American Pastime: Thrift Stores

When the Economy is Bad: Thrift Stores Do Well

Such A Deal, I’m Telling You

Well, we were in a thrift store when the wallet fiasco happened, not to dwell on a painful subject, and I had planned to blog on the phenomenon of thrift stores that evening, but just couldn’t, so I decided to broach the topic tonight. I’m not sure if thrift stores are mostly an American cultural pastime, but I do know that my German relatives claim not to be aware of any such stores where they live. Maybe my Australian friends can clarify this for me . . .

I remember when I was in college eons ago, I loved thrift stores for funky hats and jackets, and then when I taught college later, my office mate and I used tskinny-tieo scour thrift stores for men’s jackets and coats because I loved to teach in jeans and men’s jackets and wear white shirts and my father’s old ties from the fifties. I wasn’t going for affectation. It was just my look, a look that I had first adopted in college, continued with at the newspaper, and carried over into teaching. I loved my father’s old skinny ties; in fact I still have them and still wear them on occasion.

A New Generation of Thrift Store Buyers

I kept a few of the jackets and one favorite wool top coat, and it turns out to be propitious that I did. My youngest, Brett, has now adopted his own style, and it is very reminiscent of my thrift store days. My sister-in-law has been taking her daughters to thrift stores for a while, so they are already addicted, but I have a feeling that I have a new convert with Brett.

I swear that I never told him before he began to move into this new style what I used to wear, and I don’t think that any pictures exist of me in these clothes because I rarely let my own picture be taken (it’s just a thing with me; I don’t like to see my own image in print, but I love to shoot my own film). But about three months ago, he started asking if there were any suit jackets around that he could have to wear, or any old suits. I found one of his father’s old suits still in the closet from when he was much younger and thinner, and Brett immediately grabbed it and wore it to school the next day. Very posh, indeed.

Then I remembered my old sports jackets from the thrift store. He took those, too. I remembered the coat. That was a big hit. Corey had a couple of sports coats that he no longer wore. Those went into the collection. Then the search for hats began. He wanted a fedora. I didn’t even know that he knew what a fedora was. And a beret. Could I get him a beret?

Genuine Basque Beret

So, I decided that since we were tight on money this year, I would take him on his own search to one of the bigger thrift stores, and we would look for a few of the items that he still wanted. In one store, we found a Kenneth Cole solid black jacket for $3.49. Sold. We also found a genuine Basque wool beret for $5.49. Sold. A vintage 50’s tie reminiscent of my Dad’s old ties for $1.99. Sold.

Went to another store and looked around. Absolutely nothing in that one. It used to be a good store, but it has gone down hill since the last time I was in there. I decided to go into one other store that was nearby that I don’t really like because it’s usually pretty dirty, but I didn’t want to pass it up on the off-chance that it might hold something. We went in and within two minutes Brett found a long, off-black trench coat. I found a herringbone overcoat very similar to one that my Dad used to own, and we found another beret, this one a black knit one. I spent less than $15.

All of his finds will have to be cleaned, but for less than $26, I found him a trench coats, an overcoat, a black jacket, a tie, and two berets. I gave him the knit beret now, and he has already washed it and started wearing it. I have to say that with his long, straight hair, he looks really good in berets. That was one kind of hat that I could never pull off. I used to wear page boy caps and fedoras. I have found a fedora for him for Christmas. I hope that it fits. It’s not an old one. I do have an old one that I bought in an antique shop in Cape Cod; it’s a Stetson, but it’s too small for Brett.

I find his whole enthrallment with old clothes and hats very nostalgic. He still wants some boots, preferably some combat boots. Corey has a pair that are practically brand new from his last stint in the Coast Guard reserves. The bad news is that they are somewhere in the black hole that is our garage at the moment. I have told Brett that if he can find them, he can have them. I have told Corey that we might have a better chance if we go to a surplus store after Christmas and buy a pair.

Newer Stores, Better Stock

Old Record & Book Room in Thrift Store USA

I miss the days when Mari and I used to go Thrift Store mining. It was always a hunt for buried treasure, and we never knew what we would be coming home with because we never really had an idea as to what we were searching for. Brett and I didn’t make it to the store that used to be Mari’s favorite, which is in Virginia Beach. I’m not even sure if that one is still there. That’s where I found the over coat that I gave him.

The big store where we found Brett’s first big haul is really quite a nice store. They have the usual things: old dishes and glasses, out- of-date cameras, baking ware, purses, lots of out of date clothes for women, etc. But they also have some really nice things that you wouldn’t normally find in a thrift store: vintage furniture such as settees with carved wood backs in wonderful shape, drop leaf dining room tables, marble top side boards, Depression and Carnival Glass (which they are smart enough to keep in the display case and which is how I mislaid my wallet), old 45’s and LP’s, hobnail milk glass, and even an antique pedal organ. The prices on the nicer items are about what you would see in an antique store, and apparently, you can negotiate with the owners on the vintage/antique furniture and pricier items, which I’ve never heard of in a thrift store before.

Type of Settee I'd Love to Have in My Living Room

If my house were finished, as in all of the renovations complete, I saw a lovely, very comfortable vintage couch that I would love to put in the living room, which we are going to use as a sitting room with just a sound system after the garage is converted to a den. The den will house the big screen television and the DVDs and the gaming systems, which means the boys and their friends will be living out there, and I can reclaim my living room as a reading room, which means that it wouldn’t be insane to have a lovely sofa for sitting and reading on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Ah dreams . . . they are wonderful things to hold onto, aren’t they?

One of these days, when life returns to normal . . . more later. Peace.