The Thrifty Male

manBrian says:

It’s hard, I know. Send a woman to any corner of the planet with just $50 and a dream, and she’ll come back with what seems like sacks of clothes, shoes and trinkets.

Send one of us to do the same thing and we’ll probably come back with one “really nice” pair of $49.99 jeans. That’s just the way of the world, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way all the time. There are a plethora of sites out there designed for the “every man” that have a generous selection and are easy on the wallet.


Having set up a US site not too long ago, Topman is the perfect place for the semi-industrial man with a purpose. Think: “the cool-with-everybody hipster”. A great deal of their collections tend to go on sale two to three weeks quicker than the competition, so you have to jump on it early. It’s the ideal site to snag a $200 military jacket or a $100 cable knit sweater for a fraction of the price.


Boasting both a men’s and women’s section, Gilt is an online auction house on steroids. The rules are fairly simple: Everyday at 11:57 p.m., the site sends an e-mail notification to its members, giving the lowdown on the featured vendors for that day. At noon, the “auction house” opens and you’re given the opportunity to snag quality merchandise for much less than you’d find at the flagship store. You have until 12:10 to lock down your items or they’ll be released from your cart for the other vultures to scoop up.

On any given day, you’ll get offers from top-name brands like Jil Sander, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, to off-the-wall shops like Tan Ren Knives, Universal Studios and various hotel chains from around the world. The only catch? You have to be invited by a current member to join.

Perhaps I know someone who could arrange that for you…

3. Army/Navy surplus stores

An often overlooked location, military surplus stores are great for low-priced, utilitarian items such as windbreakers, pea and trench coats, chests and tons of other post-issued fodder from the Department of Defense. You have to scour your city or town for them nowadays, but they’re still around. I’ve picked up heavy duty gloves, belts and even long underwear from surplus stores in the past.


A product of Japan, Uniqlo is, well, unique. They feature a lot of seasonal, hi-tech outerwear that’s also practical. Be prepared to stock up on lightweight cords, insulated parkas and comfortable sweaters for now, but their selection will change once this crazy weather does.

5. Family patriarchs, duh!

This should be a no-brainer, right? If it’s a situation where you and your old man remotely resembled each other in body type at some point, he’s bound to have a few things here and there that might fit you. There’s nothing better than getting a vintage watch or billfold, a jean or bomber jacket from the 60s, or even a full-fledged suit (extra points if it’s a three-piece). The best part is that’s it’s usually free and absolutely timeless. Anything like that is a great and economical addition to your wardrobe.

Brian Wilder is a writer for Home Ec 101. You can also find him at Things My Grandfather Taught Me. If you have a question you’d like Brian to answer send it to


  1. Lamont Berge on May 21, 2011 at 6:32 am

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  2. Jerry on February 20, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    I've used Gilt plenty of times but I never knew you could find military jackets on topman, great find!
    My recent post Where Can I Buy A Military Style Jacket

  3. Michael on January 13, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Gilt invite! Me! Me!

    Sorry, a little overexcited there. Thanks for reminding me to hit up the A&N store.

    And my addition: if you have a Nordstrom "Rack" store in your town, it's a place to get incredible deals on shoes, and other items that (IMO) were a bit too "edgy" for the mainstream Nordstrom customer.
    My recent post The Best Stuff of 2010

  4. Keter on January 13, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Sporting goods stores often carry a good variety of male clothing – between LLBean and the local Academy "Sports and Outdoors" store, I keep my man clothed. He's the sort that does wear things until they are so ripped that they are showing his underpants, so I do almost all of his shopping. Now if I could just get him to give up the two short-sleeve henleys that look like someone blasted them with a shotgun…or is that look still in style? (Note – these look like this because they're that old and torn up, not because they were ever stylish.) I did score a major victory this year, though…I bought him a bathrobe he likes, and now he wears it around the house in the mornings and at night instead of streaking. Win!

    • Brian Jacobi Wilder on January 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm

      I do agree that brands like LL Bean and the like carry durable and practical products, but it never hurts to branch out every once in awhile.

      I am also a HUGE fan of henleys (wearing one as I type this), but I would suggest to your significant other that even something as seemingly durable as a henley has a shelf life. Just trade 'em out for some new ones!

  5. casey on January 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    I didn't think Army/Navy stores were around anymore. When I was a kid we used to go buy snowpants/boots/parkas etc there. Probably becasue it was cheaper than department stores, but my brother and I loved going there becasue they had so much cool stuff.

    • Keter on January 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      Army Surplus stores are not as common as they used to be, but some are still around. If you do a web search for "army navy surplus" you get a lot of online resources, too.

    • Brian Jacobi Wilder on January 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm

      When I lived overseas, we would get a bunch of stuff from the Navy Supply store on base. I always felt a step ahead of my classmates. Plus, they carried those sweet "U.S. Government" pens that I love.

  6. Brian Jacobi Wilder on January 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    You are clearly an anomaly in the grand scheme of things. 🙂

    Just consider it getting the best of both worlds.

    • JimK on January 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm

      Exactly. 🙂

  7. JimK on January 13, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I'm always amused at these stereotypes. In my house the roles are almost uniformly reversed. I cook, I clean, I love shoes & boots, I bargain hunt. She couldn't give a rat's hairy backside for any of it.

    Of course I also do the maintenance and yardwork and…HEY WAIT A MINUTE I'M GETTING SCREWED HERE.

    Oh. OHH!

    Nevermind. I'm good. 🙂

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