I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. If I want to make a change, I’ll make a change. What I believe in is regular maintenance: Every 5k, I change my oil; every summer I replace the batteries in the smoke detectors, and every January, I do a wardrobe refresh to make sure I’m ready for the next year. The goal is simple – spend as little money as possible while making sure my attire is clean, well-fitting, and ready for what the elements may throw at it.
Here’s what I do. What else should I add to the list?
Polish Your Shoes
I know I say it a lot, but I’d rather cry once and buy well-made shoes that last. That being said, well-made anything will only last if you take care of it. While I give my shoes touch ups as needed, I like to do one global polish at least two or three times a year. The best time to do this, for me, is on a Sunday afternoon. I turn on the fireplace, turn on a Steelers game, and turn off my phone.
Over the last twenty years I’ve assembled my essential shoe-shining kit, but I’m always on the lookout for a great product that I’ve yet to try. If you’re new to the shoe-shining game, here’s what you need.
Polish Daubers. Use these for applying saddle soap and wax polish. They’re cheap, so when they get gummed up after a few years, replace them.
Horsehair Brush. You really only need one of these, but I like to have three: One for black and navy, one for brown and tan, one for burgundy.
Chamois Buffing Cloth. Use this cloth after you’ve used the horsehair brush. It will give you that cobbler-level shine.
Saddle Soap. This is an easy-does-it product. Use saddle soap on boots or shoes (or saddles) that are especially soiled or have gone a few seasons without being polished.
Shoe Cream. Apply cream with a microfiber or chamois cloth. A light coat will do to remoisturize the leather and even out the color. After applying, give it a quick buff with a horsehair brush. Black, brown, tan, and burgundy will get you started.
Wax Polish. After cream, it’s time for a layer of wax. Like the other products, a little goes a long way. We want thorough coverage, but we don’t need heavy saturation. Apply the polish with a dauber, making sure to get into the welt (that space between the body of the shoe and the sole). Horse hair buff, chamois buff. You’re done.
Get Your Main Sweaters Professionally Cleaned
If you’re like me, you own a ton of sweaters, and you actually wear about six of them. Whenever I wear a sweater, I always have at least one layer on underneath (often two). So while I don’t worry much about my sweaters becoming fetid, they do get a bit dingy over the course of the season. A drop of coffee, a soap spot from a vigorous hand washing, it adds up.
Simple solution, bust out a few of those second-string sweaters and wear them for a week while you take your first string to the dry cleaners. Cotton sweaters can get washed, but the lay-flat-and-fluff-it-later approach never seems to get them as soft as I’d like. But the dry cleaner…he does it right.
Do a Clothing Sweep
Coming into the new year, I like to go through my closet and see what still fits, what doesn’t fit, and what needs to be replaced. The first thing I do is try on all of my pants. If they feel too snug in the waste or the length is too short from shrinking in the dryer, they go in the donate pile.
If my shirts are too tight in the collar, they go in the donate pile. I can tell myself all day long that I’ll probably lose weight, but the truth is there’s no use in hanging on to clothing that simply doesn’t fit. By the way, let me reiterate I only replace what I need to replace.
And another thing…If I haven’t worn it at all in the last year it goes in the donate pile because there’s also no use in keeping clothing I don’t wear.
Next I do a visual inspection of my socks, underwear, and undershirts. If the socks have any holes or the heel is worn thin (as in, I can see my skin through it), they get tossed. If underwear has any holes or is worn too thin, toss it. Undershirts, we all know how the necks and pits of those get soiled over time, so you should just replace those every year or two as a matter of course.
Grab a Barracuta G9 for Spring
Here on the East Coast it stays chilly until at least mid-April, and while it’s no longer cold enough for your down coat, it’s not warm enough to forgo the coat altogether. Your spring secret weapon is the Baracuta G9 Harrington jacket. The G9 has been made in England since its debut in 1937, and it remains a timeless classic today.
Its regular cut (as opposed to an overly slim cut) fits well over a sweater or a button up shirt. The elastic cuffs and hem and button-up neck help keep out the breeze, while the weather-treated fabric will keep you dry should you get caught in a shower. The only downside to the G9 Harrington is its priced, so if you want to save a few bucks, check out this alternative from Ralph Lauren or this one from Amazon.