How I’d shop on a budget
With its aim of covering the finest, quality menswear in the world, Permanent Style’s coverage varies widely - from suits for £1500 to those for £7000, £150 shirts to £500 ones.
Although I’ve always wanted to cover the best, I also believe it’s possible to put together a great wardrobe on a budget. As long as the aim is always quality, at whatever price point - and there’s a recognition that doing so takes years, not months.
So, here is some advice I would give to a reader trying to put together such a wardrobe.
Each of the points below could be a full post on their own. I’ve tried to keep it concise, and further discussion is welcome in the comments or in follow-up pieces.
1 Buy one good watch
A watch is worth spending money on, as it’s pretty much your only jewellery. But you can also get away with having just one, at least for a while.
So save up for a while and buy the absolute best you can afford. Don’t buy early, only to want a more expensive model two years later.
And I’d make it a classic dress watch. It can look chic even worn casually, but it doesn’t work the other way round with a sports watch. Something like a Cartier Tank for £6k or £7k.
2 Buy made-to-measure shirts
Much as I love bespoke shirts, this is the first thing I would spend less money on. The handwork and the fit matters less than with tailoring, and the quality less than with shoes.
The look of a shirt is 90% the collar: get one that really works for you, and then a decent fit through the waist. I’d use someone like Simone Abbarchi exclusively - ordering 2 or 3 the two times he’s in London every year.
And avoid fine materials. Get heavier, more robust ones, and look after them well. Learn what to do in the event of a stain.
3 Buy the best Northampton shoes you can afford
Shoes show quality, particularly when you only have a few, so they get a lot of wear. And particularly when you look after them well, with trees, brushing, cream and polish.
So buy the best you can afford, from a maker such as those around Northampton in England (not a bigger brand). Today my default is Edward Green, expanding to Saint Crispin’s; back when I was a journalist, it would have been Crockett & Jones.
I was reading the Preppy Handbook recently, and it mentioned men would buy Church’s shoes, which were very expensive and cost a month’s salary (presumably after tax). I wouldn’t go that far, but perhaps one or two weeks’ salary. Expect to buy only one or two a year.
4 Get trousers MTM, or adjusted RTW
Quality matters with trousers to a certain extent, but really it’s a question of style. You need somewhere that offers a trouser with a rise you like, and a leg you like or can easily alter.
If that’s RTW, and you need to take one size but cinch in the waist and then finish the hems, that’s perfect. Don’t worry about pick stitching, and assemble a useful wardrobe slowly. Flannels, high twist, chinos, jeans.
5 Buy bespoke tailoring if you can possibly afford it
Bespoke fit and quality makes the biggest difference in a jacket than anything else. So if you can afford bespoke, go for it. Historically I used Graham Browne, and would then have moved onto someone like The Anthology or Whitcomb & Shaftesbury.
But I would also have saved up and tried a Savile Row tailor like Anderson & Sheppard, and perhaps a true Neapolitan like Ciardi, with no regrets.
In fact, I did the latter when I bought my first Neapolitan jacket from Rubinacci back in 2011. It cost me £3,800 at the time, and it was a lot of money. But that was £1,900 once, and then the same a year later. It could be made affordable.
Investing in bespoke is also a lot easier if you don’t need to wear a suit every day to work. It means you can start with one or two pieces a year, and not worry about building up a working wardrobe fast.
Which leads me to my next point.
6 Buy a bespoke overcoat
If we assume you’re not the kind of person that has to wear a suit every day, you may well find an overcoat just as useful as a suit.
A navy double-breasted ulster coat will look elegant over the suit, but also with just a sweater and flannels, perhaps even with jeans. And a bespoke overcoat is a beautiful thing: the shape of a jacket, but on a grander scale.
If you were starting from scratch, I’d suggest an overcoat should be a second or third bespoke commission - after a navy suit and a sports jacket, for example.
7 Avoid tailoring fads
I know gurkha-front trousers seem exciting. As do double-monk shoes. And Prince-of-Wales suits.
But you don’t have the budget to buy something unusual and get it wrong. You need to play safe: buy classics, and experiment with accessories: like ties and scarves.
At the least, wait a year and then see whether that shiny thing still seems so shiny. Most of the time, the Instagram hype machine will have moved onto something else.
