Seven Things Guys Overlook When Caring for Their Clothes

Take care of your clothes properly and they’ll easily take care of you for years to come. Check out these easy 7 things that will help your clothes last, and save you some money in the process.

You give up your hard-earned cash for some nice threads, only to disregard them the moment you pop the tags? Here are some things many guys overlook when it comes to caring for their clothes. Make sure you pay attention to these pointers if you want your stuff to keep looking great.

Shoe trees

Good cedar shoe trees do two things: help keep the shape of your leather shoes, and absorb any moisture that has built up during the day. Two sets would be nice, but you really only need one.

At the end of the day, place them in your shoes. The next day, take them out of the pair from yesterday and put them in your newly-worn pair. That length of time should be enough for your shoe trees to do their job. Done!

Sturdy wooden hangers

Hangers come in all shapes and sizes, but for your suit jackets and sport coats you want wider wooden ones. Standard wooden hangers about 0.5″ thick should work for everything else.

Wide hangers help retain the shape of your jacket’s shoulder. You don’t need many (unless you’re Barney Stinson), which is good because they can get expensive. Check out Kirby Allison’s Hanger Project to get an idea. Another resource is B.Black and Sons in LA; they have one dozen hangers for $28.50, which is the most affordable I’ve found for the quality.

Let’s say you’ve decided to make the transition from crappy wire to awesome wooden hangers. My advice would be to pick up a few at a time and slowly replace them. Buying enough to fill your whole closet will be quite pricey.

Collar stays

These are more important than you think. Sadly, I see guys wearing dress shirts that suffer from Floppy Collar Syndrome all the time (a disorder I totally just made up right now). Whatever you want to call it, a dress shirt collar should be able to stand proud over a tie or next to a lapel, so give it the boost it needs by utilizing these little plastic things.

Most of the time, your standard dress shirt comes with a couple pairs of collar stays. These usually work just fine and you know they fit, so make sure to use them. In case you’re completely out, you can pick up a bunch at Nordstrom (super nice ones, in fact) or Amazon (they have ones in various sizes).

Wash clothes as little as possible

I applaud your efforts in attempting to stay clean all day every day. That’s more than can be said about most guys our age. It could be quite possible, though, that you’re washing your clothes too often.

In the wash, garments get beat up quite a bit. They’re drenched and vigorously shaken and spun and then tumbled in crazy hot temperatures. The result is a clean garment, sure, but also a faded one. Possibly even a shrunken one. Minimize the fading and the shrinking by only washing when necessary.

Assuming you don’t work on a pig farm or in a mine shaft, you’d be okay washing denim every three weeks or so. My dark inky denim doesn’t see a washer / dryer combo for months at a time. That way, they keep the nice color and they fit like a glove. An appropriately-worn-in glove.

If they start to smell, let them air out, give them a break for several days, and hook them up with some Febreze. That stuff really does work wonders. If they’re unbearable, wash on the delicate cycle and hang dry them, or dry them on the cool cycle. This will help minimize fading. Make sure to use Woolite Dark and wash with other dark garments; this will also help to minimize the loss of color.


Shine your shoes

I personally don’t have the time or patience to shine my own shoes, but it’s good to at least know how. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the process, but still don’t care to do it yourself regularly, get them done by a pro. If you’re in a big city I’m sure there are shoe shiners everywhere; here in downtown San Francisco, they have guys right on Market Street with their makeshift booths, shining shoes. I usually take mine to Nordstrom whenever I need it done.

Unless you wear certain pairs constantly, you can just get a shoe shine when necessary. I have a regular rotation and I’m careful not to get my kicks dirty, so I rarely have to get a good shine.

Pay attention to the care label

Not all garments are made the same, and certain materials need specific care. If you throw everything you own in the wash without reading the labels,  you’re bound to diminish the shelf life of your clothes.

I would follow what the label says, just to be safe. If it says Dry Clean Only, don’t risk it in the wash just because you’re feeling lazy yet daring. And if it says delicate cycle, don’t throw it in with your towels on the heavy wash setting. Group things by color and care, and settle for smaller loads. Or if you must have as few loads as possible, at least group by color, wash with cold water only, and run it on the gentle cycle. That way, you’ll get a clean load with minimal damage.

