Fashion Statement

I'VE PREVIOUSLY written about the dramatic turn my life took when I went from carefree bachelor to husband and proud father of four. With multiple college educations looming, I drastically curtailed my spending, including on my professional wardrobe.

Initially, instead of the Hickey Freeman suits in which I’d previously indulged, I was happy with the latest sale at Jos. A. Bank. But eventually, I dipped my toe in uncharted waters—buying clothes on eBay.

This comes with risks. It’s difficult to judge how something fits until you try it on. A safer option is a men’s consignment store where you can try before you buy. But while women’s consignment stores are plentiful, men’s tend to be scarce and, when you do find one, the selection can be limited. By contrast, the selection on eBay is vast, and there are ways to mitigate the risk.

First, many eBay clothes sellers offer returns, with the buyer only paying for shipping. Better still, some sellers pick up the shipping costs on returns.

In addition, reputable eBay clothes sellers will offer not only extensive photos of their wares from every angle, but also the exact measurements. What if you’re buying a suit? That’ll require alterations, but so will a retail suit off the rack. Either way, you’ll be paying for tailoring.

There are other ways to mitigate the risk. If there’s a particular brand and model of shoe that you’ve previously owned, you know that—if you find the same one in your size—you’ll probably be fine. I like boat shoes. One of the high-quality brands is Sperry. When my current pair is wearing out, I know that if I can find the same or similar model in an 8½, I’m likely going to have a great fit. I’ve had similar experiences with pricey Alden and Johnston & Murphy dress shoes.

With eBay, it’s easy to keep tabs on specific items. The “saved searches” function will email you any time an item fitting the description you entered is newly listed.

The great joy of shopping for clothes on eBay is the incredible prices. Because folks are hesitant to buy clothes online, sellers discount even the finest brands substantially and often drastically. In addition, many eBay clothes sellers include the “make an offer” option. Even if they don’t, you can send them a message with an offer. When it comes to clothes, even lowball bids are often accepted.

I’ve gotten quite a few memorable bargains, including a couple of top-quality business suits in mint condition for a fraction of the retail price. And those Sperry boat shoes I mentioned? They’re currently retailing for up to $90. But I recently picked up a brand new pair on eBay for $15, including taxes and shipping.

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Fashion Statement