Unlike many of you, I'm not made of money. Again though, unlike many, I turned into a fanatic about building a wardrobe of high-ticket clothes--for which I pay a good deal less than cheapskates pay for crap.
Why would I do this, some may ask, if I can't afford at present to roam the globe or fly first class or even buy a modest mansion?
1) The best clothing doesn't just cost more, The silhouette and fabric, combined with a jacked sense of pride, release your inner tiger.
2) Dress for success, indeed. But we also must dress for all kinds of success. I don't need a slew of formal sportcoats or dozens of button-down plain or pinstriped shirts. What's right for one job interview may not be right or another. I learned a long time that overdressing's as off-putting as showing up in rags. I've also paid steep prices for being wrongly or under-dressed because I lacked a versatile wardrobe.
3) Most people can see the difference between a cheap knock-off at Macy's and a real Armani coat or shirt. After my first book, The Suiting, won a Stoker award, the Canadian tailor who inspired the book gave me a beautiful suit. One day while I wore it on New York subway platform, a conductor hit the brakes and cried: 'Jesus, where'd you get that suit!"
4) That said, how could I get the best quality threads without paying a king's ransom?
I narrowed it down to three choices.
a) I could shop at discount clothing stores like Ross Dress For Less or T. J. Maxx.
b) I could rummage through the sale and clearance racks at big department stores.
c) I could search until I found a thrift store that succeeded in ringing my bells: clean, in a good part of town, with regular replenishment of new and like-new men's clothes.
Why was C the choice for me?
Discount and sale/clearance racks are generally potluck. They include returns, 'imperfects' and onesies or twosies (of a kind) marked down to make room for new stock. Most often, the things that you want aren't your size. And the no matter how low the clearance price is, it's more than you'd pay at choice C.
Your eyes and nose will tell you if you're about to enter the wrong thrift store for you. If you see grungy carpeting or smell formaldehyde (used by some stores to 'clean' the clothing they acquire), back off. Do not go in. You're likely to get a dreadful formaldehyde hash or take bed bugs home with you. God bless Salvation Army, but shop for your clothes elsewhere.
I found my store in Ballard, an upscale Seattle 'hood. It's clean and bright with tiled floors. Here's a photo taken of the store on its opening day,
My immediate needs for a job search were these: dress shirts, sportcoats, slacks and shoes. Over time I scored on all fronts. These examples are offered to show you a little thrift store math. All of these items were new like-new:
--Dress shirts by top designers or name brands: Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Thomas Pink of London, Nordstrom, Calvin Klein, Brooks Brothers, Kenneth Cole, etc,
Sale: $12-$18. Average: $13.
--Sportcoats by Kenneth Cole, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Henry Grethel.
Sale: $9.99-$25. Average: $15.
As I write this post, I'm gearing up to change jobs. At last have the confidence that comes from knowing I've got the right look for wherever I go.
Next week I'll share the brass tacks of how I conducted my search over a six-month period.