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.
Finding Affordable Shoes
Shoes may or may not be the most important part of a man’s ensemble, but they can certainly be the veto point. A man can look sharp as a tack in a well-tailored suit, but if he’s wearing dull, square toe shoes, everything was for naught. Unfortunately, nice shoes are expensive. Even the ones commonly recommended as “entry level” brands will retail for $350 or more. So, in an effort to direct readers to where they can find well-made shoes for less, I’ve compiled a list of every place that I know of.
eBay: The most obvious is eBay. We have a customized search link you can use, but you can also employ other methods. Last week, for example, I talked about how Ralph Lauren shoes are some of the hidden gems on eBay, so long as you know how to look for them. The same goes for shoes made by Brooks Brothers. Theirs don’t get as bad as some in Ralph Lauren’s range, but you would still be wise to look for indicators of quality. You can also check out sausages234, an eBay seller who specializes in footwear.
Thrift stores: These will take a little more work than doing a search on eBay, but you could potentially walk away with some better deals. The key is in knowing where to thrift and how to spot quality. Use Jesse’s series on thrifting as a guide.
Good online retailers: There are two online retailers who consistently have some of the most competitive prices around - Pediwear and P.Lal. It would be smart to check with them before you purchase anything, as they’ll often offer price-matching guarantees. You can also check out A Fine Pair of Shoes. They sell really nice English models, and will discount much of their stock at the end of each season. Finally, Franco’s will often have shoes on sale. Right now there are a bunch of Rider Boots, which are very well made.
Online discount houses: Likewise, there are a bunch of online discount sites. Classic Shoes for Men, Shop the Finest, and Virtual Clotheshorse come to mind (though the last two focus more on the Italian variety). Sierra Trading Post also regularly stocks Trickers. You can knock 30% off or more if you sign up for their DealFlyer newsletter. Different coupons are released every day.
Affordable brands: There are probably more brands than ever before selling well-made, affordable shoes. Here’s a list:
- Loake: Loake makes a few different lines, but the one that’s generally worth buying is their 1880 range, particularly the ones that are Goodyear welted and made with hard-bottom leather soles.
- Charles Tyrwhitt: Many of Charles Tyrwhitt’s shoes are made by Loake or equivalent factories. Ignore the lure of sale prices, however. Charles Tyrwhitt’s stuff is always on sale.
- Herring: I have no first hand experience with the line, but my understanding is that many of their shoes are also made by Loake (or, again, equivalent factories).
- Meermin: One of my favorites of the lot. Their shoes are handwelted, which is believed to be a better construction method than Goodyear welting, and they have a semi-affordable made-to-order program. You can read a review I did of them here.
- Shipton & Heneage: Shipton & Heneage sells shoes made by various well-respected manufacturers in England and Italy. Sometimes you’ll find shoes here selling for less than what the original manufacturers would have you pay. Sign up for their Discount Club to receive coupons.
- Made in Maine: There are a bunch of quality shoe manufacturers in Maine. The first that comes to mind is Rancourt, who sells handsewn shoes at a very reasonable price. There’s also Town View Leather and Arrow Moccasins, both of whom also sell handsewn shoes, but mostly of the moccasin variety. Those give less foot support, but they can be good for short walks. Additionally, there’s Eastland’s Made in Maine collection. I bought one of their boots last year, and on the inside, there was a strip of reconstituted leather covering the back (where the heel cup would normally go). The leather fell apart after my third wear, and customer service wasn’t terribly helpful, but to be fair, the shoes still wear fine. Finally, a reader of ours suggested Dexter 1957, but I have no first hand experience with them. Reviews online are scant and mixed.
- Kent Wang and Howard Yount: Both these companies can usually be relied upon for selling decently made things at lower-than-average prices.
- Markowski: I have no first hand experience with this line, but their customers have given positive reports on StyleForum. The shop is based in Paris, but the shopkeepers speak decent English. They also hold sales, which knocks their prices down somewhat even further.
- Andrew Lock: Jesse gave a good review of them here (he even had a shoe expert take them apart).
Allen Edmonds factory seconds: The term factory seconds just means shoes that haven’t passed the quality control process, but often the “defects” are incredibly minor (like a very small nick). You can contact Allen Edmonds’ “shoe bank” store in Brookfield, Wisconsin to make a purchase. Their number is (262) 785-6666.
Suede: Let’s say all the above are still out of range to you. If you can’t afford higher-quality shoes, at least aim for suede. They’ll generally look better with age than a pair made from corrected grain. Perhaps the most affordable suede shoes I know of are Clarks’ desert boots, which sometimes go for as little as $60 on sale. Once you get them, know how to take care of them well, so that you get as much out of your purchase as possible.