Take clothes hot out of the dryer

When I do use my dryer, I listen intently for the buzzer, and once it goes off I immediately take the clothes out, lay all shirts flat on the bed and smooth them out. This minimizes wrinkling and prevents me from having to do a bunch of ironing, which I hate because I’m really slow and meticulous. The only things I end up having to iron if sticking with this method are my crisp dress shirts, which always need a good press, no matter what.

What’s one thing most people overlook that I didn’t cover here? Feel free to let us know below in the comments.

Barron Cuadro runs The Effortless Gent, a site dedicated to better equipping the everyday man by helping him find his own personal style. You can find him on Twitter @effortlessgent, Facebook, and at http://effortlessgent.com. He lives in San Francisco.

  • http://www.realmenrealstyle.com/ Antonio Centeno

    Barron,

    You’ve written a solid article as always and the photos are great – relevant and unique shots! Every point you make is spot on, my only problem is that you don’t shine your own shoes. I know people get busy, but this is the one maintenance item I feel every man has to take on his own. Even the professional shops – which I’ve interviewed and observed quite a few – never give a man’s shoes the love and detailed care he does simply because they are his. And often times they are using a self shining polish like Tarrago……which is good don’t get mne wrong, but not the same as Meltonian creams rubbed in and then protected with a coat of Angelus wax.

    But then again I still wake up at 4AM and have flashbacks of Bootcamp So you’ll never change my habits!

    Best,

    Antonio

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  • Damion

    This is a great demonstration of shoe shining from Japan:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jsx38_s3Mnc&feature=player_embedded

    And here is a story on the shiner:

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090211f1.html

  • Bob

    HOW DO I CARE FOR BOLO TIES

  • http://abetterhuman.blogspot.com Steven

    This is a great article. I agree with Antonio though. I usually polish my shoes while watching TV or something on Netflix.

  • Nicole

    Costco is another good source for wooden hangers.

  • Shane

    Yes, quality wooden hangers can be pricey. When buying clothes in retail outlets more often than not you are asked if you wish to retain the hanger (usually the 1/2 inch plastic type). You can see boxes of them behind the checkout so I always say yes.

    Use this opportunity to be cheeky and ask for a couple extra if they wouldn’t mind? Or be specific and ask for a suit hanger, or trouser (pants) clamp. I’ve only ever been refused once. I also make it a point to wish those that are kind enough to oblige my request by wishing them a good day. It’s often received with a smile.

    My replacement of wire hangers has been gradual, but I have nearly eliminated all wire hangers from our wardrobes.

    Bonus tip: keep a scented bar of soap in you sock draw.

  • Shane

    I have the desire to own a pair of silver collar stays. The problem is this, with only a couple of exceptions the majority of my quality shirts (M&S, Next, Ben Sherman, Ted Baker, Austin Reed, Jeff, etc) do not allow for the plastic collar stays to be removed.

    So I can’t justify buying separate stays until I start buying bespoke. Even then, after exploring several internet based bespoke shirt makers, it’s hard to find this option when ordering.

    • James H.

      Get some shirts from T.M. Lewin. 5 shirts for £100. Good shirts and they have removable stays.

  • William H.

    If your into specialty denim that can’t be washed normally or even dry cleaned here’s a good tip for keeping them ‘clean’ and from being smelly.

    Pick up a bottle of antimicrobial Febreze and when your finishing a load of laundry in the dryer lightly spray the inside and outside of the jeans then toss them in for the last ten minutes or so. It’s not going to clean the denim by anymeans but it’ll freshen them up well enough to be ironed and hung up afterwards.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Shane and William, great tips! Thanks for sharing them. :)

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Nicole, thanks for the tip on Costco! I’ve also picked up a few at IKEA that are good enough for most things and were pretty cheap.

