No man wants to looks like a schlub, but no guy wants to be put tons of effort into his appearance, either. First, looking good takes time, and let’s be honest—between sleeping or getting up 30 minutes early to style his hair, any guy will opt for the former. Second, there’s a nasty idea running around that looking good brings a man’s sexuality into question. Good news: you can be style-savvy and masculine.
But if you don’t have a lot of money, it’s tempting to tell yourself that being fashionable it’s just too expensive. After all, it costs money to keep up on the trends, have a seasonal wardrobe, and buy designer brands. However, being fashionable does not necessarily mean being trendy. Whatever your budget, class it timeless — and inexpensive. Here are the ground rules for looking good regardless of budget.
Labels Do Not Indicate Quality
Too many men get the idea in their heads that the key to being fashionable (or rather, trendy) is to show off labels. Kanye West’s Yeezy sneakers are a good example of this; these shoes cost thousands of dollars, and are too distinct to be worn with most outfits, yet men still fork over huge wads of cash just so they can show off that they own this highly branded product.
The truth of the matter is that no man who’s out of high school should put much stock in labels. If you care about having the right decal on your polo shirt and you’re an adult male with a career, you need a major intervention in how you view fashion. The first step towards looking stylish on a budget is to stop paying money to advertise for other people. If there are graphic tee shirts or otherwise branded apparel in your closet, throw them out.
Shop Like an Italian
Italians have the right idea about fashion. In America, England, and Canada, we’ve all become pretty accustomed to the idea of “fast fashion.” Examples of fast fashion retailers include Forever 21 and H&M. These stores are known for selling “trendy” pieces for very affordable prices.
The problem is, for a fashionable item to be sold so cheaply, it usually means that shortcuts had to be taken in the production process. At this point, a pair of H&M pants or a Forever 21 hoodie falling apart after the third wash is borderline cliche.
So what do the Italians do? They focus on buying a few key style pieces instead of buying tons of “trendy” items. An Italian man will invest in one high-quality dress shirt, which will give him years of use, instead of wasting money on a few flimsy dress shirts from a budget store. This is a good practice for any man to adopt.
Get a Tailor
Tailoring used to be the norm among young male professionals, but somehow fallen out of popularity. In fact, most young men think of tailoring as something that their grandfathers or fathers might have done, but they could never see doing it themselves.
Tailoring is the secret to great fashion for men. A tailored suit you got from the thrift store can look even better than an expensive suit that hangs on you. And tailors aren’t just for suits, either. Tailors can make blazers, button-up shirts, polos, and even jeans look like a million bucks.
Granted, tailoring isn’t exactly dirt cheap. However, if you shop for tailors wisely, you can save money. Look on coupon and discount sites for tailors in your area that are offering promotions for new clients. Furthermore, if you build a relationship with a good tailor, he’ll usually end up giving you deals here and there. Tailoring is one of those things that can be hard to sell, but once a man has tried it, he’ll usually never go back to wearing his clothes straight off the rack.
Like tailoring, the right underwear can be the difference between looking sophisticated and looking like a schlub.
If you don’t already have a set of undershirts, it’s time to make an investment. Undershirts are meant to be worn daily, underneath anything from tee shirts to button-ups. They help prevent sweat stains as well as body odor in case your deodorant fails. However, not just any undershirt will do the job. According to Underfit clothing, “baggy undershirts add 15 lbs to your appearance.” Find a set that hugs your body and then buy 10 — 2 work weeks’ worth. Depending on the brand you buy, you might cringe a little at the initial cost, but undershirts will preserve and extend the lifespan on your other, more expensive, clothing.
Still wearing boxers? While loose, breathable, and generally quite comfortable, baggy boxers can compromise the way your pants fit—especially slacks. A good set of fitted boxer briefs will offer the breathability and comfort of traditional boxers, but fit well enough to allow slacks and other pants to fit the way they’re supposed to.
Shop Consignment and Clearance
If your girlfriend found a new outfit at the thrift store or a consignment shop, would you judge her for it? Of course not. You’d probably commend her for spending conservatively on clothing that she genuinely looks good in. But for some reason a lot of men balk at doing the same with their own wardrobe.
It’s time to take a cue from the ladies and give thrift and consignment stores a try. Yes, many of the items you’ll see may be out of style or too worn for use outside of yard work. But there are plenty of gems on those racks, provided that you’re willing to spend some time digging through the inventory. If you refer to the aforementioned tip about tailoring with your new thrift store finds, you might just be on your way to a high-quality ensemble for a fraction of the price.
Remember That Less is More
If you want to look classy but you care about “swag,” you have a long way to go, sir. When it comes to truly great style for men, less is always more. Unless you’re trying to be the most outlandish brother in your college fraternity, it’s time to ditch gaudy timepieces, snap-back hats, baggy trousers, gold chains, etc. (These tend to be more expensive than they’re worth, anyway.)
Want to look classy? Get out the family photo album and find pictures of your grandfather during his youth. Back then, accessories were minimal and ensembles were meant to be flattering, debonair, and refined, not gauche or flamboyant. “Designer” brands didn’t matter, as long as a man looked put-together.
No matter what stage of your life you’re in, aspire to appear sophisticated and handsome. This means eschewing the fast fashion trends that come and go with the changing of the winds.
It’s easy to for a man to look classy, provided that he takes a little time to make an effort. A man can pick up a suit, have it tailored, pair it with a good watch, and look great for a job interview or impressing a date. We must be wary of the trendy and gauche, as these flamboyant styles tend to make a man look immature and tacky.
At the end of the day, shop wisely, be discriminating about trends and make sure your clothes fit right. If you can follow these tips, you can look classy on any budget.