When Somerville secondhand menswear shop owner Joe Ferraro goes thrifting, there’s no goal, but there are three rules: consider context, buy it when you find it, and persevere.

"The good stuff is anywhere at anytime, or not," he said during a recent drive to the Wilmington, Mass., Salvation Army. "If I find the heaviest winter coat in the world, and it’s cheap enough, I’ll just go ahead and buy it and wait until its time comes around."

Ferraro, who jokes about being a professional cheapskate, has since 2008 detailed these "rules of thrifting" and documented his good buys and classic looks on his blog, An Affordable Wardrobe. The title comes from the fact that as someone who "never had any money to speak of," he’s had to figure out how to own the Andover Shop and Brooks Brothers clothing he likes without paying the asking price for it.


The grandson of a tailor, Ferraro believes that dressing well is all in the details. He advises his readers (under his alias, Giuseppe Timore) about buying not just clothes but also glasses, bicycles, aftershave and whisky. With the site and its accompanying online store growing in popularity, he opened in July 2013 a small, upstairs shop in Somerville's Davis Square.

Designer suits run $70 to $125, jackets $35 to $50, shirts $15 to $25, trousers $20 to $40, and neckties $12 to $18. If something’s too big or too long for a customer, he’ll take a fitting and send it out for alterations.

"Secondhand menswear can be a tough thing because a lot of guys don’t want to be in a costume, which is how vintage stuff can be," Ferraro said. "So I try to give it the context of a regular men’s shop."

To keep the store stocked, Ferraro makes daily passes through the neighborhood Goodwill and Salvation Army, where he runs his hand along the suit racks until he feels a standout fabric and the rush that comes with it. 

"When you go in the real down-and-dirty thrift store," he said, "and there’s a million of these things, and I’m going through it fast, and they’re all crap, and all of a sudden, this one is Henry Poole, and you’re like, 'Oh.' It’s like you’ve won the lottery without the vulgarity of having to play the lottery."

Since Ferraro works nights at Somerville’s Ball Square Fine Wines (where he wears a suit, because he can), he often has time during the day to stop at two or three North Shore chains and his best sources: church basements and high-school tag sales. As someone who’s been shopping secondhand since he was a teenager, he’s found a way to fit thrifting into his life, whenever, wherever.

"It’s bad enough that if I ever have to drive any place that I don’t normally go to for any reason, I’ll just Google around and see if there’s a thrift store anywhere in the vicinity."

Ferraro spends at least 40 hours a week driving to and from secondhand stores and hunting through them for sellable pieces.

"It’s massively time-consuming, I will admit that," he said.

That’s why he charges $100 for a $10 salvaged suit. "I’ve got to go find it, bring it back, maybe get it dry cleaned, sew the buttons back on, and it eats up a significant part of my day," he said. "I tell people, 'That’s what you’re paying for, more so than even the clothes themselves: the trouble I’ve saved you, basically.'" 

After 30 minutes in the Salvation Army, Ferraro had covered the men’s sections, and his shopping cart had two ties ($1.99 each), a pair of cream flannel pants ($2.99 on sale), and a surprisingly pricey pair of Allen Edmonds brown leather tassel loafers ($29.99).

"Thrift shopping became really popular in the last few years, which is awesome, but the blessing-curse side of it is that thrift stores eventually figured it out, and I think they’ve hired people who know about things and price the better stuff," he said.

A few days later, those lightly worn loafers landed in the shop for $60, double what he paid but much less than the $275 they'd cost on Newbury Street. 

Even if the online and brick-and-mortar An Affordable Wardrobe brought in enough money that Ferraro could buy a $1,200 suit, he wouldn’t. 

"I’d know that if I were just patient, I could get it somewhere else for less money," he said. "And I live in Boston, where the thrift stores are full of good stuff because all the places that sell it new are here. And all the kinds of guys who wear this stuff in its original version are here."

An Affordable Wardrobe, at 249 Elm St., Somerville, is open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday by appointment. A sign on the sidewalk outside The Burren pub in Davis Square points customers to the upstairs, down-the-hall location.