Arts & Culture

A Secondhand Southern Tuxedo Steals the Oscar Spotlight

What do ski boots, a lost Rolex, and an Oscar-winning director have in common? One wild shopping destination in Alabama

Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Becky Scheinert and Daniel Scheinert at the 2023 Oscars.

An unsuspecting star is shining bright after Sunday’s Oscars, when it was revealed that the Best Director winner Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once) got his tuxedo from Unclaimed Baggage in little Scottsboro, Alabama. Scheinert, who grew up in nearby Guntersville, wore the slim-fitting suit with multicolored buttons, a secondhand score from the store that collects and cleans airline passenger leftovers.

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Years ago, Daniel’s parents, Ken and Becky Scheinert, bought the tux for Daniel at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, thinking he could use it for future fancy events, Becky explained in an email to Garden & Gun. The tux cost $40. Daniel wore the suit to multiple events, and it fit him perfectly, never needing alterations, Becky explained.

When the folks at Unclaimed Baggage caught wind of the story, they reached out to Becky, who told them she was planning to shop for her own Oscars look there as well. The store is just about thirty minutes from where she lives in Guntersville. “She [Becky] did come here and look for something,” Sonni Hood of Unclaimed Baggage told Garden & Gun, but she didn’t end up buying her ensemble there.

photo: courtesy of unclaimed baggage
Inside the store.

Every year, more than one million items make their way to Unclaimed Baggage via lost suitcases, but only after airlines have finished exhaustive searches to find their rightful owners. The fifty-thousand-square-foot store spans more than a city block, and wares include the latest tennis shoes and luxury items like jewelry. (There’s also an online shop.) About five years ago a Rolex watch made its way to Unclaimed Baggage and was appraised at $64,000; it sold for $32,000. More recently, a tennis bracelet valued at $42,000 sold for $15,000. 

And then, of course, there’s the tuxedo worn by the Oscar-winning director waving a frugal flag among Hollywood’s elite. “I think everyone is really impressed that Daniel decided to shop secondhand, promoting sustainable fashion, which is something Unclaimed Baggage has been promoting since its founding in 1970,” Hood says. “We’re just excited for other people to know that we’ll dress anybody for the Oscars in the future!”

photo: courtesy of unclaimed baggage
The exterior of Unclaimed Baggage.

Unclaimed Baggage started in 1970 with a borrowed pickup truck and a load of lost luggage from Trailways Bus Line. But when founder Doyle Owens partnered with Eastern Airlines in 1978, his business really took off and grew into the international phenomenon it is today. “It’s remarkable to think that a little town like Scottsboro, Alabama, could blossom into a global tourist phenomenon because of our unique business,” says owner Bryan Owens, son of the founder. “My father started with a borrowed pickup truck, a $300 loan, and a dream.”

During Unclaimed Baggage’s more than fifty years in business, there have been two documented cases of shoppers buying back their lost items, unknowingly and knowingly. A few years ago, a shopper came across a custom-made lavender Italian linen suit that had been lost during his move back from Europe; he even had photos of himself in the suit in Paris. And about twenty years ago, a traveling salesman visiting the store came across a pair of ski boots he thought his wife would like. When he got home and gave them to her, she pulled up the tongue of the boots and saw her maiden name; they were the very boots packed in luggage she lost years before. There’s no word yet, however, from the original owner of Scheinert’s tux, which rose from lost to lucky on the world stage.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with information from Becky Scheinert.