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 to (maybe) skimp on, and what you’re better off spending big for. There are always exceptions. These are more guidelines than actual rules. Depending on work / social environments, you may shift more money into one type of item instead of another. For example, more on suits and sport coats, less on sweaters and jeans. But for a lot of you – especially those new to the game or starting your post-college lives – this can hopefully be a guide on how to best allocate funds for your wardrobe.
Suits: Neither Skimp nor Spend big (stick to the middle ground)
- Spier & Mackay Half Canvas Suits – $348+ just your 1st suit ships/returns for free, can sell out quick
- Suitsupply Half Canvas “Wardrobe Starter” Suits – $359 – $399 ships/returns for free, consistent stock
Nothing like breaking the rules right from the start. Should you buy a $150 suit? No. Should you spend a ton and get a fancy $1000+ suit? Probably not. Why? Because two incredible, big-time bang-for-the-buck, moderately priced brands have appeared in the last half decade. SuitSupply and Spier & Mackay both produce quality construction, well made suits cut from nice Italian and Australian wools, and feature details that used to be only found on suits that would cost much, much more. There are few, if any, more consistently value-priced options in all of #menswear than SuitSupply and Spier & Mackay.
Shoes: Spend on Dress Shoes & Boots, Skimp on the rest
- Allen Edmonds Goodyear Welted Strand Oxford – $395
- Allen Edmonds Carlyle Oxford – $395
- Grant Stone Diesel Boot in Crimson Chromexcel – $340
- Danner 917 – $220
- Red Wing 6″ Moc Toe Boot – $280
- adidas Stan Smith – $85
- J. Crew Court Sneakers – $100ish
- Nike Killshot 2 – $64.97 ($90)
Yes, super expensive designer sneakers have gained in popularity, but unless you’re a sneaker head, keep your cash for dress shoes and boots. If you’re putting together a footwear arsenal from scratch, spend on well made, recraftable shoes, such as those from Allen Edmonds. Buy during big sales (Anniversary, Rediscover America, etc) and you’ll get a lot for your money. When you want (or need) to look your best, nice shoes can matter. In regards to boots? Follow Lt. Dan’s advice from Forest Gump: Take care of your feet. That means good boots for work and hiking. If they’re just for looking good, but they’re inspired by heritage work or hiking boots? Still might want to spend. Because cheap boots can often look, well, really cheap. Might be worth the investment. For footwear like casual classic sneakers or boat shoes, go cheap. For workout shoes? If you’re a serious workout warrior, consider investing. Cheap “gym” shoes can sometimes have less cushioning, less support, and/or wear out faster, and thus, lead to injury.
Outerwear: SPEND on Wool, Warmth, & Waterproof. Skimp on the rest.
- Banana Republic Italian Wool Melton Topcoat in Camel – $200ish
- Amazon Goodthreads Down Jacket with Hood – $50ish
- Target Goodfellow Sherpa Lined Denim Trucker Jacket – $49.99
- Spier & Mackay Italian Wool Peacoat – $400ish
- Huckberry USA Made Flint and Tinder Waxed Truckers – $240
- Old Navy Water-Resistant Narrow-Channel Puffer Jacket for Men – $40ish
Look to invest when it comes to a wool topcoat or peacoat. Cheap options can look and more importantly feel cheap. Don’t go cheap if you live somewhere super cold and need to stay warm, and/or if you live somewhere super wet, and need to stay dry. Meanwhile, if it’s a light jacket, a piece of outerwear for those in-between seasons, or something trendier, saving a few bucks isn’t out of the question. But back to the wool stuff: One possible way to save BIG money on outerwear? Check your local Army/Navy surplus. Sometimes they have incredibly well made, wool outerwear, for absurdly affordable prices.
- Bonobos Unconstructed Italian Wool Blazer – $400
- Spier & Mackay Navy Hopsack Blazer – $348 ($398)
- Suitsupply Havana Fit Blazer – $299
- Old Navy Built-In Flex Blazer for Men – $60ish
- Banana Republic Supima Sweater Blazer – $90ish
- J. Crew Factory Slim-fit Thompson suit jacket in flex chino – $120 (but it can work as a chino blazer)
If you’re in a work environment where you rarely wear a jacket and only need one? Consider investing in one do-it-all high-quality blazer in navy (see the first three examples above). If you wear blazers/sportcoats with more frequency, make sure you’re set on that solid navy wool option, then branch out into other colors and fabrics. You can often fill in the gaps with different patterns and colors at bargain prices thanks to sales, deals, clearances, etc. Don’t worry, we’ll keep you updated on the sales.
