Five easy steps to building a better wardrobe.
While out and about this weekend, rifling through the seasonal sale racks at a few favourite retail destinations, I couldn’t help but notice a number of men who seemed, to varying degrees, flustered, lost and utterly confused with the entire concept of having to buy an article of clothing. It needn’t be so complicated, but for a long time it’s been ingrained in us that the ability to shop is the genetic province of women, and men are inevitably to remain clueless about the process, but really, that’s silly (and, come to think of it, not all that flattering to women, either). Once you get over a few key mistakes, you’ll be able to leave all the hemming and hawing behind, and shop with the efficient success of a Navy SEAL team.
1. A lot of men think that, once they’ve figured out their size, they’re exempt from having to try anything on ever again, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Every brand uniquely interprets rather vague concepts such as “medium” and “large” to cover a wide range of individual body shapes in their own way. In fact, even clothing from within the same line can vary from piece-to-piece. With that in mind, you’ll come to learn over time that while you’re a small at The Gap, you’re actually a large in APC, and that in some cases, no matter how much you like the look on the rack, certain brands will never fit you properly.
2. If you find a basic you really like and it fits you perfectly, it’s often a good idea to buy more than one (should you have the funds available). For instance, if you find a cashmere v-neck in navy that fits you bang on, buy it in a few more colours as well, especially staples such as black and grey. It saves wear and tear on your clothes and means fewer shopping trips to suffer through in the future. This is a great strategy with denim as well, as rotating two pairs will get you far more longevity than wearing pairs on consecutive days. (Not to mention the fact that it’s hard to find a nice-fitting pair of jeans, so hoard them when you do.)
3. While there’s nothing wrong with getting a woman friend’s opinion on a pair of jeans, if you need a second pair of eyes to help you out with a garment as structured as a suit, you’re really better off bringing along someone intimately familiar with the ins and outs of their construction—which is most likely going to be another man. While many women will be able to tell if something looks nice in a rather general sense, there’s a bit more technical knowledge that comes into play with a suit, like knowing how to look for full canvassing or why a peak lapel on a single-breasted suit might be a bit too flashy for some conservative work environments. Also, you’re going to need some help communicating with the tailor on the details of fit, like how much of a break you want and how much cuff you should be showing, which is all uniquely in the domain of an experienced suit-wearing man. So, find a friend or colleague who dresses well, in a manner similar to what you’re going for, ask for some help and pick up the tab at lunch.
4. It’s also important that you spend your finite resources wisely, not becoming seduced by needless luxuries and clever marketing. For instance, a white undershirt is basically a disposable item—it’s going to wear out and get nasty at some point, so there isn’t much point on buying anything other than a five pack of Hanes, lest you end up with a pricey designer shoe-polishing rag. On the other hand, a cheap blazer from a low-end chain store is equally a waste of money, as it will inevitably lose its shape and render itself unwearable in no time at all, whereas a well-constructed blazer made of high quality materials can last a lifetime. Pick your battles and make your purchases count.
5. Finally, beware the sale. You’re only getting a bargain on something if you still would have wanted it at full price. A pair of shoes at 50 per cent off may be seductive, but they’re not worth any of your hard-earned bucks if you only wear them twice. That said, a deep discount can present you with an opportunity to try something new out—a brighter colour or busier pattern than you might normally wear, for examplet. If after a few wears you find out that it’s not really your thing, give the piece away to friend who’ll wear it happily; lesson learned with no major damage done.
End note: shopping fulfills a function; it’s not an activity of worth unto itself. So don’t take your newfound skills too seriously, becoming the kind of person who uses expressions like “retail therapy.” It’s icky.