1. Getting Started
It’s one thing to buy a suit online, but quite another to buy one from an auction website like eBay. You’ll need time and energy to really sift through all of your options, and caveat emptor applies here like nowhere else.
Although each seller has return policies by which they must abide, ultimately very few of them are established companies and as such are more difficult to work with if you have an issue.
Still, it’s one of the few online spaces in which it’s possible to score an awesome vintage suit at a reasonable price. Not having to sift through bins at your local consignment shop is an added bonus! However, since everything is listed, it’s there for everybody to see, which means the prices may be higher.
Nevertheless, you can still find absolute gems and fantastic prices!
Although this guide will have an emphasis on vintage suits, you can use it for buying new and modern secondhand suits as well. It’s a great place to find affordable suits no matter what your own style.
2. Searching For The Suit
The first step to buying a suit on eBay is finding the precise garments that you want. You can spend hours scrolling passed items that you don’t want. Alternatively, your search may come up with nothing at all.
It can be an infuriating process but we have a few tips that can help you on the way.
Broad Search Terms
You might be looking for a very specific item. However, the seller may not know what they’ve listed or might not have bothered adding all the details. Therefore, it’s sometimes worth selecting just a few essential keywords and taking the time to scroll through them.
Although it may take a while, some of our most successful purchases have been when using generic searches like “vintage tweed suit”. Similarly, there’s little point searching with the size. Occasionally, the filter tools can narrow it down but some vintage garments don’t have sizes on them.
Optimise Your Keywords
This approach may be something of a contradiction for the above but you can be specific while using the fewest words possible. Think about the most important properties of the garment you want. Does the fabric have to be check or tweed? Do you want a specific brand?
If so, consider using those in a controlled quantity. However, be mindful that certain keywords are in great demand and very competitive. Consequently, try to think outside the box and try and find listings that haven’t been as optimised as well as they could have been.
For instance, you might want a Norfolk jacket but not many people know what they are and those that do will be pretty ruthless in getting one. Therefore, consider searching for “tweed shooting jacket” or something similar to try your luck.
Saved Your Searches
Once you’ve found a search query that works for you, you can save it to refer to later. The best part about this feature is that eBay will also send you notifications when there are new listings that match it. Therefore, if it’s a rare item, it will give you the opportunity to jump in and make a purchase before anyone else.
Stick To The Plan
Once you’ve decided what you want to buy, set yourself a budget and make sure that you stick to it. While you may see lots of distractions and things that you want to buy. If your budget allows for it, that’s okay. However, it’s easy to get carried away on a spree and then not even buy what you were looking for.
Although it can be frustrating to keep searching when you see lots of other things, it’s even more rewarding when you do find it.
That Suits Me
Finally, we’ve recently learned about a great little project that has been developed called ThatSuits.Me. This website has been designed to improve the search experience by providing detailed filters, especially where size is concerned.
While it’s still in its early stages, it’s certainly worth trying out and it will soon incorporate other sites as well as eBay.
3. Suit’s Condition
New & Vintage Stiff Collars
Now that you have found what you’re looking for, eBay’s suit section has a standardized system for denoting a garment’s condition. Mostly acronym-based, you’ll see:
- Brand New In Box (BNIB): Rarer where suits are concerned, the item will be still in its box and occasionally unsealed.
- New With Tags (NWT): Brand new merchandise with tags on. Pay particular attention to brand names, as there’s a fair amount of off-brand garbage that’s better suited to costume parties than to everyday wear.
- New Without Tags (NWOT): Brand new merchandise with no tags. Same warning for NWT merchandise.
- New With Defects (NWD): Brand new goods that have some small defect or irregularity. This will be noted in the product description, and there should definitely be photos so you can assess whether or not the defect is something you can fix or live with. Note that these items often are not returnable.
- Pre-Owned: Used clothing. This is the prime section for guys who are looking for vintage suits, and you can quickly narrow things down by filtering for your size and preferred brands.
- Not Specified: A bit of a free-for-all, this is another area where you can score some good vintage finds if you’re persistent. However, you should also be careful when buying any item on eBay with the “Not Specified” condition marked.
Be sure to take a close look at all the photos and look for stains, blemishes, and signs of wear. If you have any doubts about anything, feel free to ask the seller for close-ups. Most will be happy to oblige.
4. Seller Feedback
This is the “beware” part of “may the buyer beware.” eBay solicits feedback from both buyers and sellers after every transaction is complete, as it helps keep buyers and sellers honest. Yes, sellers will be rating you as a buyer too. Make sure you pay on time and in full!
Before doing business with someone, it’s imperative that you check their feedback. There are tons of eBay sellers whose positive feedback rating is very close to 100% with hundreds of instances of feedback. These are the people you should deal with.
If you see an item you like but the seller’s feedback is less than excellent, seriously consider living without the item. Occasionally, there are new sellers that have yet to build enough feedback. However, it’s quite rare these days as eBay has been around a long time!
