Men’s Clothes in NYC: Resale, Consignment, Thrift & Outlet

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.

 

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Big Apple Food Adventures: Prune, East Village

Prune seems to be a bit of an institution in the East Village, serving up Modern American cuisine. It’s tiny and packed; it reminds me of bistros in Paris, and similarly, some of the tables are so close together, you have to move them out of the way for someone to go in and sit next to the walls!

We polished off a lovely bottle of red wine (mostly French wine on the menu) and managed an appetizer and main each. Though I ate at least half of Karyn’s morels on toast. What a fun dish. How often does one get to eat morels, anyways?

I had razor clams. I’ve had these before, possibly in Asian restaurants. I find them so cool and unusual: a long, thin clam. Served up beautifully with citrus-dressed fresh herbs. Loved it.

For the main, K had a rustic dish of half a chicken in broth. I had pigeon. It could have been freshly killed on the East Side (just kidding). Beautiful flavour, dense texture, and like them mushrooms, served on some buttery toasted bread. Interesting.

We got some tasty leeks on the side too, though probably not necessary. We were filled up, without any room for dessert.

Great service from a friendly, cute waiter. Outstanding company. What a great introduction (for me) to the NYC dining scene. Unusual menu offerings in a fun atmosphere, it gives you the feeling that you won’t get this food and experience anywhere else.

Prune Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Theatre Review: Amélie, Walter Kerr Theatre, NYC

Considering which musicals to see, Owen encouraged me to see Amélie as he guesses that it’s not successful enough to ever tour or be put on again… and yet, the chance to hear Philippa Soo sing (famous from Hamilton) is a good reason, and I also wanted to see Adam Chanler-Berat, who I’d seen in Next to Normal years ago.

It was a miserable rainy day, 10 degrees Celcius or thereabouts, and it rained the WHOLE day, and I got to the theatre at 9:40am to get a rush ticket. I was successful, and also successful in that I wouldn’t have wanted to wait outside longer than that in that weather! I got a limited view seat for $40 and it was I think 5 rows back, all the way to the side, but the view was not bad at all, particularly for a Saturday evening show at 8pm (no intermission)!

I quite liked the movie, though I remember the finer details of the plot only sketchily. They came back as I watched the performance, and I think that it helps to enjoy the musical to have affection for the material on which it was based. The reviews for this show have been quite harsh, but as an attempt to showcase a starry-eyed dreamer, too much in her own imagination, I think there was some good potential. Some reviewers found the efforts too evident, and too sentimental. I thought that there was some nice whimsy.

And yes, it was wonderful to hear Soo’s amazing voice, and Chanler-Berat’s too. The songs are all very pleasant, not particularly memorable but not terrible. The supporting cast do a good job and the set is lively and colourful; it is very much a romantic proposal: to fall in love with the story, and the vision of Paris that it creates.

There were a few really terrible songs. A complete quandary of a song about… figs, I think, sung by the feeble-minded son of a green grocer, a storyline from the musical that gets lost. An Elton John imitation, linked to an idea of Amélie imagining herself as Princess Diana, was equally confounding. The random number, way too close to the finish, where three of the women cast members expound on their men problems felt like it could have been from another musical. Still, I thought that this musical had potential, cut a few songs, add a few more, try to keep the magic… but it seems it will close after only being on Broadway for a few months. So long Amélie!

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Theatre Review: Pacific Overtures, Classic Stage Company, NYC

I was very happy to score a cheap ticket ($40) to this show through the app TodayTix. My brother saw it recently and enjoyed it. I was curious. I was introduced to Sondheim many years ago when I lived in London. I’d heard this was one of his strangest and least produced. The first production apparently was Kabuki style…

And it is strange. A tale about Japanese isolationism in the 1800’s? While occasionally you could feel an analogy with the Orange Monster’s Plan for a Wall, the play doesn’t really try to be particularly political. It’s mostly farce, and the tale unfolds with some heartbreak, some loss, diplomatic meetings and quite odd group numbers, which is not unusual for Sondheim.

