Vintage Leather Belts
I’m not as experienced as Jesse it when it comes to thrifting, but I do enjoy going to thrift stores. When I go, I often like to browse around for vintage leather belts - the thick kind that you wear with jeans. One of the nice things about buying second-hand is that you can get things with a bit more character. With good leather, you’ll often get something that has aged beautifully. 
Take the above belt, for example. It’s from a webpage Mister Freedom made for their “Ranchero shirts,” which are lovely, but the star of the photograph - at least for me - is the belt sitting in the middle. The variation in the coloring, the scuffing, and the scored design give the belt a certain appeal that modern workwear brands only imitate.
You can find such belts if you hunt around enough. Just visit good thrift stores or flea markets (in the Bay Area, I’d highly recommend Antiques by the Bay, which happens on the first Sunday of every month. Not only do they have a few vendors that sell vintage belts, but there are a ton of other great booths for vintage wares as well). There’s also eBay, of course, but that gets slightly dicier. Vintage leather goods can be of varying quality - either because of the quality of the leather itself, or because of how the item was taken care of throughout the years. Without being able to handle the belt, and without a brand name to go off of, it can be difficult to know what you’re looking at. Still, some of these are quite affordable, so if you get stuck with something less than ideal, it’s at least not a big loss.
The alternative is to buy something new, but from a brand that takes it inspiration from old, vintage designs. RRL and Levi’s Vintage Clothing often have tooled or painted belts that are made to look like they’re from the mid-century. You can find them at workwear-focused stores such as Hickoree’s and Unionmade. They won’t have the kind of patina that an authentic vintage belt will carry, but they’re often still quite handsome. With enough wear, you might get it to look as nice as the one Christophe Loiron (owner of Mister Freedom) photographed above (though, probably not, because that belt looks really awesome). 
(Photo via Christophe Loiron)

Vintage Leather Belts

I’m not as experienced as Jesse it when it comes to thrifting, but I do enjoy going to thrift stores. When I go, I often like to browse around for vintage leather belts - the thick kind that you wear with jeans. One of the nice things about buying second-hand is that you can get things with a bit more character. With good leather, you’ll often get something that has aged beautifully. 

Take the above belt, for example. It’s from a webpage Mister Freedom made for their “Ranchero shirts,” which are lovely, but the star of the photograph - at least for me - is the belt sitting in the middle. The variation in the coloring, the scuffing, and the scored design give the belt a certain appeal that modern workwear brands only imitate.

You can find such belts if you hunt around enough. Just visit good thrift stores or flea markets (in the Bay Area, I’d highly recommend Antiques by the Bay, which happens on the first Sunday of every month. Not only do they have a few vendors that sell vintage belts, but there are a ton of other great booths for vintage wares as well). There’s also eBay, of course, but that gets slightly dicier. Vintage leather goods can be of varying quality - either because of the quality of the leather itself, or because of how the item was taken care of throughout the years. Without being able to handle the belt, and without a brand name to go off of, it can be difficult to know what you’re looking at. Still, some of these are quite affordable, so if you get stuck with something less than ideal, it’s at least not a big loss.

The alternative is to buy something new, but from a brand that takes it inspiration from old, vintage designs. RRL and Levi’s Vintage Clothing often have tooled or painted belts that are made to look like they’re from the mid-century. You can find them at workwear-focused stores such as Hickoree’s and Unionmade. They won’t have the kind of patina that an authentic vintage belt will carry, but they’re often still quite handsome. With enough wear, you might get it to look as nice as the one Christophe Loiron (owner of Mister Freedom) photographed above (though, probably not, because that belt looks really awesome). 

