Let’s face it, most guys are lazy bastards on their best days. Any one of you (myself included) would prefer to rock up on the night without putting in the work.
But behind the watches, schmick tailoring, and shoes that cost a fortnight’s pay are the foot soldiers of the male wardrobe. These items clean, repair, and protect. Without them, it’s easy to turn into the guy that always seems to look like he just rolled in to work after a hard night on the tins.
Looking like your best 007 knockoff takes a bit of work. There’s definitely more to it than just a monthly trim and a few weekly sessions on the treadmill – your wardrobe needs to share the love.
Most of these wardrobe fundamentals are cheap, simple to use, and will be with you long most of the stuff you flogged off Mr Porter finds its way to the bottom of a charity bin.
A Seriously Decent Iron
Relying on your mother’s apron strings is a forlorn hope. One day – sooner rather than later – you’ll be on your own and with it, comes the enormous responsibility of ironing your own damn shirts. It’s better to spend a little bit more on a good iron than not.
This will save you from going over the same shirt three or four times when you’re supposed to be at work in fifteen minutes. It’s not the sexiest accessory, nor one you ever envisioned spending an afternoon prowling the department store homewares floor to find (welcome to the big boy leagues).
But a good iron saves time, frustration, and can make that white shirt you’ve worn three days in a row look passable.
Cedar Wooden Hangers
Tailored clothing needs time to rest and return to its original shape, and that’s not going to happen on the cheap and nasty dry cleaner wire hangers that are clogging your wardrobe.
Cedar wooden hangers prolong the life of your tailoring by maintaining the structure of the shoulder line. Additionally, they’re a mean deterrent against insects that like to devour your priceless clothing while you’re out on holiday.
Bin the shitty plastic ones you got at the suit store (disposing responsibly, of course) and make the small investment. The Hanger Project make hangers in assorted sizes and have the collective nod of approval from the likes of Esquire, the Robb Report, and the Wall Street Journal.
They’ll save you money in the long run and help your clothes survive the perilous interest of moths, mites, and other critters that make you think long and hard about where evolution fucked up.
The second line of defence against the perils of long-term garment storage is a cotton or nylon garment bag. Garment bags like these protect your clothes from abrasion during travel, and allow the enclosed fabrics to ventilate. If your clothes need a long-term rest in the wardrobe, these bags also give moths and insects a hard time getting in for a nibble.
Try to stick to cotton or even nylon if you’re having trouble sourcing the former. Plastic is a big no-no – especially the dodgy plastic covers you get after subjecting your clothes to a stay at the dry cleaners.
Plastic will suffocate the garment materials, and that’s if mould doesn’t get to it first. The chemicals in plastic can even permanently discolour your clothes. Despite the name, Kirby Allison’s Hanger Project do fantastic garment bags that are decidedly worth the cost of postage.
Cedar Shoe Trees
Chances are you’ve seen these on the counters of shoe retailers. Maybe the guy who sold you those loafers tried to upsell you on a set.
Unlike most upsells, they’re worth the investment. Shoes undergo a lot of stress during wear, and cedar shoe trees help retain the shoe’s structure and prevent the leather from curling or cracking. This can add years onto your shoe’s lifespan, but the good stuff doesn’t end there.
Cedar shoe trees also keep the funk at bay. They absorb moisture, kill off bacteria, and have their own aromatic qualities that can mask the pong of your grimy toes. This is particularly important in warm climates like Australia, where a long day on the cobbles will make most guys a little nervous.
Reputable shoe stores will sell them, but a good arcade cobbler will usually offer a variety of options and won’t flog you on price. If you’re serious about shoes, get serious about cedar shoe trees.
Long gone are the days where men were men and could get their shoes tidied at the local arcade. Whether it’s because the business model sucked or men stopped caring about their footwear, we’ll never know, but clean shoes are as important now as they were at any time in history.
