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Be Green

Green Eye for the Hip Guy

Image courtesy linz4449 on ebay.

Ahem, gentlemen... this one's for you. Yes it's about shopping, but it won't hurt, I promise. It's all about looking like a million bucks on a charity shop budget. I get that most guys would rather comb their hair with a cat than go shopping, but bear with me-- thrift store shopping can be FUN! You know who told me that? A guy. His name is Danny Lourenço and he's an ethical fashion guru. He owns Rien a Cacher, a boutique on St Denis (corner Rachel) that sells locally produced, organic and recycled clothes. Dude has a very funky sensibility and some very useful tips. (Ladies, even we can benefit from some of this advice).

Oh, and to take the sting out of thrift store shopping, I even have a $50 certificate to Frip-Prix Renaissance to give away. But you have to keep reading!


Before we launch into the tips, here's what you get out of it:

1. Savings: You get a chance to look very good for very little money.
2. You help the planet by preventing waste. Did you know that the average Quebecer buys 23 kg of clothes a year and trashes 21kg? I'll bet my writing hand that isn't fair trade or organic clothing either. So do your bit for the environment and reduce the amount of new stuff you consume.
3. If you're shopping secondhand, you'll often buy more made-in-Canada stuff than most stores are selling brand new. This means better quality and probably fairer labour conditions.
4. Ironically, many used clothes are in better shape than brand new ones. That's because back in the day, clothes were built to last more than one season.
5. You'll be able to buy natural fabrics like cotton, wool, cashmere as well as Italian leather, etc that you probably can't afford brand new.
6. When you shop vintage, you develop a look that's all your own. That's seriously sexy! Seriously. And if you're worried about not having a sense of style in the first place, take along a lady friend (or a guy with pizazz). Make it social. Make it work for you.
So you ready? Let's do it!

So here are Danny's frip tips:

1. Be prepared to spend some time: Guys, you're going to have to stop thinking about shopping as hunting (where you pounce on your prey) and instead think of it as a kind of strategy game. The idea is to go when you've eated and peed and are relaxed. Budget for at least an hour. Then really take your time to browse through the racks. Try stuff on (blasphemy, I know) and make frip shop browsing a habit.

2. Ignore size labels:
Ladies are more used to this than men. Often stuff at the thrift store is mislabelled (which is why it ended up there in the first place). Sometimes sweaters (especially pure wool and cashmere) are shrunken. So do an eyeball test-- if it looks like it's going to fit you, ignore the label that says small or XXL and try it on.
3. Shop season forward: Don't wait till it's 30 degrees to go looking for T-shirts and shorts. Think about the two seasons coming up and imagine what you'd like to wear as you browse through the racks. By buying this way, not only are you saving tons of cash (trendy stuff is expensive and you're less likely to say no if you need it NOW), but you're more likely to score some real treasures (because no one is looking for them yet).
4. Vintage is IN: These days, argyle and vests are all the rage. So instead of buying some made-in-a-third-world-sweatshop knock off, why not buy the real thing? It will just take longer (remember, planning, not hunting!)
5. Some things are BETTER used: Think jeans or a leather jacket. Both get sexier as they age. So get that yummy snuggly jacket at a fraction of what you'd pay brand new.
6. Fair game: Buying secondhand may be easier in the ethical dilemma department. And I'm not just talking fur coat-- fur trimmed jackets, hats, etc all fall under this category.

Right, so this is the part where you tell me your story. In exchange, you get a chance to win one $50 certificate to Renaissance (which is a king's ransom in a thrift store!). Frip-Prix Renaissance has outlets all over the city and aims to give a second chance not just to clothes and household items, but to folks having trouble finding work.
So, tell me: do you have an item that you gave away to a thrift store or threw in the trash that you now wish you'd held on to?
Leave me a comment or call our Talkback Line: (514) 597-5626.

By the way, if you're leaving a comment, don't get frustrated when it looks like nothing's happened when you press "post". There should be a 10 second delay after which your screen will go grey. If this happens, all's well. Then the system waits till I log on again to post items. Good? Good. If you're worried your comment isn't reaching me, you could always send me an email: geeta.nadkarni@gmail.com

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Comments (6)

Aaron Baxter


I wish I could have the scarf that my mother knit me back. It matched the woolen tank top she gave me the year before. It must have been the only matching woolen tank top and scarf combo around. I wish they were together again.

Posted March 16, 2009 06:56 PM

Joanne Clark


I always shop at thrift shops and church basements & garage sales. Whenever I buy anything, I make sure that I have a bag at home ready to donate to the church or donation box in our neighbourhood.

Posted March 16, 2009 07:01 PM

Joanne Clark


I was interested in your story about thrift shops. I have been using them for quite a few years. I honestly don't have trouble bringing bags of clothes to the church, donations boxes, etc. because I know that there's always another good deal to be had the next time I buy something. I love recycling, composting, etc.

Posted March 17, 2009 07:30 AM

Jean Cummins


Hi Geeta:

You mentioned what we would like to have not thrown out. Well, I used to wear high heel shoes.

Then they went out of style. Now I wish that I had them back especially the snake skin type. And some of the open toe ones.

Although I`m not sure that I can still stand up on those spikey heels.....lol

Posted March 17, 2009 03:36 PM

Anna McKenzie


Nothing like a house fire to appreciate a loss! My closets were packed with items saved from way back when...and now all gone. I used to think of thrift stores as a place where racks of old, worn out, and ugly clothes hung on wire hangers. Well, guess what! My closets used to be packed with the same stuff!

Last summer we had a family reunion which included a "Disco" at midnight. So, that morning, along with some family members (both male and female), we visited a thrift store to search for clothes to wear. What fun we had rummaging the racks and finding all sorts of "funky" items...and such bargains to boot! So, I say, "Buyer Beware"! Thrift stores can be fun and indeed so affordable!

I want to mention that I like your articles on "Be Green"; and appreciate the video on Danny Lourenço's useful tips when shopping at a thrift store. His commitment to selling ethical, recycled, organic and locally produced clothing is commendable.

Geeta says:
I'm so sorry about your house fire, but then again, the ancients believed that fire rituals are cleansing and necessary. I'm glad to hear that you seem to have embraced your situation and made the most of it. I love your idea for a group thrift shop outing. How fun! Disco party indeed! Rock on, Anna!

Posted March 19, 2009 02:38 PM

Jude Muhrez


Hi Guys, It sounds really good how many people are concerned about the environment today. I wasn't before. I bought a recycled designer purse from www.greenorganic.ca
and I love it. check it up. I searched alot and I found that their prices are good and they have almost everything you need.
Go Green Go.

Posted March 25, 2009 09:20 AM

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