525,659

11 Style Items You Can Buy at Target and 5 You Shouldn’t

If done right, Target is a convenient place you can pick up some smart style picks at affordable prices. Use our guide and you’ll find items that balance modern style, quality, and price, as well as a few that you should look elsewhere for.

 

I still remember how excited I was when Target moved into town when I was kid. I grew up in Central Pennsylvania in the 90′s. You had two store options for buying clothes: buy cheap stuff at Wal-Mart that looked like you bought it at Wal-Mart or buy expensive stuff at overpriced department stores. There was little middle ground until Target came to town.

Don’t confuse this for a Target lovefest, however. Anyone else growing up in the same boat as me will remember the store’s brand has had its share of growing pains. With house labels like “Utility” and “Cherokee” that offered sweaters made out of synthetic materials with no/low durability or the trademark buyout of the once coveted “Mossimo,” it hasn’t been well-dressed for less from the beginning.

A few years ago the direction appeared to change. There was a visible shift: focus on the basics and do them right. With this came frequent sales of v-neck and crew neck t’s, merino sweaters, and soft polos. The introduction of the Merona brand brought about slimmer ties, a house line of suits, and vintage t-shirts.

We’ve put together our picks of things you can pick up on the cheap, and those you should steer clear from. If you’re a frugal sartorialist or on a budget these items balance style, quality and price, while those that are lacking can be found elsewhere for comparable prices with better quality or styling.

1. V-neck Sweaters

These thin, lightweight sweaters look great casually over a button up but also slide in underneath a suit for winter layering. Pick them up when they’re on sale, usually under $20.

Sweater: Target, $20
Shirt: Lands End Canvas, $29
Sunglasses: AO Square Framed Aviator, $49

 

2. Dress socks

Merona has a great steal on patterned socks for $2.50 a pair. I’ve got 8 pairs. They look and feel great with my Frye boots, white canvas sneakers, or Allen Edmonds Strands.

target merona dress socks

3. Dress Shirts

Believe it or not, Target’s dress shirt line under the Merona brand is surprisingly good. They offer a trim silhouette, are wrinkle free and come in a small, but modern selection of colors and patterns. I’ve got a purple one (featured in our Can’t Fail First Date Get Up) that I can wear with a suit, or wear casually untucked with my Red Wings. Very versatile.

target merona dress shirts

4. Henleys

Henley shirts, long sleeved collarless shirts with 2-4 buttons, are really under-utilized by many guys. They create a casual and comfortable look that’s still more put together than a t-shirt. They also offer a more rugged image usually. My favorite is a Mossimo from Target that I’ve had for 2 or 3 years. Pick them up when they’re on sale, $12 or less.

Henley: Target, $12
Sunglasses: Knockaround, $25
Bracelet: H&M, $3
Jeans: Gap, $30
Boots: Red Wing, $200

5. Suits

This one comes with a big but. A few years ago Target introduced an affordable line of suit separates, some of which are surprisingly nice looking. Stay away from the black options, all the ones I’ve seen still look like cheap black suits. However, there have been some nice gray models to come and go. If you pick up one of these, you have to promise me you’ll get it tailored. (Our guide for how a suit should fit.) The one thing that makes a cheap suit really stand out is when it doesn’t fit. If you need a suit quick or are on a tight budget, these will do the trick in the short term.

6. Some Watches

Target carries a few of Timex’s minimalist watches like the Easy Reader. A great looking watch for $30. We did a full review on them here. Stay away from any of Target’s other watches that are trying to be something they’re not; the big gawdy options, the ones with fake gold or diamonds, etc.

timex watch at target

7. Polos

The store has a few lines of polos, most of which are a great deal when on sale. Look for the trimmer options. These won’t be the best quality money can buy, but at the price you’re paying, they’ll last you two or three years maybe. Be mindful when washing them, if you don’t care for them properly they’ll get pilly. Check out Dappered’s review on the Mossimo Signature polo.

target ultimate polo

8. Plain T-Shirts

Whether you pick up one of the store brands or a set of Hanes Perfect T’s, Target offers some nice crew and v-neck t shirt options. They’ve got an ‘athletic’ cut for a modern man, not the boxy Beefy Tees you’re used to seeing at the $8 range. Pick some of their soft ‘heathered’ or ‘marled’ options that’ll look great layered or on their own.

