An Experiment: No More Retail

As I am currently on the elliptical renewing my fitness goal for a new year (120-ish gym sessions last year), I’m ready to unveil an experiment. Call it a personal challenge of sorts.

Anyone who knows or has known me knows I place a certain emphasis on my appearance. For years I did it solely to compensate for the overwhelming low self-esteem I carried, despite living in a culture where “different” and “flair” further segregated myself from 99.8% of the men around me.

Fast forward 6 years, beyond coming out, largely ok in my own skin, hair color, and sexual identity, but now in Dallas, a completely opposite environment to what I’d always known. And one which I sincerely wondered if I could hold my own in–a culture dictated by what you drive and who you wear. So many people with deep pockets, incredible personal style, the Tom Ford store 2 miles down the street and Versace 10 minutes away. Could I handle the pressure? Could I control my envy? Would I be satisfied with a budget that could only afford Macy’s Red Apple, H&M, Buffalo Exchange, and Ross?

As it has turned out, in the 14 months I’ve lived here, yeah: I can hold my own. I bought a Ford. (Focus, not Tom.) We found a modest condo we share together with our old pup and an offspring here and there. And I found a church where showing up in jeans and a tee or as a complete dandy is perfectly acceptable.

Paramount to my experience has been the following:

— fully embracing my own style (such that it is) and its means of personal self-expression–and being perfectly ok with it
— a partner who’s honest and unfailing in his praise and compliments and affection
— a gaggle of friends who understand style (vs. fashion) but do so without pretention
— my ability to bargain shop and thoughtfully recycle old pieces in my closet, some I’ve had since the late 90s when Pam gave them to me. (The sleeveless tee in the pic is from an estate sale.)
— an abundance of resale and thrift stores in the area.

Bolstered by the first 4 and sparked by the last, I had an idea 3 weeks ago. Later I shared it with my partner:

What if I attempted to buy nothing new, nothing retail for a whole year?

Always wanting to be encouraging and thoughtful but knowing my love of clothes and particularly shoes, he replied, “Well, I just don’t know babe. That’s a long time.”


So I began to asses the odds of the experiment but also the reasons for doing it. To be successful, I’d have to fully commit beyond the novelty of the idea alone.

So why do it?

* To curb my materialism. And my spending.
* I could still buy stuff–at a much lower price–and still have access to things that aided my self-expression.
* I could save more and tithe more–both goals I want to meet.
* Most resale stores we frequent are 100% not-for-profit charities so my money would be going to good causes, not just capitalism, and help sustain employment and economy on a different scale.
* If something required tailoring, that expense would support a local business–one in my own neighborhood.

I then looked back on the past year and realized a lot of my wardrobe was from clearance and resale–including many things I got the most compliments on.

But could I manage the big events? The big Cali St. Regis wedding in Feb? Easter? Possibly another Black Tie Dinner?

And the answer is

Yeah. Yeah, I think I can do this.

In fact, this year’s Black Tie tux–a mint condition, shawl-collared, Calvin Klein tuxedo, was found by my bestie and partner in the thrift store experience and rescued from Genesis Women’s Shelter Thrift Store for THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS. A few additions–a black tuxedo shirt, son’s bow tie, and an impulse purchase of patent leather sneaks I couldn’t say no to–and some tailoring to make it fit me, I had something as nice as what people had paid exorbitant amounts for–and no one was none the wiser. [Except, much to my bestie’s chagrin, I couldn’t shut up about it.]


So. What will this mean?

* I’m going cold turkey and the extreme: excluding all retail, including–yes Leslie–all clearance, including outlets.
* No more Macys 😦 No more mall. No more Ross, Marshall’s, et al.
* No more Gilt, HauteLook, and so on.
* No more new bow toes or new shoes (unless we find them new). [This may be harder than I thought!]

So why–why do this you ask. It may appear I’m still very vain and materialistic and obviously way too concerned with what people think of me

Yeah. Probably.

But this could help me curb some of that while allowing me to feel good about myself through what I wear (also), just as I will also attempt to do in other areas of my life by being healthy, taking care of my skin and body (pool party season is just a few months away ya know!), enhancing my mind through more reading, and resuming (er, renewing) a focus on my spiritual self.

And ok one more thing:

Most anyone–even straight men and especially gays–can spend a hefty some and buy their way into looking great. It may be envy, but money opens up a whole new arena of style–i.e. that Tom Ford store I haven’t allowed myself to go into–that I don’t have access to and would probably hate myself if I did. (ok not that much.)

But to be able to be stylish–and fashionable when it’s called for–without spending a ridiculous amount of money–aye, that’s a talent and one I’d like to demonstrate.

Thrift store shopping is a favorite activity, especially when I travel. (I still have some “treasures” from shops in LA, Chicago, NYC, and San Diego.) Being in Dallas will make this challenge easier because of the sheer volume of quality men’s resale. (That reminds me, I have to go pick up this pair of Gucci (seriously) pants from the tailor that Frye found for me for a sinfully low price!)

We will be launching a new blog detailing our finds and spins on those bargains. I’ll post the link soon.

And in the meantime, maybe I’ll find some Tom Ford along the way. (;

7 thoughts on “An Experiment: No More Retail

  1. Good ideas all. I think you could do just fine without purchasing new stuff. We are so conditioned to just buy, buy, buy, and it is just lining someone else’s pockets.

    • You are right about that.
      So … I’m gonna try to make some adjustments. 🙂 thanks for your support and wisdom. 🙂

  2. i KNOW you can do this…………….. the true challenges are bow ties and shoes, i’m sure!! but what a GREAT idea, and a wonderful way to support local businesses and charities. i’m behind you brother, and resolve to do more of this myself!!

  3. Pingback: Two WHAT?! | 2 Thrift-y F.A.B.s--Dallas Edition

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