Skimp or Spend? A buying guide for mens suits, blazers, jeans, watches, and more.


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What pieces in a guys wardrobe can you go cheap on without getting burned? Which items are you better off saving up for? Everyones situation is different, but heres a breakdown of what to (maybe) skimp on, and what youre better off spending big for. There are always exceptions. These are more guidelines than actual rules. Depending on work / social environments, you may shift more money into one type of item instead of another. For example, more on suits and sport coats, less on sweaters and jeans. But for a lot of you especially those new to the game or starting your post-college lives this can hopefully be a guide on how to best allocate funds for your wardrobe.

#1. Suits: Neither Skimp nor Spend big (stick to the middle ground)

Nothing like breaking the rules right from the start. Should you buy a $150 suit? No. Should you spend a ton and get a fancy $1000+ suit? No. Why? Because two incredible, big-time bang-for-the-buck, moderately priced brands have appeared in the last half decade. SuitSupply and Spier & Mackay both produce quality construction, well made suits cut from nice Italian and Australian wools, and feature details that used to be only found on suits that would cost much, much more. There are few, if any, more consistently value-priced options in all of #menswear than SuitSupply and Spier & Mackay.

#2. Shoes: Spend on Dress Shoes & Boots, Skimp on the rest

Yes, super expensive designer sneakers are having their moment, but unless youre a sneaker head, keep your cash for dress shoes and boots.If youre putting together a footwear arsenal from scratch, spend on well made, recraftable shoes, such as those from Allen Edmonds. Buy during big sales (Anniversary, Rediscover America, etc) and youll get a lot for your money. When you want (or need) to look your best, nice shoes can matter. In regards to boots? Follow Lt. Dans advice from Forest Gump: Take care of your feet. That means good boots for work and hiking. If theyre just for looking good, but theyre inspired by heritage work or hiking boots? Still might want to spend. Because cheap boots can often look, well, really cheap. Might be worth the investment.

For footwear like casual classic sneakersor boat shoes, go cheap. These items are more interchangeable and will ebb and flow with trends. Theres no sense in spending $200 (or more, like a lot more) on some hideous sneakers when that money could be put to more durable use, like recraftable dress shoes and boots. For workout shoes? If youre a serious workout warrior, consider investing. Cheap gym shoes can sometimes have less cushioning, less supports, and/or wear out faster, and thus, lead to injury.

#3. Outerwear: SPEND

Outerwear is pretty unique in the style realm. We might have multiple pairs of jeans, shoes, shirts but a lot of us only have two coats. Maybe three. Meaning: You wear them. A lot. Sometimes, every day for weeks/months at a time. So investing is absolutely worth it.These garments need to stand the test of time and weather, and usually your cheaper options arent built to last. Look for technology- insulating and weather repellent features- in your deep winter items. For the more classic mens style pieces, pay attention to material quality, stitching, and brassware. These things matter, both in form and function. One possible way to save BIG money on outerwear? Check your local Army/Navy surplus. Sometimes they have incredibly well made, wool outerwear, for absurdly affordable prices.

#4. Blazers/Sportcoats: Both

If youre in a work environment where you rarely wear a jacket and only need one? Consider investing one do-it-all high-quality blazer in navy (see the first three examples above). If you wear blazers/sportcoats with more frequency, make sure youre set on that solid navy wool option, then branch out into other colors and fabrics. You can oftenfill in the gaps with different patterns and colors at bargain prices thanks to sales, deals, clearances, etc. Dont worry, well keep you updated on the sales.

#5. Chinos: Skimp. but Spend if you have to (if youre hard to fit)

A lot of guys can get away with GAP or even Old Navy chinos (or, other brands at that similar price point). But if you find yourself constantly fighting against or swimming in those cheaper pants? You might have to spend a bit more. Its worth it though, once you get your fit nailed in chino-land. Lots of guys swear by Bonobos. And while they are NOT cheap, if youre patient and play the sale game, you can get them at some fairly hefty discounts. The sheer variety of colors and fits (five! five fits!) for the Bonobos flagship pant is staggering.

#6. Jeans: Skimp (relatively)

Unless youre seriously into the selvedge and/or raw denim thing, there are just way too many good, affordable options when it comes to decently made, timeless jeans. Cuts and colors may change over time, but the fact that one can purchase a pair of dark wash Levis for under $40, and have them delivered to his or her home in a day or two, says a lot about life (good, bad, and otherwise) in the 21st century. We live in fascinating times.

#7. Polos: Skimp

Polos are another item in menswear with a rich bounty of affordable, decently-constructed, well-fitted options. Yes, there are a lot of bad polos out there. But there are also plenty of good ones for around $20 $45. Look for trim cuts, good feeling fabrics, breathability, and collars that dont curl.

#8. Casual Shirts: Skimp

Yes, there are some super nice casual shirts out there. But unless youre Mr. Shirt who just has to have all the shirts, stick to inexpensive OCBDs (oxford cloth button downs) and patterned poplins. Because if you REALLY need to be wearing a nice shirt? Wear a dress shirt.

#9. Dress Shirts: Skimp a bit, or, Spend. Just dont go super cheap.

