Fashion is a fickle beast, a constantly changing and forever-costly passion. However, with a careful mind to building a wardrobe around time-tested pieces, even the slimmest budget can inject your wardrobe with huge style returns for comparatively minimal costs.
There’s a stigma with vintage shopping; visions of mothballed racks of ratty and ill fitting wears, worn for decades and showing every day of it. But with a little perseverance, it’s possible to find quality clothing that has the added benefit of being nearly one of a kind. With this in mind, EveryGuyed has assembled a basic list of classic items that can be found at nearly any vintage or thrift shop; items that are perpetually in style, and always worth the pittance listed on the price tag.
Get a head start on your mid-life crisis by revisiting your youth – or your fathers or grandfathers youth – with a vintage band t-shirt. It’s cheaper than tickets to those uber-hyped reunion tours, and it’s actually nostalgic.
After all, why bother spending a small fortune on a re-creation band t-shirt when you can get one straight from the period with all that sense of history you just can’t fake? Just make sure it doesn’t run you much more than $10 -$15, and hasn’t seen one too many concerts, since you’ll want it to have a little life left in it still.
A vintage band t-shirt: it’s cheaper than tickets to those uber-hyped reunion tours, and it’s actually nostalgic
Jackets and Blazers
Jackets and blazers are some of the most common pieces you’ll find at a second-hand store or vintage shop. There are all sorts of styles and materials available, which means that if you’re a bit adventurous you can get something unique at a steal. The key here, like when buying any jacket or blazer, is to ensure the fit is proper.
You should be able to pull a blazer or jacket ranging from $20-$50, but if it’s a great fit and great style, drop a little extra cash; this is an item that you can wear almost anywhere, from the office to the patio, so it’s worth the money.
When buying any jacket or blazer, the key is to ensure the fit is proper
Cable Knit Sweaters
A cable-knit sweater is a staple piece for any man’s closet, so why spend hundreds of dollars on a designer made one when there is a perfectly solid alternative available in vintage for only $10? Look for the highest quality you can find; unique textures, details, and materials are things you won’t find in all except the most expensive designer pieces today. It’s a cliché, but they really just don’t “make them like they used to.”
A great place to find this style of sweater is your local military surplus, where you can find those classic military sweaters designed to survive the front line, and probably a few of your nights out on the town.
Why spend hundreds of dollars on a designer made items when there is a perfectly solid alternative available in vintage for only $10?
For a uniquely colored, or varsity inspired cardigan, vintage is the way to go. This is another instance where you can find a perfectly good piece for $10 instead of the $100 it would cost you new. After finding a few colors and styles you like, use the TOPSY acronym (Tears, Odors, Pills, Stains, Y-factor: including details like zippers, buttons, etc.) to ensure it’s in tip-top shape.
Try several of these on, and feel free to play around with sizing; with a slim high fashion black number, to a chunky navy that’s just like what your grandfather used to rock.
For a uniquely colored, or varsity inspired cardigan, vintage is the way to go
Fair Isle Sweaters
Thank our Scottish brothers for this quirky yet classic piece that, despite what your boisterous Uncle Ronnie showcased when you were a child, is not limited to drunken holiday dinners. Fair Isle Sweaters are available in all sorts of styles and colors, from loud to reserved, so you can get as experimental as you want here. $10 should do the trick, and just like searching for Cardigans you want to use the TOPSY acronym (or better yet, your common sense ) to ensure the piece is in good shape. One or two of these in your closet is enough, so you might even want to take a few shopping trips before choosing your favorite.
Military jackets are a staple piece in almost every vintage store. Although this piece isn’t for everyone, some men swear by it as the foundation of a casual look, so for $50 why not consider adding something a little different to your wardrobe? There are many styles and fits available when it comes to military jackets, so make sure you explore the racks to find out what kind of options you have. Once you find a style you like, it might take a few visits or a few stores to find a good fit and finish, just be persistent and you’ll end up with a great piece.