Chinos: Skimp…. but Spend if you have to (if you’re hard to fit)
- GAP Khakis (chinos) – $36ish ($59.95)
- Old Navy Slim Ultimate Built-In Flex Chinos – $25ish
- Amazon Goodthreads “The Perfect” Chino Slim Fit Pant – $30
- Banana Republic Core Temp Chinos – $60ish ($98)
- Bonobos Stretch Washed Chinos – $99
A lot of guys can get away with GAP or even Old Navy chinos (or, other brands at that similar price point). But if you find yourself constantly fighting against or swimming in those cheaper pants? You might have to spend a bit more. It’s worth it though, once you get your fit nailed in chino-land. Lots of guys swear by Bonobos. And while they are NOT cheap, if you’re patient and play the sale game, you can get them at some fairly hefty discounts. The sheer variety of colors and fits (five! five fits!) for the Bonobos flagship pant is staggering.
Jeans: Skimp (relatively)
- Banana Republic Slim Luxe Traveler Jeans – $70ish (gotta play the codes/sales game)
- Banana Republic ATHLETIC Luxe Traveler Jeans – $70ish
- Amazon Goodthreads Athletic-Fit Jean – $40
- Target Goodfellow & Co. Slim fit jeans – $29.99
- Levi’s 514 in Tumbled Rigid – $30ish
Unless you’re seriously into the selvedge and/or raw denim thing, there are just way too many good, affordable options when it comes to decently made, timeless jeans. Cuts and colors may change over time, but the fact that one can purchase a pair of dark wash Levi’s for under $40, and have them delivered to his or her home in a day or two, says a lot about life (good, bad, and otherwise) in the 21st century. We live in fascinating times.
- Amazon Goodthreads Lightweight Slub Polo – $20
- Target Goodfellow Performance Polo Shirt – $19.99
- EXPRESS Stretch Polos – $23.94 when 40% off ($39.90)
- Banana Republic Luxe Touch Polos – $30ish
Polos are another item in menswear with a rich bounty of affordable, decently-constructed, well-fitted options. Yes, there are a lot of “bad” polos out there. But there are also plenty of good ones for around $20 – $45. Look for trim cuts, good feeling fabrics, breathability, and collars that don’t curl.
Casual Shirts: Skimp
- Target Goodfellow & Co Oxford Shirt – $24.99
- UNIQLO Slim Fit Oxford Cloth Button Down – $29.90
- Amazon Goodthreads Oxford Shirt – $23
- GAP Poplin Blue Gingham Button Down – $30ish
Yes, there are some super nice casual shirts out there. But unless you’re Mr. Shirt who just has to have all the shirts, stick to inexpensive OCBDs (oxford cloth button downs) and patterned poplins. Because if you REALLY need to be wearing a nice shirt? Wear a dress shirt.
Dress Shirts: Skimp a bit, or, Spend. Just don’t go super cheap.
- Nordstrom Smartcare Trim Fit Dress Shirt – $59.50
- The Tie Bar Pinpoint Dress Shirt – $55
- Charles Tyrwhitt Slim Fit Egyptian Cotton White Shirt – $79 (wait for sales)
- Ledbury The White Fine Twill Mid Spread Dress Shirt – $135
Speaking of dress shirts. You can spend a LOT on a dress shirt. Or, you could spend a solid amount (say, $40 – $60) and get something quite nice, but still not cash out your 401k to get it. Whatever you do, just don’t go super cheap on your dress shirts. Super cheap dress shirts have a tendency to be uncomfortable, suffocating, and scratchy. And that’s not what you want when you’re trying to look your best.
- Goodthreads Merino Wool V-Neck – $35
- UNIQLO Extra Fine Merino Wool V-Neck – $29.90 – $39.90
- Banana Republic Italian Merino V-Neck Sweater – $40ish
- Goodthreads Merino Wool Cardigan – $40
We live in a time where 100% merino wool V-Neck and Crew Neck sweaters can be had for $30 – $60. That’s incredible. Heavier, shawl collar variants should run around $60-$150. And do try and stick with wool where you can. Cotton and cotton blends won’t breathe as well and won’t move with you as well. In regards to the cashmere question? Cashmere is nice. But it’s not gonna be worth it to the vast majority. Stick with merino.
Watches: Skimp, Spend, or both
- Timex Men’s MK1 Aluminum 40mm – $80ish
- Invicta Pro Diver Auto – $85
- Citizen Nighthawk – $225
- Hamilton Khaki Automatic Field Watch – $400ish
- Orient Mako USA – $300ish
- Timex Weekender – $30.55
- Orient Bambino V3 “Bauhaus” Automatic – $110
- Tissot 40mm Gentleman Automatic – $725
- Christopher Ward C60 Pro – $965
Totally up to you. But it might be worth skimping first, THEN spending if you so choose. Why? Because we all spend time and money figuring out what works for us. Are you a leather band guy? What diameter do you prefer… 38mm? 40mm? 42mm? Bigger? Dive watch? Vintage? Chronograph? Something dead simple? It might be worth skimping a bit while you figure that out. But if you know, like REALLY know what you want, then finding one watch that wears well with everything in your wardrobe could be worth a big time splurge. Who knows. It might turn out to be an heirloom or even increase in value over time. But don’t count on it.