  • Justin

    Haha oh my god, you sound just like me with my laundry. I HATE doing it because I’m so meticulous about it, and it takes me like half an hour to iron one shirt, but I do it anyway because I despise all dry cleaners.
    Anyway, one little thing to add. IKEA sells wood hangers in packs of 8 for $0.50 a piece. Seriously: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40115122
    Probably not for your suit jackets, but that’s ridiculously cheap. I use them for everything else in my closet!

  • Mark

    Don’t forget a good clothing brush. I like Kent’s CC20 – http://www.kentbrushes.com/shopexd.asp?id=51&catid=49

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Mark, great addition! I’ve been meaning to get one myself.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Justin,

    Completely agree. I’ve got a set of those. Great for shirts, etc. Insanely cheap, I don’t know if plastic hangers are that cheap at most places.

  • http://barroncuadro.com Barron

    @ANTONIO,
    You are obviously more of an authority on this subject than I, and I feel like I’m doing readers a disservice by slightly dismissing the importance of shoe shining. To be honest, I have a good rotation going, and I don’t find myself needing to shine my shoes all that often. It was my attempt at honesty :) I definitely should have consulted you before writing that segment of the article, haha. Thanks for reading.

    @DAMION,
    That’s an awesome video and great background article… thanks for sharing.

    @BOB / ANDYB,
    Bolo ties aren’t your thing bro, stick with ascots.

    @STEVEN
    Yeah, I really should be more diligent with my shoe shining. I mentioned to Antonio above that I don’t do it as often, though maybe I should reconsider.

    @NICOLE,
    Costco, of course! Haven’t seen em, but I’m sure the quality is decent.

    @SHANE,
    Those hangers are a step up from the wire variety, but still can’t compare to a good broad wooden one, especially for your important garments like suits. Also, hopefully that bar of soap isn’t Freesia or Plumeria scented. :) I usually keep a sheet or two of Bounce in mine.

    Also, that’s interesting you mentioned you can’t remove the plastic collar stays from the shirts you have. My experience is the opposite, I only have one or two (out of the many, many shirts I have) that I’m unable to take the plastic stays out. You definitely don’t have to go bespoke just to find shirts with removable stays… keep looking.

    @WILLIAM,
    Love the tip about tossing it in the dryer. I’ll definitely try that next time, thanks!

    @JUSTIN,
    Yes, I definitely hate ironing and the only things I can’t escape from ironing are the button-down shirts, and those take me forever. I usually let the girlfriend take over; she’s super speedy. Those IKEA hangers are a pretty good option. One time I bought the wider versions (1 for $3.50, I believe.) Got three of em, two broke the second I got home. I became a little leery of their quality after that. $4 for 8 though… might be worth another shot, and they’re way better than the plastic variety.

    @MARK,
    Great brush. Quite pricey though! It would definitely be useful. You reminded me of another accessory, I believe it’s called a sweater stone? Helps with the pilling of cashmere and other sensitive sweater fabrics. Thanks for the link!

  • Shane

    The soap bars are in fact men’s Imperial Leather. Switching from plastic to wooden hangers is my next step. The shirts I mentioned were almost all found in charity shops at incredible prices.

    The detail in the collar for being able to remove the stays is now one more thing I look at when buying second hand shirts. My checks include;
    1) Condition of the collar (sweat stains and wear)
    2) condition of the cuffs (wear)
    3) condition of the arm-pits (deoderant or sweat stains)
    4) buttons all present and match? (spares attached?)
    5) any obvious stains?
    6) the care label (severe fading indicates a lot of washing!)
    7) the care label (100% cotton or high as I can get)

  • Faiz

    Barron, the hangers you recommended Black & sons, do they have a curvature to them? I ask because I have bought other wide shoulder hangers without a curve and they don’t seem to help my suits keep the crease away just below the shoulder seam.

  • http://www.blank-label.com Aisha

    Barron,

    Great tip about pulling things out of the dryer when hot. I am a big fan of hanging to dry over using the dryer itself, but there are some items that always need to be ironed when just hanging to dry. I’m going to try this soon!

  • http://mrgoodwillhunting.blogspot.com Mr. Goodwill Hunting

    A great article. I will be sharing with my readers.

