Basic White Men: We Need to Thrift More

Oh, hey!

Hi, I’m Seth, a basic white male! Not the greatest intro as intros go, but I hope this helps: I’m another member of the Finding Your Good community who is deeply committed to secondhand fashion. With the exception of a six-pack of socks and a t-shirt of a smiling caterpillar, I’ve exclusively bought secondhand clothing for the last two years. As a Midwestern guy, fed on a diet of milk, ham, and outlet stores, this change is huge for me. But does a basic white male like me actually enjoy this change? And can other guys survive such a seismic shift, should they choose to embrace the thrift lifestyle? Here are three simple reasons why the answer is a resounding yes.

Key thrifting ingredient: the patented Over-the-Top Instagram Laugh!

Thrifting Fits Perfectly

If you want to get a sense of how I dressed prior to thrifting, just Google “stock photo Millennial guy cardigan.” (I just did, and oof, that was me.) Clearly my closet needed an overhaul. But intense wardrobe surgery didn’t happen in one day. When I look at my closet now, I still think it needs an overhaul. In the meantime, getting dressed for work every day has to go on.

So, what to do? I need to maintain a closet full of “the old stuff,” to be phased out as my fashion instincts improve. I need to keep up that baseline of button downs, earth tone slacks, and size 38 blazers. I need to acquire not only familiar standards but also those utterly unique picks that help my fledgling sense of style evolve. And I need to do all that while making my wallet smile a big, thrifty smile. Where to go? Sigh. I love you, Goodwill. So, so much.

Basic ol’ suit and tie? Better believe it’s thrifted.

Thrifting Does Wonders for Self Esteem

Someday I hope to tell my grandchildren the tale of their stylish grandpa’s first fashion compliment: He thrifted a coat, he put on the coat, and an hour later a stranger said, “Wow, I love your coat.” Two years later I still remember that compliment, and I tell my partner every time I get positive feedback on a sweatshirt or a pair of boots. I’m a fashion newbie in the grand scheme of things, and hearing impromptu affirmation from a complete stranger is a major confidence booster. It keeps me thrifting boldly, searching for the next piece that is 100% me. I haven’t forgotten to pay it forward, either — yesterday I congratulated a neighbor on his excellent sneakers. Little moments of appreciation go a long way.

The Coat, back when the rest of my wardrobe was unthrifted.

Thrifting Helps Dissolve Stereotypes

My third point is more serious, but I think it needs to be mentioned. I grew up in an area of the country where guys with true personal style were like Bigfoot — rarely seen and hardly to be believed. Tailoring? Color coordination? Not wearing cargo shorts? I never know those were things a cisgender white male could consider. Even after leaving that town, my workplaces provided more than enough toxic masculinity to make me feel like fashion was still out-of-bounds if I wanted to fit in.

Enter thrifting. Over the last two years, countless trips to Goodwill have helped me engage in some much-needed cognitive reframing of all those negative messages. It takes many forms, from the simple act of learning fashion lingo, to the earth-shattering revelation that it’s ok to wear a linen shirt whose buttons are on the left instead of the right. I try to approach every thrifting trip as a chance to challenge preconceived notions of who I should be and what I should enjoy. Thankfully, attitudes among men regarding things as insignificant as shorter inseams seem to be moving in a more liberal direction — the high line just looks better, guys!

I’ve become a card-carrying member of the Short Inseam Club!

I’ve tiptoed out onto alarmingly few fashion limbs in my life. I wore the same three cardigans every week during the winter of 2014. I’m a person who has a confidence crisis wearing plaid (someone please convince me it goes with my skin tone before autumn arrives). I’m a “one pair of shoes per season” person, much to the chagrin of my shoes. I’m prepared for it to be a long time until I feel like I can stand as an equal next to the fashionable folks elsewhere in this blog. But with a lot of commitment to the process, and a little hand holding from my partner, @cccstyledc, I’m sustainably revamping my wardrobe. One day I’ll be unrecognizable to all the past iterations of Basic White Male Seth, and that’s as good a goal as any.

Taking the first steps.

About our Guest Blogger:

Seth of @wholemilkthrift is a radio producer with an abiding love of vintage varsity, fur collars, and anything made of linen. Follow him to learn how thrifted finds can subtly elevate business dress codes. He thinks all men need to thrift. Like, now.