Written by Kathy Phan
The price of looking good can be hefty and doesn’t always agree with your bank account. Impulse purchases and pricey splurges can leave your wallet light without much to show for it. But you also don’t want to give up quality for the sake of paying “rent” and “bills.” Fret not; these tips and tricks will help you look your best with a lot less of a burden on your finances.
Quality that Won’t Cost You
Rather than break the bank, we often find ourselves eyeing the racks of more budget-friendly retailers. Fake it til you make it, right? But if you were awake during Econ 101, you remember the theory of opportunity cost. When you gain one thing, you must forgo another. Here, when you choose to spend less on clothing at a fast fashion retailer, you’re going to end up with pieces that aren’t intended to last you more than a year of wear. If you’re ever discouraged by the price tag of certain items, just remember that everything goes on sale eventually. Take a break from stores like Forever21 and H&M and check out these higher-end retailers.
- Known for carrying European’s most fashion-forward styles, Spanish retailer Zara produces over 450 million items per year. With that many pieces, you’re definitely going to find something you like. The prices are more affordable at the price of slightly lower quality. Their sizing is catered to fit men with a slim and tall build, so save on a tailor and shop here if that’s your body type. Zara is celebrated for their semi-annual sales when most of the store’s merchandise is heavily discounted in December and June. Shop here if you’re in need of inexpensive business-casual pieces like trousers and button-up shirts that you can easily mix and match.
- Price point: $
- Topman releases hundreds of new products on a weekly basis and is a great place to find dapper fashion with some edge. This is another good option for basics like solid tees, sweaters, chinos, and suits on a budget. Their website also has a fit guide for suits found here, making shopping online easier than ever. Just make sure you have a good understanding of their return policy if you’re going to buy anything on sale online. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t matter how good the deal was. Overall, Topman is a hotspot for staple pieces that don’t need too much tender loving care.
- Price point: $$
- With their signature color blocking and appealing patterns, this American specialty retailer boasts a large selection of moderately priced (and great quality) menswear that is famous for its preppy and collegiate look. Check out the J. Crew Factory store where items go on sale even further. The Lacoste for J. Crew polo shirt and Ludlow Suit ensemble are some of their best sellers, known for their slim fit craftsmanship and great price. J. Crew usually offers a sale on seasonal colors of Ludlow and Crosby suits once a year in January, which is great for those who are looking to save on a new suit for the new year.
- Price point: $$$
- Club Monaco is owned by Polo Ralph Lauren and is known for its modern and timeless pieces. Their dress shirts are made from natural fibers and are machine washable, making them perfect for guys with a busy lifestyle who want to look good without having to forgo quality. Since it’s on the more expensive side, this store is definitely a place you go to for garments you intend to wear all the way to your grave. Club Monaco is a great stop for closet staples like casual button-up shirts, solid tees, and bomber jackets.
- Price point: $$$$
Boss by Hugo Boss
- This core brand of Hugo Boss specializes in modern and refined business and evening wear. It focuses on sophisticated silhouettes for both casual and formal looks. Hugo Boss is best for suit lovers who want a well-tailored suit that already matches. Their quality suits come in matching sets and in varying fits such as regular, slim, and super-slim. It’s definitely a store you go to for that one suit you can wear for any occasion. Although it’s more expensive than other suit retailers, the fit is well worth the price if it can save you a trip from the tailor. Complimentary basic alterations for full-priced items can be done at any Hugo Boss store. On the plus side, Boss suits can be found at department stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdales, making them prone to be discounted during Family & Friends and holiday sales.
- Price point: $$$$
General Tips for Smart Shopping
Shop During (Holiday) Sales
Sometimes, bracing the angry shoppers during the busy holiday season is worth it. Your hard day’s work of pushing and shoving is rewarded by high-quality pieces that’ll outlast your Christmas tree. Shopping during sales not only saves you some serious Benjamins but it’s also a great opportunity to try out new styles since everything is on discount. Signing up for email updates from your favorite retailers or following their social media during peak holiday seasons are good ways to keep up with their upcoming sales.
Shop for Quality
At GentleManual, we live by a cardinal rule: Quality over quantity. One high-quality shirt will look better (and last longer) than anything you buy packaged in a plastic bag. Fabric plays a large part in how your outfit looks overall. Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon produce a shine, making garments look cheap. Try to go for natural fibers like cotton, wool, and silk. You can always make a good inference on the quality of a garment by feeling the garment between your fingers and lightly pulling it apart to see if the fabric is tightly woven together. Always check for thread count (the more the better) and loose threads at the hem or on button closures, which are also indicators of quality.
Pay Attention to Care Details
First and foremost, avoid buying garments that are dry clean only. Not only are these pieces more expensive from the start, they also require a continual investment in upkeep. Just imagine all the money you’ll save from avoiding that weekly dry cleaners visit. Since you’ll be doing your own clothing upkeep, pay attention to the specific instructions for each garment. Washing clothing on the right settings and air drying certain pieces can have a huge impact on the longevity of your clothing. Knowing how to take care of your garments extends their lifespan and saves you money in the long run since you won’t have to repurchase staple items.
Focus Spending on Staple Pieces
Before you splurge on that pineapple printed button-up, ask yourself if you’ll be wearing it for years to come. If the answer is a yes then, by all means, swipe your card. But if the answer is a definite no, then perhaps you should put the garment back on the rack and aim for something sans the novelty print and bright colors. Instead, invest in essential pieces like suits, outerwear, and basic crewnecks that are neutral in color and timeless in silhouette. Accessories like wallets and watches that you use on a daily basis are also great investment pieces.
Shop for a Good Fit
People come in all different shapes and sizes. With no universal sizing criteria, finding pieces that fit you perfectly can be a little tricky. The best solution for this dilemma is trial and error and trusting the mirror. You should always try on items and make sure they fit correctly before buying them. And if you don’t like the piece enough to try it on, should you really be buying it? Tailoring is also an option but remember that alterations can be more expensive than the actual garment itself. If you’re having trouble with dressing for your body, check out our post here.
Looking and feeling your best shouldn’t have to cost you an arm and leg. Find a few stores that cater to your personal style and keep up with them on social media for sales and promotions. On top of that, stick to these guidelines to smart shopping and your monthly bank statements are guaranteed to be a lot less heartbreaking.