Hidden Treasures on eBay

Until a few years ago, I was under the impression that eBay was all about bidding, something for which I haven’t the energy, the interest, or the patience. I just can’t be bothered. But when a friend asked for my opinion on an item she wanted on eBay, she sent me the link. Though I didn’t care for what she was considering, I did like the “Buy It Now” option, which I’d just noticed for the first time. And with that, eBay became a terrific resource for things I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Since then, I’ve found some of my most treasured possessions there. The first thing that comes to mind is what I call my “signature” horn-rimmed eyeglasses, which were made by Oliver Peoples sometime in the early 2010s. They are long out of production, but a black pair popped up in a search. I bought them and loved them so much that I snapped up a second pair in tortoise. Back in the day, Oliver Peoples sold these frames for around $400 a pair. I got mine (both in brand-new condition) for around $100 each.

Browsing on eBay is not an exact science. It’s a roll of the dice. But a good practice in my experience is to experiment with search words that target the best results, whether it’s a particular brand name you’re looking for or a specific size, color, material, et cetera. You might not get your preferred results on the first try, but you could be pleasantly surprised by unexpected alternate results. The trick is to keep trying and refining. And once you feel confident that your search terms are effective, save the search and opt for e-mail updates for whenever there’s a new item that matches your criteria. (That’s how I found the second pair of Tycoon frames from Oliver Peoples.)

As I write this piece, I’m sitting in one of my favorite chairs in the world: the Eames Aluminum Group Management Chair. Designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1958, these gorgeous chairs retail new for between $2,000 and $3,300, depending on the fabric. I got mine—upholstered in the original black leather, in amazing condition—on eBay for $1,000 in 2021. It’ll be my work chair for the rest of my life.

Speaking of favorites: one of my all-time favorite looks in any film is Robert Redford’s tweed-jacket situation in Three Days of the Condor. Imagine my delight when, after creating a custom search on eBay for a size-40R Harris Tweed, I got an alert for one just like Redford’s. Upon arrival, the untailored $89 jacket fit like a barrel with sleeves, but well enough in the shoulders, which is a must for any jacket off the peg. After a $180 visit to my tailor, I ended up with a Harris Tweed that fit like it was made for me.

And when I’m not wearing that fabulous jacket, it can be found artfully draped on a vintage wooden valet that I discovered on, you guessed it, eBay.

Why So Serious?

On the long list of my character defects, among the most annoying is the inclination to take myself too seriously. The good news? I’ve lightened up considerably with age.

Really, is there anyone more boring than someone who is so tightly wound, so self-conscious, so … self-serious? I’ve met a lot of people in my time, and the humorless ones serve as a great reminder of the person I never want to become or, at the very least, the person I never want to sit next to at dinner.

Some of the biggest sticks-in-the-mud I’ve encountered are the men’s-style bros (and almost anyone I’ve met in the fashion industry, for that matter). The advent of blogging and then social media gave birth to a new breed of men’s-wear enthusiast who approaches clothing, watches, cars, and the rest like they’re blood sports, with all the flaunting and none of the joy. Some of these men look good in their photos, but, God, do they look like they’re no fun.

When I need a good visual reminder of an exceptionally stylish man who isn’t uptight but still connotes masculinity and commands respect, I love to look at a photo of the legendary actor Bill Nighy taken by Lorenzo Agius in 2005. In the photo, Bill is sitting on the edge of the bed in a luxe hotel room that appears to have just hosted a night of debauchery. Dressed formally from the waist up in black-tie, and undressed from the waist down in boxer shorts, sock garters, and black dress shoes, Bill is crossing his legs and holding a lit cigarette with his rouged lips pursed at the camera, as if to say, “O.K., things got a little out of hand last night. So what?” It is the photographic definition of not taking oneself so seriously, and it also happens to be the background on my phone.

Among the gifts that come with age is knowing who I am and who I’m not, accepting what is in my control and what isn’t, and losing interest in what people think or believe. With that, one can navigate life without being self-conscious and without the burden of giving a damn. It’s a luxury money cannot buy.

People who don’t take themselves too seriously are way more fun, and with life being the bitch that it is, I’d rather be with the fun crowd.

The Art of Serious Coffee

Now it’s time for another comfort: coffee. Like many, I started getting into it when I was in college, but I didn’t elevate to a coffee snob until I quit drinking alcohol, in 2002. As a non-drinker left out of a world that celebrates intoxicants and their rabid aficionados, good coffee became my own indulgence of refinement. Since then, I’ve explored almost every home-brew method that my micro-budget and my micro-kitchens in my various micro-apartments would allow: a basic Krups drip, a French press, a percolator, a moka pot, and a Nespresso (but never the plastic abomination that is Keurig).

The method I’ve come to love more than any other, though, is the Chemex, an elegant pour-over invented in 1941 in New York City by a German-born chemist named Peter J. Schlumbohm. It’s fully analog, but it makes consistently perfect coffee with a handsome, low-maintenance carafe, which is also part of the design collection at MoMA.

As for flavor, I like my coffee dark, rich, and bitchy. My home blend is the French-Italian roast from Zabar’s, whole beans, which I grind before every brew with my stalwart 20-year-old Braun Aromatic. And about that aroma? I can’t imagine a better way to awaken the olfaction. Other than Zabar’s, I’m rather partial to the dark roasts from Blue Bottle Coffee and the Blackbird dark blend from Phoenix Coffee, in Cleveland, my hometown favorite.

Like cocktails, coffee can bring people together, particularly during working hours or when a sober focus is called for among co-conspirators. Other than my Chemex brew at home, I like to indulge an espresso or Americano when I’m out in the wild. Black, no sugar, like nature intended.

Along with wearing a well-tailored suit, watching a terrific film, having great sex, or living in New York City, drinking superb coffee is something I can’t live without.

George Hahn is a humorist, entertainer, and writer living in New York