An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And that applies to taking care of your clothes and shoes. Just because you don’t have a million dollar wardrobe doesn’t mean you can’t maintain and keep affordable clothes in good looking, very wearable condition for years upon years. You just need the right tools. Here’s ten of them…
The Right Hangers
Hang a suit jacket or sweater on a wire hanger and you’re basically destroying the thing. Gravity, like time, is undefeated. 9.8 m/s2 is not something you want to mess around with. So give your suit jackets and outerwear the support they need with wide shouldered hangers. Pants/Trousers should go on a pants hanger, not something super skinny that’ll leave an ugly crease. Fold your sweaters, don’t hang them (heavier knits stretch out easily). More info on what gets hung on what can be found here.
A quality Iron (that you actually clean every so often)
For whatever reason, if you’re young and broke, you most likely iron with something from the Nixon administration (Thanks Great Grandma!) or, you might not iron at all (because you think it’s hard). The thing is, ironing isn’t hard if you have a decent tool to work with and you practice a little. You want something with plenty of settings as well as a machine that steams up, well, nice and steamy. I like Rowenta myself. ALSO… and this is key: Irons need to be cleaned every so often. It’s not hard to do. Promise. Read the instruction manual. There’s almost certainly a self-clean setting on your iron. USE IT EVERY MONTH OR SO. Otherwise, you risk spitting hard water schmutz onto your favorite shirt and then ironing that rust stain in. Guaranteed it’ll happen when you can least afford it to.
A solid shoe care setup (cremes, conditioners, shoe trees, brushes)
Breaking News: Your shoes touch the ground. And there’s a lotta sh*t out there. So, taking care of your shoes is smart. No, you don’t need to shine the things every week. Or even every other week. Keep an eye on them. Like houseplants and hair, when they start to look bad, give them a little TLC. And store your dress shoes with shoe trees in them.
A dependable dry cleaner (some are TERRIBLE)
You’d think an industry like dry cleaning would be pretty consistent from one chain or store to the next. NOPE. I’ve had suits flat out ruined by bad dry cleaners (usually those that measure their wait time in “hours”). Seems like the crummy ones don’t know how to press a lapel to save their life. I’ve had suits come back from bad dry cleaners with pleats basically pressed into the lapels. I don’t know who was drunk running the press, but, man. Never went back there. Anyway, it seems like the local Mom & Pop chains seem to be the way to go. Look for the ones without flashy advertising. The ones with old-school logos (because they were created in 1951). Or the signs that say “we’re not the best because we’re the oldest, we’re the oldest because we’re the best!” behind the register. If you don’t know where to turn, ask someone you know who dresses well for where they go. Internet reviews are often unreliable (says the guy who runs a site that reviews things on the internet). Above image credit.
A steamer (so you can dry clean less… a lot less)
Speaking of dry cleaners, even the BEST dry cleaners are still, wait for it, dry cleaners. And dry cleaning is a harsh chemical process that takes a toll on your duds. If you wore a suit or sportcoat and it’s now wrinkled, but isn’t stained and doesn’t stink, steam it. Don’t clean it. Steam those wrinkes out and freshen up the fabric at home. You’ll save money and your clothes will last longer. Like irons, I prefer Rowenta. Steamer shown above goes for around seventy bucks.
Moth proof drawers, closets, or containers
Clothes need to breathe. But if your closets or drawers are rickety and old, and you don’t live in a hermetically sealed jar, then you’re risking them becoming a snack for moth babies. It’s not the adult moths, it’s their larvae. PERSONAL NOSTALGIA BREAK: Now spiders happen to have diplomatic immunity in our house. It’s Mrs. Dappered’s rule. She must have been a big Charlotte’s Web fan as a kid. And when we first met, she had a pet black widow spider she’d make sure had water every day. It lived outside. In the garden. I’m not kidding. Anyway, in our house, spiders get ushered into a glass and then are released back outside into the wild. But MOTHS? For the love of Zeus man, I run Dappered. I have things*. If there’s a moth in the house it’s full red alert, arm all photon torpedoes, contain and kill ASAP. Make sure your drawers close tight enough, get some cedar blocks, and store your suits and sportcoats in breathable but still moth proof garment bags.
A Clothes Brush
Sure, those sticky rollers are great for quick fixes or for use on more casual clothes… but for nicer stuff? Consider a clothes brush. They’re specifically designed to lift dirt and hair out and up from a suit’s fabric, without damaging the weave, and without leaving any sort of sticky residue behind. Kent makes terrific clothes brushes. Shown above is an older model of the two sided (soft/stiff) bristle brush.
A decent, adjustable heat/agitation washer and dryer
Look, many of us just don’t have the space, capability, or desire to have our own washer and dryer. It’s the laundromat for many. And I totally get that. But you have to be careful with those things. Because the machines in the laundromats (and shared apartment laundry facilities) I’ve used in the past almost always have one setting: Satan’s Salsa. Hot as F*ck. Nuclear bleepin’ fusion. Wash? HOT. Dry? HOT. Sure, it might SAY warm or cool on the machine, but the end result when you throw your hydrogen shirt and hydrogen socks into one of those things is often helium, uh… shocks? Whatever, you get my drift. If you are doomed to the hot-as-hell laundromat, just try and keep an eye on your laundry loads. Check on them. If it’s somewhere between damp and dry? Get that stuff outta there. More laundry tips can be found here.
A Good Cobbler (you’d be surprised at what they can fix)
Shoes are one of the original pieces of technology. So, we humans have had more than a few years to practice taking care of them and maintaining them. And the wizards who are the best at this kind of thing are called cobblers. For resoling, heel saving, leather refurbishing magic of all kinds, find yourself a good cobbler. It’s becoming a bit of a lost art, but most big cities have them, and plenty of small towns have them too.
A Good Tailor (see Cobbler)
One of our cats (the OG tripod mascot) got hit by a car a few years back. We took him into the vet and were convinced he was gonna have to be put down. Despite a shattered pelvis and a femur basically ground into sand, the vet came out and said “yeah, we can fix him.” He was lucky. They fixed him. He lost a leg, but he’s been just as happy ever since. This tale of domestic short hair orange cat drama has been a roundabout way of basically saying that a good tailor is like a good doctor. They can fix a LOT more than you think they can. They can’t fix everything of course, but if you think an old favorite is destined for the garbage heap because of a blown seam or torn piece of fabric? It’s worth asking first. A good tailor will tell you if something is salvageable or not.
BONUS: Woolite, and the patience/commitment to hand wash
Do I hand wash my delicates? Nope. I mean, once in a blue moon maybe. But I also don’t have a ton of delicates. If you do? Get used to hand washing and laying flat to dry. At the very least, don’t wash them as much as, say, your underwear or gym clothes. Most delicates are made of nicer materials (like fine wools) that DON’T need to be washed all that often. It’s true. If it’s not stained and/or doesn’t stink, then it can probably be worn again (and again and again and again) without a wash.
*I know how stupid this sounds. It’s a joke. Just like this website. Ha HA! Beat you to it internet! Up yer nose with a rubber hose!