Welcome back to YGR and thanks for taking the time to read.
I wouldn’t say that I love shopping. I really enjoy strolling around with my partner and looking at things but I’m not too privy to spontaneous and impulsive shopping as I am much too conscious of how I spend my money, though I wouldn’t describe myself as cheap or frugal either. The single most important thing for me that I don’t mind spending money on is food. By no means am I insinuating that I visit Michelin dining every night but rather I really enjoy cooking and prefer to cook everything from scratch. As an example I’ve really perfected my tomato sugo so much that I have zero issues eating pasta with tomato sauce for 5 days straight. A little fresh basil, good bread and fresh parmigiano or grana padano—tutto perfetto. Even during my apprenticeship years, where money was as mythical as the sight of a unicorn, I splurged on expensive knives because to me they were a worthwhile investment and a compliment to my culinary passion. Naturally, seeing as I run a menswear blog, clothes are something I also enjoy spending money on. Thus, I found it appropriate to write an article about valuable tips on shopping intelligently and how I go about filling my wardrobe without running thousands in debt. As much as I’d love to swipe a black card and go shopping at Kiton everyday unfortunately I don’t belong to that economic class. However, as evident by my site you don’t need to do so in order to shop well and look fantastic.
Tip 1: Knowledge
Undoubtedly, the single most elemental and profound tip I can provide any newborn gents would be knowledge. Knowledge means knowing construction, fabrics, sewing techniques, fit and also knowing styles. For instance when I go to stores I don’t initially look for brands but rather I have a specific vision in mind and my eyes follow said vision. If you go into a store looking for brands you’ll be limited financially and stylistically as well. For example, I wear very specific suits and jackets:
- wide lapels (none of that skinny fashion shit)
- high lapel gorge (the height at which the lapel begins)
- functioning buttonholes, if possible (a true sign of craftsmanship and difficult to find)
- good natural fabrics, ideally by notable mills (pure wool, cotton, linen, silk, etc.) such as VBC, Reda, Drago, Carlo Barbera, Cerutti, etc.
- Made in Italy or Made in the EU (obviously theres no reason to doubt the abilities of Chinese made garments as evident by Suit Supply but Italy is always a good indicator of quality)
- Tailored fit. Most garments are not perfect but some are just horribly constructed. If it doesn’t fit in the shoulders do not buy it. Everything else can be altered.
This can and should be applied to absolutely everything you buy. In some cases its not worth buying brands but I think the more you invest in longevity and quality the better you’ll feel about spending your money. If you go in with very specific wishes you’ll search more carefully. Instead of saying “I want shoes by Zegna” learn what brands are known for making shoes and then select your price category (check my shopping guide for a few examples for those who are on a budget).
Another good example is shirts. Unless you really don’t give a shit there is no point in buying ready to wear shirts in excess of 150 euros. As much as I love Brioni, Zegna or Canali, I don’t think I’d buy a OTR shirt because any tailor can make me a better fitting shirt, designed by me and for me, for much less. If you can get a good bargain go for it but otherwise simply stay away and go custom. If you have the money though obviously always opt for Made to Measure if possible.
Tip 2: If you’re going to by brands then know good brands
I spend a lot of time at places like TK Maxx and I am always surprised by how others shop. In Europe TK Maxx has a Gold Label section where you can find luxury brands. You’ll find everything from Calvin Klein, Dsquared, Dolce and Gabbana to Prada, Corneliani, Zegna and Cucinelli. This is often where I find really high quality garments for exceptional prices. While others will grab the brands they know most, other peoples ignorance is a reward to me. Recently they had a bunch of Cucinelli garments marked down ridiculously and so I was able to grab a beautiful summer coat for a comparative bargain. My double-breasted Corneliani blazer was also bought here. A lot of times these brands are only relevant to people who are into classic menswear and so are overlooked by many which leads them to be reduced further. With a bit of patience you can grab bargains that feel almost illegal! My tip is thus to spend some time on Instagram and check out classic menswear and see what brands are worn by others and considered of high quality. That way you’ll skip the horrible looking Calvin Klein shirt and opt for a Boglioli. This tip can also be applied to thrifting and adds a new level to your thrifting skills.