    Mr. Goodwill Hunting

  • Alexander Allen

    Great write up and very key tips in keeping clothes fresh. Another thing that goes along with hangers, etc. Is when wearing a suit, if you decide to take it off never hang it on a chair. Many people do this when driving or out to dinner for example. They take the jacket and put it over the chair with the back of the chair inside the jacket (as if the jacket is being worn). This will make your jacket lose it’s shape. It’s always best to fold your jacket then lay it over the chair or always keep a spare hanger in your car.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Alexander, that’s a great tip and I’m not proud to say I’m guilty of it. Will folding it and then putting it on the chair not create wrinkles/creases from sitting against it?

  • http://www.MensStylePro.com Sabir Peele

    Great words of advice and specifically on the wooden hanger and shoe shine. As soon as I graduated from college a few years back and immediately revamped my closet will all wooden hangers and they really keep the shape of my suit jackets and shirts. The shoe shine is self explanatory. Not only do they make your shoes look fresh they add life to your shoe as well.

  • Shane

    When folding your jacket, put your hands inside the shoulders and turn the jacket inside itself. This way when you drape it over something the lining is on the outside and you’re less likely to pick up any marks on the exterior of the jacket. I found that tip in a Butlering book.

  • http://desoeufs.wordpress.com/ C K Novy

    This is also really applicable to women. The number of misshapen shoulders and crumpled shirt tails we see on a daily basis makes me want to cry a little, more for the poor clothes than anything else.

    Very good article, as always.

    @Shane: Do you remember the title/author of this butlering book? I’d be very interested in looking at it.

  • Shane

    @C K Novy: The excellent book is called The Butler’s Guide -To Clothes Care, Managing the Table, Running the Home & Other Graces by Stanley Ager.
    It’s chock full of fantastic tips. Following the guidance in this book I was able to pack for a 5 day trip in one holdall! I’m not sure it is currently in print, got mine pre-owned off Amazon. The ISBN is 0333 32911 2

  • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

    @ALEXANDER,
    That’s a great tip. I usually just keep my jacket on when I sit down, or if there’s an actual hanger around, I use that. Haven’t found myself in many situations where I have to take off my jacket.

    @SHANE,
    That’s what I tend to do, turn the jacket inside itself. I also use a similar technique when packing. Sounds like a pretty insightful book!

    @SABIR,
    I definitely need to do the same, revamp my closet with wooden hangers. I’ve started with suits but would like to replace all the plastic eventually.

    @C K,
    Thanks for reading. Some of these can definitely be applied to women’s clothes as well.

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  • Joe

    On denim: I’m a fan of wrapping denim in a plastic bag and freezing it. It kills bacteria. You could also just use a residential steamer on them as well. I only wash my denim if they actually have dirt on them.

    On collar stays: I am a devotee of the wurking stiffs magnetic collar stays, they’re metal with a small neodymium magnet that secures your collar in the position and amount of spread that you decide. I really don’t know what I did before these gems.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Joe,

    Great comments. I haven’t done the freezer clean yet, but have heard several people that like it. Wurkin Stiffs are pretty righteous.

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  • http://www.leisuregamer.com/ Luke

    Great article. I had a tendency to over wash my denim, but once I started buying higher quality jeans, I felt like they didn’t get the soiled-feeling as quickly and I can go for weeks without washing.

    It makes good sense to buy higher quality clothing, even if it costs a bit more and take care of it. It will last longer, fit better and probably save you money in the long run!

    The same went for the first pair of suede shoes, I wrecked them because I was careless…. Now my recent pair are pampered though. Live and learn Gents!

    • CHЯIS JФИΞS

      This is totally true. Cheap jeans FEEL dirty after one wearing. Quality ones do not.

  • Jake

    Im feeling a little deja vu… This has been recycled! I’m already a pro at clothing care! I need new! Fresh!

  • Omar

    hmm the hangers are 38 a dozen, not 28.50… did they raise the price after this article came out?

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  • CHЯIS JФИΞS

    An EG/Primer collab? EPIC! Barron is the man.

    Anyway, if you want wood hangers there’s only one place to look: IKEA. No, really. $4.99 for an 8 pack of wooden hangers!
    http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/80217374/