With the holidays fast approaching, the beginning of October is the time of year that my two older brothers start calling while inside a suburban Macy’s, demanding to know which of two green ties will look better with their two blue suits. (They always play it safe and go with the one I don’t suggest.)
Honestly, I’m a bit tired of their calls. After all, I have my own shopping to do. But I’m sympathetic to their sartorial woes. While I enjoy the process of picking the perfect look for any occasion and receiving the (justified) praise, they — two straight men of modest means who’d much rather be watching a football game than perusing suit racks — are usually just trying to look good without too much money or effort.
The problem — and the reason I’m getting more calls from them than ever before — is brick-and-mortar retailers are on life support. Earlier this week, for instance, Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy, joining Barneys New York, Diesel and Payless ShoeSource from earlier this year. It’s all a bit inevitable in the world of digital shopping, where there’s a viral retailer for nearly every ultra-specific group (e.g., untucked shirts and Hockey Butts).
Where should you shop, then, to be stylish on a budget?
The easy solution — and the one my eldest brother falls most prey to — is settling for too good of a price to pass up. National retailers like H&M and Old Navy sell stylish products at low-low costs. And sure, maybe they’re attractive enough, but most aren’t long-lasting (not to mention, they’re ruining the planet). To the former point, always check the fabric. Because fibers like cotton, wool or silk will last longer than synthetics like polyester, acrylic or spandex.
So, while at H&M right now, you can find a standard slim-fit black blazer for $70 and pants for $34.99 (or roughly $105 for a suit), they’re 100 percent polyester, and you’ll need to get it tailored. Just look at the arm and pant length differences between Ross Lynch’s glamour shot and the model’s lookbook version.
The model got screwed with a cheap suit requiring high-cost upkeep. (And for the record, it should be me, not the pants, screwing this guy.) Instead, try a department store where you can get actual feedback from a salesperson. Nordstrom has the best customer service, but Macy’s has a big men’s suit sale right now.
That said, if you want the best deals, you have to go online. It means planning ahead, sure, but good style doesn’t come easily. JackThreads or the ultra-cool thrifting app Depop offer basics that won’t ruin after the first wash. The pants below (which I’m currently wearing as I type this) and my forest green winter coat are both JackThreads staples. (A sample JackThreads price point: Twenty bucks for these slim chinos for $20.)
Now, if you don’t have a fabulously gay brother such as myself, the best way to get style advice is to crowdsource. I’d definitely start with r/frugalmalefashion and r/malefashionadvice. They’re both great resources to discuss everything from hem lengths, to keeping white shoes clean, to the best deals of the week.
If you’re still at a complete loss on what to do, then just say fuck it. It’s 2019, and we stan agency in our clothing. Wear the too-tight suit. Wear socks with sandals. Whatever you do, though, absolutely DO NOT wear the blue gingham shirt.