9. Graphic Tees

You’ve heard us say on Primer that if you want to start dressing better your default go-to should be a button up shirt. But t-shirts still have their place, either on their own or layered over a thermal. Target has consistently had a few options that aren’t “clearly from Target,” like they used to look. Choose consciously, and wear when appropriate.

10. Belts

You can find a full leather belt for under $16, and sometimes even less. I snagged a leather belt with a removable buckle for $4.99 on clearance once. It’s still one of my favorites. Stay away from the faux leather offerings.

11. Hats

There are few times a normal guy can wear a hat these days. But in the summer, and especially at the beach, almost every guy can pull it off. Since you’ll only get to wear it a couple times a year at best, don’t splurge on a nice one. Pick up a straw fedora at Target.

5 Things You Should Avoid

1. Casual Button Up Shirts

Target offers two types of casual button up shirts: ones that you’d wear, and ones that are baggy and billowy. Unfortunately the ones you’d consider wearing are pushing it as far as price is concerned. At $25-$30, you should just pick something up from Gap or Lands End Canvas that’ll have better fit and styling, or for double your money pick up a tailored option from a place like Blank Label.

2. Jeans

To give them credit, they’ve tried. But when you’re able to pick up a pair of jeans from Gap’s 1969 line for $30 on sale, it’s hard to ever see a benefit in buying a pair of jeans from Target. Gap’s jeans aren’t on sale? Check out American Eagle, where their jeans are one of the only garments they sell without a giant eagle stitched on it. You can regularly find a pair of dark blue, straight fit jeans for $29 on sale.

target jeans

3. Neckwear

I’ve actually always loved the designs of Target’s tie line. They were one of the first to introduce skinnier ties at a reasonable price. However, the selection is usually limited and with places like Nordstrom Rack, where you can pick up a Calvin Klein tie for $20, or The Tie Bar where you can get any tie you want for $21 shipped, Target doesn’t hold up. Certainly if you’re in a pinch a Merona tie will look great at a good price, otherwise for more selection at a similar price look elsewhere.

4. Khakis

Target’s khaki and chino offerings haven’t advanced with the rest of their men’s clothing line. These are still your father’s khakis. For more modern fits and fabrics check out places like Express, Gap, and Lands End Canvas. Gap and LEC are always doing sales on their pants that put them at $35 or below.

khakis

5. Shoes

Target continues the trend of most stores in the shoe department: giving women 4 rows of options, and giving men 5 styles tucked away in the corner. I was surprised to find desert boot inspired boots recently, but they’re still fake leather, like their other shoes. The men’s shoes at Target are essentially “Super-Payless” quality.

target shoes

Did I miss anything? Anything you disagree with? Keep me posted in the comments.

About

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page.

 
  • CS

    I have a pair of casual leather lace-ups that I bought for 30 dollars from Target 3 or 4 years ago. They still look nice and are easily one of the most comfortable pairs I own.

    Also, the desert boots pictured are real leather, or at least they were at my local Target. It may not be the best quality, but it is real.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      CS,
      Thanks for the heads up on the desert boots. They might work for a guy who wants desert boots, but was never going to buy a pair. For the most part I find better quality for similar prices at Outlets, or even shoe warehouse type places.

  • Mark

    Hmmm…. I don’t think I would advice anyone to buy a cheap watch. You can get away with a lot of cheap clothes, especially underwear and weekend clothes, but for shoes and watches get something decent. i’d rather buy quality second hand than cheap new.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      Mark, I agree, it’s important to have a good watch, but I don’t think every watch a guy has needs to be a Citizen or better.

      • belgand

        Exactly. I have a Hamilton Ventura that I love, but let’s face it, it’s a bracelet for men. I’m not going to wear something that expensive every day. I ride a bike most days and if I’m just hanging out with friends and wearing a t-shirt it doesn’t look good.

        All of this is before we address that actually reading the time off of an analog watch is basically magic. Many more stylish watches go even further and approach the whole concept as secondary when compared to how it looks.

        I’d much rather have a good, cheap digital that I can wear every day and not worry when it gets beaten up or stops working.

  • Michael

    I find that Target’s Ultimate Dress Shirts, which are the good ones that are more fitted than the others, tend to waffle in the collar. I’ve had two of them do it, one of which was so bad after a single washing that I had to return it. The other is still in my closet because it only has a small spot where the collar folds, but I feel self-conscious every time I wear it.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      Michael, that really sucks. The collar on the one I have is actually pretty stiff, perhaps there are different models/styles. Would something like Wurkin Stiffs fix it?

