Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thrifting for lost treasures

     I'm probably one of the most frugal people I know.  That reminds me of a saying that one of my schoolmate's mothers made many (too many) years ago.  My friend and I were sitting at his kitchen table talking about all the stuff we were going to buy once we graduated from college and got really great jobs. It was predestined, we thought.  How could we not graduate and immediately fall into a lifestyle fit for kings?  Ah, to be young and delusional again...  As we were talking we lamented how our parents, who could obviously afford to send us to a good school, were so cruel to deny us our every want.  His mother, who had been eavesdropping on us from around a corner, chose that moment to smack us back into reality.  Just as our commiseration was reaching a climax she walked by and nonchalantly said, "Boys, your problem isn't family means, it's personal means... as in you don't have any.  You've got Cadillac tastes on Bonneville budgets. I suggest you keep studying if you ever want to change that."  Truer words were never spoken.  In retrospect I'm glad that my parents didn't give in to every want that I professed as a young man.  I see that too often these days and it doesn't build character nor does it instill realistic expectations in young minds already full of unrealistic ones.  
     Having been taught the "value of a dollar" from a young age, I was (and still am) horrified by the price of most things in the market place.  I was also taught that you get what you pay for and I've relearned that lesson countless times throughout my adult life.  I have no problem paying more for a quality made item that I know will last.  The problem is finding those quality items in the first place. I've also been on a mission to buy "Made in the USA" items whenever possible.  Talk about a tall order to fill - these days it's almost impossible. I have two options: buy high quality, Made in America clothing when available or thrift for the vintage stuff. 
     First, let's talk about thrifting... I love to thrift, it's like treasure hunting for me.  Nothing beats the thrill of finding a classic piece of clothing (like L.L. Bean or Patagonia), with "Made in the USA" on the label and in great condition for some ridiculously low price!  It's amazing to me what people donate to charity.  I've found everything from American made L.L Bean OCBD shirts, J. Press jackets, Canali suits, old Land's End, Brooks Brothers, etc. to classic "Made in America" shoes by Allen Edmonds, Alden and L.L. Bean!  The trad classics are out there, they're just trapped in between rack after rack of crap!
     Unfortunately not everything can be found at a thrift store.  That's where finding a good quality vendor of classically designed clothing comes into play.  Muffy Aldrich, who runs The Daily Prep, has an excellent list of authentic prep clothing purveyors.  Much of that clothing and accessories happens to qualify as trad as well.  She does an outstanding job of separating the authentic from the mass-produced mall crap.  If you haven't read her blog, I highly recommend it.  One of her posts that I use as a reference is titled "Preppy vendors on my radar." A veritable who's who of authenticity and quality.  Thank you Muffy!
     One of the names that you'll find on that list is Georgia's own Jack Donnelly Khakis. Trad? Check!  Made in the USA? Check!  Made in Georgia about 15 minutes from my house? BONUS! Now I know what you're thinking, how can someone so frugal justify spending so much for pants and shorts?  It's simple really. First, they're made right and they'll last forever.  I take care of my clothes, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that I'll wear these items for 10+ years.  Second, they're made right here in Georgia, USA.  I couldn't ask for a better scenario.  I will be placing my first order in about a week and I'll write a more exhaustive review of the products then.
     Other names on Muffy's list speak for themselves: Alden Shoes, Orvis, Ralph Lauren, Leather Man, etc. In most cases the companies represented there offer a quality product that will last a very long time. If I happen to find any of their products in a thrift store, fantastic, but if not I have no issue buying them new. Have standards of quality and design, but shop smart!

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