What do two Charvet ties (both purple with green polka dots, in slightly different shades), a silk Rubinacci pocket square, a Brioni suit, three (3) Budweise bucket hats, an Acquascutum raincoat, a silk and cashmere Arnys pocket square, a pair of no-name suspenders and a cricket sweater have in common?
They are all “good deals” I got by thrifting online during the month of March, on all platforms (mostly Vinted, also eBay and Etsy, nothing from LeBonCoin, sort of French Craigslist, except for a few boxes of Portra, but that doesn’t count).
It might sound like a long list, but bear in mind that March is a particularly long month (it has 31 days). Besides, with an average price of 34.25 euros, there’s no harm! Well, actually, maybe there is a little…
I have been thrifting online for a while, but, so far, it had been mostly for exotic (from my French point of view) stuff, such as Brooks Brothers button down shirts, redline 501s and militaria pieces (that’s right, I’m saying “pieces”, like the insufferable snob that I am). So yeah, mostly American clothing, from American sellers.
Things changed in September 2020, probably giving in to a micro seasonal depression and in anticipation of a second lockdown (remember lockdowns? What a time…) I set up an account on Vinted.
Let’s pause here to tell you about Vinted: it’s a marketplace for users to buy and sell secondhand clothing (mostly), with built in delivery and tracking services using in-store delivery by third party carriers. Before setting up an account, I viewed this app as a marketplace for young urban ladies with a fast-paced wardrobe rotation or moms trying to make an extra-buck by reselling clothing their kids outgrew.
I wasn’t completely wrong, but I wasn’t completely right either. The truth is that, nowadays, everybody is either buying or selling old pieces of clothing online, regardless of age, gender or country, as Vinted now operates in 15 countries.
What do I thrift online?
Unlike eBay, Vinted’s market is regional. Although the platform is active in the US and Canada, I have yet to encounter American listings. Therefore, goodbye Brooks shirts, olive green and 501s (well, almost).
Getting on Vinted allowed me to look again in the direction of European menswear, after a few years of fixating over US made clothing. It was also the chance to re-orient my wardrobe in a more classic direction, and less instagram-y. You know, the algorithmic favored mash up style of ivyesque-workweary-militaring style.
Because, in my opinion, the main interest of Vinted consists in the Italian market of classic menswear (think, suit and tie, dress shoes…).
My general theory about Italy (based on three week-long trips and the photos from Pitti Uomo), is that the country has a strong popular culture of beauty and aesthetics. Which transpires into Italian arts, cities architecture and, of course, fashion. Italian people love to buy and wear beautiful and well made clothes, and when they grow tired of their beautiful clothes, they resell them on Vinted! If you are a bit savvy with your research, you can easily find gorgeous handmade sport coats, or handsome silk pocket squares for the price of a handful of peanuts! You can even find great English shoes (it might be counter intuitive, but a lot of Italian men actually prefer classic round English shoes – that’s how I got a lovely pair of Edward Green Sandrigham for a ridiculous price). With the help of Google translate, you can even find some great staples that aren’t from famous brands. You just need to find the right translation for “sweater”, “cold wool” or “cashmere” (this one will surprise you).
Of course you can also find some nice French products, but good deals remain rare. Not to mention the Holy Grail, the white wale, the albino five-legged sheep (what do you mean sheeps are always white?): Arnys. Catching a good deal on anything Arnys is basically a miracle. So far I’ve only managed to get a couple of pocket squares. Supply is scarce, demand is sky high.
As you can see, getting on Vinted has been the occasion for me to make some good (or very good) deals in a style of clothing that I had, unfairly, neglected.
Even good deals have a price
First, because unearthing gems takes time. Not that you need to dig very much into old listings. Unless the description is grossly wrong or incomplete (wrong size, wrong brand…), a good deal will not last long online.
For example, among the 50 or so Barbour jacket listed daily on Vinted, you need to sort between the good deal that will be sold within a day, great deals that will sold in a couple of hours, and the deal of the century, that will stay online less than a couple of minutes.
Therefore, you need to check frequently (frantically) updates on you alerts (you don’t have any alert? Might as well delete the app) to make sure that the gold nuggets doesn’t go to another digger. You didn’t really think you were the only one looking for a single crest Barbour Solway Zipper? According to my phone, I spend relatively little screen time on Vinted: 24 minutes daily average. Actually, I rarely spend more than two consecutive minutes on the app. Which means that I check the app about 15 times per day, so about once every hour.
To the mental charge of digging, you need to add the one for tracking shippings and delivery. You need to make sure that the seller doesn’t forget to send the parcel or doesn’t take too long to do it. Between two alert checks, you also need to check the shipment’s progress (what the hell happens in “shipping platforms”??). Then, if everything goes well, you need to go, for the third time of the week, to a cellphone shop, or the equivalent of a bodega, for in-store pick up and to be judged by a dude just trying to sell iPhone cases.
Of course, no one is safe from a round trip to the “nearest” carrier warehouse because the store supposed to get your parcel wasn’t open for the delivery (shoutout to my boys from the UPS logistic center in St-Ouen, we’re only a 40 minute bus ride away, I’ll see you tomorrow to get my podcast shorts).
If you are also seller, the administrative burden is close to the one of an import-export company and burn out is just around the corner. Not to mention that you have to deal with buyers, who are the worst of what mankind has to offer (except for those who negotiate politely and respectfully and end up buying, I love you guys <3).
Padme to Anakin: “But that’s the price to pay for good deals!… That’s the price to pay for good deals, right??”
Yes and no…
Circling back to the aforementioned purchases, the Charvet ties are a bit frayed on the angles, the pants of the Brioni suit is currently undergoing open-heart surgery so I can barely breathe when wearing them (the intervention costs more than the pants and the result is very uncertain), the bucket hats are too small, the sweater is made of polyester and the braces are not Thurstons (I was sneakily hoping that the seller didn’t know the brand). I can’t complain about the raincoat though.
I won’t mention the three 501s I bought on Vinted, two of which were counterfeits (including one that was miraculously made in USA and Hong Kong!), the sport coats’ sleeves that always need to be let out by a tailor, or undisclosed moth holes…
Of course, you can reduce the risk of such unfortunate event by asking for additional photos or measurements. But let’s be honest, ain’t nobody got time for dat. Besides, you don’t look a gift (or heavily discounted) horse in the mouth… But then you might have to take the horse to the tailor every other week.
One last inconvenience I find with thrifting online is that I feel like I dress like I’m ordering fish: depending on the catch of the day.
Like every clothing obsessed person, I have a long list of things I want to buy, spread over the year, according to my mood and the seasons. But let’s say I find a gorgeous Anderson & Sheppard tweed suit in my size listed for 200 euros (don’t dream, it’s just a hypothesis), while I was planning on getting a seersucker jacket for the upcoming summer (in this hypothesis we are in April). The opportunity would be too good not to be seized. But then, my seersucker budget would take a hit…
By running after good deals, you lose control over the direction of your wardrobe, which can be frustrating in the long run. Did I really need a sixth Barbour jacket while I could have save enough to go to Weston, try on and buy a pair of brand new 180 loafers, that I’ve been eying for years? Did I really need to have a frayed oxford shirt individually shipped by air from the US, while I could support local creators?
Well, now you get why I hate thrifting online, it’s awesome !