  • ABinMD

    The shoes are hit or miss. But once in a while you find a great deal on some casual shoes. I just picked up some white leather sneakers with minimal black details around the sole and heel for $17.00. They are beefier than traditional white canvas shoes, but great for anyone with a wider foot:
    http://www.amazon.com/Shaun-Outlaw-Mens-Skate-White/dp/B004BYVRTE

    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      AbinMD,
      Nice, The couple Targets in my area don’t carry anything like that.

  • Jo

    Will “vote” for the belt. My husband tells me that once he made a mistake and bought a cheep non leather belt and he won’t do it ever again – so Target option is cool

  • http://shakeyourfoundation.com Playstead

    Absolutely great idea for a post. I agree with most, especially socks and t-shirts. Never skimp on ties and shoes. You get what you pair for with both of those. A cheap pair of boots is not an investment like a killer pair of Red Wings. In the long run you’ll spend more replacing them every year.

    And nothing looks worse than a cheap tie.

  • Ricardo

    Andrew,

    Great article! Target definitely has its place in my regular clothing shopping. But as far a shoes go, the ONE great thing that target has going for it in shoes is that they carry the Converse OneStar line.

    Personally, i love OneStar. Real converse for imitation price and the design of the shoe is actually a bit sleeker and more “grown up” looking than its parent brand.

  • Stepehn

    I have the Easy Reader watch and while it’s not super fancy, it’s more casual than my skagen and more elegant than my Timex Expedition. Also, I actually love Target Jeans. For whatever reason they fit me well and I like the Signature line they carry. They look great with all my shirts and a pair of leather shoes. Just a thought.

  • anotherjames

    I’m actually headed to Target today during lunch to pickup a bday present for my nephew. Now, thanks to this inspiring article, I’ll be an extra 15 minutes in that place.

    Also, I happen to own one of those Timexes. It’s the perfect watch to put in the rotation among my other higher quality ones and gets plenty of compliments. In fact, as litigator, it’s better for me to appear in court with a $30 watch instead of a pricier one (not that I don’t from time to time).

  • Pingback: The Best of the Web for Grooms – September 15, 2011 | GroomsAdvice.com

  • http://www.whyietc.com Daniel

    Definitely love Target, I like the minimalist watch at target too

  • http://www.nettleleaf.org/ Alex

    Interesting list. I had not caught the belts. I’ll have to give them a look.

  • Ben

    I gotta respectfully disagree on ties and jeans.

    First of all, you’re assuming that we will buy them full price – which is something like $20 per tie. But Target’s clearance rack is the single most important part of their store. I picked up a blue checked tie for $6 the other week. That’s about as good a deal as you’ll find for a 100% silk tie in a modern pattern and width.

    As far as jeans go, the Signature by Levi’s (which seem to have been replaced with the new Levi Denizen stuff?) are also great when they’re on sale. I own two pair that I got for $15 each. The “slim straight” fits me exactly the same as my pricier Levi 514s and look just as good. They don’t have much variety in terms of washes and colors, but when they hit the clearance rack you’d be hard pressed to find better jeans for the money.

    You’re absolutely right that you can get other brands for around the same price as Target’s full price stuff when those brands are on sale. But when the Target stuff goes on sale, you really can’t find a better bargain.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Ben,

    Thanks for the tip! I’ve never had much luck finding steals on ties and jeans there, but I’ll definitely keep my eye out for them. Like I mentioned I got a leather belt for dirt cheap on sale. Maybe it has to do with the store. Thanks!

  • Cassie

    This is a really awesome article! I like to be able to speak authoritatively about this very kind of subject

  • http://thepennystockblog.com/blog penny

    great list. I’ve picked up the polo’s on another site’s recommendation and they became “pilly” will have to check out your tips. thanks for a great post. always looking for good clothes at a great price.

  • Pingback: 10 Ways To Upgrade Your Casual Style | Primer

  • Pingback: Dark Straight Leg Jeans | Primer

  • Steve Jones

    I LOVE Target polos! They are pretty much the only polo I buy now-n-days. Nice slim fit and are actually long enough to fit my long torso (just don’t put them in the dryer!!). And they are almost always on sale for like $5-$7 to boot. Great stuff.

  • Pingback: The Casual Herringbone Sportcoat | Primer

  • Brian

    Dammit, I just bought those Merona desert boots! Should I return them?

