that are not always advantageous. Consider: The past decade has seen the demise of many clothing manufacturers and factories that once produced high-quality tailored clothing for men. Even recognized retailers like Jos. A. Bank that traditionally sold suits to millions of working-class business aspirants are finding themselves badly hurt by the current trend in casual clothing. Too many clothing brands and designers are now trying to sell the same hoodies and jeans in an age when ‘Casual Friday‘ has extended to every day of the week. The pressure is on for manufacturers to produce cheaper casual clothing faster in a fickle fashion market.
The Change In Consumers
I can remember as a child the custom of receiving ‘hand-me-down’ clothing from older siblings. Clothing was not disposable. It was meant to be altered, repaired, and to last. Every home had a sewing machine and at least one family member with the skills to do clothing alterations. I learned to use a sewing machine at the age of 15 to do basic alterations such as cuffs and waist in my ‘dress pants.’ That saved me a few precious dollars as I started to buy my own clothes with money earned from a part-time after-school job.
Clothing was also a key element in the special occasions in our lives. Whether rich or poor, you wore your ‘Sunday Best’ on Sunday! If you planned to ‘go out’ on a Saturday evening, you ‘dressed up.’ Ideally, you presented yourself in a way required by the events you attended.
This Has all Changed, and Some Would Say Not for the Better.
While some may consider the more casual approach in dressing a fairly recent trend, its roots began over a generation ago. The so-called ‘Sexual Revolution‘ and increasingly pervasive ‘Drug Culture‘ that started in the 1960s fundamentally altered how people view themselves and others. That generation started a major shift in attitudes that now shape popular culture and styles of clothing today. There is no reason to dress in your ‘Sunday Best’ anymore, and few make any effort to ‘dress up’ for life’s most meaningful events. Anything goes.
Also, due to fast fashion, clothing is now perceived as being disposable. You don’t repair or keep clothing for the long term. You discard it and buy more. Many younger consumers cannot discern the difference between quality and poorly made garments. Manufacturers know that they are no longer held to a high standard by what were formerly ‘informed’ consumers. Designers no longer make their names by creating high-quality tailored clothing. Rather, they are now designing overpriced t-shirts and sneakers.
Find the World’s Best Menswear … In a Thrift Shop!
For all of the above-said reasons, I make the assertion that the best men’s clothing that will ever be made has already been made! If you want classic. high quality menswear that is affordable consider buying second-hand. Thrift shopping allows you to dress affordably in durable, better-quality clothing for a fraction of their cost if new. What is more, you can find clothing that is made with fewer compromises and to a higher standard. And, it is plentiful. eBay (and a growing list of other online markets) offer a better selection of gently used high-quality mens’s clothing than you will ever find at any retailer. All it takes is a bit of self-education to get the most value from the second-hand clothing market. The Best Menswear Ever Made Is in Thrift Shops!