May 17, 2013

Improvements and Upgrades (or, relativity)

People who don' t shop in thrift stores tend to...

People who don' t shop in thrift stores tend to share the common misconception that thrift shopping is a matter of compromise, of settling for what you can get. They're wrong. In fact, shopping in places like Walmart and Target is settling for what you can get. Allow me to explain.

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I'm not about to open a conversation on blind brand allegiance. Nor am I about to infer that you are less of a person for using mass market products. I am only going to suggest that it is in fact possible to do this while abstaining from participation in the mass market, and in the long run, come out ahead.

This time of year, I tend to shy away from dungarees for the go-to pants in favor of khakis. For one thing, I find jeans to be nothing but uncomfortable on a warm day. For another, khakis run the gamut from casual to dressy. For this reason, several pair (or at least a few) are best.

When it comes to khakis, or other widely produced items,  thrift shops come into their own. In the past, I've owned many pairs of J. Crew "Essential Chinos",though I never purchased a single pair from J. Crew. Thrift shops are full of them, usually for five or six bucks a pair. They're good enough, and cheap enough. I don't even have to settle for "Dockers". In Spring, I practically wear a uniform or tan pants and navy blue jackets. As such, khakis are something of a commodity for me. So I buy the mall brand khakis for cheap, and wear them out.Then little by little, they are replaced with better goods,for the same price. To wit, the current rotation, seen above,

At left we have a pair of Brooks Brothers "Madison" chinos. A nice, darker shade of tan, these chinos do dressy and casual equally well. I have this pair dry cleaned, so I wear them dressy when they're crisp, and casual when a little dirty and rumpled. A definite improvement and/or upgrade to the J, Crew models, in a very nice shade of darker tan. Nice as these chinos are, it pays to remember that once venerable stalwarts like "Brooks Brothers" are only just brand names now, and no real guarantee of quality and/or "realness". ( We used to call that 'authenticity' in the day, before that word was considered "artisinal.")

In the middle, we have the "fanciest" pair.  A custom job from Alan Rouleau of Boston,this pair is made from a lighter, more delicate cloth, a clear departure from the military/hard wearing roots of khaki clothing. I wear this pair almost exclusively with a blazer and tie. Dressy for when no one else is and confidence is your only weapon.

Far right, vintage army khakis. Thicker than the others, heavier than  the others. These are the real deal, the pair I use for working around the house, running errands, or anything that involves a lot of driving.

I still have an old pair of J.Crew 'essential chinos" too. Stained with paint from the kids' bedroom, they are soft and comfortable, perfect for anytime when I have real work to do. I even wear them out sometimes, in spite of the recent paint splattered khaki silliness some designers have engaged in lately. 

You'll often here clothing blogs give the advice to young men that when starting to build a wardrobe, it helps to find good less expensive versions of things to start with until you can afford to move up to the better stuff. This is where my point about how thrift shops can be less of a compromise than "big box" stores come into it. You can still begin with starter stuff, at a price so cheap that you're not wasting your time or money on inferior goods. You don't even have to participate in the corporate cycle to acquire them. Better still, when the opportunity to upgrade comes along, you can step up to the better stuff for the same price, and it will effectively be a reward for your patience and perseverance. 

p.s. Indiegogo, remember? Push, push, push!

p.p.s. I began writing this post last night, then saved the draft. Seems it got hacked and published with some added weird stuff at the end. My apologies to anyone who read it in its weird version. I've fixed the problem and completed the post properly.





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tagged indiegogo an affordable wardrobe, jcrew, indiegogo, details, brooks brothers, army khakis...