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Why a thrift store is the best place for last-minute Christmas shopping

Thrifting is a fun hobby to have.  Sure, I understand the allure of buying something from a store or getting it made, but you never know what you’re going to find when you walk into your local Goodwill, Savers, charity shop, or vintage store. It may seem daunting or even a hassle if you’re not used to it, but if you look at it instead as a fun, low-risk gamble and not just an opportunity for cheap clothes, I think you can have a good time.  And what better time to check them out than this holiday season!

First off, let me say that I’m a terrible gift giver. It’s not laziness or apathy, but it probably has to do with how specific I am; I just want the person to either love the gift or have some genuine enjoyment out of it.  As a result, I used to either give gift cards, cash, or exactly what the person wants. But lately, thanks to a plethora of fun white elephant exchanges with friends and family, I’ve tried to adopt a new view on gift giving. Something quirky or even funny.  It’s much better than simply giving them something that they would buy for themselves anyway. So the next time you’re out thrifting for menswear, try looking for out for these cool pieces, perfect for your close friends or that next joke white elephant swap at the office.

Thrifted Clothing

Obviously clothing is a no brainer, since you’re already there and chances are not everything is going to fit you.  I’ve written about how to thrift for clothing, but this time try to match the measurements to your friends, that way it feels more like a score even if you don’t get something for yourself.

There’s always a plethora of oxfords and other dress shirts that can be great stocking stuffers for friends who don’t necessarily dress too well; you could even throw in complimentary tailoring if you feel the need to be extra charitable.  Tweed jackets, corduroys, and shoes are also a good buy if you get lucky. And if all else fails, a good repp or foulard tie can usually be found on the way out. I can’t tell you how many times my friends always ask me to find things when I’m out thrifting!

One last thing to look out for (if you have streetwear-oriented friends), are cool 1980s-1990s T shirts.  You probably know the ones I’m talking about: stuff from old company parties, band (both rock and brass) festivals, or just ones with “totally radical” graphic design.  Perfect for lightwash 501s (which are also good to find while thrifting), tucked into chinos, or as a fun PJ shirt.

Glasses and Decanters

I’m not a big drinker, but I like the opportunity to make it look like I am. Instead of buying fancy glassware or china, I like looking at the aisles for interesting containers or decanters.  It was a big hit in my college days when I would put apple or grape juice in the decanter to have a non-wild night with my friends. As you get older, juice turns into the fermented versions and getting a unique one is usually the way to go until you’re in a position to get an expensive one.  Or you can get one for your own holiday parties; just don’t forget to clean thoroughly after bringing it home.

Books

While a majority of books found at thrift stores are cookbooks and outdated advice books (which can be hilarious in itself), you can definitely find some grails. Obviously I tend to look for older editions of classic books or general ones centered around history or culture that my friends will find interesting; the best ones are usually ex-library books, still “mint” in the wrapping.  

Coffee table books are common to find and can be given to friends who have interests in those topics. I’ve come across a few menswear books (like Dressing the Man, by Alan Flusser) but painting, photography, and architecture compendiums are the usual faire. Again, older ones tend to be more interesting, if you can find them that is.  

Unique Toys, Bric-a-brac, and Accoutrements

I used to think that bric-a-brac was something reserved specifically for grandparents, but I’ve come to love it! It’s something completely unique that you really can’t find anywhere else that makes for a fun story or at least a funny reaction.  One of the most common ones are 80s-90s toys that my friends and I can reminisce on about your youth. I tend to prefer menswear related ones, like a cool wooden statue of a dandy gent that brings to mind the old esquire mascot.

Depending on your thrift/vintage store or antique mall, you could also find things like vintage cufflinks/tie bars, cameras, and even watches.  Other than that, nice models of airplanes, bookends, or figurines can be equally as nice. It’s just always worth a look!

Records

Lastly, we have the music. More and more people are getting record players and  collecting vintage LPs. While you may not find that crazy-rare jazz record at a Goodwill, you can find some hidden gems; I personally have found the old 1960’s score to Mary Poppins and the first Pink Panther film! Usually, random jazz recordings, orchestra compilations, or obscure 1970’s groups are what populate the racks.  I’m not a huge physical music collecting guy, but it’s fun to find something with great album artwork and to listen to music that you can’t really find online.  Just be sure to inspect the record for any scratches before you buy them!


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Ethan Wong
Ethan Wong lives right in the middle: he’s too modern for the vintage scene and yet too vintage for classic menswear. When not at work, he spends his time writing and taking pictures for his blog, Street x Sprezza, which is all about bringing vintage style into the modern day. With a large collection of thrifted vintage and contemporary clothing, he often wonders when his closet will finally implode.

2 Comments

  1. Reply

    Raleigh Johnson

    December 11, 2018

    Ethan, Thanks for your insight that “Thrift Stores” can be a cost effective alternative to gift buying for friends.
    Actually, the brand new sweater that you purchased last year from May Company, as a gift for a friend, may ironically be discovered in your local Thrift Store this year. It’s OK to purchase it again, but choose a different friend to gift it to. LOL.

    You can still find quality items in thrift stores, however, some of the most established thrift stores , i.e., “Goodwill”, offer their best items on their “eBay” website and the asking prices on many items is close to retail.

  2. Reply

    Haley

    December 24, 2018

    Omg, I love old radios.

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