What is the True Cost of a Garment?
The true value of a garment can be measured in two easy ways. The first is “cost per wear.” Let’s say a suit that costs $1000 will last for 7 to 10 years, being worn once a week. For this example, we’ll take the lower end (7 years), so this suit will be worn 364 times. 1000 / 364 = $2.75 per wear. Now, a suit that costs $299 might last a year or two. For this example, we’ll take the higher end (2 years), so this suit will be worn 104 times. 299 / 104 = $2.86 per wear. In this case, the cheaper suit actually costs more per wear, not to mention the quality will be much inferior. As my Dad used to say, “Only very wealthy people can afford to buy cheap things.”
However, this is just the first element that comprises “wardrobe value.” One the most important parts is how we feel after getting dressed and taking that last look in the mirror. Whether it’s a suit, business casual, or just a t-shirt and jeans; if what you just put on does not inspire, motivate and make your day better, then you should adjust your wardrobe. It’s all about confidence – anything to give you that little edge over the next guy and knowing that you can handle anything the day throws your way.
In my work, I have the privilege of meeting some of our country’s finest that are making a transition from a military to a civilian career. When we first meet, sometimes I hear them say that they have been wearing a uniform so long that they find the whole “sartorial” or “business casual” concept hard to grasp. I simply ask them, “When you put on your dress uniform do you feel more self-assured, more confident?” The answer is always YES, of course. It’s my goal to give everyone the knowledge to have that experience each and everyday – whether it’s on a date, at the office or spending time with friends. Remember, even the best actors of all time couldn’t act without the right wardrobe.
Why Buying Seasonal Makes Sense
My experience has been that most people who visit Italy comment on the well dressed Italians. This is largely because Italians have mastered the art of incorporating more seasonal pieces into their wardrobes. As most men buy all season suits, it is quite easy to achieve a more “up to date” look. The key is to add more seasonal accessories like shirts, ties and pocket squares. The best part is that this can be done for minimal expenditure. I always tell customers that the clothes they put on in the morning should inspire you and improve your day. If it doesn’t, then you’re not buying the right things.
Remember: Only the very wealthy can afford to buy cheap things. – Victor Dash
Sometimes less is more and other times less is just less – and in men’s wear that’s a good thing.
As a clothier, I am very encouraged by seeing so many more men educating themselves on clothing and being more thoughtful with fabrics, fits, and color combinations. When I started in this business in the 1970s, dressing thoughtfully was much less mainstream than it is today. Nowadays, more and more customers ask me “What should I do to improve my overall look, without spending a ton of money?” Depending on what they’re looking for in an overall effect, I usually share my “Less is Good” rule of dressing.
Disclaimer: Not every rule applies to everyone. Some people truly have a unique look and that’s ok. For example, some guys wear cowboy boots or full Windsor tie knots and that’s fine if its their look, but they just have to do it all the time. That’s because the key to dressing well and making a positive impression through your presentation is consistency.
What Does Less Mean in Men’s Wear?
1. Buy less clothes – First of all, you don’t need to be a clothes horse to have enough to wear or to dress well. The key is having pieces that go together and this usually requires you to make no impulse buys. Sometimes its harder than others to control the urge to pick up a new shirt, pair of shoes, or tie somewhere, but the extent to which you can thoughtfully consider “How many outfits can I wear this piece with?” or “What do I currently own that will go with this?” or “When could I wear this?” the better you’ll dress and the less you’ll spend.
2. Think about how to combine casual pieces with formal pieces – This goes along with buying less, but it’s really a separate concept. When you buy a sport jacket, suit, or even cotton pants, you should consider how it can be combined with your entire formal and informal wardrobe. A couple of things to keep in mind: dressy jeans and cotton trousers look great with sport jackets, so when you buy a new jacket, try thinking out-of-the-box in terms of not just wearing it to work, but how you can wear it out on the weekend with some casual pieces for an everyday smart look.
I also have a “White Solution” I share with guys trying to get more our of their wardrobe, while spending less. The “White Solution” includes, a white french-cuffed shirt, white cotton pants, white pocket square, and white silk knots. These pieces offer a lot of different options and they’re all what I call “levers” where they dress up or down a garment. For example, a white french-cuffed shirt with silk knots dress up jeans, while white pants dress down a blazer. Conversely, the white pocket square and french cuffs dress up a blazer. So you see, these seemingly simple items can actually have a huge role in an outfit.
3. Look for “levers” that turn up or down the volume of a garment – The classic lever is the tie. It dresses up any sport jacket, suit, or tuxedo. The key to dressing intelligently is seeing the opportunity in other pieces that, like a tie, will amp up or down what you’re wearing in a subtle and effective way. It could just be the color of your shirt that picks up the color in a sport jacket, or a handkerchief that matches your shirt or tie. Either way, look for levers when buying because often times these small, subtle additions have a remarkable effect.
4. Use a thinner, longer tie knot – Unless you always wear wide-spread collars, then you shouldn’t ever do a full Windsor knot. Of course, the British have a totally different style than we do in America, and the full Windsor is much more fashionable there. That said, in the states men should aim for tasteful conservatism with their tie knots.
5. Clothes should be closer to the body – These guys are both wearing garments that hug their bodies more closely than the average American’s clothes do. As a result, both look pulled together and deliberate. Also, even though these models aren’t muscular the tighter clothes make them look more masculine – another objective men should shoot for in their dress. The real key about baggy cloths is this: high quality garments that are baggy look sloppy and low quality garments that fit your body well look good. So whether your annual budget for new clothes is $1000 or $10,000, you should never buy anything that isn’t the right size for you and you should get pieces tailored to you for the greatest overall look.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget that no one deserves to dress well and look good more than you do.