Believe the fashion ads and you’d replace your wardrobe every three months. But your bank balance – and the planet – won’t thank you. Yet read between fashion’s lines and you’ll find that last season’s things reappear, in the new season’s guise.
You could spend your hard-earned on brand new jeans that look five years old. Or you could ‘new season’ them yourself.
Turn Unworn Trousers Into Shorts
Sometimes, the best way to cut back on your wardrobe is literally. Strides that the years have been unkind to – victims of either wear or of-the-moment patterns – can have a second life as shorts.
Their width should dictate their new length: straight- or relaxed-leg trousers can become just-above-the-knee Bermuda shorts, while tailored fits can be snipped anywhere from a couple of inches above the knee to mid-thigh. (If you’ve braved the squat rack, think of it as a free way to test the short-shorts trend).
Slip in, then ink on a guideline just below where you want them to sit. “Leave enough length so you can turn the fabric under about an inch,” says Sarah Gilfillan, personal stylist at Sartoria Lab. “Then fold to make a small turn-up – around a quarter of an inch.”
Secure with stitches at either side and front and back, or Wonderweb if you’re not handy with a needle.
Hemming Web, available at Tesco, priced £2.
Roll Your Sleeves
If you’ve been dodging the dumbbells, take Tom Ford’s advice and cuff your sleeves to give your arms a visual workout. “Roll until it hits the widest point of your arm,” says Gilfillan. Mid-tricep is the sweet spot, then fasten with a couple of stitches so it doesn’t slip down.
On which note, having to constantly fiddle with your shirt cuffs throughout the day kills a rolled sleeve’s nonchalant air. So borrow the marines’ trick to ensure they stay at attention. Unbutton then roll the cuff back. “About the width of four fingers,” says Gilfillan. Straighten up the edges, then repeat four-to-five times, until the roll hits mid-bicep. It looks even better if you have a marine’s physique.
Add Black Polish To Brown Shoes
As Italian as adding some cooking water to your pasta sauce, this tip can give old brogues a Berluti-esque, burnished appearance. “The trick is to add several thin layers of polish and buff between each,” says Tom Beecroft, of shoe care experts The Jaunty Flaneur.
Once you’ve locked the technique, embrace the rainbow – try dark brown polish on tan brogues, or even a deep red wax. “It can ‘antique’ brown shoes and add depth to the shine of black shoes,” says Beecroft.
But remember – you’re adding detail, not a new paint job. “Focus on the heel and toe cap – you’ll achieve a stronger patina here,” says Laura Haynes, from men’s personal styling service The Chapar. “Let the polish dry for around 10 minutes then buff with a cloth to remove some, but not all of it, to leave beautifully unique shoes.”
Reapply whenever your look lacks a little sprezzatura.
Distress Your Jeans
Ripped jeans were as unexpected a 1990s return as Pokémon. Unlike Pokémon, however, we reckon distressed denim has some staying power. The grungier alternative to all that heavy raw selvedge is softer, lighter and comes with in-built ventilation. The off-the-rack stuff also packs three-figure price tags. The wise man ‘updates’ his own.
Start by running a razor over your jeans to scuff and soften patches of fabric. For larger gashes, back your jeans with a piece of wood and cut a small hole with a knife, then tease the edges apart until you get a narrow rip (unless you’re Axl Rose, don’t tear the whole thing at once). Wash to soften the raw edges then tease out a few extra fibres with tweezers.
Lose Your Socks
It’s a classic summer move. “But I can’t stress enough that losing the socks doesn’t actually mean losing the socks,” says Haynes. Rather than going calfskin-on-skin, buffer with Falke’s cooling invisible socks (£8, falke.com): they absorb sweat, stop blisters and the polyamide fibres help your skin dump heat.
Unless your office is the Pitti Uomo palazza, keep the look to off-duty days, says Beecroft. Loafers, yes. Black lace-ups, not so much. You’ll also need a decent shoe rotation. Leather absorbs sweat but any other fabric becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
At the end of the day, when you take off your shoes, give them 10 minutes to air out, says Beeston, then slip in shoe trees (£20.70, afinepairofshoes.co.uk). Unvarnished cedar absorbs moisture – and smells.
Make A Shirt A Jacket
Some wardrobes have two settings: shorts or overcoats. But our unpredictable climate demands more nuance. Solution? Use casual shirts as makeshift jackets over tees and vests.
“Camp collared shirts work nicely,” says Gilfillan. It’s a look that speaks of hazy Havana summers, so is best accessorised with some age. Wear yours open over a white crew neck, with a worn-in leather belt to cinch-in even more worn-in Levi’s.
And remember that grunge thing we talked about? You can steal more from Kurt Cobain’s wardrobe. This season, checked shirts double up as belts, to create a layered, I’m with the band look that’s best harmonised with those just-ripped jeans and a vintage tee (see below).
Brine Your T-shirts
On that subject, T-shirt nirvana is finding that soft, broken-in tee that wears like you’ve owned it since childhood. But you can get the same effect, without the wait.
Dunk your shirt into a bowl full of water, then add half a cup of salt and three teaspoons of baking soda. Let it soak for five days, as the cocktail breaks down your T-shirt’s fibres like a decade of moshing. Your brand new tee just became a vintage favourite.
Stonewash Your Dark Jeans
We don’t have a vendetta against raw denim – it’s just lighter washes work better in warmer weather. You can adapt the brining method above to give your winter jeans a blue-sky makeover.
This time add three cups of salt and leave to soak for a full week. Once they’re softened, wring them dry and rub with a pumice stone to strip away the indigo. You’ve got authentic stonewash, no Delorean required.