The Best Clothing and Accessories to Buy Vintage (And What to Look Out For)


While nothing beats shopping at H&M and Zara for convenience and the latest trends, there's something to be said about finding unique and one-of-a-kind items while thrift shopping. You really haven't lived if you haven't experienced the finding a score, bargaining for the price, and working on it like a restoration project to tailor it to your liking. Because what's better than bringing a garment back to life and extending its purpose?

When it comes down to it, the biggest advantage of vintage shopping is that you'll be consuming outside of the clothing cycle. As low-impact clothing, vintage is definitely more sustainable than mass-produced fashion. Here, a list of what to buy vintage along with what to look out for while shopping.

1| Suit

Buying a secondhand suit seems like a bad idea when a good suit starts with a good fit, but if you have enough patience to try on things, you'll end up with a good find in no time. There's a lot of Savile Row and Armani suits out there, but it's important to remember to fully examine a suit before buying it. As always, look for construction and quality and keep an eye out for damages such as holes, snags, and the like. You have to be more careful with vintage suits since depending on its age, it can quickly fall apart in the wash so it's best to hand wash or hand it over to an expert.

2| Suit Accessories

If vintage suits seem like a chore, you can start with suit accessories. These are easier to find and you won't need to be as careful compared to other types of clothing. For ties, all that matters is the print, fabric, and its condition. After all, you can easily alter it to fit your width preference by taking it to a seamstress. Other things that are worth looking for are vintage cufflinks, tie bars, and pins that will make you regret buying brand new in the first place.


3| Shirt

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Shirts might not be the first that comes to mind when buying vintage, but a quality shirt is gold. More often than not, you'll find a shirt that looks perfect across the board save for one part. Luckily, a shirtmaker can easily recreate the collar, sleeves, and more. Who knows, you might even find a vintage shirt from the world's oldest shirtmaker Charvet on one of your excursions? No matter how a good a shirt may be, put it down if it has moth holes or cigarette burns since those are pretty much impossible to fix.

4| Leather Jacket

With leather jackets, there are three things that matter: smell, condition, and fit. If either one is missing, it should be a no go. Other than that, you should try to determine what kind of leather it is. Most likely, the store clerk will know... or you could also bring a friend who knows a thing or two about leather. Cowhide and buffalo are some of the most durable while lamb, goat, and calfskin are softer and a good option if you're not really a biker. Check the leather overall, lining, and zippers for quality and skip any that needs repairing since it may be too much effort and too costly.

5| Denim Jeans

In general, any clothing item made of denim is great to buy vintage. Quality ones age well and look more premium as the years go by. We're not against vintage denim jackets, but if you're not careful, there's a high risk of you looking very '80s when it comes to style and fit. For this reason, we're sticking with denim jeans for the meantime. Levi's is king when it comes to shopping vintage, and there's no shortage of 501s in every thrift shop. With jeans, there's not really a lot to think about—just how it fits into your wardrobe.

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6| Watches

Watches are a lot trickier. Here, it pays to do your research: join forums, talk to experts, and study your brand and style preferences. Once you've done that, it's all easy sailing. With that said, it pays to be cautious especially since the rise of vintage watches has reached counterfeiters. What you should look out for is any oxidization, rust, and other damage in the form of scratches, dents, and chips. You'll also want to know the timepiece's servicing history and which parts are original and if there have been any replacements.

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About The Author
Paolo Chua
Associate Style Editor
Paolo Chua is the Associate Style Editor at Esquire Philippines, where he writes about fashion and grooming. Before joining Esquire Philippines, he was a writer at Town & Country Philippines.
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