March 16, 2023
Nathan here! I’ve been doing some form of eBaying, thrifting, and vintage perusing ever since I had my license and a little disposable income to throw around (which pretty soon, will be about 15 years *pours another cup of coffee*), so Anna and I thought it may be fun to do an ongoing series on vintage shopping, focused on different pieces, how to find them, and what brands are worth searching for. The world of throwbacks and thrown-outs has gotten borderline overwhelming in breadth, so we’ll aim to save you some time and offer some resources by taking an already well-worn, fine toothed comb through the deep recesses of vintage-dom.
Last week I heard someone refer to “Vintage” clothes as a *trend, and I cringed a little bit.
Before reselling and 2nd-hand shopping became as ubiquitous as buying something at the mall, I spent a lot of time in college rummaging through the racks of local thrift stores and flea markets. The majority of the clothes I wore in college were from Goodwill, Park Ave Thrift (certainly no relation to the actual Park Ave), and America’s Thrift.
The appeal wasn’t that buying vintage was “cool”, it was that I knew I could find cool, potentially unique things at prices I could actually afford at these stores. And guess what: for over a hundred years before I ever stepped foot in a Vintage Twin, billions of other suburban wannabe hipsters did the same thing. Turns out, we’re all just following in the pre-worn, re-soled footsteps of our forefathers.
Beyond those of us looking for a sick 90s windbreaker to flex at their next happy hour, it’s also key to remember there are so many people who view thrifting as their best option of providing a wardrobe for themselves and their families. So, let’s be clear: vintage is not a “trend”. It’s a longstanding means of recycling clothing, preventing waste, and providing opportunity that’s been both elevated and exploited in recent years.
Alright, now that we have our bases covered, today’s Throwback Thursday focuses on covering your ass: slacks, trousers, pants. If you’re interested in finding a solid way to wrap those getaway sticks of yours, we’ve got some options for you.
In 2023, the year of our Lord, pleats are still on the menu, and I personally don’t see them fading away before that bag of spinach in your fridge does. Brands ranging from Aime Leon Dore to H&M are still releasing new iterations on these pinched pants, and even the GOAT himself, Ralph Lauren continues to find new ways to incorporate these longstanding staples of menswear into his collections.
Pleats first came onto the scene in Paris in the 1910s as a way to emphasize the straight lines of suit tailoring. They maintained popularity in formal menswear for, well, 100 years before people decided pleats = clunky grandpa vibes — before people then decided clunky grandpa vibes = good. Now, something that once felt very stuffy, cumbersome, or decidedly uncool now feels like an understated detail that elevates an otherwise nondescript pair of khakis.
So with that in mind, today we’re going to focus specifically on pleated chinos. Think 90s Ralph Lauren ads, golden retrievers, Land Rovers, superfluous sweaters tied around various appendages, work boots that have never seen a day of work, and the smell of tobacco (not actual tobacco, just that manufactured scent that acts as a facsimile the way grape soda doesn’t actually taste like grape, but is in fact grape flavored) and whatever perfume is in Abercrombie & Fitch stores.
This can be tough, because searching “pleated pants” on eBay or Etsy can leave you with a modest pool of 10,000+ results (even after filtering for your potential sizes and color preferences). The foundation of a good search is to find a few brands that you think may have what you’re looking for (Ralph Lauren, LL Bean, Eddie Bauer, Tommy Hilfiger, Brooks Brothers, Lacoste) and then to get as specific as possible:
If you have a certain type of material in mind (maybe linen, ramie, cotton, felted wool) or color (olive green, tan, beige, navy), throw that word in the lexicon of your search, friend. Next, add the waist size you’re looking for, along with your preference for women’s or men’s pants. If you can figure out the name of the variations of the item you’re looking for, even better. (eg, Polo has both a “Hammond” and “Andrew” option for pleated bottoms.).
Ideally, a search would look like this: “Eddie Bauer pleated pants khaki 32 men’s”. *Leave out the word vintage, as not everyone uses it in their listing, and it may exclude great results.
Now, instead of 10,000 options, you have 75.
*To narrow things down further, hit the filter and start nitpicking your search even more. Still, I recommend starting the search under “All Categories”, so you can get a good sense of what all of your options are before digging deeper.*
If this all sounds intuitive, then you may already be a pro! The trick of the “hunt” is to balance playing the SEO game with also accounting for the guy who’s just cleaning out his storage unit and listing things under the title “beige pants” with the incorrect waist size listed in the details. You want to find that guy — the one who doesn’t know how good the piece he has is — because he probably has that gem listed for $8 + shipping.
Lastly, before you buy something, make sure you know how they fit. Did that pair of trousies get shrunk the heck up in the wash by their previous owner? Does the brand do vanity sizing? Was their hemming involved? Check the deets on the item, skim the description, and then shoot them a message to ask for the measurements if you’re unsure. I’ve found most sellers to be happy to help.
*If you’re unsure of your sizing and what measurements to look for, take your favorite pair of pants and measure the waistband and inseam (if you want to deep dive even more, you can measure the rise, thigh, and leg opening to really know your stuff.)
*I found these Eddie Bauer pleated pants on eBay for $7 + Shipping! Always make an offer and see if the seller works with you on it!
Ralph Lauren is in insanely safe go-to vintage option for a few reasons:
Still, if a reseller knows what they have, then you may end up seeing slightly higher prices from time to time. That said, I highly recommend Eddie Bauer as an alternative. The great thing about Eddie Bauer is they’re really known more as an outdoor brand than a prep-wear brand, which means that their clothes are actually really well constructed and ready to take a beating — which means they often hold up really well to years of wear and tear. Because EB still has a preppy bend to it, a lot of looks you find from RL also have an Eddie Bauer alternative available, often at a fraction of the price. You’ll find loads of vintage pants and sweater options — as well as excellent down puffers, iconic vests, and flannels that are worth your time as well.
*I found these Vintage Ralph Lauren Andrew pants for right around $20 + Shipping on eBay! The undershirt tank top, sneakers, and watch I’m wearing in both photos can be found here.
From what I can tell, there are two predominant Ralph Lauren pleated pants options out there: The Andrew, and the Hammond. I’m wearing the Andrew in the photo above, and I recommend them over the Hammond for 3 reasons:
A trusty go-to for Anna and I, always. I haven’t purchased any vintage J. Crew pieces, but 90s J. Crew clothing is known to have as high of quality as any time in J. Crew’s illustrious history. Even if I haven’t tried their throwback slacks, I trust them!
While the vintage world has tons of women’s options available as well (which you can find using the links above), finding yourself in someone else’s pants — so to speak — isn’t necessarily something everyone is itching to do. So we wanted to share a couple of options Anna’s been loving lately from Abercrombie & Fitch.