What pieces in a guy’s wardrobe can you go cheap on without getting burned? Which items are you better off saving up for? Everyone’s situation is different, but here’s a breakdown of what you could maybe SKIMP on, and what you’re better off SPENDING a good chunk of change for.
Suits – SKIMP at first, then SPEND
If you don’t wear a suit much, you can absolutely get away with a cheap, fused, tailored-for-your-body-suit. It might even look terrific. But it’s not going to feel like a well built, half or whole canvassed suit. Cheaply made “fused” suit jackets feel stiff thanks to the glue that holds them together. And that glue can break down, causing ugly wrinkles under the fabric over the years & dry-cleanings. Higher quality canvassed suits with heavier floating chest pieces move with you. These jackets even form to your body over time and should get better with age. With brands like Suitsupply providing high quality half (and full) canvassed suits for a reasonable price, they’re worth saving up for… IF… you make a point of wearing it. For those with little desire to wear a suit, consider the more affordable options (like the JCF Thompson) before spending $400+.
Outerwear – SPEND
Imagine wearing the same suit every day. You’d want it to be top notch, right? That’s the situation with your choice of outerwear. Your wool topcoat or trench is worth the investment since you’ll be wearing it so much. Same goes for a leather jacket if that’s your thing. Doesn’t mean you can’t hold out for a deal on them, but be prepared to not go super-cheap. Skimping on casual, lighter-weight jackets usually won’t have as negative effects.
Shoes – BOTH
One of the more divisive topics in men’s style. But the thing is, if you’re not in dress shoes every day (hello business casual workplace) a good rotation of well built, yet still bonded-sole shoes allows for dispersion of wear & tear, PLUS you get to try out different styles. It’s like dating… for your feet. Once you figure out what you like and want to get “married” to a pair for a decade or so, go ahead and lay down the cash for shoes with a stitched welt that can be resoled.
Blazers – SPEND on one (navy), SKIMP on the rest
A well tailored, high quality wool navy blazer is a guy’s best friend… and worth the extra cash. Look for something that’ll go great with trousers, chinos, and jeans. For the other blazers and sportcoats in your closet, feel free to go with fused, lower quality wool, wool blends, or cottons. And if you’re just starting to get into wearing blazers + sportcoats, lean towards the cheap options FIRST. That way you and your tailor get some practice dialing in a jacket for your frame before you spend good money on something more expensive.
Chinos – SKIMP… until you find a perfect fit.
Might as well call this Bonobos/Dockers Alpha Syndrome. Dink around with Target brands and on-sale GAP/BR chinos until you land on a perfect fit. It could very well be one of those cheaper options. But if you end up loving the Bonobos straight fit or the Dockers Alpha Khaki (for you slimmer guys)… then it’ll be hard to go back to something that doesn’t fit just right.
Jeans – SKIMP
Apologies to the denim-heads and selvage fiends out there… but there’s hardly a better deal in men’s style than a pair of dark wash Levis for $30 – $40.
Great price for an incredible staple.
Dress Shirts – SPEND on two (white & light blue), SKIMP for the rest.
See the hierarchy over here. For the most used shirts in your closet (white + light blue) get something that fits perfectly off the rack (like a ratio/clothing shirt) or can be easily tailored, has a nice feel to the fabric (like Nordstrom’s house brand), and the collar and button stance (like Ledbury) is perfect for your needs. Meanwhile, investing a bit in getting even the cheapest shirts tailored is still well worth it.
Casual Shirts – SKIMP
UNIQLO, jcp OCBDs, the slim fits from J. Crew Factory… chances are you’ll be layering these under a sweater or a tailored sportcoat or blazer. Don’t decimate your wardrobe budget on button ups.
Polos – SKIMP
Don’t pay for a logo. Between Target, UNIQLO, and on sale BR Luxe Touch polos, it’s hard to pay more than $40 for a polo shirt. Let alone $825. Here’s to hoping another line of Uniqlo x Michael Bastian polos show up in the spring, and they make more this time around than the sold-out-too-fast batch from this year.
Sweaters – SKIMP
When you factor in costs, Merino + a great fit > Cashmere. Unless you’re giving a gift. Then a cashmere sweater is a great gift to give, if you can manage to pay for the huge cost that comes with it.
Ties – SKIMP
TheTieBar has made it awfully hard to spend more than fifteen bucks on a tie. Yes, there’s a major difference in feel, how the tie sits + the knot it ties… but still.
Belts – SKIMP
To plenty, a belt is just a belt. And that opinion can be magnified by the fact that there are plenty of inexpensive belts that hold up real well over time. Some cheap belts are crap, but others aren’t. The GAP basic belt (in both brown and black) is one of those do-almost-anything, cheap (like, often under $20) belts that’ll treat you well for years. Shown below: Both the brown and black after at least 5 years of solid use. One or two blown stitches, but other than that, perfect. For dress belts, keep an eye out at Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx.
Sunglasses – SPEND
If you’re clumsy or tend to lose sunglasses, then skimp. Otherwise, and it stinks that prices are so high, spend. Because with reasonable care, a well made pair of sunglasses will last just about forever. BUT… there are a couple of affordable yet still well made options: See American Optics and Warby Parker.
Watches – SKIMP
Skimp, but in a big picture sense. If it’s quartz… skimp. Unless you’re absolutely in love with it. If it’s an automatic/mechanical, go low/high. Meaning: lower in relative cost (in comparison to Rolex & Omega) but higher when it comes to looks and reliability. Automatics from Sekio, Orient, Tissot, Hamilton, and Christopher Ward provide a ton of bang for the buck. Why all the fuss about automatics/mechanicals? It’s hard to explains. Maybe quartz is to a car with an automatic transmission, as a mechanical watch is to a car with a stick shift? That’s still not quite right, but it’s kinda close. Unnecessary romance, but romance all the same.
One is quartz and was $80. The other isn’t either of those things. They both keep solid time.
Haircuts – SPEND… every three weeks
Doesn’t matter if you go to a $12 barber who’s been cutting hair for half a century, or a $30-per-cut salon. When it comes to your hair, you don’t want to skimp on the # of times you go and visit a year. Set up a rolling appointment for every three weeks. Say, Wednesdays after work. You’ll be getting just a trim. That way you never look like you just got a haircut, or, you really need a haircut. You’ll always be in that sweet spot.
Cars – SKIMP
There are a lot of guys who are “car-poor”. They shell out so much on their car payment each month, that they can’t afford to do anything else. Look into something older with character. Or, something on the newer side that’s still a bit odd. Pay the sucker off. Wait a few years. Get financially stable and then dive back into the market on something you’ve always coveted. Or just ride your bike and take public transportation. Got a date? Uber.
Booze – SPEND on Brown. SKIMP on Clear.
Cheap brown liquors can be downright awful. Spending a bit more for an aged, high quality Scotch, Bourbon, or Rum usually pays off. Spending more on big name Vodka or Gin usually doesn’t. Of course there are exceptions, but while Broker’s can crank out an outstanding gin for under $20, it’s tough to find a maker that does the same for the brown stuff.
Again, these are more guidelines than actual rules. But thoughts from you guys? Agreements, disagreements, and additions are more than welcome in the comments below.