A worthwhile shoeshine kit should contain all the essentials – polishing cloths, brushes, black and brown polish tins – and be housed in a robust container that you can chuck in your luggage.
Remember, gents, shoes can make or break a first impression. No one respects the guy wearing a baller Zegna suit and shoes that look like they’ve spent the last year at the bottom of a public toilet.
Natural fibres collect dust, lint, and grime. Maybe your follicular game sucks and no one has the heart to tell you that you have so much dandruff you look like a suited lamington.
A simple fabric brush, like this Laundress clothing & upholstery brush, will remove the grot that collects during the day and freshen your clothes after wear. Natural fibre brushes perform better than synthetic variants, and don’t fall apart as quickly. It only takes a couple of minutes, but the results carry over throughout the week.
So don’t put it off, gents. Sometimes, the accumulation of filth is beyond the mettle of a fabric brush, leaving you no choice but to surrender your garments to a dry cleaner. This is a costly and dangerous process (and let’s be honest, most dry cleaners aren’t worth the oxygen).
A weekly brush will save you the trip to the arcade and we’d prefer you spend your money on beers instead.
A Damn Good Alterations Specialist
This one isn’t something you can take home, but it’s not something you can do without. A good tailor can work a fair bit of magic. They can loosen up pants if your offseason has ballooned, tidy up jackets to contrive a slimmer build, and bring a suit in line with your proportions if you’re one of those peculiarly-built guys that can’t seem to get anything to fit.
How do you distinguish a legit tailor from the budget mall ‘specialist’? Ask a mate who is serious about his tailoring. Chances are he’ll have someone trustworthy on hand. Otherwise, most upscale, high-brow suiting retailers will use the best talent in town.
Unfortunately, however, many suit stores use a tailor that offers the most expedient commercial arrangement. This doesn’t mean their handiwork is worth the dollars. Be prepared to shop around (and don’t feel bad sending back shoddy alterations).
Needle & Thread
Yes, you should support your local alterations specialists, but it benefits you in the long run if you’re not a useless muppet who can’t get through basic garment repairs.
Mending a torn hem, restitching a button, or even realigning a split seam are minor alterations you’ve probably already encountered, and no longer feel comfortable passing off to the tailor or your mother.
These things don’t take long to fix. A needle and thread kit is a pitifully small investment that will save you coin, time, and give you the rare satisfaction of feeling useful.
A Reliable Cobbler
Like tailors, cobblers can do things to your shoes that make you feel a bit stupid. They can perform a variety of repairs on your shoes, from minor, discretionary things like a topy sole protector, to a full resole after years of prolonged thrashing.
A select few offer a shoeshine service, but hopefully you’re graduating to the big leagues of self-reliance. Cobblers are also a rare fountain of wisdom, and can help you get the most out of your shoes if you ask (nicely).
These guys sell many of the items we’ve described in this list, or know where you can find them. Tragically, it’s a dying trade, but most major cities have one or two tucked away near the main strip.
Men’s Wardrobe Essentials FAQ
Soleplates with the best glide are often stainless steel or ceramic. These types make creases disappear faster by allowing small amounts of hot steam to be applied to the fabric when ironing. Depending on use and accumulated dirt, you must wipe down your leather shoes with a damp cloth one or two times a week. Condition them every three to six months and waterproof once a year. Cedar act as a natural dehumidifier, removing moisture from the air and keeping your clothes from developing mildew. Its natural scent also keeps your clothes smelling fresh.
What type of iron soleplate is the best?
How often should you condition leather shoes?
Why is cedar good for clothes?
Soleplates with the best glide are often stainless steel or ceramic. These types make creases disappear faster by allowing small amounts of hot steam to be applied to the fabric when ironing.
Depending on use and accumulated dirt, you must wipe down your leather shoes with a damp cloth one or two times a week. Condition them every three to six months and waterproof once a year.
Cedar act as a natural dehumidifier, removing moisture from the air and keeping your clothes from developing mildew. Its natural scent also keeps your clothes smelling fresh.