GQ Editors’ Vintage Shopping Tips and Tricks

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the expansive world of vintage shopping, don’t worry: you’re not alone. A decade or two ago, the secondhand scene looked like your dusty local thrift shop. Now, there’s a massive online ecosystem of forgotten treasures, and an expertly-curated vintage shop around just about every corner. It’s the most sustainable and economical way to expand your wardrobe, but finding the perfect pair of vintage Levi’s 501s can be a frustrating experience even for the most seasoned shopping fiend. Here at GQ, we’ve seen it all—and then some. As we’ve tracked down some of the most prime vintage tees and covetable ’80s Armani suits, we’ve picked up plenty of tips and tricks. Here are a few that might help you on your own secondhand journey.

Hashtag Your Obsession

Instagram hashtags are your vintage-shopping secret weapon. Do you, like me, have a totally-normal, not-obsessive relationship with Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bear iconography? If you follow #polobear, you’ll be able to keep track of all the ursine sweaters, scarves, and coloring books that surface on the app. Sure, you have to sift through a lot of nonsense (like those coloring books, depending on what you’re after), but those couple swipes of the thumb are all worth it once the grail you’ve been waiting for slides across your screen. —Cam Wolf, Staff Writer

Save Your Searches

Relatedly, stay alert! When a hankering for Tom Ford-era chocolate-brown Gucci flares strikes, if you take the extra step to save the search term on eBay, Grailed, and The Real Real, you’ll get first dibs when the perfect pair surfaces. And nothing beats the fun surprise when a long-ago alert pops up in your inbox. —Sam Schube, Deputy Site Editor

But Be Open to Discovery

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been so laser-focused on finding my latest grail that I ended up passing on something transcendent along the way. If you unexpectedly find, say, a pair of scuzzy Miu Miu pants in your size, it doesn’t matter what you walked into the store for. Buy them and buy them fast. It’s all about using common sense judgment, and re-allocating that grail budget when something even better pops up along the way. Woe unto the shopper who ignores the fickle whims of the universe, and in this case, the universe is telling you one thing: cop. Unless it’s a pair of Miu Miu pants in my size. Text me instead. —Avidan Grossman, Commerce Writer

Befriend Your Dealer

With so many vintage shops popping off on Instagram since the start of the pandemic—shoutout Unsound Rags, Mask Santa Fe, No Maintenance, Moth Food, and Handbook—your secondhand guru is just a DM away. Don’t be afraid to reach out for measurements on a rare Picasso tee they post on their stories, or ask if they’ve got any more OG 107 fatigue pants in your size in the proverbial back room. You’d be surprised by how helpful a personal connection can be, especially if you’re looking for a super specific piece. If you’re a good and patient customer, odds are when they find those Levi’s 646 cords you’re looking for, you’ll get first dibs. —Samuel Hine, Fashion Writer

Bring a Wingman

There’s a section at the back of my closet where all of my vintage L’s live. Which just goes to prove how important shopping with a wingman can be. There’s nothing like a second opinion from a trusted style confidant to help improve your thrifting record—and it never hurts to have an extra set of eyes for spotting diamonds in the rough you otherwise might miss. —Gerald Ortiz, Commerce Writer

Hit the Streets

Last summer, Chad Senzel started slinging vintage Stüssy tees and Polo sweaters on a busy Canal Street corner. Every Saturday and some Sundays, weather permitting, Senzel sets up his rack of clothes (the #streetrack, as it has come to be known), and the neighborhood’s stylish citizens show up to cop camo pants and whatever funky gear Senzel has stumbled upon. Ever since, other street racks have popped up around the city, some just feet from Senzel’s, others across town. Impromptu, sidewalk-level clothing sales aren’t new in NYC, but they’ve never been so well-organized—and, importantly, more well-curated. The only drawback? There’s no changing room at most street racks. Luckily, Senzel accepts returns on pants. —Samuel Hine, Fashion Writer

One In, One Out

When you’re ready to bring in a big vintage haul, make sure you’re clearing some room first. Donate or sell some clothes to your local thrift stores and consignment shops as an offering to the vintage gods. You’ll prevent your closet from exploding while also keeping the secondhand system circular. —Gerald Ortiz, Commerce Writer