Editor’s Note: Thank you to Chris Collins for this thoughtful piece.
I like to drink and dress “green” – it reduces waste and recycles, in that order.
I enjoy sitting at a well-appointed cocktail bar – at times, even an open lounge or upscale hotel lobby – to watch the ebb and flow, mentally awarding scoring decisions or constructive criticism on those who flow by – ‘What made him think that mess goes together?’ or ‘She needs someone taller with those shoes.’
However, it’s more of a challenge to be a green-drinker from the lounge – at the bar, refills are easier as my imbibe of choice is Bourbon, neat please.
In early 2020 I found Ivy-Style, discovered there was a world of which I knew nothing, and dove in. I was not in the habit of working on my sartorial style, it was-what-it-was. I discovered my sartorial ambitions and goals had a name; I discovered the word sartorial. I was more definable than merely being a BB fan – I am Trad, with a southern spin. Previous to discovering Ivy-Style I would have branded my style as preppy, and while I may have been for a few years in my 20’s, I was no longer that extreme of colored layers and knotted accessories (During my college years, two of my best friends were Tinker and Muffy, proof of a preppy past). Since finding Ivy-Style I’ve learned why I never felt as comfortable in suits by other than BB. I’d been a 3/2 roll Guy for 35 years, without ever knowing the term. The last two suits I purchased pre-pandemic were from the BB flagship store in NYC – 20+ years ago. I still have both.
Over the years I acquired lots of new clothes, and still have many of them. But I don’t have most of what I bought – shirts wear out, ties stain, decisions age poorly with time, waistlines shrink to a point trousers cannot be taken in further, the chest and shoulders have emerged to where a 40 now must be a 44. In all that time the idea of thrifting for daily clothes never appealed to me, it was merely a search for what to wear during the next painting project, or for leave-behind khakis to be worn on safari. In 2020 my work life changed as did my work attire. I needed to focus on my professional attire, then in 2021 a friend introduced me to thrifting for clothes to be worn regularly – it was a godsend discovery.
Thrifting (rescuing) clothes enables me to experiment with combination, and I’ve achieved a better understanding of fabrics, textures, and design. And while clothes are not animate objects, they do convey energy and a force upon us which highlights their strengths. Metaphysically, rescuing a garment gives it another life – an adventure it did not expect – the same way we adventure into unknows – it’s the other side of the same coin – giving an excellent item a second chance in turn creates a newness, a fresh approach, and a back stock of wonderful options.
An easy example is ties. While the majority of the business world is eschewing them for sneakers, untuck-its, and a blazer, I am going the other direction. At this point I have over 150 ties that are “new” to me in the last year. Most are traditional neck ties, but over 25 of them are bow ties – which I wear exclusively on Tuesday. Fridays I go without leaving me three days a typical week to wear a new tie; so, 52 weeks minus 4 of vacation gives me 48, at 3 neck ties per week – you do the math. In South Carolina, a thrift tie is .99 cents. I do not live in SC – it would be nice if I could as my grandson is there. Instead, I visit as often as practical. SC has terrific Southern Trad in its various thrift stores. Florida, where I do live, has many terrific finds. Yankees come regularly, all retired and ready to wear shorts and flowery shirts. In the process of matriculating, they dispose of wonderful and classic items of fantastic origins and hand tailoring.
The ability to resuscitate something – giving it a different second act than what it imagined as it hung in a bargain price thrift store, feeds my eco-conscious and my closet. I’m saving something that was obviously misunderstood by its donor – saving it from a second life of combination with a brown-stripe polyester suite and blue shoes, worn every other Sunday. Now, I’m not purposely belittling those who make these clothing choices, but you don’t park your Bentley on an angle in the last down-ramp in the parking garage. You give the key to the valet, or have your driver find a nice spot in the shade to wait – no idling please, this hurts the nearby trees. Saving a discarded item of a spectacular nature – discarded for whatever the reason– is a responsible thing. Good books need not merely sit on shelves, they should be enjoyed by lovers of books. Good clothes are the same.
I am aware of my impact to our planet, by experiencing it and by owning land – which is code for owning more land than a house in a cul-de-sac. When you spend time caring for something of that size, you can’t help but develop an even greater appreciation for the impact humans are jam-sandwiching onto nature. I believe mother nature is working toward rewarding humanity’s stewardship of our planet with a sharp stick in the eye in retaliation for our oblivious march toward an ever-growing need for 100% – full time – self-gratification and consumption. I can’t stop China and India from melting the polar ice caps, I can’t stop the deforestation of the Amazon. However, mother nature will – by allowing us (humans) to cause or own demise.
Until she does, I’ll rescue ties and blazers and pants – and repurpose them to my size by learning to tailor. I own a Singer – I bought it refurbished.
- Chris Collins