The Value of Thrift

The virtues of enterprise, diligence and thrift are the indispensable foundation of any complex and vigorous civilization. R.H. Tawney, The New Republic, May 12, 1926

Our family can trace its lineage to some of the earliest arrivals in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. So you might say the Puritan instinct–with its impulse toward thrift–is encoded in our DNA. In fact, my maternal grandmother, according to story my mother often retells, used to wash and reuse tinfoil.

Buying classic American pieces is an extension of that ethos.

Instead of viewing apparel as essentially disposable, a commitment to classic pieces insulates against the vicissitudes of fashion. It’s a emphasis on durable, well-made clothing: welted shoes whose soles can be replaced when they wear out, a tweed suit that will outlive its original owner, a sweater that will provide decades of warmth.

It also means a commitment to maintaining clothes to a high standard, whether its brushing suits before they’re hung up each night, knowing how to re-sew a button or storing shoes with cedar shoe trees inside.

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Sewing a button back on my blazer


And for the more adventurous among us, it can even mean searching the aisles of thrift stores for treasure among other people’s castoffs.

The other day, Frannie and I were in the local Salvation Army store, and we found a vintage Peters Whaler madras jacket. It appears to have been made sometime in the early to mid 1960s, although its look is timeless. It calls to mind family vacations in a wood-paneled station wagons or a New England beach on a cool summer evening.

Vintage madras jacket

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