If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re a man on a mission to elevate your style without breaking the bank.
Below are some tips to help you do just that. And remember, before you start buying clothes, think about your lifestyle. What kind of outfit(s) do you wear? Is your style more formal (suits and ties) or casual (jeans and boots)? Do you like to wear French cuffs or flannel? Or is your style somewhere in between? Make sure you buy clothes you’re going to love and be comfortable in, otherwise they’ll just hang in your closet until the next time your wife makes you dress up for a wedding!
1. Buy Off Season
I know it’s tough to think about buying sweaters and jackets right before spring, for example, but this is the time retailers are getting rid of their winter gear at huge discounts. Be sure to jump on these off season sales and put it away for next season. I’ll admit this is probably one of the hardest tips for me to live by because I want to wear whatever I buy right away, but you can save a ton of money buying those items when they are marked down to make room for the next season.
2. Make a List
This may sound old-fashioned, but seriously, make a list of the items you need. Start by taking inventory of your current wardrobe. And if you need help, check out my other blog post, 10 Fashion Tips, for some helpful hints. But make a list and stick to it. This will help you avoid impulse buys and get the items you really need to build your wardrobe.
3. Shop Clearance Racks
When I walk into a store, the first place I look is the clearance rack. I walk right past the displays with the latest fashions and hottest items – those are going to cost a premium. I’m interested in the stuff they have marked down 50-80% and have stuck in the back corner. Be sure to ask the sales person where all the clearance items are. Sometimes they have more than one spot depending on the section of the store. I know, for example, that Macy’s has clearance items in suits, shirts/ties and their general men’s department. I have bought $120 David Donahue ties for $24 and a $75 Brooks Brother’s pocket square for $11. So keep your eye out for great deals!
This is a great example of an outfit you can get on clearance. Everything I’m wearing I bought from the clearance rack. The shirt is a $135 David Donahue that I got for $33. The tie is a $120 that I got for $24, also from David Donahue. The pocket square is from Brooks Brothers and retails for $75. I got it for $11. Also, the jacket is a Tommy Hilfiger jacket that I got 60% off toward the end of the season.
4. Get the Basics First
When you’re just starting out, avoid “statement pieces” and trendy items. These may look great, but more than likely they won’t be something you can easily mix and match. According to The Art of Manliness, there are some foundation items every dapper man should have in his wardrobe.
- 2 Suits
- 3+ Pair Dress Shoes
- 2 Pair Casual Leather Shoes
- Belts that match above shoes
- 15+ Dress Shirts
- 15+ Ties
- 1 Pair jeans that fit – no holes
- 4 Pair Slacks, Dark & Light
- 4+ Button-up collared sport shirts
- 2+ Solid Polo Shirts
- 5+ Sweaters
- 10+ Undershirts V-neck
- 2+ Sports Jackets
- 1 Navy Blazer
- 10+ Pocket Squares
- 2 Simple Dress Watches
Now, you may look at this list and be a bit overwhelmed, especially if you’re just starting out. But don’t get discouraged. These are the things you can buy using the tips in this post and slowly build your wardrobe.
5. Buy Items you can Mix and Match
When you’re starting out, always buy pieces you can coordinate with other items you already own. Make sure whatever shirts or pants you buy can be worn with different outfits. Get a navy blazer that can be worn with jeans, chinos, gray or tan slacks, etc. Go with basic colors – browns, blues, gray – and a crisp white shirt and a nice blue shirt. By changing the color of your pants or tie, you can completely change the look of your outfit. Also, buying these foundational mix and match items makes it a lot easier to dress up or dress down an outfit depending on your need.
6. Shop Around
I’ve bought jeans from many different brands. Some were expensive ($150 is expensive for me) and others not so much (American Eagle for $19). Depending on your budget, spend a couple of hours and go to different shops and try on different jeans. Think about fit and look, and don’t worry so much about brand name. Snap a picture of yourself in different jeans along with the label so you remember which ones you liked and how they compare with other brands.
7. Learn Sale / Mark-down Schedules
Ask the sales associate in your favorite department stores when certain items typically go on sale or clearance. For example, my local Von Maur (a higher end department store) puts their stuff on sale on Wednesday and then updates clearance prices on Thursday. So, I shop on Thursday afternoon.
8. Shop Discount / Overstock Stores
I bought my favorite v-neck sweaters at a local T.J.Maxx. I found these great looking Calvin Klein lightweight sweaters that were normally $65 for only $18 each. So, I bought 5 of them in different colors! That’s a steal. I’ve also bought belts, a couple of shirts and some jeans – all significantly marked down.
9. Buy Factory Second or Clearance Shoes
I’m a big believer in buying quality shoes. If there’s anything you should save for and spend a little more on, it’s nice shoes. But how nice depends on your budget. For some folks, spending $100 on a pair of dress shoes is a lot of money. I understand that. If that’s your budget, then do a little research and be patient. Just today I went to a local outlet mall and saw several pairs of $250 Johnston & Murphy shoes that were marked down to $109. That’s a great deal on a nice pair of shoes.
You can also find great deals online from top manufacturers. One of my favorite shoe brands is Allen Edmonds. Most of the pictures on my IG are from them. They have a great selection of both clearance and factory second shoes. Their factory seconds are shoes or boots with minor defects – scuffs, a small nick, a crease in the leather or something like that. I saved $200 by purchasing a pair of Higgins Mill boots as factory seconds that looked amazing. They are pictured above. They had a small wrinkled in the leather near the back of heel that would have happened after wearing them anyway!
10. Check Goodwill, eBay or PoshMark for Deals
Finally, be sure to check online sites like eBay and PoshMark for deals and your local Goodwill or secondhand stores. I have found quite a few great ties at Goodwill, and I bought a pair of Allen Edmonds shoes from PoshMark online. One of the neat features of PoshMark is that you can save your favorite brands and your sizes and then search by your size or brand. That makes it easy to find nice clothes. And you’re able to negotiate with sellers.
11. Sign-up for Email Specials
One of the best ways to be notified of upcoming sales and is to sign up for email specials from your favorite stores or websites. I’m a VIP member with Macy’s (signed up for free), so I get their emails and extra off even on many sale items. I’ve bought jackets, pocket squares and jeans – all because I got a notice about a huge sale. For example, I got several nice pocket squares from Jos. A.Bank for $5.99 when they were on a huge clearance sale! And I bought a couple nice pair of Tommy Hilfiger jeans at Macy’s like 50% off.
What did I miss?
What other tips do you have to build a dapper wardrobe on a budget? I’d love to hear from you! And let me know what kind of deals you’ve found! Be sure to leave comments and follow on Instagram!