I’ve had many requests for a list of brands to look for when thrifting. Of course, this is a monumentally huge request, given the sheer volume of brands of all types of clothes that’s out there. I don’t really think it’s something I’m even capable of doing.
Luckily, though, folks on various clothing fora have put together hierarchical lists of ready-to-wear suit and sportcoat brands. These tend to be based on things like amount of hand work, canvassing, fabrics and so on. These aren’t the end-all, be-all of quality – if you’re Rod Blagojevic, then you want Oxxford to look like a competent guy who won’t get all graft-y, and if you’re an Italian playboy, you might want Kiton or Isaia to look like the kind of guy whose yacht travels with its own cigar boat. Different brands have different meanings, fits, and values.
That said, these brands, grouped into two loose agglomerations (super-mega excellent and very excellent) produce high-quality goods that are worth looking out for. I’ve left out mid-tier brands (like, say, Brooks Brothers main line) because things get a lot murkier around that level of quality. There are plenty of clothes worth wearing at that level, and you should not be ashamed to buy and wear them, but the brands listed below are consistently superb.
Again: this list is mostly alphabetical, and somewhat to very arbitrary. It’s mostly a tool for folks who want a reference to help them identify the best of the best when bargain hunting. I’m sure I missed stuff, and the ranking system is loosey-goosey at best. Nonetheless, I think it will be of use.
Barbera (Luciano) Collezioni Sartoriale
Cheshire Clothing (Chester Barrie)
Ralph Lauren Purple Label (both the Saint Andrews and the Chester Barrie)
Stuart’s Choice (Isiah until 06, St Andrews post 06)
Alfred Dunhill London
Armani Classico and Black Label (made by Vestimenta)
Boss Baldessarini (made by Caruso)
Brooks Brothers Black Fleece
Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece
Canali and Canali Exclusive
Corneliani Linea Sartoria
Corneliani Trend and CC
Ermenegildo Zegna Couture (& mainline to a lesser extent – Z Zegna is low-end line)
Faconnable Tailleur (made by Canali and Cantarelli)
Lanvin (not necessarily true for vintage)
Paul Smith (Mainline, not Paul Smith London)
Polo Blue Label (made in Italy)
Ralph Lauren Polo Blue Label (currently made by Canali, older by Corneliani)
Samuelsohn – Canada
Zileri sartoriale line
Zileri Gruppo Forall