“Thanks a lot, Macklemore. This Goodwill is filled with record execs on the hunt for new white rappers. It used to be about the CLOTHES.”— D.C. Pierson
“There’s a ton of excellent information out there on thrifting, but I’ll share some of the most basic approaches I take that often yield substantially rewarding outcomes…”— Broke & Bespoke’s thrifting advice
You find weird things thrifting. Like a blazer for the Sea Org.
I just want to take a second to highlight Broke and Bespoke, a great tumblr, featuring a lot of “What I Wore” photos. Like another favorite of mine, The Thrifty Gent, the author posts almost exclusively thrifted and discount-purchased clothes. The Thrifty Gent is all business, wearing very traditional American styles. Broke and Bespoke has a younger, zippier style.
Someone emailed me the other day, complaining that when we write about “affordable” menswear, we often compare it to higher-priced stuff. Our goal in doing that isn’t to make you feel bad for not being able to afford to stroll into Bergdorf Goodman and buy a wardrobe at retail. Instead, it’s to help encourage folks to understand what’s good about good stuff, so they can recognize it at whatever price point they can afford… be it bespoke, Bergdorf or Bargain Barn.
Bow Tie: G. Fox & Co. English handblocked silk foulard, thrifted $4
Shirt: Uniqlo university striped OCBD, $15 (grand opening sale)
Sweater: Banana Republic merino wool v-neck, clearance $20
Jacket: Joseph Abboud “American Soft” line, thrifted $12
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - Thrift Store Shopping
I can get behind rap records about thrift stores. And rappers named after Mark McLemore. And affectionate goofs about sneaker heads. So that’s three, and I should probably post this, right?
The Thrifty Gent has been running an interesting series of thrifting tips, and his latest is really great - it’s a few signs of high-quality clothing that are as useful for the new-clothes shopper as they are for the thrifter.
A Good Day’s Thrifting
After working every day for a few weeks straight, I took a few hours yesterday to pursue some hobby time. I hopped in the car and headed for the west side of Los Angeles to do some thrifting.
I live in East LA, where there are plenty of thrift stores, but precious little quality menswear on the racks therein. The reason’s simple - no rich people, no rich people clothes. There are some thrift chains that distribute across a region, rather than store-by-store, and there are always scores available everywhere, but the percentages are best in nice stores in affluent areas.
I ended up with the pile above. The Polo suit is older, probably from the 1980s, made in the USA, in a beautiful gray birdseye. Perfect fit and a very classic style, especially for a big tall guy like myself. I find myself drawn to Polo from the mid-80s and before, when it was inspired by classic styles of the 1930s and ’40s. The better-quality pieces have held up with time, as well. This suit will require a letting out in the waist and taking up in the sleeves and trousers, but both of those are easily done by my tailor. It set me back $40.
I found the pocket squares in the ladies’ scarves section of one of my favorite thrifts. It’s always worth taking a peek there - pocket squares are usually about 15 or 16 inches square, and scarves for women tend to be much larger, so it’s easy to spot the difference. Only one of the ones I picked up had a brand (also Polo), but all are great options, and they were only five bucks each.
The ties came from a Goodwill that’s been very productive for me in the past. The green striped one was the first I found - I spotted its Kiton tag from across the room. The rest are made by Paul Stuart (in England), Facconable (by Breuer, in France), Brooks Brothers Makers and Andrew of Milano. There was another Kiton, stained, that I left on the rack.
The trip represented visits to six stores, and I shopped at two of them. I spent a total of about $75 (plus another $15 on baby clothes, not pictured). Not bad for half a day’s work.
Q and Answer: Can I Get Bedbugs From Used Clothes on eBay?
Dwight asks: What is the risk of getting bedbugs from an eBay purchase and what are the proper steps to mitigate them?
The risk of getting bedbugs from an eBay or other second-hand clothing purchase is very small, but it’s not zero. It’s increased a bit if you’re shopping somewhere where bedbugs are more widespread, like New York City. Bedbugs prefer the regular blood meals that bedding provides, so they don’t travel much via clothing, but they can go without eating for quite a long time. If they end up in clothes, they can hang out for up to a year, waiting for snacking conditions to improve.
Luckily, if you’re concerned about bedbugs, it’s very simple to kill them.
Bedbugs can’t live in temperatures over about 115 degrees. So, if you want to kill any bedbugs that might be hiding out on a garment, just put it in the drier on hot for a few minutes. Expert recommend 15 or 20 to be safe, but say that even five or ten should do it. Dry cleaning will also kill bed bugs, so if you have a dry clean only garment, there’s no need to put it in the laundry.
Of course, cleaning second-hand clothes is good practice anyway. While some second-hand stores and vendors dry-clean clothing, some don’t, and dry-cleaning or laundering your new-old clothes will also eliminate the risk of bringing another terrifying pest into your home: clothing moths.