5. Return Policy
Some items are returnable, and some aren’t (NWD items often fall into the latter category). This should be common sense, but know what the seller’s return policy is before you buy. He or she might make an exception if you want to return something that isn’t returnable, but then the seller will have good reason to give you negative buyer feedback.
Knowing your measurements is probably the most important aspect of shopping for suits on eBay. Some measurements will be the same that you’ll find at a tailor while others will be more eBay/vintage specific that correspond to tailor measurements.
However, these aren’t quite the same thing.
Some common measurements to be aware of when purchasing a suit on eBay are the following:
- Chest (armpit seam to armpit seam): Measurement across front of jacket at widest part of chest
- Waist: Width of jacket at its narrowest point, usually across top button of two-button jacket
- Sleeve length: Outseam, not inseam
- Shoulder seam to shoulder seam (close to “point-to-point” in custom tailoring): Distance across back of jacket
- Total length: Length of jacket measured from base of collar (also referred to as jacket’s “center back”)
- Vest Point-To-Point: Width of vest across the back over where shoulder blades would be
- Vest Length: Length of vest front from shoulder seam to hem
- Trouser Waist: Trouser’s waist measurement. A number inside the parentheses (such as 2.25″) indicates the amount of material able to be let out
- Inseam: Trouser length from fork in crotch to hem. Number inside parentheses indicates the amount of extra material in the hem to let out.
- Rise: Distance from fork in crotch to top of the waistband. Most traditional suit trousers have about a 9″ rise. Taller men (or men who prefer pants that sit higher on the waist) will want a longer rise, shorter men will want a shorter rise.
- Thigh: Most eBay sellers will measure this as the widest point of the trouser thigh, but only on one side. The trouser’s true thigh measurement would be double what is indicated. For example, if an eBay seller says a trouser’s thigh is 10.5″, the true measurement would be 21″. This is because 10.5″ is the width of only one of the trouser leg’s two panels.
- Leg opening: Similar to the thigh measurement, just at the pant hem.
In to cross-check the listed measurements with yours, you can use our detailed guide on how to measure yourself. If the garment won’t quite fit, ask the seller if there is any material for making alterations. Older garments may have already been adjusted or might have some excess for this in mind.
Finally, be sure to think about the cost of the alterations as well as the garment itself. Alterations can add up pretty quickly! Check out our guide for advice on what can be easily altered or not.
7. Brand Value
Although we aren’t beholden to any brands in particular, it’s good to have at least some brand name recognition when you’re shopping on eBay.
This is good for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it helps you identify truly rare, hard-to-find, or otherwise special clothing. Some brands and most high-end menswear shops have long been out of business, but their products live on in the vintage ecosystem.
Knowing who they are will clue you in on the rarity of the item, letting you know how quickly you need to act to own it.
Secondly, it disqualifies off-brand merchandise. Not everything has to be a brand name to be good, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if it’s not a brand name, inexpensive, and new, it’s likely low-quality and ultimately a waste of money.
As hinted above, branding can be a source of conflict and competition. You can use it as a reference but occasionally you can find excellent products from either unlabeled or even defunct brands that don’t exist anymore.
For instance, Tootal is well known for its high-quality cravats but essentially died out in the 1990s. Meanwhile, Dunn & Co was a prestigious British department store that went out of business in 1996.
Since they’re not as well known as prestigious brands, you can often pick up some stunning wares from them for a song.
8. Bidding Vs Buying On eBay
Vintage Fair Isle Vest & Suit From eBay
Being an auction website, you can bid on items up for sale. If your bid is the highest when time runs out then you “win” the garment and are responsible for paying the seller.
Another way to go is to treat the site more like simple online shopping and use the “Buy It Now” button. You have no control over the price of the item, but if you love something, you can at least ensure that you become its rightful owner.
Some “Buy It Now” items have a “Best Offer” option which allows you to submit an offer to the seller. If the seller is happy with your offer then he or she can accept the offer. The seller has 48 hours to respond. If they don’t, consider it turned down.
Similarly, if they turn it down, you can still make a counteroffer and haggle. Avoid making an offer that’s insultingly low and be reasonable while still trying to get yourself a good deal. Nevertheless, the number of offers a user can make is limited so use the tool wisely.
Furthermore, some sellers may even have both an auction and a “buy it now” option available for on item. While the “buy it now” option will guarantee an instant purchase, you may lose out on a good deal. It’s up to you to judge whether you want to risk pursuing the option or purchase the item immediately.
If the auction is relatively inactive, there’s a high chance that you’ll not have any issues. However, somebody else may sweep in a snatch it away at any time.
Finally, try to avoid bidding wars by entering yours relatively late in the game. Bidding early may encourage others to bid too, which can cause the price to increase very quickly.
eBay can be an incredible resource. eBay has plenty of small sizes that will fit even the tiniest of body types. Therefore, if you’re into vintage clothing or are a difficult-to-find size, the site is a great place to come across some good finds on the relative cheap.
If you like the experience of going into a store, check out your local vintage shops, and see our guide to how to buy vintage suits.
Now that you have learned about buying suits on eBay and other sites, check our related resources below: