How To Buy Suits for Pennies on the Dollar

by Michael Dinardi
How to Buy Suits for Pennies on the Dollar photo

Want to know how to buy suits for pennies on the dollar? Then read on. You could look really good for less!

Perusing thrift shops is nothing new. It’s more popular now than ever.

Most people are browsing beat-up jeans and tattered shirts with stretched-out collars. Consequently, they always walk by the most overlooked and undervalued section of the thrift shops, namely men’s suits.

At first glance, suits can be a little intimidating. Instead of small, medium, and large, there’s an array of differences between them, which include style, cut, fabric, quality, etc. In a thrift store environment, where every item is second-hand, it makes buying a suit even more daunting.

But fear not! After a little reading and a little practice, you’ll be picking up four-figure suits for less than you just spent on breakfast. Here are the rules for thrift store suit shopping:

1. Location, Location, Location

Before you even leave the house, make yourself a game plan.

Thrift shops and consignment stores in higher-income areas will always have better merchandise, as the surrounding area has more disposable income. I like to pick a couple of different stores before I leave the house to maximize my time.

2. Quality

Always look for the traits of a well-made suit.

A good trick is to check the inside of the collar for stitching. If the stitching has a zig-zag pattern, it was done with a machine and is of a cheaper quality. Suits with hand stitching are always of a higher caliber.

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3. Material

Stay away from suits that have a high percentage of nylon or polyester in the blend. This can be seen on the tag, and if it’s not, then you can tell whether the material is of high quality by touch.

Wool and cotton are ideal for a quality suit.

4. Brand

While the brand isn’t everything, it’s a good indicator of the original price of the item. I always have my smartphone handy to look up a brand I haven’t seen before.

I won’t dive into different brands, as it justifies an article on its own, but a quick online search can usually tell you whether the price point is justified.

5. Size Matters

Before you start shopping around, you should know your suit size. This will narrow down your search, as thrift store suits are often organized by size. Keep in mind that certain aspects can always be tailored.

As a golden rule, I will buy a single size up from my own. A tailor can alter this. Furthermore, if the sleeves are too short, feel around the sleeve hem. If you feel some thickness above it, that means the sleeves have material inside to be let out a bit.

Remember that the closer you get to your perfect size, the less you’ll spend at the tailor.

6. Timeless

Try to stay away from styles that are dated. I won’t go into specifics, but you’ll know it when you see it. Suits that are super hot today aren’t going to age well.

7. Too Much Wear

Although we’re shopping for second-hand suits, they don’t have to look second-hand. Outstretched pockets, loose buttons, and excessive fabric wear are all signs that a suit has seen a little too much action.

Ideally, we want suits and blazers that spent most of their time in a closet.

8. Trying It On

As you gaze at your frugal self in the mirror, keep a few things in mind.

Your jacket can be brought in at the waist, and your pants can be hemmed for a better fit. As I mentioned earlier, a little room is fine, but a little tight isn’t ideal.

9. Tailoring

So you finally found your dream suit and are a few alterations away from looking great at your next wedding or holiday party.

Find a good tailor if you don’t already have one. They’ll be able to tell you how to alter the suit best. Oftentimes, alterations end up being more expensive than the suit itself. For example, my last blazer was $25 at a popular consignment store. I spent $40 on alterations, making my total expenditure $65 on a blazer that was around $400 brand new.

10. This Isn’t Department Store Shopping

Remember that you’re at a second-hand store.

Out of 100 suits, only five may be worth purchasing. Out of those five, only one may fit you properly, but when you find that one, it makes it all worth it.

Reviewed February 2024

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