I’ve always been pretty prejudiced about the idea of wearing second-hand clothes, mostly because I remember being taken to jumble sales by my granny, Annie “Elbows” Findlay. Granny Findlay had the superhero X-ray ability to see through piles of clothes and find the cheapest, and least fashionable, item of clothing, which she would then put on me. It left me with the conviction that second-hand clothes are rubbish.

I have since changed my mind, although it took me about 40 years to do so and only happened because a couple of fashion bloggers took me to Mr Ben, the vintage shop in Glasgow, and told me how to shop for second-hand clothes properly and without ending up looking like a not-very-good Adam Ant tribute act.

The main problem I’d encountered in vintage shops in the past was that, having tried on some of their clothes, it appeared that everyone from history was either monstrously large or unfeasibly small. I would feel either emaciated or grossly overweight depending on what I’d just tried on.

Loading article content

The solution, of course, is to have clothes altered, except that I’d always assumed that would be too expensive, which it isn’t. In Mr Ben, for example, I picked up a grey woollen, military-style jacket that had some nice flourishes such as pockets on the back. I’m not quite sure what you’d put in pockets on the back, and they strike me as a bit of a security risk anyway. But still, they look good.

So I bought the jacket and took it to a tailor, Mr and Mrs Taylor on the Saltmarket, who took in the sleeves and the sides for £25. It now works a treat and has helped me break out of the most common man trap in fashion: find a style you like when you’re 19 and stick with it for the rest of our life. Fashions will change, empires will rise and fall, as will your waistline (although it will mainly rise) and you will still wear the jeans and black T-shirt combo you’ve stuck with for 40 years.

Second-hand shopping is a way to break out of that, and one of ways to ease yourself in is to think about how what you want to buy fits in with what you have in your wardrobe already. As we rummaged through the racks in Mr Ben, the bloggers told me to think about what else I had at home. Think of at least four or five things that would go with this, they said. And if it’s a little unusual – pockets on the back for example – match it with some of the more traditional basics: a good pair of jeans, or the beloved black T-shirt.

They also gave me another piece of good advice before I left, which was to remember that, as a middle-aged man, I don’t have to keep going back to the same shops. Experiment a bit. Shop in different ways too. Shop new, shop second hand, shop on the high street, shop online. And remember always that the fact that something doesn’t fit is not the end of the story.