101 ways to dress better. No 11: Wear vintage

Thursday, May 20, 2010
I was a bit unsure about this particular bit of advice. Unlike most of the ones that have come before it, I don't think it's universally applicable. Maybe I should change it to 'wear vintage sometimes' or just 'wear vintage if you feel like it'. A man who can afford to buy only bespoke or good made-to-measure suits can, I am sure, look well-dressed without ever wearing vintage. A man who has a flair for buying good value off-the-peg can certainly look well-dressed without buying vintage. That's ok though - all of these are supposed to be pointers and guides to be used or ignored as you like. My point is simply that for those of you who (like me) assemble your wardrobe on a budget; from a mix of made-to-measure, off-the-rack, and hand-me-down, there's a lot of extra value to be gained from vintage clothes.

The advantages are myriad: vintage clothes are (often) cheap, generally very well-made, and frequently slightly unusual. Their classic cuts and heavier fabrics make them stand out from the modern plethora of paper-thin, skinny-lapelled, grey and black suits that the crowds of commuters wear. If you are looking for something unusual, like a tweed suit, a morning coat or a white-tie tailcoat, you often cannot beat vintage. Even for more everyday items like blazers or dinner jackets, you will find that the vintage item may have few obvious differences to its modern counterpart, but will be of better fabric and subtly better made.

The Houndstooth Kid inspired this post with an excellent discussion of how to wear vintage clothes without appearing to wear 'costume'. This is key, since my aim is always to be well-dressed in a modern context, so spats, monocles and frock coats are out. This should not, however, stop you from adding a few vintage items to your wardrobe. Worn carefully, and avoiding costume, they'll add a bit of classic quality and elegance that it's hard to replicate any other way.

Savvy Row is a great bet if you can't make it to a vintage store, but personally I enjoy the process of looking around vintage shops and market stalls too much to do my shopping online. If you're in London, I can highly reccommend the Portobello Road market, as well as a couple of the shops around the Notting Hill Gate area. The Camden Passage Market in Islington is also worth a look, but is more antique-focused.