Your Oliver Spencer blazer may be the lynchpin of your Friday night ensemble, but we’re willing to bet the shirt underneath isn’t always so high-end. In treacherous economic times, high street retail outfits that pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap may seem invaluable, but fast fashion is wrecking our economy and our planet. The US alone wastes an average of 14 million tonnes of fabric each year. Buying designer clothes at least ensures a longer shelf-life, but few of us have the resources to build an entire wardrobe out of such pieces. Fortunately, you don’t have to – we’ve narrowed down the most important pieces to shell out on, and which staples you can relegate to the high street.
Worth The Money: Your Suit
A good suit makes you feel like a man, while a cheap suit makes you look like a child at a wedding. Your money goes into two things: fabrics and construction. Cheap out on the former and you get shine and trapped heat, which makes your forehead glisten to. Skimp on the latter and expect ill-fitting shoulders, bubbling across the chest when the glued-in canvas starts to melt, and seams that split the minute you bend over. A good suit should last a decade. So spend accordingly. (Related: The only four suits you’ll ever need)
Save Your Cash: Gym Kit
Athleisure may be on the rise, but for workout gear designed for the barbell instead of the bar, you can afford to put your wallet away. Unless a 0.1 per cent performance boost might put you on a podium, breathable cotton tees and shorts are all you really need. That guy lifting double his bodyweight seems fine without compression tights and a sweat-wicking performance vest.
Worth The Money: Winter Coat
There are two reasons to spend on a winter coat. 1) They’re less susceptible to trends, so you’ll get a few seasons of wear out of them. 2) That extra money means you won’t spend the entire season wet and shivering. Look to the classics: a fitted wool pea- or overcoat will work with everything in your wardrobe; classic Barbour jackets just need an annual re-waxing to withstand any weather; and down jackets have been battling the elements for over half a century.
Save Your Cash: T-Shirts
There’s a reason high fashion brands churn out T-shirts – they’re cheap to make and let customers who can’t afford the designed stuff buy into the label. But £150 is a fair chunk of change for something that was born as underwear. Block-colour tees are versatile and, thanks to Uniqlo’s obsession with fabric and protecting the planet, can be as kind to your wallet as they are the environment. (Related: The 5 best places on the high street to buy T-shirts)
Worth The Money: Denim
Jane Austen had it wrong; the only truth universally acknowledged is that modern man lives in his jeans. Like the overcoats, you’ll want a piece that lasts. Cheap jeans suffer from thin denim and a low stitch count, meaning there’s less threads holding the trousers together and you’ll be hunting for a new pair within the year. More expensive jeans up the stitch count and the type of denim – as a thicker, more luxurious and durable option, look for a higher-end fitted selvedge pair. (Related: Buy better jeans with the six Cs of denim)
Save Your Cash: Branded Underwear
Honestly, who’s going to see? If you’re really worried about splashing £50+ on a pair of boxers for aesthetic reasons, you may want to reconsider your choice of partner. Choose a brand that’s comfortable and supportive, and there’s no shame in buying otherwise – the David Gandy for Autograph collection is an example of own-brand undies fitting the bill without breaking the bank. (Related: Everything you need to know about men’s underwear)