An artist creates a work of art through the summation of individual strokes, colors and patterns. Think of your own style in the same way. You create your own image through the right combination of individual pieces you purchase and put together. And if you’ve made it this far, you’re ready to start acquiring the items you need to create a new, more stylish you. By now, you’ve been visually inspired and you’ve learned how to use the Top-Down shopping method to break down the elements of that visual inspiration into the items you need to achieve your desired look. In the final part of our Guide to Shopping, we’ll show you the savvy gentleman’s way of making the most intelligent, relevant and economical purchase decisions when building a wardrobe.
1. Review (Your Current Wardrobe)
A smart shopper knows what’s in his closet. So before you start buying, do a quick inventory of your current wardrobe. Keep the list you formed in Part 2 of our Guide handy, so you know which items you already have. Once you start digging through your wardrobe, you’ll find duplicates, pieces you never wear and pieces that are either too small or too big (more likely the latter). Use this as an opportunity to purge and/or replace – not hoard clothing that you never wear. Start by making two piles of:
- Clothing that can be improved through tailoring – Have a pair of chinos that are size 34 when you should be wearing size 32? Not all hope is lost. Take it to a local tailor and have them alter it.
- Clothing that can be donated – If you never wear it and a professional tailor can’t make it wearable, donate it. It will do more good for someone else than it will for you. Clothing donations are also tax-deductible so it’s your chance to keep a little more coin in your pocket when Uncle Sam comes to collect. Here are a couple places you can donate to: Salvation Army & Career Gear.
2. Prioritize (Your Shopping List)
Now it’s time to prioritize. Prioritization allows you to make smart purchases based on your needs vs. wants, so that you don’t end up with a closet full of designer t-shirts when you’re wearing a suit and tie 5 days a week.
Not sure where to start? Create your own Need / Want scale. Try a 5 point scale with 1 being lowest Need / Want and 5 being the highest Need / Want. Given that you should place your Needs before your Wants, make every Need point 1.5x every Want point. Add up your ratings for each item will help prioritize what you will buy. Here is an example:
3. Budget (Your Items)
You’ll see that we added a “Max Budget per Item” column in the preceding chart. That’s because regardless of your clothing budget, you should always think of buying clothes as an investment. As with all investments, you want the greatest return. For clothing, you should think about your return in the context of 1) how much use you’ll get out of it and 2) how good it looks on you. So before you splurge on that pricey leather jacket, think about how much return it will actually provide. Know that transforming your wardrobe won’t happen overnight…but this is for the better because being patient will force you to think twice about what you need. And remember, it’s better to pay a little extra for better quality clothes that fit to flatter.
4. Research and Purchase
Always do your research! A savvy shopper will usually do research to determine the best quality / style of a desired item within their budget. Here are some ways the best shoppers go about doing their research:
1) Use the internet:
- Seek out the experts of the menswear blogosphere. Not only will you get answers, but blogs allow you to take it a step further and directly interact with style gurus through comments.
- Tap into community style forums like Styleforum.net or Reddit’s excellent MFA (men’s fashion advice). You’ll find everything from user reviews, Best Ofs and even “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) threads on retailers and designers.
2) Get the Scoop through Stylish Friends, Family and Co-Workers:
- Discover Brands (like Black Lapel): A custom made Black Lapel suit is a prime example of the benefits of doing your research. Almost all of our customers hear about us organically through their personal networks or internet forums. Why? Stylish gents know that when they buy a Black Lapel custom suit, they’re getting designer quality fabric and construction with a better fit (since it’s custom made) at a better price. Check it out:
2. Find Designer Collaborations: GQ recently teamed up with Gap (yes, GAP!) and some of the hottest new menswear designers to make fashion-forward clothing at affordable price points (think GAP’s prices).
3. Find Sample Sales: Really craving pricey brands but can’t stomach actually forking up the dough? Do a quick Google search to see what type of sample sales are going on in your area. Sites like Time Out New York (not just NYC) and Thrillist often list what’s coming up in your own city.
Shopping efficiently and effectively takes some planning, but it doesn’t have to be frustrating. No more aimless, time-sucking and money-wasting hours spent shopping. It’s great to be a vagabond when exploring a new country, not in a crowded mall. So as you lay the foundations for new wardrobe and a more stylish you, know that you’re on an extremely rewarding path towards looking great and feeling great!
We hope our 3-part shopping series was helpful. Now, go forth and upgrade your look!