(Photo via Christophe Loiron)

The Foundation of a Good Necktie Wardrobe
I don’t know anyone who wears ties that doesn’t have more neckwear than they need. Ties are relatively inexpensive, easier to size right, and can help satisfy that urge to buy something new. The problem with accumulating ties here and there is that you often wind up with a haphazard collection – one with dozens of pieces, but never the right thing to wear.
In my time wearing ties, I’ve found the ones that get the most use fall into two categories.
Solid-colored, Textured Weaves
The first are solid colored, textured weaves – such as grenadines and silk knits (for year-round use); raw silks, tussahs, and linens (for spring/ summer); and wool, cashmere, and the occasional boucle (for fall/ winter). As I mentioned in my post on Donegal ties, the advantage of solid colored, textured weaves is that you can wear them with almost any shirt and jacket combination. Have a patterned shirt and jacket? The solid color helps things not look too busy. Have a solid colored jacket and shirt? The textured weave helps things not look too boring. Having a stable of good, solid colored, textured neckwear helps you look put together without forcing you to think too much about what goes with what in the morning.
Stripes
The second are striped ties, like you see above. Traditionally, Englishmen wore these ties with the stripes sloping down from left to right, while Americans went the other direction. The style originated in the early 20th century, when decommissioned British officers continued to wear their regimental colors after they returned to civilian life (hence the name “regimental striped ties”). Anglophiles in the United States imitated the practice, but flipped the direction of the stripes so they wouldn’t be accused of being parvenus.  
Today, the colors and direction of the stripes don’t really matter anymore, as nobody really remembers the origin of these things. The only thing that’s important is that such ties – at least in the United States – are incredible versatile. Whereas foulards – a type of small-scale, symmetrical, non-representative pattern (usually geometric or floral in nature) – are often better paired with suits, regimental stripes can be worn with either suits or sport coats. And that’s very helpful if you, like me, wear sport coats more often than anything fancier.
Of course, there are other ties worth buying. Paisley patterned ancient madders are fantastic for fall, and a couple of checked or dotted designs are useful too. But for a solid foundation in your neckwear wardrobe, I’ve found solid-colored, textured neckties, along with regimentals, to be the best. I’d suggest getting them in various materials and colors before you expand too far elsewhere. 
(Above picture taken from a Ben Silver catalog)

The Foundation of a Good Necktie Wardrobe

I don’t know anyone who wears ties that doesn’t have more neckwear than they need. Ties are relatively inexpensive, easier to size right, and can help satisfy that urge to buy something new. The problem with accumulating ties here and there is that you often wind up with a haphazard collection – one with dozens of pieces, but never the right thing to wear.

In my time wearing ties, I’ve found the ones that get the most use fall into two categories.

Solid-colored, Textured Weaves

The first are solid colored, textured weaves – such as grenadines and silk knits (for year-round use); raw silks, tussahs, and linens (for spring/ summer); and wool, cashmere, and the occasional boucle (for fall/ winter). As I mentioned in my post on Donegal ties, the advantage of solid colored, textured weaves is that you can wear them with almost any shirt and jacket combination. Have a patterned shirt and jacket? The solid color helps things not look too busy. Have a solid colored jacket and shirt? The textured weave helps things not look too boring. Having a stable of good, solid colored, textured neckwear helps you look put together without forcing you to think too much about what goes with what in the morning.

Stripes

The second are striped ties, like you see above. Traditionally, Englishmen wore these ties with the stripes sloping down from left to right, while Americans went the other direction. The style originated in the early 20th century, when decommissioned British officers continued to wear their regimental colors after they returned to civilian life (hence the name “regimental striped ties”). Anglophiles in the United States imitated the practice, but flipped the direction of the stripes so they wouldn’t be accused of being parvenus. 

Today, the colors and direction of the stripes don’t really matter anymore, as nobody really remembers the origin of these things. The only thing that’s important is that such ties – at least in the United States – are incredible versatile. Whereas foulards – a type of small-scale, symmetrical, non-representative pattern (usually geometric or floral in nature) – are often better paired with suits, regimental stripes can be worn with either suits or sport coats. And that’s very helpful if you, like me, wear sport coats more often than anything fancier.

Of course, there are other ties worth buying. Paisley patterned ancient madders are fantastic for fall, and a couple of checked or dotted designs are useful too. But for a solid foundation in your neckwear wardrobe, I’ve found solid-colored, textured neckties, along with regimentals, to be the best. I’d suggest getting them in various materials and colors before you expand too far elsewhere. 

