Thrift Stores

I was coming out of a thrift store when I heard someone call out, “Aren’t you the guy on TV?” followed by, “Hey, what are you doing shopping in a thrift store?”  Good question.  I answered it there and now I will answer it here. 

My mom used to shop at the Goodwill for her clothes.  I was embarrassed by this.  Worst of all, she liked to brag about it when people complimented her on her outfits.  Yes, I agree she always looked great, but I hated that she bought everything she could for herself secondhand. 

Not me; I bought at full price.  Usually in little boutique shops where the styles were more selective and the clothes were likely to be imported from the Mediterranean.  Top shelf and top price.  If I could’ve left the labels and price tags on, I would’ve. 

Two things changed all that.  First, I grew older, a lot older.  Second, items of quality in styles a gentleman of my years should wear became harder to find.  Then I saw a jacket I liked in the window of . . . you guessed it:  a thrift shop. 

Inside I found all sorts of things I liked.  Not necessarily in my size, but good shoes, nice suits & shirts, some ties and an assortment of this-or-thats, some of which were nice and others made one wonder where they’d come from. 

Thus began my discovery of the world I had abhorred — thrift shops, consignment stores, used stuff stores, Salvies (Salvation Army Stores) and Goodies (Goodwills).  Along the way I’ve learned a few rules.  You can’t judge a shop from the outside (or from the past time you were there).  Look things over closely and them look them over again, even more closely.  Be willing to take a chance, especially if it is for charity.  Be sure to donate back, after all it is for charity.  Finally, check often; the good stuff comes in and goes out fast.  It’s a lot like fishing, you have to drop a line in as often as possible if you want to catch the big ones. 

What have I found?  A hand-tailored suit that had never been worn, fitting so perfectly I could have worn it home, Pendleton shirts, handmade shoes, imported wool sweaters, silk shirts, linen slacks, L. L. Bean flannel shirts, and Harris tweed sport coats from Scotland.  This is good stuff and you can’t find a lot of it in retail shops anymore.

Now for the disclaimer:  there is a lot more stuff in these stores for ladies than for men.  Why?  Because women observe fashion while men are unobservant.  (If there is a fashion change in ties, lapels, or patterns, I stopped being aware of it near the end of the last century.)  So, the reality is that most of the men’s clothes I find are either divorce bounty or dead guy stuff.  I can live with that, even if he didn’t.

Yes, it is nice to get things at a bargain.  It is even nicer when I’m contributing to a worthy cause.  Best of all, however, is getting better quality than I can find in the stores at a price that makes me grin.  So, I shop at thrift stores and brag about it, too.  Just like my mom.



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About the author

Scott Funk has specialized in Home Equity Conversion Mortgage reverse mortgages for over a decade. He is a recognized Aging in Place advocate in his home state of Vermont. His monthly newspaper column Aging in Place has run for 7 years in 24 papers around the state. Scott is brings a lighthearted approach to his talks on Boomers, retirement and aging on purpose.