This post marks the beginning of a hopefully enduring series here at Mile High Prep. This series will focus on values that Andrew and I hold to be quite important when trying to live a preppy lifestyle.
Salvation Army: a common thrift store
What is thrift?
Thrift, what is it? I can tell you right off the bat that thrift is not merely a term associated with stores that sell second hand clothing. Thrift means: to use money or resources carefully and not wastefully. The original (pre 1500’s) definition of thrift is as follows: the condition of thriving; prosperity, savings. The definition used today originated in the mid 1500’s. I’d be willing to wager that when most people my age think of the word thrift, they think first of thrift stores, followed possibly by thoughts of their elderly grandmother (who grew up during or at the tail end of the great depression) talking about being thrifty and frugal. For now we will focus on the sort of thrift that your grandma talks about.
Thrift is, in the modern American middle class world I grew up in, a seemingly archaic, unnecessary value for a person to have. Why go try to track down a quality OCBD for a discounted price when you can just ask your parents to buy you a Polo one? Getting to college, however, forces one to buy clothing and other items more mindfully. This might mean, again, skipping the hunt for a discounted, quality OCBD and simply buying one from Old Navy. Yes, the college student is thinking more about the cost of an item, but they are sacrificing quality, which is as equally unthrifty as buying a brand new Polo OCBD. By the same token, who would want cook their own food to save a few dollars when they could spend less time and just go buy food at McDonalds.
The age in which our grandparents learned the value of thrift.
Why in the world do we need to be thrifty?
We live in a world plagued by consumerism and unless we attempt to do something to combat the allure of consumerism, we are all-consumed (pun intended). We buy and buy. And when we finally become aware of money, we think that buying cheap clothing, shoes, bicycles, food, etc. and replacing those things when they wear out (albeit quickly) with equally cheap items, is somehow helpful to our wallets.
Thrift means, literally in the words of my Grandma, to “use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.” This saying is something that all preps (and ALL people) should attempt to live by. Doing without, however, seems to be a bit of a dichotomy for those of us interested in the sartorial pursuits of life. When applied to clothing, I take this statement to be referring to each individual item of clothing. For example, if you don’t ever wear jeans, don’t own them. But, if you do wear jeans, wear them and wear them until you can’t wear them any longer. The whole premise of wearing clothing until you can’t anymore is defeated when all your clothing comes from Target or similar stores. Sure they’re cheap, but part of the fun in wearing an article of clothing into the ground is defeated when that process only lasts a matter of months.
Just because you need a blue and white gingham shirt and Target happens to have one, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wait to find one that fits better, will last longer, and is of a higher quality. Being thrifty is about being patient and mindful.
When a person get interested in style, there is an overwhelming temptation to build up their wardrobe hastily. This sort of buying is the exact opposite of thrift. You can’t really start dressing preppy if you don’t have a few OCBDs, chinos, and a pair of Weejuns (Sperries for our younger readers). Instead of going to the mall and blowing tons of money or visiting one of the aforementioned retail stores, I implore you; spend the time to peruse eBay, go to your local Goodwill, Savers, Salvation Army, what have you and find articles of clothing that are quality, inexpensive, and coolest of all… have CHARACTER.
Once you get past the basics, the inevitable will happen, you’ll start wanting other things like, a Barbour coat, a Patagonia Snap-T, some Nantucket red chinos, maybe some Clark’s (our FAVORITE shoes), etc. As these items begin to pop up on your radar, make a list and slowly but surely search for these items, be that on eBay or your local thrift store. When you finally find that Barbour Beaufort for $150 you’ve been looking everywhere for, I promise it’ll feel much more satisfying than if you had simply driven to Orvis and had gotten a new one off the rack. You may be worried about buying used clothing or shoes, don’t be. The clothing that you should be eyeing should be something that will last longer used than an article of clothing bought brand new from Target or Old Navy.
Once you own articles of clothing the best way to emanate the principle of thrift is to wear your clothing. That’s right, WEAR it and wear it into the ground before you replace it. If you are able, repair it before replacing it. Nothing looks preppier that a shetland sweater with elbow patches that have been sewn on out of necessity. Granted, there are some articles of clothing you want to repair and wear with the beat up look, however, certain items like suits, dress pants, dress shoes, should be replaced before the incredible worn in look occurs. It’s cool to wear a pair of Levi’s on the weekend that have been patched and faded (Kate Spade’s husband, Andy Spade, has Levi’s that he has been wearing since high-school). It is most definitely NOT cool to wear a pair of suit pants with frayed cuffs and worn down knees to work. Wearing beat up clothes with panache is one of the most preppy things in the book, but use your judgement. If you think you’d feel really out of place and wouldn’t be confident wearing your shetland with elbow patches to work, then save it for weekend wear.
Enough words, here are some rocking thrift store/eBay finds that Andrew and I have recently procured. (Incase you didn’t know, Patagonia is really supportive of this sort of thrifty mindset. Check out Worn Wear.)
Two vintage Made in the USA Patagonia Snap-Ts that Andrew bought on Craigslist
Patagonia Better Sweater full-zip ($12-Saver’s), Barbour Liddesdale ($45- eBay), and Patagonia Retro-X Vest ($70-eBay- Brand New)
G.H. Bass tassel loafers ($9-Goodwill), Cole Haan penny loafers ($20-eBay), and Clark’s Wallabees ($30-eBay)
Four shirts from the prep powerhouses of Polo, Brooks Brothers, and LL Bean. I don’t remember the cost of these but they were all found at Goodwill
Brand new Barbour Beaufort that Andrew found on eBay for more than half off retail cost. The Aran sweater was purchased at Goodwill for less than $10.
As you can all see, Andrew and I have both found some astounding items at Goodwill, on eBay, or otherwise. If you have the patience and persistence you will be able to find high quality items for way under retail cost. Enough blathering, just remember: 1) Buying used quality clothes is better than buying new, cheap clothing, 2) WEAR your clothes, they’re meant to be worn like you mean it, & finally 3) Repair before you replace.