- TheTieBar Navy and White Stripe Tie – $25
- TheTieBar Wool Printed Dot Tie – $25
- TheTieBar Warm Blue Chambray Tie – $19
- Kent Wang Navy Grenadine Tie – $75 (in case you want a REALLY nice tie)
The Tie Bar essentially eliminated the world of high-priced ties. Yes they deliver for the (super affordable!) price tag. But do know that you can actually feel the difference (in your hands, as well how easy it ties/drapes) between a cheap tie and a really nice tie. Still though. Skimp here, unless your job requires super sharp suit and tie combos. Maybe spend on one wheelhouse, really nice tie, like a navy grenadine, and then cheap out on the rest?
Sunglasses: Skimp (relatively)
- Ray-Ban Polarized Wayfarers – $79.97 ($179)
- Sunski Topekas – $68
- Huckberry Exclusive Polarized Sunglasses – $35
- Roka Halsey Polarized Sunglasses – $145
- Made in the USA American Optical Original Pilot Sunglasses – $179
We’re not talking about gas-station junk shades here. We ARE talking about saving a ton of money on well made sunglasses by shopping smart. The eyewear industry is absurd. Yet retailers like Nordstrom Rack offer designer shades at deep discount if you’re patient, and Direct-To-Consumer darlings like Warby Parker provide significant bang-for-your-buck. Do your due diligence, and you can save a bunch of money on a nice pair of shades.
- Banana Republic Italian Leather Belt – $40ish
- Gap Basic Leather Belt – $30ish
- Marino Ratchet Belts – $22
- Nordstrom Reversible Leather Belt – $49.50
As long as GAP keeps making this, and BR keeps making this, belts will forever be categorized as “skimp.” It’s not a dress belt, but it’ll fulfill your needs outside of dress-belt-needed-territory 95% of the time.
Buy used. Now, nobody wants a junker that breaks down all the time (I think it’s a requirement that we all owned at least one of those lemons in our teens or 20s). And while everyone wants to have the coolest, newest car in the parking lot, what isn’t cool is rapid depreciation, worrying about scratches and dents, seeing the new model come out, soul sucking monthly payments, and thinking people care what type of car you drive. Nobody cares.
Booze: Skimp on Clear, Spend on Brown. (Or… maybe Skip?)
Cheap brown liquors can be downright awful (not that there aren’t loads of affordable options between $30-$40 that punch well above their price). Spending a bit more for an aged, high quality Scotch, Bourbon, or Rum usually pays off. Meanwhile, spending more on big name Vodka or Gin usually… doesn’t. Of course there are exceptions.
- Goodfellow & Co. Kelp & Sea Mineral Face Wash – $5.99
- Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser 8 oz (Pack of 3) – $18.99
- Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream 20 oz – $12.88
- Jack Black Pure Clean Daily Facial Cleanser – $12.50
Skimp is a relative term in the world of skincare. For under $40, there are plenty creams, serums, and other assorted goops in small half-to-two ounce containers that last for months. Look for proven ingredients for a given skincare concern, and find the best value. Also, want your skin to look better without the goo? Get more sleep. Drink more water. Moisturize. Use sunscreen. That’s really about all you need to do.
Haircuts: Spend, on schedule
Your barber is like your tailor. Find one you communicate well with, develop a relationship, and appreciate their work. And see them every 3-4 weeks for a trim. Getting a a haircut every 6 weeks (or more) will leave you with a haircut that looks too short for two weeks, then just right for two weeks, then too long for the last two weeks. Get a trim every few weeks and your hair’s length will always look just right. If you shave your head (by necessity or choice), invest in good equipment and spend 10 minutes twice a week to keep it tight.
Fitness & Wellness: Spend
Food. Water. Exercise. Sleep. Meditation? Journaling? Counseling? Coaching? Personal Training? So many of us are slogging through less than optimal versions of ourselves (spoiler alert: no one ever achieves total optimization), and it just makes everything else harder. Yet if we’re honest with ourselves, we probably know what needs to be fixed. We just might not know how to get there. Refocusing can take time, energy, and maybe some money. But what better way to spend a little of your hard earned dough? You can be dressed to the nines in the best of the best, but that can be all for naught if you’re simply papering over the underlying cracks. Don’t be ashamed to invest in yourself. Time. Attention. Some money if you have it. Run your own race. You got this.
This post originally ran in 2019, but has since been updated, re-thought, given a fresh coat of paint, smacked on the hind quarter and sent galloping on its way. Want more resources like this? Head here for our playbook (a collection of what we hope is our best advice), and here for the Dappered Essentials shop.