From watering holes to workouts, it’s well known that relying too heavily on your old faithfuls usually means getting stuck in a rut. Things are no different when it comes to style.
It may be easy to overhaul an entire wardrobe with a six-figure salary and a stylist on speed dial, but the question for many of us is how do you go about making changes if your bank account is more lemonade than champagne?
Whether you feel the urge to smarten up for the New Year or are just fed up with being asked whose funeral it is every day, here are seven inexpensive ways to look money.
Step 1: Ask The Tough Questions
Saving money starts with being wise about what you invest in. So before you dive headfirst into the rails, it pays to swot up on a few cent-saving guidelines.
The most obvious of the lot is that if you’re not completely sure about an item, don’t buy it. Simple. That doesn’t mean indefinitely; go away or bookmark the page and mull it over, then come back to it in a week and see how you feel. Think about the rest of your wardrobe, which won’t go up in sacrificial flames not matter how bored you are of it. Will the new purchase match enough of your go-to basics or will it require back-up from an extra five new purchases?
The other internal debate worth having while shopping is whether what you’re buying will actually help switch up your style. It’s alarmingly easy to hoodwink yourself by making a case for a capped sleeve navy T-shirt, despite already owning five with ordinary sleeves.
Step 2: Plan With Military Precision
As the old saying (kind of) goes: proper preparation prevents poor purchases. In other words, taking stock of your existing arsenal and drawing up a plan of action is essential before stepping into the shops.
Start by opening up your wardrobe and ensuring you have all the year-round essentials a modern man, regardless of his style, needs: white T-shirts, dark denim, Oxford shirt etc. By simply filling these gaps, you open up the options available to you when getting dressed each morning.
From there, make a hit-list of items you’d like to add. After a more rugged look? Use style guides, retailer outfit views or sites like Pinterest to identify the key pieces – buffalo check shirt, work boots, denim jacket. Or to take your tailoring up a gear – chunky Derbies, roll necks, knitted ties. Anything not in your current rotation is fair game.
Step 3: Switch Up Your Grooming Regime
New clothes aren’t the only way to escape the wardrobe doldrums. An updated hairstyle or refreshed facial hair can dramatically transform your overall look.
If others are used to seeing a pompadour on top of your head, ask for a flatter French crop next time you’re in the chair, or buck the bearded trend and try going clean shaven for a few weeks.
For something slightly more subtle, experiment with different styling products (such as switching a matte clay for a high-shine pomade) or consider taking the sides shorter or working in a fade. All of these are small, semi-permanent tweaks that can have a big impact.
Step 4: Know the Brands That Have Your Back
The financial risk of a sartorial reshuffle can be buffered somewhat by knowing the brands that suit you. If you’re already happy with the fit of a T-shirt or a particular trouser’s break, chances are you can return to where you got them from for a successful rerun in a colour, pattern or fabric you wouldn’t normally consider.
The high street is well-armed with a breadth of styles, meaning you can try new looks and sample trends without making too much of a dent in your bank balance.
And if a retailer or brand isn’t in your usual line-up of labels, it’s worth finding out what they do well. Knowing where to head for directional cuts and who to trust for timeless basics makes the whole process of starting from scratch significantly easier.
Step 5: Accessorise, Accessorise, Accessorise
Already got the basic building blocks of a good wardrobe? Good for you, you’ve passed Menswear 101. We wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to give them up, but to stop your looks becoming stale, use accessories to keep things fresh.
Jewellery is the most obvious way to add a new accent to an old outfit. Beyond simple necklaces (we would respectfully pity the fool who tried multiple chunky chains), signet rings and wrap bracelets, switching your leather or Milanese watch strap for a Nato version is an effortless way to inject a much-welcomed pop of colour.
When it comes to achieving an office overhaul, even suits and ties can grow dull. If that’s your usual uniform, swap traditional silk neckwear for something knitted or get into the habit of throwing a pocket square into the mix.
Step 6: Take It Up (With Your Tailor)
When all else fails, get a few judicious nips and tucks. No, we’re not advocating the operating table. Visiting a tailor can take wallowing jackets and trousers from substandard to outstanding, giving a subtle lift to your look in the process.
Most dry cleaners have an in-house tailor that can take on trouser hems and sleeve lengths, but if your aim is to make even the most basic suit look like something you picked up on Savile Row, it’s worth consulting the experts.
Alongside popular requests like changing buttons and letting out garments, tailors can also re-line old jackets and even copy your favourite pieces in a completely new colour or fabric.
Step 7: Old Can Be New
You’d be forgiven for thinking that second-hand meant second-rate, given that the two went hand-in-hand for so long. But hand-me-downs and elderly offcasts aren’t viewed in the way they once were.
If anything is testament to the thinking that new doesn’t have to be new, it’s the rise online marketplaces like Depop and Vestiaire Collective. The former, essentially a cross between eBay and Instagram, boasts several celebrity users, while the latter makes it possible to score designer threads on a threadbare budget.
Vintage menswear stores can also be a goldmine of must-haves. For bonus points, look for names currently riding high on the retro trend like Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Sport.