Speaking of dress shirts. You can spend a LOT on a dress shirt. Or, you could spend $35 $40 for a nice quality, ships and returns for free, house-brand dress shirt from Nordstrom. Strongly consider taking your chosen shirt(s) to a tailor for alterations. Whatever you do, just dont go super cheap on your dress shirts. Super cheap dress shirts have a tendency to be uncomfortable, suffocating, and scratchy. Not what you want when youre trying to look your best.

#10. Sweaters: Skimp

We live in a time where 100% merino wool V-Neck and Crew Neck sweaters can be had for $30 $60. Thats incredible. Heavier, shawl collar variants should run around $60-$120. And do yourself a favor try and stick with wool where you can. Cotton and cotton blends wont breathe as well and wont move with you as well. In regards to the cashmere question? Cashmere is nice. But its not gonna be worth it to the vast majority. Stick with merino.

#11. Watches: Skimp, Spend, or both

Totally up to you. But it might be worth skimping first, THEN spending if you so choose. Why? Because we all spend time and money figuring out what works for us. Are you a leather band guy? What diameter do you prefer 38mm? 40mm? 42mm? Bigger? Dive watch? Vintage? Chronograph? Something dead simple? It might be worth skimping a bit while you figure that out. But if you know, like REALLY know what you want, then finding one watch that wears well with everything in your wardrobe could be worth a big time splurge. Who knows. It might turn out to be an heirloom or even increase in value over time. But dont count on it.

#12. Ties: Skimp

The Tie Bar essentially eliminated the world of high-priced ties. Yes they deliver for the (super affordable!) price tag. But know that you can actually feel the difference (in your hands, as well how easy it ties/drapes) between a cheap tie and a really nice tie. Still though. Skimp here, unless your job requires super sharp suit and tie combos. Maybe spend on one wheelhouse, really nice tie, like a navy grenadine, and then cheap out on the rest?

#13. Sunglasses: Skimp (relatively)

Were not talking about gas-station junk shades here. We ARE talking about saving a ton of money on well made sunglasses by shopping smart. The eyewear industry is absurd. Yet retailers like Nordstrom Rack and Drop offer designer shades at deep discount if youre patient, and Direct-To-Consumer darlings like Warby Parker provide significant bang-for-your-buck. Do your due diligence, and you can save a bunch of money on a nice pair of shades.

#14. Belts: Skimp

As long as GAP keeps making this, belts will forever be categorized as skimp. Its not a dress belt, but itll fulfill your needs outside of dress-belt-needed-territory 95% of the time.

#15. Cars: Skimp

Buy used. Now, nobody wants a junker that breaks down all the time (I think its a requirement that we all owned at least one of those lemons in our teens or 20s). And while everyone wants to have the coolest, newest car in the parking lot, what isnt cool is rapid depreciation, worrying about scratches and dents, seeing the new model come out, soul sucking monthly payments, and thinking people care what type of car you drive. Nobody cares.

#16. Booze: Skimp on Clear, Spend on Brown. (Or maybe Skip?)

Cheap brown liquors can be downright awful (not that there arent loads of affordable optionsbetween $30-$40 that punch well above their price). Spending a bit more for an aged, high quality Scotch, Bourbon, or Rum usually pays off. Meanwhile, spending more on big nameVodkaor Gin usually doesnt. Of course there are exceptions.

#17. Skincare: Skimp

Skimp is a relative term in the world of skincare. For under $40, there are plenty creams, serums, and other assorted goops in small half-to-two ounce containers that last for months. Look for proven ingredients for a given skincare concern, and find the best value. Also, want your skin to look better without the goo? Get more sleep. Drink more water. Moisturize. Use sunscreen. Thats really about all you need to do.

#18. Haircuts: Spend, on schedule

Your barber is like your tailor. Find one you communicate well with, develop a relationship, and appreciate their work. And see them every 3-4 weeks for a trim. Getting a a haircut every 6 weeks (or more) will leave you with a haircut that looks too short for two weeks, then just right for two weeks, then too long for the last two weeks. Get a trim every few weeks and your hairs length will always look just right. If you shave your head (by necessity or choice), invest in good equipment and spend 10 minutes twice a week to keep it tight.

#19. Fitness & Wellness: Spend

Food. Water. Exercise. Sleep.Meditation? Journaling? Counseling? Coaching? Personal Training? So many of us are slogging through less than optimal versions of ourselves (spoiler alert: no one ever achieves total optimization), and it just makes everything else harder. Yet if were honest with ourselves, we probably know what needs to be fixed. We just might not know how to get there. Refocusing can take time, energy, and maybe some money. But what better way to spend a little of your hard earned dough? You can be dressed to the nines in the best of the best, but that can be all for naught if youre simply papering over the underlying cracks. Dont be ashamed to invest in yourself. Time. Attention. Some money if you have it. Run your own race. You got this.

About the Author(s):Jason P. is a Dappered devotee, having curated the majority of his wardrobe through the site. He is an enthusiast of wool sweaters, chino pants, and affordable automatic watches. In his free time, you can find him at his boxing gym or antiquing with his wife. Joe is the the sentient tumbleweed that runs this popsiclestand. He doesnt know why it works, but hes glad it does.

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