I like good quality clothes and shoes but I don’t like to pay full retail unless I have to (or I want to support local). So much of my high quality pieces are secondhand. If you live in America or the UK, then you have a wealth of thrift stores and vintage markets to browse. Unfortunately in Australia the thrift scene isn’t as plentiful for guys and this is where eBay comes to the rescue. Here’s what I have learnt from my years of eBay thrifting.
Know your brands
Before you start buying anything, first know what you are buying. When it comes to clothes, expensive doesn’t always mean the best quality. The internet is a wealth of information these days and it pays to know your heritage brands. Names like Barbour, Red Wing, Alden, Allen Edmonds, Edward Green, and John Lobb may not mean much to you if you are just starting out, but it doesn’t take a lot of googling to learn a bit about them. Forums like AskAndy, Styleforum, and subreddit mfa and gyw are good places to learn and ask questions. In the UK, royal warrants are also issued to protect certain brands so clothing or shoe brands that are protected by the royal warrant are usually of higher quality and worth looking at.
For huge brands like Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, or Gant, you need to know their higher quality lines and their lower quality lines (hint: if you can find them at an outlet, they are usually lower quality lines). For example, Ralph Lauren make some fantastic stuff in their purple label line and I really like their rugged ranchy outerwear in the RRL line, but their stuff from the Polo line are usually low quality and best avoided. J.Crew is another example where they make a low quality diffusion line called J.Crew Factory and this is easy to spot online because the label has two dots under the name.
And this is pretty obvious – know how much the item is retail so you know if it is actually a good deal.
Some good brands to watch out for on eBay (by no means an exhaustive list, just some stuff I like):
American shoes: Alden, Allen Edmonds, Red wing, Wolverine, Chippewa, Oak Street Bootmakers, Rancourt, Quoddy, Yuketen, Thorogood
British shoes: Crockett & Jones, Loake, Edward Green, John Lobb, Alfred Sargent, Church’s, Tricker’s
European shoes: Meermin, Carmina, JM Weston
Outerwear: Barbour, Belstaff, Margaret Howell, Real McCoy’s, Buzz Ricksons, Alpha Industries, RRL, Schott, Burberrys’, Aquascutum, Grenfell, Barracuta, Crescent Down Works, Rocky Mountain Featherbed, Mackintosh, Engineered Garments, Orslow, Post Overalls, Private White VC, Aspesi, Filson, Nanamica, Nigel Cabourn,
Suits/sportcoats/blazers: Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, J.press, Ring Jacket, Justo Gimeno, Paul Stuart, Norman Hilton, Gant, O’Connell’s, Hickey Freeman, Engineered Garments, J. Crew,
Factor in the shipping
Unfortunately for us in Australia, much of the good stuff isn’t in the country. If you want to buy the good stuff, make sure you select worldwide search. But expect to pay for shipping. Just factor that into the total cost and think about what you are willing to pay. US Shipping is usually acceptable around the $30-40 mark if the item is expensive and you are getting a huge saving. Otherwise if I am buying small items like accessories, I tend to find one seller with multiple items I like and try to lump the shipping together. Always pays to ask the seller if they are willing to discount the item/shipping a bit, particularly if buying a very expensive item or multiple items. UK shipping is usually quite a bit cheaper.
Search smart and follow
Take full advantage of eBay’s search fields – always search worldwide, narrow down the categories a bit (but not too far because one seller might categorise the item as “men’s clothes” while another might call it “vintage”), and narrow down brands if possible (a lot of the time the items will just be not specified).
Search multiple keywords and take advantage of eBay’s search features. For example if I am looking for a number of different American shoes in suede in my size I might use:
(alden,allen edmonds) (8,9,9d) suede
When you use brackets with commas between search terms, it will search for one or the other. Even though I am a size 9d in brannock sizing I also fit a 8.5D in the Alden barrie last so I have included that as well. Sometimes you may always want to include several versions of the same brand and common typos to widen your net.
Using a minus sign in front of words removes the following term from the search so say if I wanted to search for Ralph Lauren but wanted the polo line excluded I might use:
ralph lauren -polo
Adding quotation marks to a word or phrase will make eBay only search for that exact word or phrase eg. “Drakes of London”
Once you have the search down perfect, follow it and list the items by most recent. This way when a new item matches your search, eBay will alert you.
Use a sniping app
I know this is cheating a bit but it really helps to save money and stop you from going overboard with the bidding. The sniper app basically puts in a bid for you in the last few seconds of the auction. This has a few advantages: 1) if you are bidding on an item overseas, chances are it will finish at some weird hour and I personally like my sleep, 2) people often suffer from premature bid-jaculation which results in more bids going in too early and you end up with a higher final price, 3) if you set the price you are willing to pay an forget it, you are less likely to overbid and then regret it later.
I personally use Myibidder because it has a nice android app but there’s lots of other similar services out there. They all require you to give them your eBay login and password though so there’s that.
Know your size
Like I have said before, you need to know your brannock shoe size and research how the shoe is sized in relation to that. You need to measure your shirts, jackets, pants, etc. that fit well and know your shoulder width, pit to pit, etc. If the seller has not included measurements, always ask! Also doesn’t hurt to ask the seller if they wear this garment and what size suit they normally wear. You can also find the specific garment on the retail website and check out the sizing information given there.
It takes more time and effort
Yes this all seems rather time-consuming and difficult. You want easy? Pay full price!