Another men’s fashion staple that is extremely easy to come by in vintage shops is the pea coat. If you find it hard to justify spending hundreds of dollars on a piece, or if you just want a unique flair, then look to the racks of any vintage store for a navy or gray pea coat. It will take some searching to find one that has a nice slim fit and minimal wear, but with the potential savings compared to buying new, this is time and effort well spent.
This is one of the joys of vintage shopping, since most thrift shops are quite literally a sea of plaid. The thing to remember here is that although patterns stay relatively consistent, colors change a great deal throughout generations, so buying a plaid shirt from the 70s or 80s means you’ll be sporting a combination of colors that probably isn’t available today; for better or worse. Just make sure that it’s free of rips and tears and has all its buttons, from cuff to collar. While everyone else is wearing this year’s color trends, you’ll stand out as fashionable, adventurous, and unique.
This is one of the joys of vintage shopping, since most thrift shops are quite literally a sea of plaid
Many vintage shops stock super generic cheaply made sunglasses, but dig deep and you can find some real gems. Accessories add vital complements to your outfit and offer you a chance to show off your personality, plus the ladies pay attention to them which is a great reason to make sure you’re on point. Wayfarers, aviators, horn rimmed, and other common styles are all options here, but also pick-up unconventional styles and try them on. Don’t be afraid to try on a bunch of pairs and ask the salesperson what they think looks good if you’re not sure. Minimal scratching can be buffed out, and screws tightened, but if you’re uncertain about a pair, in the end it’s best to just walk away no matter how inexpensive.
Many vintage shops stock super generic cheaply made sunglasses, but dig deep and you can find some real gems
If you work in an environment where you have to wear a tie, or if you just like wearing one, you’ll know that they don’t come cheap. You’ll also know that wearing the same few ties day in and day out can get repetitive and boring pretty quickly. Luckily, vintage ties are extremely cheap (averaging about $5). Use the TOPSY acronym and go wild – you can never have too many colors, patterns, or shapes when it comes to ties.
Every man should own a trench coat, and there’s no reason to break the bank if you can get one on the cheap. Navy or tan is your best option, and it will probably take a few trips to find the right piece with the right fit. Look for familiar labels when it comes to trenches, but don’t feel confined to them – if you see something no-name that looks like it has good construction and a good fit, try it on! A trench is a staple piece, so don’t buy any old piece just because it’s cheap – spend your time to find the right one, since if you do you’ll be sure to wear it often.
Look for familiar labels when it comes to trenches
Vintage shopping can be as fun as it can be frustrating; whether it’s finding an item with just the right fit, or discovering a tear in a piece that otherwise seems perfect, it’s requires persistence and patience to find those diamonds in the rough. Just keep TOPSY (Tears, Odors, Pills, Stains, Y-Factor) in the back of your mind, and remember that no matter how inexpensive something is, if you’re not 100% sure you love it and will wear it, it’s money wasted.
What are some of your favorite vintage pieces? What about your best finds ever? Upload a picture if you have time, otherwise we’d just love to hear about your vintage shopping experiences.
Latest posts by Aaron Duarte (see all)
- 5 Timeless Eyeglass Frames for Men - August 22, 2011
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- 11 Staples of Vintage Menswear - March 17, 2011
What's on your mind?
Where are you paying $20 for used odd jackets for?
I think you’re getting ripped off!
I just came across your blog, and this is the best, most comprehensive coverage of men’s fashion ‘how to’s’ I have yet to see.
I love that you are promoting vintage as a cheap as well as enduring alternative to new clothing. You also warm people of the pros and cons. Important.
Promoting vintage is so great especially if you live in a city–like San Francisco– that has quality vintage shops that only buy items that are in good condition. This allows you to relax when shopping and not worry that the clothing will fall apart after you buy it (which has happened to me in less quality stores).
Another reason to love vintage is that clothing quality and fabrics were much better than they are today. For your money, vintage can be a great investment. Think long term; if you care for your items, you can always resell them at a good price which you cannot count on with modern clothing that even Crossroads is not likely to accept.
Again, I love your work, I will be sure to check back frequently.
Wearing a military jacket/uniform peice while not in the military is considered highly disrespectful. Even if you dont like the military, avoid wearing one. It makes you look like a d-o-u-c-h-e