Clothes can make the man — but cheap clothes don’t make you a cheap man.
We have to start from somewhere. Most of us aren’t at the level of rotating out pairs of Allen Edmonds shoes with our Tom Ford suits, and that’s OK. It really is.
To be fair, though, a lot of the price from high-tier, enviable brands is from the name. That sheep in the ribbon from the Brooks Brothers logo is just a sheep — it’s no vicuña, no matter how soft that wool is.
Like all things in life, if you take care of cheap clothes, they will last you. Hell, even with a cheap suit on, you’ll still be better-dressed than most people if it fits and you wear it correctly. A fused suit — as opposed to a stitched one — will get you the same amount of double takes and the inevitable compliments (and sideways glances and sharp comments from guys angry that you look better than they do.).
Rotation is the Key to Longevity
We all have a favorite outfit. One that we could and would wear to any event anywhere. The outfit in which we’d want to be buried. Whether it’s a Hawaiian shirt or a completely bespoke suit, it doesn’t matter: If your clothes are cheap(er than you’d like), it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re worse-looking, worse-fitting or will dissolve in the rain. You just have to be careful.
This isn’t a call for meticulously arranging outfits per day of the week—although that’s no slam on those who do—but you can’t be wearing the same set of clothes every day.
Strangely enough, if you treat your cheap clothes as you would a bespoke Tom Ford suit or a pair of Park Avenues, they’ll last longer. In fact, all clothes, if treated with that kind of reverence, will last longer.
It isn’t that you must have a closet full of shoes to switch out every single day of the week, but you need to be mindful of everything on your body. Shoes included. Like pitchers, if you send the same ace out every single game, you’re going to get him burned out and useless within the first week instead of lasting in close-to-mint condition for game 160—when you need the presence of your ace. (Unless it’s Justin Verlander.)
The bottom line is that taking care of your clothes can be a chore, yes, but for those of us who bow to the altar of the cloth—regardless of the material from which our particular fetish is hewn—the gospel of care will exalt us to sartorial salvation.
Laundry As a Ritual, Not a Chore
We live in an amazing age. We have “printers” that can create skin. We have 3D televisions that don’t require glasses. Self-driving cars, even.
But there’s no substitute for carefully drying your clothes. By hanger. And letting the garment dry the good old-fashioned way. It keeps shirts stiff (in a good way) and prevents your clothes from being exposed to heat. And although we may love the feeling of a toasty shirt fresh out of the dryer on a cold winter day, heat is a killer. It can ruin fabrics and it mutes brilliant colors.
Using a drying rack, hanger or even a clothesline however, helps clothes stay pristine longer, granted you follow the washing instructions too, of course.
As you amass a wardrobe of more than just T-shirts and jeans, laundry becomes more exact. You can’t just guess anymore with these items, and throwing a pair of trousers—even if they are considered washable—into the machine with your other clothes just because it can fit and it was at arm’s length is no excuse.
Read your labels when doing laundry. They’ll save you grief and will elongate the life of your favorite clothes more than you’d think.
Like Royal Vestments
Although we touched on this before, there’s not enough that can be said about taking proper care of clothes. Whether that means steaming a cheap suit, fuzz shaving a pilled sweater or actually following the PROFESSIONAL DRY-CLEAN ONLY tag, it’s difficult to say.
But really, this is just reinforcing many of the points brought up above. There is no difference, when it comes to care, in cheap and expensive clothes. They’re both high-maintenance if you want to keep them looking fresh.
Because, in the end, whether you’re wearing BOSS or Wal-Mart, as long as it fits well and as long as it looks nice, no one’s going to call you out on it. Well, almost no one.
The one guy who does will be speaking Italian anyway, so, in classic Primer fashion, we’ll keep spreading knowledge.
The most suitable answer, in the situation outlined above, is Vaffanculo!