(Above picture taken from a Ben Silver catalog)

A one-minute short film about a man traveling the length and breadth of Wisconsin, shopping for sweaters at thrift stores. It’s “Sweater Bender.”

Via BoingBoing

The Day I Got Braces. 47 Sets of Braces.
My in-laws were visiting this weekend, so my wife gave me permission to abandon my family for half a day and go adventuring. Most of the time I spent shopping for stocking stuffers (did you know there’s a new Muji flagship in LA?), but I made a little time for thrifting.
There didn’t seem to be much of interest when I walked into one of my favorite shops on the west side of Los Angeles. I went through the racks, found nothing. I wandered through the shoes, came up empty. Found a nice German urntable. It wasn’t working, but they told me $30 and I thought I’d take a flier and see what my guy would charge to get it going.  I grabbed a couple of Starting Lineup figures for my boy (Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie Smith, Bo Jackson and Shawon Dunston, if you’re keeping track) and a boys’ baseball glove. I figured I was done.
I walked up to the counter, and was about to pay, when I noticed a rack of suspenders. Just suspenders.
So I asked them to hold on to my little pile and walked over to the rack. I pulled about ten pairs out and brought them up with me. Five bucks each. She mentioned off-handedly that there were two big boxes in the back. Would I like to see them?
Well yeah. Of course.
So I got entrance to every thrifter’s dream: the inner sanctum!
It took me the better part of an hour to go through all the suspenders. By the end, I’d picked out forty-seven pair. Two hundred thirty-five dollars worth. I left behind at least twice as many.
Will I keep all those braces? No. But hopefully the ones that sell on eBay will pay for the ones I do choose to keep. And maybe even the turntable and if I’m lucky the repairs thereto. I’m happy to pay for Shawon Dunston out of pocket.
All in all, a pretty good day at the thrifts.

The Day I Got Braces. 47 Sets of Braces.

My in-laws were visiting this weekend, so my wife gave me permission to abandon my family for half a day and go adventuring. Most of the time I spent shopping for stocking stuffers (did you know there’s a new Muji flagship in LA?), but I made a little time for thrifting.

There didn’t seem to be much of interest when I walked into one of my favorite shops on the west side of Los Angeles. I went through the racks, found nothing. I wandered through the shoes, came up empty. Found a nice German urntable. It wasn’t working, but they told me $30 and I thought I’d take a flier and see what my guy would charge to get it going.  I grabbed a couple of Starting Lineup figures for my boy (Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie Smith, Bo Jackson and Shawon Dunston, if you’re keeping track) and a boys’ baseball glove. I figured I was done.

I walked up to the counter, and was about to pay, when I noticed a rack of suspenders. Just suspenders.

So I asked them to hold on to my little pile and walked over to the rack. I pulled about ten pairs out and brought them up with me. Five bucks each. She mentioned off-handedly that there were two big boxes in the back. Would I like to see them?

Well yeah. Of course.

So I got entrance to every thrifter’s dream: the inner sanctum!

It took me the better part of an hour to go through all the suspenders. By the end, I’d picked out forty-seven pair. Two hundred thirty-five dollars worth. I left behind at least twice as many.

Will I keep all those braces? No. But hopefully the ones that sell on eBay will pay for the ones I do choose to keep. And maybe even the turntable and if I’m lucky the repairs thereto. I’m happy to pay for Shawon Dunston out of pocket.

All in all, a pretty good day at the thrifts.

A quick tip for our readers in New York: reader Andrew tells us that his favorite thrift shop, at St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church on the Upper East Side, is holding a closing sale. Everything in store is half off. He also mentions that they say if they can raise enough money, they may stay open, which is why he’s shared this info with our readership.
Divulging one’s thrift store secrets is serious business, so I know Andrew must really care about this spot. New Yorkers can find it at 184 E 76th St, between Third and Lexington. It’s open 11 - 5:45, Monday through Saturday.

