How to Dress Smart Without Going Broke
You can look good on a budget. You can even wear high-class threads. But you have to know where to go.
It is September and a man’s mind turns to shopping for fall and winter clothes. I’m good at shopping, so pay attention. I know what it’s like to want what I can’t afford (I am not good at budgeting; in fact, I used to have my friends carry my cash because if it was in my pocket, I spent it).
I am going to write about buying ties, pocket squares, and socks without taking the baby food from your baby’s mouth. There is always a buying war between the consumer and the seller. The seller wants to build a brand and get the buyer to pay a premium for it. If you’re a smart consumer, you try to get the brand or the brand equivalent cheap. If you are a careful shopper, you can get what you want for a lot less.
Ties are like women’s handbags. The markup is largely based on brand not quality. First they are narrow and then they’re wide. I like them in the middle, 3¼ or 3½ inches. That way you can keep the ones you like for a long time. I do have some general thoughts about tie colors. I like blue and brown, I really like brown and lavender, I like orange and anything—orange was Frank Sinatra’s favorite color (if you’re old enough to care). However, I especially like orange and burgundy. There is also a shade of brown called sable which I like with black.
I think you only wear a solid color black tie to something where someone is dead.
The best men’s ties are very expensive. Charvet, Kiton, Marinella, and Hermes are well over $200. Personally, I think Hermes ties, besides being very expensive, are too narrow. But the colors and patterns are lovely, so I don’t think wearing them is a character flaw.
There is a great way to buy them cheaper. Buy them used off eBay. Buy from someone with a very high approval rating. You will find they are in excellent condition and a small fraction of the normal retail price. The only problem is that the photos are not always completely color true, so you might find a gold that is more yellow than you thought. If you look closely, you should be all right.
You can also get pretty good ties in Etsy. You just have to be careful. I bought one as a test (black with fuchsia dots) and it is fine, but I see a lot on there that I’d cross the street to avoid.
There is a great web site called Sam Hober, which sells ties made in Thailand. I buy from them, and their ties are terrific values at $80 a tie with cheap shipping. I like them as much as Marinella, and they tie a better knot.
Pocket squares: I love them. They offer a terrific way to add style to a suit or sport coat even without a tie. But they’re a risk. An awful one may result in a complete breakdown of your sex life. Just be very careful. People say you match one color on your tie to one on your pocket square. I like to get two. I am willing to do big paisley with small paisley. I like big dots with small dots. I think a good rule is that any square or tie combination that would look good as a shirt and tie mix works. For the more traditionally inclined, any combination that would look good in an English or French living room works.
I love Hermes and Charvet pocket squares. They are expensive and I only buy them when I am very depressed or very happy. Since I have major depressive disorder, I own a lot of them.
However, I have very good news here—not as good as when we get this election over but still good news: Top quality used pocket squares are also sold on eBay. The problem with color accuracy is more acute because they are smaller, so I suggest caution unless the photograph gives you confidence.
I think young men look mannered in bright silk squares. Cotton is easier for them. I do like cotton and linen squares on everyone. The best place to buy them is on Etsy. The quality is terrific, you can get a great selection of colors and designs, and the prices are impossible to beat. They even have one kind that is completely hand stitched and hand rolled at the edges.
I wear bright colored socks. They give a distinctive look and cheer you up. I love horizontal or vertically striped socks. Websites I suggest are: Mes Chaussettes Rouges, Richmond socks, or Exquisite Trimmings. These three all have great quality brands at good prices and fabulous customer service. A website called Viccel sells fabulous socks for both winter and summer that are made in Turkey in a wide range of colors that are rich, deep, and half the price of the competition. And they have great sales.