What struck me was hearing his familiar melodies and orchestrations applied to a different setting… though not one, but two songs were about a relationship between women and observers or consumers, a romanticization of sex work in one piece, where the madame in charge of geisha girls sees a new market opportunity and another with British sailors ogling a local girl, which seemed much another version of ‘Pretty Women’ from Sweeney Todd.

Another song, about a boy in a tree, observing the diplomatic meeting, was classic Sondheim, some sort of commonplace analogy and a way of speaking about something else. Not finishing the hat in this case, but being in a tree, and what does he see and from whose perspective do we ever know the truth? If I’m feeling charitable (and the music was gorgeous), I think this is interesting; though if I was grumpy I might have rolled my eyes. Unless you’re swept away by the larger story, it doesn’t come across as deep and complex as it might.

It was really exciting to hear Ann Harada up close, with wonderful comic timing; to hear and see George Takei, basically playing George Takei, that unmistakeable voice seems always with the same cadences to me, and so wonderful: a full cast of talented Asian-American actors.

Apparently, the original show is much longer, and this has been edited and shaped down, with songs cut, and especially transferring the whole shebang to a sparse stage with modern dress. Still, I wouldn’t have been really up for an Asian costume party. Some white guys, even Sondheim, writing about Asian history puts me in a questioning frame of mind. It’s wonderful to see an all-Asian cast. But the songs seem a bit of silly stereotyping: one with characters trading Haiku poems; another about… oh, bowing, tea, kimonos, Asian sort of stuff, I gathered… But I was very glad to see this piece of Sondheim history, which I can’t imagine I’ll have the change to experience again…

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Big Apple Food Adventures: Momofuku Ssäm Bar

There are so many Momofukus these days, I can’t quite keep track of them all. I’d meant to plan coming to at least one of them while in NYC, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I was killing time before going to see Pacific Overtures and decided to treat myself to a nice lunch, and lo and behold: here is a Momofuku, and no problems getting in the door and sitting at the bar.

The main theme of this one seems to be the Korean Ssäm, which is a lettuce wrap, I believe. So, perhaps any protein wrapped up in something else, and lots of interesting sides you can order. As well as ham. You can order some special ham. I’m not sure what’s about.

I couldn’t resist a cocktail, and my god this one was tasty. Sake, lime, yuzu and Japanese pepper. It was therefore sour, sweet and spicy. Nice.

I went for a combo where I chose the meat: a beef brisket. You can order lean or fatty. Guess which one I chose?

This came with two sides so I went with a Japanese biscuit, a very crumbly savoury little number, and a version of tea egg, which was nothing less than extraordinary. I don’t know how it was treated. Mostly hard-boiled but the yolk removed and turned into some delicious sauce and god it was good. There were also some pickled cucumbers, and ohhhh that meat was nicely spiced and perfectly tender and fatty.

I very much liked this meal.

Momofuku Ssäm Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Theatre Review: Sweeney Todd, Barrow Street Theatre, NYC

On my second night in NYC, I decided to try out my TodayTix app on my phone and noticed they had a lottery to see Sweeney Todd. I’d read about this production. Originally staged in a pie shop in South London, some theatre-goers get to eat pies beforehand! And I recall something about it being intimate and innovative. My app told me I hadn’t won the lottery… but I got a phone call not much later asking if I wanted to come. Did I?!

For $39, I was ecstatic about this. Most of the audience gets to come in early and eat a pie (made by Obama’s piemaker, they sound really good) but they didn’t have any extra leftovers for the cheap seats. The theatre has been done up to recreate the London pie shop, with patrons sitting at long tables. The orchestra was simple: an upright piano, a violin and a clarinet. And then the ushers and waiters suddenly revealed themselves to be in the show, and it began.