Tip 3: Use sales to your advantage and have patience
Don’t be afraid to shop on sale. Especially in the classic menswear world, things don’t really go out of season as much of it based on personal taste. It’s definitely not like the fashion world and people are simply not as judgemental pertaining to something being “in season”. There are warm seasons and cold seasons—basta. In the winter buy summer clothing and in the summer buy winter clothing. Unless you have the disposable income, there’s really no point in paying full price for anything and even if I was a millionaire I’d still shop the way I do now because the key to having money is spending as little as necessary.
Tip 4: Shop within reason
I’m a big fan of investment and cost per wear. Essentially, you’re paying more money but you know you’ll get longevity with what you’re paying. A suit that costs upwards of 2,000€ or shirt costing 400€ will last you 10, 15 or 20 years depending on the fabric and thus the price you pay will balance itself out with time.
Nonetheless, never put yourself in serious debt for the mere sake of owning expensive clothing, cars or jewelry. I love watches and obsess about different brands, actively judging watch choices at work. However, I’d never buy a Rolex, AP or any luxury watch for the sake of fitting in and the same goes with clothing or anything for that matter. I often window shop and pass Brioni, Ferragamo, Zegna or various tailors and drool over the clothing but I’d never splurge. I know some people who spend way beyond their income in an attempt to appropriate luxury culture and fit into a level of society that they will never belong to. I don’t think that is an intelligent approach. There’s no point in dressing well, having jewelry and driving fancy cars and not being able to finance the integral parts of life. Financial anxiety is a horrible feeling and should be avoided at all costs.
It is okay to treat yourself once in a while but one should be able to justify the cost of something. I cook regularly and so buying knives worth about 100€ each didn’t seem to be an issue because the cost per use balanced it out and I know the will most likely outlast me. If I want to buy good shoes I’ll stay in the 150-200 range (which to many will be too much as well) which is plenty to get a good pair of footwear. Sometimes there’s a deal so good that not buying it would seem stupid. In this case it’s important to think about whether you want it or need it. As your income goes up, you can make adjustments. As long as you’re buying quality and can attest to the quality, it doesn’t matter if something costs a 1000€ or only 50€. First pay your bills and then think about splurging.
Tip 5: Never shop on an empty stomach
This tip seems absurd but consider that our digestive system is an important factor in our psychology, seeing as it has its own enteric nervous system affecting mood and immune system. I for example am a completely different person when I haven’t eaten or haven’t eaten properly and I find myself to be much more impulsive. Make sure you eat something before you buy anything. I guarantee it will affect your decision.
Tip 6: Want vs. Need
Especially for those who are financially limited or rather frugal consider whether you really need or really want something. This tip goes beyond clothing and can be applied to almost any financial decision.
For example: I recently had new tires put on my bike. Considering I ride my bike to work everyday, spending 120€ on new tires was not a difficult decision. Riding everyday means I need durable and comfortable tires and the only way to ensure this is by spending a bit of money. In Germany nobody has air conditioning and contrary to popular belief Berlin can get incredibly hot in the summer. I used to have a small standing ventilator which held for what seems like a decade but recently decided he was going to go into retirement. I made the proactive choice and went to get a new one. I could have bought one for 20€ but it just felt like it was blowing air and didn’t feel cool at all, so I ultimately decided to buy a more expensive one for 70€, which I know will a long way much like the previous ventilator. My apartment is pretty high up and unfortunately gets very hot, even with the windows open, thus I needed something to help me sleep in the hot Berlin summer, since sleep is essential.
Alternately, yesterday I bought a beautiful cotton/linen blazer (photo session to come soon) which cost about 70€ which is no little sum of money. Did I need it? Absolutely not. However, right now I could afford it and decided that I wanted it especially for the possibilities it provides for my blog. It’s beautifully constructed, lightweight, made in Italy and has all the things I want in a blazer, thus my want was justified.
If you don’t have a huge budget or are severely restricted financially, it is very important to justify the feeling of want versus need.
I hope that these tips are not too obvious though above-all helpful. So far following these rules has helped me to build a pretty awesome wardrobe without putting myself into serious debt and allowing me to sleep at night. Take these tips, tweak them if necessary and I’m sure you’ll elevate your shopping skills to a whole new level. Feel free to leave comments below and let me know what you think. What valuable tips do you have that I missed?
Love, light and style,