A quick tip for our readers in New York: reader Andrew tells us that his favorite thrift shop, at St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church on the Upper East Side, is holding a closing sale. Everything in store is half off. He also mentions that they say if they can raise enough money, they may stay open, which is why he’s shared this info with our readership.

Divulging one’s thrift store secrets is serious business, so I know Andrew must really care about this spot. New Yorkers can find it at 184 E 76th St, between Third and Lexington. It’s open 11 - 5:45, Monday through Saturday.

The Man Who Thrifted A Ferrari
Who’d have thought you could thrift a Ferrari?
Matthew R. is an inveterate thrifter. He says he works seventy hours a week, and he’s been buying and selling second-hand clothes since 1998. Not long ago, he started a consignment service, Luxeswap, and not only do their auctions often crop up in our eBay picks, but I’ve personally trusted him to consign a number of clothes in the past. He’s one of the best menswear sellers on eBay. But truly: I had no idea.
This week, Matthew bought a Ferrari. With thrift store money.
Here’s how it happened…
Matthew started thrifting in the late nineties, and quickly learned that when he found something good that didn’t fit him, he could sell it on eBay and make a little dough. The first item was an Emporio Armani sportcoat. It sold for fifty bucks. Like most of us, Matthew took the extra money and spent it on clothes and small indulgences.
In 2007, he read a book called One Red Paperclip. It was written by a man, Kyle MacDonald, who traded a paperclip for a pen for a doorknob for a camping stove and on and on for a year until he had traded for a new house. Matthew thought: how could I turn my own little hobby into something special?
So he started a savings account.
His business money went into a business account. His personal money - the money from his own personal purchases - went into the savings account. And year after year, that money grew.
Then, last week, he took the money and bought a Ferrari.
Matthew says: “This car was born of things that nobody else wanted. Things that people discarded. I wanted to be able to say I thrifted a Ferrari. And I did.”
A genuinely remarkable achievement.

The Man Who Thrifted A Ferrari

Who’d have thought you could thrift a Ferrari?

Matthew R. is an inveterate thrifter. He says he works seventy hours a week, and he’s been buying and selling second-hand clothes since 1998. Not long ago, he started a consignment service, Luxeswap, and not only do their auctions often crop up in our eBay picks, but I’ve personally trusted him to consign a number of clothes in the past. He’s one of the best menswear sellers on eBay. But truly: I had no idea.

This week, Matthew bought a Ferrari. With thrift store money.

Here’s how it happened…

Matthew started thrifting in the late nineties, and quickly learned that when he found something good that didn’t fit him, he could sell it on eBay and make a little dough. The first item was an Emporio Armani sportcoat. It sold for fifty bucks. Like most of us, Matthew took the extra money and spent it on clothes and small indulgences.

In 2007, he read a book called One Red Paperclip. It was written by a man, Kyle MacDonald, who traded a paperclip for a pen for a doorknob for a camping stove and on and on for a year until he had traded for a new house. Matthew thought: how could I turn my own little hobby into something special?

So he started a savings account.

His business money went into a business account. His personal money - the money from his own personal purchases - went into the savings account. And year after year, that money grew.

Then, last week, he took the money and bought a Ferrari.

Matthew says: “This car was born of things that nobody else wanted. Things that people discarded. I wanted to be able to say I thrifted a Ferrari. And I did.”

A genuinely remarkable achievement.

Trad Nirvana: J. Press Tweed, Circa 1953

One of the great things about thrift store shopping is finding something that seems like it comes from another world. This J. Press coat I found over the weekend is a perfect example. It’s a custom job, completed in October of 1953.

The tweed on this feels like it could stop a bullet. In fact, sixty years later, it’s completely unscarred by time. It could well have just come off the production line. Unlike J. Press today, which usually features a single hooked vent, it’s unvented, but it still features the classic three-roll-two button configuration.
 I only wish that it fit me.

