Your personal style should be important to you. It tells others who you are and what you’re all about before they even meet you. So a man’s wardrobe should be intentional and selectively stylish. Just like growing your facial hair is an intentional act (something as manly as that doesn’t spring from laziness), your wardrobe should be given the same attention. It should be a carefully curated collection of pieces that are thought out and they should each serve a significant role in defining your personal style. It should include pieces that speak to current trends, yes, but it should also have some character and history. That’s why scouring flea markets and scrounging thrift stores should always be considered before heading to the mall.
There’s something to be said about having thrifted finds in your closet. For one, there’s definitely a sense of satisfaction that comes with leaving your house knowing that you won’t run into anyone wearing your outfit. Pride is reason enough, right? But oftentimes vintage pieces are unique in that their original construction was so well executed that they’ve literally stood the test of time. Here are a few items to be on the lookout for when hunting for vintage finds for your closet.
This is the easiest type of thrifted piece to add to your wardrobe, mainly because the quality and construction of denim pieces allows for them to hold up wear after wear after wear after… well you get the idea. Denim is durable, and not only because denim is one tough fabric. But keep in mind that for years denim was the fabric of choice for hard work and labor. It was made to withstand rough and tough types of situations so a few decades in grandma’s attic is nothing when it comes to classic heritage workwear denim pieces. Denim is also one of the most durable fashion trends of all time. Think about it. When was the last time you heard someone say, Denim is so out this season. I mean come on, denim is always a good go to piece.
Be on the lookout for: Denim jackets and chambray workshirts. My closet is full of them.
2. Belts & Leather Accessories
Leather is another really durable material if it was originally constructed well and if it’s been cared for properly. Every self-respecting man needs a few classic belts and they don’t typically get treated too poorly so finding a vintage one can work out perfectly. Keep in mind that if you find one and it’s too large, you can always punch more holes in it with a leather punch and trim off any excess. Every stylish man also needs at least one decent leather bag. If you can find one that has some history you get bonus points. Finding these can be a little more difficult because not everyone maintains their leather all that well and bags from decades past weren’t made to hold laptops or iPads making modern styles more efficient for the modern beardsman. But, if you get creative an old camera bag can work just fine as a travel carry on.
Be on the lookout for: Braided leather belts because the size doesn’t matter and leather folios and weekender bags, they’re bags you can actually use.
This one is not for the severe germaphobic among us. However, if you are a severe germaphobe you probably aren’t buying anything vintage anyways. I have a pair of thrifted loafers that I’ve worn regularly for the past seven years. When I got them the brand was already so worn out that I couldn’t even tell who made them. I took a chance and they’ve held up longer than new shoes I’ve bought since so I’ve got to think they were something decent originally. When shopping for vintage shoes, you need to ensure you sterilize them (think that bowling shoe spray) and add a new insole. Shoes that were worn for years by someone else means that footbed is fit to their foot, not yours. Get a good insole so that your feet can feel comfortable walking around in someone else’s shoes (see what I did there).
Be on the lookout for: Shoes that were made to last like boots and leather dress shoes. Also keep an eye out for quality heritage brands like Red Wing and L.L. Bean.
Just like with new ties, vintage ties really allow you to add a personal punch to an outfit. Current trends still dictate that skinny ties are in which is great since the majority of thrift stores have well-stocked sections of skinny ties from the 50’s and 60’s. The great thing about old ties is that they just don’t make ties with the same prints and patterns as they used to so you will always look unique. Whether it’s a single emblem on a solid color or a distinctive stripe, vintage ties are usually an easy and affordable way to add some vintage finds to your wardrobe.
Be on the lookout for: Ties that don’t show their wear. It’s okay if they’re kinked where you knot them consistently but anywhere else it’s better to just keep looking.
Now here is the part in this conversation when the snobby sartorialists and menswear columnists at every major men’s publication would end this conversation by stating that vintage Rolex is the only way to go. And that may be so. Unfortunately I may never know what that feels like but I’m okay with that. For me finding an old Timex that no one else will be seen wearing suits me just fine. If you take a trip to a local flea market there will be booth after booth of vintage jewelry and watches. The only real recommendation I can make on this is to buy one that works, or has a real possibility of working if it gets repaired. Don’t wear a watch that doesn’t work, no matter how cool it looks. Style and practicality should go hand in hand.
Be on the lookout for: A watch that actually works or a good watch repairman.