Here it is, folks. My first post lauding the wonders of thrift shopping. I've been a little slow on the uptake since I've moved to Chicago. I used to thrift back in PA all the time, as a kid actually. I remember coming home with corduroy blazers, 70's style dress shirts, straw fedoras and hounds tooth pants way back in the beginnings of high school (my parents must have thought I was so bizarre). I can't remember specifically, but all that great stuff must have come damn cheap, considering I spent my summers checking the couch cushions at Panera for quarters so I could buy some Ben and Jerry's. At some point, my sense of style fell off for a few years and I haven't been to those stores in ages. Now I'm here in Chicago, and since experiencing my own sartorial revival, I have often been tempted to dive back into my old ways of thrifting. A few factors have kept me from doing so. When I was still at the beginning stages of dressing well, I liked to shop pretty much primarily online. I didn't have to be as confident in my knowledge on-the-spot, and could research and browse and compare until I found exactly what I wanted. Then, when I did start venturing into thrift shops, I found that most of the options here in the city were filled with cheap polyester suits, wide lapels, huge shoulder pads, and just didn't have the patience to pick through a million things to find the one gem (though I do know this is how thrifting tends to work). Add to that the fact that summer was hitting, and none of these stores are air-conditioned, and it just wasn't happening.
Lately, we've been blessed with some way cooler than average temperatures for a Chicago August, and I recently found myself wandering back into one the more highly-recommended used stores. To be honest, I didn't have much more luck when it came to clothing, and the place was a little overcrowded for comfortable browsing (back-to-school sale, I believe). I checked out a few promising blazers, but didn't take any bites (almost had a trim J. Crew number in my hand, until I realized some fatal flaws - 4 buttons, no sleeve buttons, super short sleeves, just wasn't worth it). Instead I found myself happily sorting through the ties and belts in an empty little corner of the store. In the end, I didn't come away with anything mind-blowing or wardrobe-changing, but I got enough value and spent little enough money to have me looking forward to going back with more time on my hands.
My purchases ended up being two good-looking belts. The first is a woven leather belt. It's definitely a bit worn in, but that's mostly what appealed to me. I'm not an expert purveyor of leather goods, so I'm not confident in my ability to judge the quality of leather right off-the-bat. However, this belt had been used long enough that I could tell how it was going to age, and so far it had aged beautifully. The leather was soft and supple, didn't show any cracks or 'plasticy' looking shine, and was developing a nice patina. I've been looking for a woven belt for a while, so this was an easy choice:
The second was a purchase inspired by a recent post in TSBMen.com on luxury animal skins (particularly crocodile). I think belts and shoes (and more) made from these hides look classy as hell and add a bit of visual interest to simple pieces. However, authentic crocodile skin is hella pricey, and not likely to be in my budget anytime soon. Therefore, I was pretty excited when I saw this croc-leather belt at the thrift shop. Unlike the woven belt, this one looks almost brand new. Chances are, it's entirely synthetic, and won't age well (kind of the opposite of the other belt, in fact). But here, I'm not looking for something to wear every day and last me forever. Instead, I'm looking for a conversation piece to throw on now and then when I want to punch up my look a little bit, and for the price this will do just fine.
And that's the real kicker here. The PRICE. Got both of these belts for less than $3.00. Fan-freakin'-tastic.