Is This an Orphaned Suit Jacket?
I recently received a couple of emails from readers asking if I thought something they were looking at on eBay was an orphaned suit jacket. An orphaned suit jacket is a jacket that used to belong to a suit, but for some reason – whether because they were worn through, badly damaged, or just plain lost – the matching trousers are no longer available. It’s not uncommon to come across these when you’re looking at second hand clothing, and you’ll want to avoid purchasing them. Wearing an orphaned jacket can make you look like you spilled something on your suit trousers and had to change out of them. It’s not a good look.  
To be sure, there are no hard and fast rules, and some suit jackets can be worn as sport coats. Those made from cotton, linen, tweed, or corduroy are usually fine. There are also some wools that can be successfully used for both business suits and casual sport coats. However, for the purposes of this post, we’ll assume the simplistic view that suit jackets should generally never be worn alone, as most of the ones you’re likely to encounter through second hand clothing are of a certain type that shouldn’t be.
So how can you tell what’s what?
Generally speaking, the rougher, fluffier, more visible the weave, the more likely you’re looking at a sport coat. Conversely, the finer and flatter the weave, the more likely you’re looking at a suit jacket. This is especially true if it feels very smooth, silky, and lightweight, and you can see diagonal lines on the surface of the fabric (like you can with denim). If the fabric has a bit of shine to it when you bend and move it, it’s almost certainly something that was designated for a suit.
Certain patterns can also be clues. Pinstripes and chalkstripes always indicate something was meant to be worn as a suit. Birdseye, nailhead, pinhead, and very fine herringbone - the kind that you only notice is herringbone when you inspect it up close, but looks solid from a foot or two away - also tend to be reserved for suits, though there are exceptions. If it’s a chunky, rough weave such as tweed, something like a birdseye would be fine. 
Similarly, pay attention to scale of patterns. Though suits can come in big, bold patterns, and sport coats in quiet and subtle ones, the more successful sport coats tend to have larger scale designs. It’s a way of announcing to the world: this isn’t something to be worn to a business meeting. Thus, if you’re in between whether or not a jacket can be worn by itself – if the pattern is very small or faint, you’re probably safer off passing.
Lastly, if a jacket has buttons made from metal or mother of pearl, or are covered in leather, you’re likely looking at a sport coat. Horn, on the other hand, can go either way, but one thing you can do is count the number of buttons on the sleeve cuff. If there are less than four, the chances of it being a sport coat go up.
In the end, however, you just have to use your own best judgment. Remember: the point is not to say whether something is definitively orphaned or not, the point is to not look like you’re accidentally wearing a suit jacket without the matching trousers. In the end, just keep that in mind and go with your gut. 
(Photo via Capnwes)

Is This an Orphaned Suit Jacket?

I recently received a couple of emails from readers asking if I thought something they were looking at on eBay was an orphaned suit jacket. An orphaned suit jacket is a jacket that used to belong to a suit, but for some reason – whether because they were worn through, badly damaged, or just plain lost – the matching trousers are no longer available. It’s not uncommon to come across these when you’re looking at second hand clothing, and you’ll want to avoid purchasing them. Wearing an orphaned jacket can make you look like you spilled something on your suit trousers and had to change out of them. It’s not a good look.  

To be sure, there are no hard and fast rules, and some suit jackets can be worn as sport coats. Those made from cotton, linen, tweed, or corduroy are usually fine. There are also some wools that can be successfully used for both business suits and casual sport coats. However, for the purposes of this post, we’ll assume the simplistic view that suit jackets should generally never be worn alone, as most of the ones you’re likely to encounter through second hand clothing are of a certain type that shouldn’t be.

So how can you tell what’s what?

Generally speaking, the rougher, fluffier, more visible the weave, the more likely you’re looking at a sport coat. Conversely, the finer and flatter the weave, the more likely you’re looking at a suit jacket. This is especially true if it feels very smooth, silky, and lightweight, and you can see diagonal lines on the surface of the fabric (like you can with denim). If the fabric has a bit of shine to it when you bend and move it, it’s almost certainly something that was designated for a suit.

