We’re big fans of luxury. The fit and finish of something quality is well worth the rather expensive price tag. But, if you’re one of those guys who’s wearing (or eating) his paycheck week to week, it’s time to start learning how to look cool without spending too much money.
Today’s stylish men work with a combination of classics and ‘investment’ pieces, plus ‘trend’ pieces that refresh the wardrobe. So, it’s about finding the perfect balance, explains Asos marketing manager, Vanessa Carver.
“Men should be making fashion decisions that are driven by both style and practicality,” says Carver, adding that a good starting point is buying items that have a bit of longevity. “Rather than directional trend pieces that might be terrific for one season but may not have the lengthiest shelf-life. These give you less wear for your buck,” adds Carver.
Helping you save those pennies for a rainy day (or one of these bad boys), here’s our guide to shopping on a budget. Frugal it may be, but there’s certainly no scrooge-ing on style here.
Purchase Timeless Pieces
Timeless: “not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion.” If you’re not one for spending money every other season on fresh pieces to reestablish your wardrobe, then you have to shop timeless fashion items.
Things like bomber jackets, slim-fit jeans, low-cut sneakers and Chambray shirts are a great start, while classic tailoring tends to look like a dark blue suit — a two-piece, in a medium weight wool so it can be split and worn in both summer and winter. Footwear should be a white low-cut sneaker and a pair of neutral leather dress shoes — essential footwear for the well-dressed man.
Find Your Brands
Saving money is also linked to finding your brands, those that suit your body type and your lifestyle, and then go with them (saving style experimentation for when you’ve got the dosh to do so).
“Definitely experiment with different cuts and shapes to find out what works best for you,” says Carver. For example, some brands are too youth-y for the not-so-young gents, meaning their aesthetic is relatively casual and clothing silhouettes are designed for lean and lanky body types, not for dressing the dadbod.
“Different brands tend to fit or size slightly differently – one might do the perfect button-down Oxford shirt, another nails the perfect fit for jeans – so it’s good to have a mix and match approach to style, instead of being wedded to one specific brand, head to toe,” she adds. “So, definitely mix it up.”
Fit It Right
Proper fitting clothes make you look more expensive. If you can’t afford a bespoke or made-to-measure suit, then buy a cheaper version off the rack, and have it altered.
“Buy off the rack or online and find a good neighbourhood tailor to tweak it,” says Carver. “It might just be to take in the legs for a slightly more tapered look, having the hems shortened to for a little bare ankle with a loafer or white sneaker, or getting the jacket nipped in for a leaner silhouette.”
Read The Label
The fabric ingredients will also dictate just how expensive an item looks, not what it actually costs. So, it pays to read the label before you buy. The place of manufacturing origin is important. While Made In Italy is reserved for luxury items, countries such as Portugal and Turkey are up-and-coming garment hubs producing quality clothing and shoes, at a more affordable price.
The other reason to read? “The fabric quality. The tag will tell you what the yarn makeup of the garment your looking at,” says Carver. Aim for natural fibres: pure cotton or wool, or a blend of the two, reducing the amount of polyester, which tends to look and feel cheap.
More affordable brands are making fashion items with more natural fibre content nowadays — Uniqlo, Asos, Topman — as well as these Aussie menswear brands that won’t break the bank, meaning you can get a pure cotton t-shirt for a fraction of the cost of luxury brand one. “Don’t pay for a name,” says Carver.
Know What To Invest In
Bomber jackets are not only this year’s hero outerwear piece, but you’ll also get more seasonal wear out of it compared to heavier wool coats, which are usually more expensive too. “Instead of investing in a heavy wool pea coat that’s not going to get a lot of use in the Australian climate beyond winter, you might go for a cool bomber instead,” says Carver. “That will keep you warm in winter but will also get a good run in spring, worn open with a t-shirt.”
Other spend-the-money pieces, says Carver, are dress shoes, eyewear and tailoring. “Invest in quality classics like a really great pair of brogues, sunglasses and a great-fitting suit that are wardrobe essentials for every guy.”
Basically, your wallet won’t be hurt with longevity items. “Things like a good pair of jeans that you can live in and a clean pair of sneakers such as Stan Smiths (which are relatively affordable as footwear) are great,” says Carver. The latter goes with everything. “Pair with jeans or shorts in summer and with a relaxed suit or trouser for nights.”
And What To Skimp On
Fashion is meant to be fun. So, don’t go dressing like a minimalist — in head to toe neutrals, void of patterns or prints — simply to get the most wear out of your wardrobe. Trends — loud and proud — are worth purchasing too. But if you’re on a budget, directional or one-season pieces are not the things to be spending hundreds on, says Carver.
“Once you have those key investment pieces, you can keep your style game fresh by pairing these with affordable trend pieces like a cool souvenir jacket, a 70s-style striped bowling shirt or a logo tee from the 90s sportswear revivalists like Fila or Ellesse,” she adds.
So, if you want to save money and get the most from your wardrobe as a stylish man, do buy classic. “You can wear these pieces again and again and not look like you’re outfit repeating,” says Carver.
And, don’t invest a lot in the super-directional trends that you will wear once. Another killer? Fashion brands that are all the rage, but realistically aren’t worth their following or the price-tag. Style, even on a budget should above all, look and feel you. “So, don’t buy into overpriced ‘hype’ brands.”