2 Important Tips for Taking Care of Cheap Clothes So They Last

Your cheaper clothes don't have to fall apart after a year. Care for them correctly and they'll last long enough to be out of style.

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.

10 Things an Adult Man Should Know About Laundry (But Probably Doesn't)

laundry for men

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!

Gin Ando is a news junkie and coffee addict. He currently works in advertising and cannot stop writing. As a post-college twentysomething, he too is navigating the adult world. And he needs friends. Follow him on Twitter @GinAAndo.


  • Reply February 24, 2013


    There’s no discernible difference between “Only Non-Chlorine Bleach” and “Do Not Bleach.”

  • Reply February 25, 2013


    Great article. What’s the point of the no heat setting on dryers? Is that the same as hang drying something since no heat is used and clothes are just tumbling about?

    • Reply February 25, 2013


      Yeah, that’s known as tumble dry. It’s for delicate fabrics or things that can shrink easily.

  • Reply February 25, 2013


    I usually hang dry my dress shirts, but then iron them afterwards.  So I am still actually exposing them to heat. Is my method counter productive?

    • Reply February 25, 2013


      Nope, that’s ok. A dryer cycle can last 45 minutes, and even if the fabric is still wet, it’s being exposed to a lot of heat. An iron uses a lot of heat but only for a short, precise period. (In fact, your method is the correct method.)

  • Reply February 26, 2013

    Tim Nowaczyk

    The square with the X over it is “No Not Dry”. “Do Not Dry Clean” is a circle with an X over it. http://www.textileaffairs.com/c-common.htm#dry

  • Reply February 26, 2013


    The symbols are absolutely useless on a tag.  Until now.  Except I’ll probably forget them anyway.  At least I got the dots, though.  Can’t they just use text!! I didn’t know that color fading could be caused by the dryer… Explains so much.

  • Reply February 27, 2013


    I’ve only recently started actively hang-drying most of my clothes. Never going back to using a dryer. The clothes look better of course, but man they SMELL better. They keep a lot of the scent from the soap. Normally to get my clothes smelling that good our of a dryer I have to throw in 3-4 extra fabric softeners.

    And yes, your clothes last MUCH longer. All you really have to do is look at the dryer’s filter too see just how much of your clothing you lose after each cycle.

    Not to mention every loads worth of clothing that doesn’t go through the dryer cycle saves me about $2.00 in coin-op dryer duty. Home dryers don’t save you as much money from that as you might think,  considering how much power they run on (even the most energy-efficient dryer is still one of the biggest power-chuggers in your house)

  • Reply February 27, 2013


     I’m printing out that symbol picture and hanging it up in front of the washing machine lol

  • Reply February 27, 2013

    Hogar | Annotary

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  • Reply March 16, 2013


    Hi, nice article. In Italy we only do outdoor drying. Dryers are almost rare here. And everyone has his own wash machine.
    Using a dryer for our mothers is like to do a sacrilege.

    Two years ago I was for sometime in NY city. There I had my first, and I hope the last, experience with a dryer. It ruined most of my clothes (furtunately nothing valuable).

  • […] slowly happening, but now I’ve got to check the labels and learn some hieroglyphics.  For those who still don’t know, like myself, this was über-helpful.  And I know that a […]

  • […] Primer magazine has a great photo to help you understand what the symbols on your clothing tags mean. Machine washing pictures generally look like trash cans, filled with water. Bleach is expressed by means of triangles. Dryers are depicted by squares with circles inside of them. To dry is simply symbolized by solo squares. To iron is, well, depicted by a symbol that looks like an iron. And to dry clean is expressed by single circles. To view that picture, because they can explain it in their chart far better than I can with my words, click here. […]

  • […] dryer (but not at a too hot temperature). It could quickly become a mess, but thanks to the laundry symbols you can find on your clothes labels, it has never been so easy! Those visual requirements are […]

  • Reply August 21, 2015

    Sophia Allen

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