A post on this topic in Paris is my top-viewed blog posting ever… So, an entry about browsing for secondhand and cheap clothes (my natural state of being) in the Big Apple would seem to be in order.
I was in the elevator going up to my room in the cool Jane Hotel in the Meatpacking District, or just south of there, and a cool geek girl, heading up to an office function on the rooftop bar complimented by fluoro pink corduroy jacket. She showed off her shiny gold Gucci sneakers, and told me she’d gotten them at the Goodwill store in the Village and that it was her favourite shop, and she also found item’s for her male flatmate there.
First, I checked out one at 7 W. 14th Street. This one is really downmarket, and some of the clothes were stained or damaged. I really couldn’t find anything here.
I’m tenacious so I thought I’d try the one that she’d recommended in the Village at 44 W. 8th St. The men’s section is in the back corner. Everything is sorted according to colour, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out the pricing system. Lots of cheap brands: uniqlo, H&M, mossimo, American Eagle. Nothing in order of size either, and no labels, so really hard to see what was on offer. I did see a pair of Theory pants, not my size, but that would be a good deal for someone (As an aside, I know Theory is a premium label from NYC, but the clothes are so plain. I can’t see the appeal).
I even had a look in a Goodwill shop in Brooklyn, a huge one where there’s a separate section of the building to drop off donations. A much bigger selection but still pretty basic stuff. So, the winner is: Housing Works. I found one in the West Village at 245 West 10th Street and now I see they’ve got 13 shops spread throughout the city. And they do really great work, so any purchases are going to a great cause. This was really high-quality name brands including some ultra-expensive stuff and other more affordable clothes, yet a small, manageable section of men’s clothing.
If that Hans Copenhagen t-shirt had been in a small instead of a medium, it would have been mine, baby! As it was, I found an interesting colour-blocked dress shirt, with nice fabric and a perfect fit. $15 and the labels were torn out so I have no idea where it’s from. I’ll pretend it’s from somewhere really good (and have to check out more of these stores; apparently they also have stores where you buy clothes by the bag. $25. Stuff it full).
I have a similar trio of consignment stores to compare for you. At Eleven Eleven at E. 11th, you have to be buzzed through a locked door. The men’s section is way in the back, a small room crammed with stuff, and they’ve also gone with sorting clothes by colour, rather than size. The labels are a little better here but it was still hard to browse and see what they had on offer. Better quality stuff than Goodwill, but probably not as good as that Housing Works thrift shop.
I love that Tokio 7 has a shopfront that looks it could be in Japan. It’s a big store, and you look for the labels to tell you whether the clothes are for women or for men, as they’re different colours. I kind of like this approach, that they’re all mixed up in the store. And then: labels! They’ve got price tags on all their clothes that you can clearly see the designer, size and price. Hurrah. This makes it easy to see the uh-mazing clothes they have on offer. Super-designer, super-expensive, but as it’s a consignment store, if it’s been there long enough without a buy, the prices start to come down. I didn’t see anything that I had to get, but I loved browsing in this shop, to check out their stock. Gucci, Prada, Rick Owens, Margiela, Yamamoto: it’s all here.
INA was an unexpected visit, with some time to kill before a show started. At 207 W 18th Street, it’s pretty vast. This place strikes more of a balance. The prices aren’t quite as high as at Tokio, but it’s still upmarket with Rag & Bone and Theory and other deluxe designers. I’d been to their store years ago on Prince Street and remembering it being a bit small. There was a pretty cute Steven Alan shirt (he’s an interesting NYC designer) but when I tried it on, I saw it had been put on the wrong rack: it was a woman’s shirt. It was so cold and rainy that day, I bought a scarf, which I’m happy with.
Ah, I almost forgot to mention I stopped by La Vie at 632 Hudson Street. This is also pretty fun to look at, but definitely out of both my budget and lifestyle. This selection looks like it’s just come off the runways! I’m sure they are much cheaper here than retail but still…
As for the big discount clothing stores, I’d have to say that I don’t understand Nordstrom Rack. They seem to have a wide selection of good brands, but no particular great deals. Century 21 on the other hand is a favourite store to visit. The one down at the World Trade Center is a scary zoo of people, so busy, but it does have a section with the most deluxe of designers (I can’t afford them, but I love looking at what they have to offer). I prefer browsing at the quieter ones, say the one near Lincoln Center. I also visited the one in Brooklyn, on Albee Street, and realized that most of the stock is exactly the same. If they only have mediums at one store and not small, it’s probably the same situation at another branch.
The advantage of going to multiple branches is just that there is SO much to look through, you can take your time, and different things will pop out. I also like about Century 21 that the clothes are sectioned off according to designer, so once you figure out who you like, and who suits you, you can zoom in there. I always get cheap underwear (a limited selection, but Calvin Kleins or 2xist for $6 or $7 each is pretty good if you can find a design you like) and possibly plain t-shirts or undershirts; and then treat myself to a new dress shirt (this time, an interesting number from Moods of Norway). But you can get it all here: athletic gear, polo shirts, high fashion and middle of the road.
What else? If I stumble across other stores (or bargains), I may add to this list, but readers, why not add your own comments here? Tell us your favourite places to shop in NYC for men’s clothes.