Thrifting Like a Beast, Volume 2

Howdy folks! So I recently started a new job at Stumptown Coffee, where I get paid to turn coffee and milk into gorgeous, conscious-altering lacquers. So far, it’s been amazing, and since I open the café in the wee hours of the morning, my break ends up being around 9am. This also happens to be when the Value Village down the street opens its doors for the day. I feel like a crazy person, completely wired on espresso, strutting down the aisles like I’m about to break out into song.

Me shopping in Value Village yesterday morning:

In my last installment of Thrifting Like A Beast, we got acquainted with why thrifting is amazing, how it can change your life, and the different ways to dive in and start buying. This week we’ll discuss how to get more from your visit, coexist with your bargain basement brethren, and how to avoid headaches later when you get home and dump your booty out on the floor and think “I fucking bought that? WHY???”

SUPER SIZE ME

Want to increase your yield at the thrift store? Don’t look at sizes. Seriously, if you hold up a “medium” Pendleton shirt from the ’50s with one from the ’70s, there will be remarkable differences. The size of a garment says nothing about it’s cut, and when taken out of context of the time and culture it was made, is meaningless. Do you like the color, the print, the fabric, the feel? Try it on. You’ll be surprised what fits and what doesn’t.

Vintage sizes mean squat to us now. Try that shit on!

Do you know the pants trick? Sometimes urban thrift stores don’t have dressing rooms because people will have sex, poop, or deliver children in them. (I mean, who hasn’t.) You can always try on tops and shoes and hats, but when it comes to pants, there’s a great trick to see if they’ll fit. Hold the pants up in front of you, eye level, pinching the sides of the waistband. Wrap the waistband around your neck and see where the ends meet. If they touch, the pants will fit around your waist. If they don’t, the pants will be too small, and if they continue to wrap around your neck, why are you picking up size 52 jeans? This trick works almost every time, seriously.

SAY IT AIN’T SEW

Um, will you REALLY take those pants in? Will you REALLY wear those size 12 shoes only with thick wool socks? Will you REALLY bring that vintage suitcoat to the tailors? No, you won’t. Because you are lazy, and that is totally fine.  In my past 15 years of thrifting, I have convinced myself of the most ridiculous tailoring fantasies when it comes to beautiful clothes. But I now believe I must leave them be.  They are for someone else.  A gift for a future person with the same excellent taste, but much larger feet.  This saves you from having clothing in your closet you can’t wear, that you will have shame spirals over (“Of course I’ll never be anything, I can’t even bring a pair of PANTS down the street to the TAILORS”) and will eventually end up giving back to the thrift store in a white kitchen trash bag labeled “FAILURE.” Save yourself the trouble, folks, and buy what fits.

Think you can sew and hem and cobble? Think again...

WINNING EVERYTHING

Oh you know who they are. You see them in the next aisle over, your exact size and style, picking up shirts you TOTALLY want and slinging them over their arms. There is no time to lose, you must win everything.

It’s time to pick up the pace. At this point, I trust my taste level and speed enough to leave that other bearded hipster in a tailspin.  Identify their trajectory. Get a few shirts in front of them and go to town.  Hit all the areas you want to check out, doing a quick sweep, making sure you don’t lose out on any obvious gems. Once you feel like you’ve accomplished this, you can settle down into a more relaxed approach. Congratulations, you get a medal in thrifting.

Know your enemies. Follow them. Into the dressing room.

WHY THRIFTING MATTERS

Last week, my roommate and I had a really fun make-over date. She is a lesbian and I am a fag and together, we are both our respective stereotypes. I wear coordinating outfits even when I’m relaxing at home, and she has an amazing amount of the same outfits (brown) in all the same colors (brown) and the same fabrics (brown).

Well, it was a success thanks to thrift stores. She got 7 new-to-her items for $80 and I got some time in the thrift store to think about this article. I also found a pair of deadstock vintage Johnston and Murphy oxblood captoes and an ivory-and-grey Dunderdon scarf.

I scored these guys for 8 dollars!

Do you like my new Dunderdon scarf? Dry clean only.

On the way there, we discussed why clothing is important.  It’s art on your body. It’s a projection of how you feel about yourself. It’s a present manifestation of what you are capable of in the future.  It is part of the “you” you give to the world.  Is it everything? No. Do you have to be rich to enjoy clothing? No. Are there rich people with horrible taste? Absolutely.  Is it vain to care about fashion? Absolutely not.

Thrifting evens out the playing field for me.  I get to be an artist with affordable mediums at my fingertips. I get to be outside the trend of current menswear for a moment, creating a personalized fashion.  As an artist in many different ways, clothing becomes a mind-sharpening tool for my other creative outlets.

In short, thrifting is playing, and playing is allowing yourself to be the human you want to be right now in an affordable and accessible way.

Cheers to new beginnings folks, and catch you next week.

About adamboehmer

Adam Boehmer is an artist, musician and writer living in Seattle, WA. Adam's poems have appeared online and in print journals including Spork, Gertrude, The Monarch Review, CityArts magazine, and the anthology The Full Spectrum, from Knopf Books. He has worked as a contributing writer for online entities such as Ironing Board Collective. His music project Tenderfoot works towards an unabashedly romantic collection of queer folk songs. Visually, his art is sculptural and assemblage-based, and stems from the desire to arrange and bind objects in a powerful way, recontextualizing building materials, masculine accoutrements and ephemera. He is currently producing a collaborative book, Sweaters & GLASS with LA artist Maggie Carson Romano.

9 comments

  1. Rachel T

    LOVE IT!!! Especially the part about being realistic – buy stuff that fits – you won’t ever actually hem those pants!! SOOOO TRUE. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that.

    • adamboehmer

      It took me sooo long to realize I just wasn’t going to ever take anything in. And I’m a pretty good seamstress.

    • Yeah, a few years ago I finally made a rule for myself that if I’m trying an item on and I think, “This would be perfect if I just…[got it tailored, lost five pounds, bought a new belt and shoes to go with it, etc.]” it goes back to the rack.

      I *mostly* abide by my rule, but I’m still one stomach flu away from wearing these crazy snakeskin print jeans I found at a Christian thrift store in Montana.

  2. Adam, Adam, Adam… I was born in Bel Air and thrifting long before you were a twinkle in your mother’s eye. You heard me. And yes, that means LOTS of stuff – gems and scores since the early 60s when I discovered shopping retail was boring, unimaginative, and designed for clone-people afraid to step outside the couture-norm and say “Hello, world. This is ME!”. Can’t tell you how much I love your blog. Your are one savvy shopper and one smart dude. Next time I’m in the city I’ll drop by for one of your super cappuccinos.

  3. I have recently subscribed to your blog and really enjoying to read them! Thanks for the tip on the pants. I always wondered how to figure that out without trying them on! Keep up the good work!

  4. Pingback: Diversity Thrift’s Don’t Hate, Celebrate Fashion Show in Richmond, Virginia Took DIY and Frugal Fashion Finds To All New Heights « GAPTOOTHDIVA

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