Question from a reader:
I stumbled across your blog almost 6 months ago and am consistently impressed with the style, wit and humbleness you display. It is also quite refreshing to get a cultural view that’s not always displayed. Keep up the good work.
My problem is my budget. I live in Detroit, Michigan and am the proud father of 8 kids. Do you have any advice for someone who loves fine quality over horrible quantity?
Firstly, thank you Kevin. I can’t begin to appreciate what it takes to raise 8 children, so I commend you.
Secondly, and this applies to many men, looking good does not need to be costly. Though I stress buying the best products and garments you can afford, I fully recognize the very real decisions that many family men have. There are a multitude of choices regarding shopping on a budget.
In order to keep the focus on quality I suggest coming up with a checklist of pieces you need or, more accurately, would like to have. This will streamline the shopping process and keep you away from flashy clearance signs.
Buy fewer pieces and purchase infrequently. If your clothing budget is small, it’s more beneficial to spend the bulk of your budget on pieces that you will get the most mileage from. For instance, purchase one navy jacket or a good pair of shoes, rather than several items of lesser quality. I know from personal experience, $200 goes a long way at H&M but, most of the pieces aren’t designed for longevity. Sure, you may feel a temporary sense of euphoria walking around the mall with massive bags full of new gear but, that high fades after half your purchase shrinks in the dryer. The quality is less than desirable. It’s actually quite shitty, to be blunt. Do that and you’ll have wasted your money within a year’s time. The same $200 can be spent on a decent jacket at a better department store, which has been marked down several times.
This has been repeated but, it’s worth it to mention again: eBay and your local consignment stores have many good finds, often buried. Incredible deals can be found but, it does take work. I’ve sold several pieces of mine on eBay, all of which were well taken care of. I only hope the new owners are as kind to the garments as I. Ebay is good for suits and jackets from well respected names the same goes for shoes, from companies like Alden and Allen Edmonds. Research the companies and the seller’s reputation. Know your size and ask questions.
Still yet, for brand new pieces, patience is a must. Department stores will gradually mark down items from the previous season to make room for new merchandise, we all know this game. The salesman warns you that this is the last piece, since his paycheck depends on such deceit. You don’t owe him anything, wait for the markdown. This is the most opportune time to snag a good basic. Last season’s grey suit will look just as good next season, provided it’s appropriately tailored. Again, the idea is to perhaps only get one or two pieces, so as to not sacrifice quality. Perhaps you may only be able to get yourself one piece a few times a year. Perhaps it’s just once a year. The quality pieces add up though. Only got one great jacket? Wear the hell out of it, get your Barack I-just-killed-bin laden-strut on and own it.
There are some avenues to cut corners though. For dress shirts, companies like Charles Tyrwhitt and T.M. Lewin produce well-fitting, very reasonably priced dress shirts, for at low at $30. This is often a better deal and of better quality than any department store will have.
Listen, I own $35 shirts from T.M. Lewin and $600 Brioni shirts, no one knows the difference. To be fair, one may feel better, but they both get the same wear. Same the money here.
For ties and accessories, the Tie Bar is hands down the best route at $15 each.
If you’re on a budget, save the money for jackets and shoes. There’s no need for $100+ neckties and pocket squares.
Ultimately, looking good makes us feel good. Money should not be an impediment, though many men use it an excuse. But it needn’t be so. Having a clear idea of what you want, knowing when and where to shop and how to cut corners are the components of dressing well on a budget. Ultimately, it ain’t about how much it cost. How the garment fits and how you carry yourself determines how good it looks. And, more importantly, how good you feel.