Certain patterns can also be clues. Pinstripes and chalkstripes always indicate something was meant to be worn as a suit. Birdseye, nailhead, pinhead, and very fine herringbone - the kind that you only notice is herringbone when you inspect it up close, but looks solid from a foot or two away - also tend to be reserved for suits, though there are exceptions. If it’s a chunky, rough weave such as tweed, something like a birdseye would be fine. 

Similarly, pay attention to scale of patterns. Though suits can come in big, bold patterns, and sport coats in quiet and subtle ones, the more successful sport coats tend to have larger scale designs. It’s a way of announcing to the world: this isn’t something to be worn to a business meeting. Thus, if you’re in between whether or not a jacket can be worn by itself – if the pattern is very small or faint, you’re probably safer off passing.

Lastly, if a jacket has buttons made from metal or mother of pearl, or are covered in leather, you’re likely looking at a sport coat. Horn, on the other hand, can go either way, but one thing you can do is count the number of buttons on the sleeve cuff. If there are less than four, the chances of it being a sport coat go up.

In the end, however, you just have to use your own best judgment. Remember: the point is not to say whether something is definitively orphaned or not, the point is to not look like you’re accidentally wearing a suit jacket without the matching trousers. In the end, just keep that in mind and go with your gut. 

(Photo via Capnwes)

London Fog: The Thrifty Trench (and Mac) Coat
Since spring technically started a week ago, that means it’s time to transition away from heavy wool overcoats toward coats that will protect you from rain showers. 
Derek wrote up a great post on where to find a high-quality trench or mac, and I disagree with none of it. But if your budget is significantly smaller or you’ve struck out trying to snag a vintage one thrifting or on eBay, then consider a cheaper alternative: London Fog. 
The company started in 1923 and eventually provided clothing for the U.S. Navy in World War II. Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt in the late 1990s and currently its name is being licensed to put out products with its label, but having seen their current products in person I think the retail price is far too much for the quality. 
The good news is that you can find legions of their vintage coats in thrift stores. And if you can’t make it to a thrift store, you can pay a bit more and check eBay — just search for “London Fog trench" or "London Fog Mac”. The one I found above is $35 shipped and has a zip-out liner, too. 
Admittedly, these aren’t as nice as a Burberry or Aquascutum, but they function perfectly well and should hold you over until you find something nicer.
Currently, the three I found thrifting are sitting in my closet and I wear them every spring. I believe I paid somewhere between $5-$10 each. 
There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to stay dry on the cheap. 
-Kiyoshi

London Fog: The Thrifty Trench (and Mac) Coat

Since spring technically started a week ago, that means it’s time to transition away from heavy wool overcoats toward coats that will protect you from rain showers. 

Derek wrote up a great post on where to find a high-quality trench or mac, and I disagree with none of it. But if your budget is significantly smaller or you’ve struck out trying to snag a vintage one thrifting or on eBay, then consider a cheaper alternative: London Fog. 

The company started in 1923 and eventually provided clothing for the U.S. Navy in World War II. Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt in the late 1990s and currently its name is being licensed to put out products with its label, but having seen their current products in person I think the retail price is far too much for the quality. 

The good news is that you can find legions of their vintage coats in thrift stores. And if you can’t make it to a thrift store, you can pay a bit more and check eBay — just search for “London Fog trench" or "London Fog Mac”. The one I found above is $35 shipped and has a zip-out liner, too. 

Admittedly, these aren’t as nice as a Burberry or Aquascutum, but they function perfectly well and should hold you over until you find something nicer.

Currently, the three I found thrifting are sitting in my closet and I wear them every spring. I believe I paid somewhere between $5-$10 each. 

There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to stay dry on the cheap. 

-Kiyoshi

The Verge published an interview with me today. I talked with them about unplugging from my smartphone and why today’s media landscape is a bit like thrift store shopping. Check it out; I think you’ll enjoy it.

The Verge published an interview with me today. I talked with them about unplugging from my smartphone and why today’s media landscape is a bit like thrift store shopping. Check it out; I think you’ll enjoy it.