    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      Brian, If you like ‘em keep ‘em! That’s all that matters. As CS pointed out, yours may be real leather, if they are, and you’re not thinking of splurging for the Clarks, I’d say hold onto them.

    • lou

      I bought a pair of “suede” light brown desert boots from target. Clearance item, $11. Down from $50. I’d say that’s a fine buy since I like them, they look good, and no one is going to look at them and go “wow got those at target huh? what a loser.”

  • Brian

    Thank you for your response Andrew! I got a cash refund for them and spent a little more and got some Clarks from eBay instead.

  • Brian

    ^from* them. And I also returned them because they had two weird spots in the soles. They looked good and fitted me perfectly though.

  • James

    I’m with you on most of this list. However graphic tees are kind of childish. I would avoid them. While not getting shoes at target is good general advice I wouldn’t skip looking at them while I am there. I’ve seen some decent canvas slip ons for cheap, and with casual shoes I generally dirty them up before they fall apart.

  • Nate

    Target is really hit or miss on men’s clothing options, mostly miss. Most of their selection is made for wives buying for sloppy husbands that won’t clothes shop for themsleves. A lot of their clothing says slim fit but they’re hardly slim fit at all. Target is big enough to follow H&M’s model in my opinion but it will never happen. The women’s side will always have better fashions and men will still be ignored.

  • TwiceShy

    I made the mistake of picking up a pair of Wrangler black jeans (just to avoid having nothing but blue) with the leftover balance from a Target gift card. What could go wrong? I always get the same size everywhere and it always fits, but not at Target. Whether Wrangler made this change on their own or Target asked them to, the 34 by 34 jeans fit fine around the waist and they were the right length, but in between they were cut for a fat guy. I could find no labeling to indicate this, but I could walk in these things without feeling them hit my legs. Either Target/Wrangler is still pushing the 1990s “ghetto look”, or they’re targeting (pardon the pun) a demographic of near-middle-aged husbands who’ve given up on staying in shape. Whatever their intention, I’ll stay away from any jeans from Target for a good long time. Never had a problem with any brand jeans from Wallmart or Macey’s.

  • TwiceShy

    I made the mistake of picking up a pair of Wr*ngler black jeans (just to avoid having nothing but blue) with the leftover balance from a Target gift card. What could go wrong? I always get the same size everywhere and it always fits, but not at T*rget. Whether Wr*ngler made this change on their own or T*rget asked them to, the 34 by 34 jeans fit fine around the waist and they were the right length, but in between they were cut for a f*t guy. I could find no labeling to indicate this, but I could walk in these things without feeling them hit my legs. Either T*rget/Wr*ngler is still pushing the 1990s “gh***o look”, or they’re targeting (pardon the pun) a demographic of near-middle-aged husbands who’ve given up on staying in shape. Whatever their intention, I’ll stay away from any jeans from Target for a good long time. Never had a problem with any brand jeans from W*llm*rt or M***y’s.
    PS: Sorry about all the astrisks; my comment must be triggering a spam or PC filter.

  • Colin

    Just a note about the Target shoes: totally right. The selection is laughable and the quality sucks. Granted, I have to do more physical work than your average office worker, but a $40 pair of Merona shoes should have lasted longer than a month. I diligently polish my shoes every morning and try to take care of my work apparrel but these shoes started to come completely apart in no time! No…Target…shoes.

  • Jen

    In complete agreement with these. Finding things at better, or dare I say, bargain, prices sometimes gets a bad rap but these are completely reasonable and smart. The Target app alerts to sales as well so you can plan when to stock up and save on favorite items.

  • KF

    In addition to the graphic tees, it should be noticed that many of their solid tees are nice quality with good fits for less. I am personally a huge fan of tri-blend cotton tees for both style and comfort, and Target always has the best selection. These tees start at $20 and go down to less than $10, depending on the season and inventory. The ones with pockets and/or v-necks are also great. The one that I am wearing now (my favorite tee) says “the ULTIMATE tee” by Merona, 65% Cotton / 45% Polyester. I am a huge fan, and I highly recommend. As far as some of their other stuff, not so much. Nice job on the list.

    • KF

      it should be noted*

  • VanessaElizebeth

    I had never shopped at Target but after reading your post I got a lot of interest to shop at least once there.

    Learn How to buy

  • MG

    What about crew neck sweatshirts?

Primer is proudly spam-free. Unsubscribe anytime.