Budget Conscious Style
We get a lot of questions about where we shop and how to keep clothing costs low, while still remaining stylish. So we decided to dedicate this newsletter to helping you build your style on a budget. As we help you build and update your wardrobe, we realize that you don’t have an endless stream of money to spend on clothes. We don’t either. And you certainly don’t have to buy expensive clothes to have style. In this issue, our aim is to help you find stylish clothes without breaking the bank.
What Not to Splurge On
Everyone loves to save a little money. But we’d be doing you a disservice if we just let you go out and buy the cheapest things you can buy. There’s a difference between buying something that’s cheap and getting something at a good value. Always aim for getting good value for your money.
Part of dressing well includes knowing that, for certain items, the quality of the item influences the style you project. First and foremost: only buy what you can afford. Having said that, here are some places it’s okay to go cheap – underwear, t-shirts (I buy my summer v-necks from H&M for $5), trendy pieces that may not be in style next year, and various styles of shoes (Chuck Taylors will always be a stylish classic) to start. Basically, if you’re going to replace it often, or quickly rotate it out of your wardrobe, it’s okay to spend less on it.
On the other hand, there are situations where if you have the time and the money you should absolutely save and splurge a little bit. The biggest of these is formal wear. If you’re going to buy a suit, you should opt for quality build and materials. A quality suit will fit you better and wear well over time, lasting you long enough to justify the investment. As will a well made, quality pair of dress shoes to go with it. And while you’re at it, I recommend getting a custom fit (or at the very least – well made) white dress shirt to accompany the quality suit and shoes.
Pretty much everywhere else, you can buy what your budget will allow. For things like jeans, sweaters, button-ups, shirts, hoodies, etc, you’ll find items in all price ranges to cover all budgets. Just remember to factor tailoring into the cost of the items you plan to buy.
Brands & Stores With Good Pricing
There are a handful of brands and stores that we tend to always rely on when looking to buy new items. Uniqlo is one of our top picks. We recommend this brand for OCBD’s and other shirts. They may not be the highest quality, but when trying to rebuild your wardrobe, not everything needs to be (note from Marvin: I spent $30 on a highly-complimented, red gingham button-up from Uniqlo that lasted me three years of regular wear).
H&M is another good budget conscious brand, but very hit or miss. We’ve had items that have lasted years, and others that have fallen apart after a few washes.
The Gap has had a very nice turn around the last few years and we can highly recommend their clothes. If you join their newsletter, they have daily sales so you can get items like jeans and sweaters and great price points.
One of our favorite brands is Bonobos. While their standard prices can be a little steep, they always have a fully stocked sale section. And throughout the year they’ll have further markdowns on those sale items. So you can get great deals on some good quality items like button downs and chinos. And the deals are even better if you’re buying off-season items.
Nordstrom Rack is a great place to find higher end brands at largely discounted prices. We highly recommend this place for jeans especially. We’ve gotten some great jeans there that have lasted years. It’s also a great place to buy accessories, like ties, tie bars, and pocket squares. If you’re lucky enough to have a store near you, it’s definitely worth a visit.
The Tie Bar needs to be a website that you remember and/or bookmark. If you’re ever in need of a new tie, pocket square, tie bar, or even socks, look there first. Their prices will almost always beat out others, and it’s a brand that has regularly featured items in GQ magazine, if that says anything. Any color, pattern, or style for dressy accessories, you will it find there.
Finding Sales and Discounts
Here’s the fun (and surprisingly easy) part; finding quality clothes at a discount. Beyond checking in on the brands we mentioned above, there’s a myriad of ways to find quality clothes at a good value. One of our favorite and first-stop methods was to find a few brands that we love and subscribe to their updates – either via newsletter (probably the best way to keep track), Facebook, or Twitter. Bonobos is a fairly expensive brand: ~$90+ for button-ups, pants from $90 – $150+. However, we just subscribe to their emails and wait for notifications of a sale. Just this week they had a 30% off sale. You can do this with almost any brand that you love.
There are also email-based clothing deal sites like Hautelook, Jack Threads, TouchOfModern, and Gilt – there are many more easily findable with a Google search. Another way to find deals is to let others do the work for you. There are a few blogs out there that find and aggregate deals on men’s clothing on a regularly basis. Put This On has a sale section and an eBay Round-up. So, find the ones that fit your taste and check them out regularly for deals.
For the more diligent out there, if you’ve got the time and patience (AND you’ve done the research), eBay can be a solid tool in finding deals. I (Marvin) have a friend that uses eBay to find clothes on a regular basis and he has quite the stylish and unique wardrobe to show for it. Reddit also has an amazing sub-reddit dedicated to style on a budget. Outlets are another good resource for finding quality brand pieces at a discount. Basically, with a bit of diligence, you can find plenty of quality, stylish clothing at a good value.
Our Favorite Places
As mentioned above, there are a few brands I frequent regularly for clothing – H&M has lately been proving itself a good place to pick up basics and trendy pieces. This summer, my bread and butter was their $5 v-neck t-shirts. I picked up a sleeveless hoodie for $20 that’s been indispensable during this in-between weather we’re having in Chicago. Bonobos is easily becoming the casual staple of my wardrobe for button-ups and chinos. They frequently have sales that take much of the sting off their regular prices – John and I frequently acquire pieces at 30-40% off retail here. And they do make some quality pieces. I’m also partial to going to Nordstrom Rack for shoes, jeans (as mentioned in the last article), and other items (depending on the selection they have at the time – just this spring, I picked up a $400 jacket for only $200).
For the past year or two, my favorite brand has been Bonobos. Their sales (especially on marked down items) have allowed me to buy some great items, button downs especially. Most of them have cost around $40 after markdowns. I’ve also been a huge fan of Uniqlo, especially for polos and winter accessories (hats, gloves, scarves). You won’t beat their prices and just about all of the items I bought have held up pretty well. For basic items like t-shirts, my go to places are Old Navy and Target. I normally don’t pay more than $10 for a t-shirt, and they typically have a good selection of colors. I also tend to browse Gilt on a regular basis looking for good prices on items. I’ve found a few pairs of loafers there for less than $100.