Honestly, this was thrilling. I barely stopped to wonder at how, with lighting, and innovative staging, and sensational singing and acting, that the whole story unfolded in a humble pie shop. I was reminded of just how good the plot is, how every character has motivations and how there are twists and turns. And in a smaller, more intimate setting, I was blown away at how complicated the melodies and harmonies and counterpoints all were: this is really amazing music, also tuneful and beautiful and memorable.

All the leads were amazing, but it was especially exciting to see Norm Lewis, who I’d last seen on Broadway opposite Audra McDonald in a hair-raising version of Porgy and Bess. His beautiful operative voice and solemn presence brought the right gravitas to the role.

I’ve often found standing ovations at musicals a bit cliché as if we paid our money so we might as well have enjoyed ourselves enough to stand up. But when this production finished, we all just rose up, simultaneously with the joy of it, unconsciously clapping and shouting praise.

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Sydney Food Diary: Maya da Dhaba, Surry Hills

This place is an institution, y’all. It’s been in Sydney as long as I can remember, and it’s also an empire, as there is Maya Tandoori and Maya Vegetarian across the street.

I think it has the cheapest wine in town, $5 for a generous glass (though of course, the brands are the cheapest available too; still, it’s transparent).

I’ve always found the food here dependable and occasionally really tasty. Like the Kashmiri Naan, a favourite. We had two different dishes with paneer, a super tasty beef sausage like appetizer, some goat with a nice strong flavour, and a sort of a vegetable dumpling in a cream sauce. Five dishes, enough for the three of us. My friends were rapturous and thought it among the best Indian food they’ve ever had. I would be more likely to call it tasty and dependable.

Maya Da Dhaba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Coffee in Sydney: Urban Piccolo, Redfern

There’s this stretch of Regent Street in Redfern that suddenly has a few cool bars and restaurants and shops and though it’s a slightly ugly street, with traffic too fast, the neighbourhood is managing to impose a sense of cool nonetheless.

My coffee, at Urban Piccolo, was just fine: very milky and creamy but without losing the strong coffee flavour, just how I like it.

And then I went for my haircut appointment at Sayhoun & Co which my friends that night said is the best my hair has ever looked. They’re magic there.

Urban Piccolo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Baba Laksa House, CBD

I love that this little place, in the style of a Hawker stall, is located inside the Grace Hotel, serving up delicious Malaysian food.

A colleague, who was born in Indonesia and lived many years in Singapore (thus establishing his Southeast Asian credentials) recommended this place, though he lamented it’s only open for lunch on weekdays.

He often goes for the chicken rice, which he said was very good.

I was so happy with the beef rendang. I love a good rendang, slightly spicy, rich sauce and tender meat, but often the meat isn’t tender. This makes me sad.

But this place, oh boy, this place did not make me sad at all.

BaBa Laksa House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Cologne: He Wood Rocky Mountain by DSquared2

I really liked this one, though I have the feeling I was also a sucker for the packaging and marketing. Isn’t it pretty? And being from the West Coast of Canada, the idea of a bit of Rocky Mountains in spray-on form evoked both nostalgia and nationalism for me.

Fragrantica has a rather useful description:

Dsquared² He Wood Rocky Mountain Wood was inspired by Canadian mountains and, as its name suggests, it is designed and dedicated to fans of nature. It is composed of rocky notes, mountain aromas and woody accords. The fragrance was created by Daphne Bugey, of such notes as amber, incense and musk, which reflect rocky notes, along with violet, Canadian lily and white pepper. Vetiver and cedar finish the composition.

The reviews really are quite good too.

Basenotes, which also is a useful source of information, has generally pretty good reviews too.

It really does smell woodsy to me, like a cold, crisp morning in the late fall, not super cold yet, but cool, and walking through an evergreen forest and there’s the smell of the woods and a bit of dirt and moss.

And the packaging is beautiful. I found a bottle of the regular He Wood on sale, so I’m going to try that one now for a while…

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