Thrifting is the coolest thing these days, there's just some sort of magic in rummaging around in a pile of clothes that no one wants but you. More often than you think you'll pull out an extremely cool or valuable article of clothing that you can't for the life of you figure out why anyone would throw away.
Consider why things are turned over to a thrift store. There can be any number of reasons a top-quality garment is hidden under all that fluff: maybe someone needed some quick cash or simply didn't have enough room for the item and bundled it with some useless garments.
Let me level with you, someone threw that super stylish item away for a great reason: they don't have vision. But you, you DO have a vision, and you're here to find out exactly how you should mold your new find into a perfect fit that looks effortlessly cool. The problem with this mentality is that pulling off just anything from a thrift store is anything but effortless.
There are a few golden rules I live by when shopping at a thrift store, so I am here to humbly impart them onto you dear reader, so that you may stride into your local thrift store with a purpose. Here I'll let you know what to look for, how to wear it, and of course:
What Not to Buy at a Thrift Store
Some items just weren't meant for a second life, regardless of what they are. Amongst these items are hats, belts, ties (really anything formal or that could be considered "dressy" for that matter), bags, and just about any accessory.
You don't know what kind of head was wearing that hat you're looking at getting on the cheap, and head-wear are the kind of items that keep years of perspiration, general filth, and stress deep, deep in their fibers. Also head lice. Don't get hats secondhand if you can help it.
It's just my personal belief that a belt should not be worn by anyone but you. Buy a belt fresh from the store, it's one of those things you can just tell is old and not yours, regardless of how fresh it looks when you picked it up. The same thing can really be said about just about any accessory with the exception of jewelry items.
What You Should Be Looking For
The thrift store is the holy grail of scrappy, thrown-together, "I'm too cool to care but look fantastic anyway"-vibe, but only if you know what to get and how to weave it into you're already mostly cool closet. There are a few items I'm always on the lookout for in a neat thrift store so you should be too.
Shoes. Definitely shoes. Shoes are the kind of clothing piece that, anyone who is into shoes will tell you, people often buy too many of. A lot of the shoes you'll see in thrift stores around nicer neighborhoods have likely not gotten a lot of use, but were bought on a whim, stored for 3 years and then turned in to the local shop. You can find some really expensive stuff that sometimes goes unrecognized by whoever is selling them, meaning that if you've got the eye for quality, you'll really score a bargain.
The same can be said of jackets or any sort of outerwear. This is also the sort of item that most people turn in without having been used to often, and my personal favorite part, have largely not touched anyone's skin directly. Most folks don't wear just outerwear and nothing well...under it, so many of the items you're looking at are fresh and ready to wear.
Many jackets are made with a variety of material and vary greatly in quality, which is difficult for anyone accepting at the thrift store to discern. This means you'll often find something for way less than it's worth.
Jeans can also be an excellent find for a similar reason, great denim can be really expensive, so unless your local shop knows exactly what they're looking at, you can make out like a bandit.
Last but not least is the "weird" item. I can't count the times I've been attracted to an item that had a completely undiscernable origin. I once purchase bleach white timberland boots, with rhinestones places in rows carefully around the rim. I once found a giant winter coat literally made in Yugoslavia, tags still on the inside, made of real wool. Another time I came face to face with a vest that featured literal metal plated shoulder pads bolted to the leather, an incredible item I still wish I bought.
How to Pull it Off
When you get any of these items, particularly the strange ones, you have to consider your entire wardrobe first. What do you have that would go with this item? Where do you plan to wear this? Very often thrifting is not because you necessarily need anything particular, so consider why you do or do not need the piece you're considering.
That wool jacket I mentioned earlier? I was dealing with a very harsh winter that year, and that jacket was a saving grace for me. It is now the heaviest jacket I own and serves as a stylish, rustic winter staple. Visualize yourself in the new and funky article of clothing up for consideration, and wear it like you're proud of it, because any discerning man or woman of taste will always be able to tell if you're uncertain about your clothes.
Wear your picks and trust yourself, don't let the item wear you. If you only have greys and blacks in your closet, polo shirts or similarly boring items, don't go for the white timberlands with rhinestones in them.
Image Credit: Adam Bali