This first of the Investing in Your Wardrobe series. If you’ve missed the introduction you can read here about my general mantra regarding clothing: buy less, but better.
A lot of men trying to live frugally cut corners on clothing because the overwhelming consideration is a perceived cost to use ratio—they think that given that they will wear two comparable pieces the same amount of time, a cheaper garment will deliver more value than a more expensive one. The major flaw here is the assumption that these garments will last the same amount of time.
In truth—for some items more than others—this definitely shows with cheaper materials and construction. To illustrate, here’s a list of some of the most common such perpetrators when we buy with only price in mind:
- Undershirts stretch at the collar and either pile around the waist or are too short to stay tucked, making them annoying pieces to layer—which is after all, their function. Good ones maintain their shape and hug the body, keeping the waist trim. For some (like those that tend to sweat more and run through undershirts fast), it might make sense to buy cheap undershirts that are somewhat trim and tucked and to just discard them or use them for rags or shoe polishing when they stretch out.
- Dress shirts are thinner, leading to wrinkling and more maintenance costs such as starching. Not to mention, thinner shirts lead to nipple exposure and that’s never good. I’ve also found that some cheaper brands cut their shirts too short, making a tuck difficult to maintain and thus undermining the point of wearing a dress shirt…
- Sweaters made of synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon pill more easily—you know, those fuzzy balls around the sleeve cuffs and other areas prone to friction. You can shave them off, but just know you’re shedding more sweater each time.
- Ties of cheap construction don’t knot well and wrinkle faster, again meaning more fuss and maintenance. Ironing a silk tie sucks the life out it, flattening out its original three-dimensional character at the edges to leave a leave limp, floppy rag around your neck that makes you look like an intern.
- Shoes are absolutely the WORST offender of all. Cheap shoes have uppers made of corrected leather that rapidly deteriorates with age and have cheap glued soles. Good ones last a long time and are also repairable for a very modest price. Time worn saturates them with character, develops patina (accents of color), and makes them more comfortable as the uppers and midsole conform to your feet.
In the next part of the series, we’ll examine general guidelines for finding quality pieces. Until then, stay clear of crappy items even if they’re on super-deep discount…
[Photo credit: boskizzi]