8 Indulge once a year
For many years, my rule to myself was that I was allowed to buy one very luxurious item a year, in the sales. It was usually outerwear, and I budgeted twice the amount I’d normally spend.
I bought a handful of great pieces that way from Loro Piana and Ralph Lauren Purple Label over the years: a deerskin jacket, an Icer coat, a suede gilet. It wasn’t that much money, just once a year, and it was nice to keep that element of exciting, top-end purchase.
9 Get just one pair of jeans
This is difficult, because often your taste or style will change at some point. But in theory, jeans only look better the more you wear them.
Buy them raw, wait a while before the first wash, and make sure you know somewhere to get them repaired. When they go thin in the fork, get them patched. Take advantage of Blackhorse Lane’s policy of lifetime repairs.
And think carefully about the fit and cut, to try and minimise the chance of them going out of style.
10 Economise on basics
The clothes to economise on are the ones that are seen less often, and where quality or labour makes less of a difference.
That’s usually underwear, so if you can find T-shirts, underwear and socks that wear well and you like the fit of, stick with them. It’s nice if they can be made responsibly, even if cheap.
And don’t buy superfine socks. Like shirtings and suitings, they’re for guys where budget is not an issue. Get cottons or even cotton/synthetic mixes that will wear well.
I’ve always believed the best advice is consistent, no matter how many times you ask the giver over any period of time. All of these points are so consistent with everything you’ve written and learned about since starting PS. And it’s so reassuring to know there’s somewhere online where you can read such solid, distilled advice that stays true to long-held principles, rather than advice that swings the way fads do.
As to this piece itself, it’s another example of your posts that are so good to come back to time after time, if only to absorb the thought even more and have it ingrained in one’s lifestyle. A fitting addition to a personal manifesto on spending on quality, if you will.
Thanks Joseph, that’s great to hear.
Nice to hear I’m consistent too – often readers have a better memory of this than I do!
i agree with joseph. even in those occasions you changed your mind over something you have carefully tried to explain why you did it.
I was very keen to read this article having seen the title, however I’m afraid to say your idea of affordable is, quite frankly, a little ridiculous. Of course ‘affordability’ is relative, however people in a position to follow the advice in this article will more than likely be your standard target audience anyway.
6-7K for a watch? There are myriad alternatives from respected Swiss or German brands such as Longines or Nomos which can be had for under 2K and would serve people very well.
And the shoes, you recommend spending perhaps 2 weeks salary on a pair of shoes once or twice per year? Who is this person you consider to be shopping ‘on a budget’ who can spend a twelfth of their annual income on shoes?
I love your site, and your obvious wealth of knowledge, however this article, in my opinion, paints you as woefully out of touch with society.
I would love for you to collaborate with a guest writer on a piece for genuine ‘on a budget’ shoppers with an interest in menswear. A total of £2000 – £3000 per year for an entire wardrobe budget would be more appropriate.
My above criticisms aside, thank you for your continued great content.
To be honest Guillaume, I think perhaps you’re just reading the wrong site.
As you say, budget is relative, and Permanent Style has always focused on the best quality menswear.
Even a budget of 2-3,000 would seem a lot for some men. But if you’re aiming for building a great quality wardrobe over time, this is where I think those that can afford it should concentrate.
I respectfully disagree with the suggestion I’m reading the wrong website. I purchase luxury watches and MTM suits and although much of what you recommend is admittedly still out of my price range I can still take a lot of knowledge from your articles regarding fabric choice or caring for knitwear.
I just think you’ve missed the mark as your suggestions are in no way ‘affordable’. Again I refer you to the point that I don’t think there is a consumer out there who would spend a twelfth of their salary on smart shoes each year.
This is only intended as constructive criticism.
Thanks Guillaume, it’s appreciated.
It’s hard to talk about affordability given how relative it is. I’m sure what you spend could not be afforded by the vast majority of the world’s population.
But I’d suggest that if you buy MTM suits and luxury watches, you could afford a decent pair of Northampton shoes.
Firstly I think the following is a good suggestion from GUILLAUME.
“ I would love for you to collaborate with a guest writer on a piece for genuine ‘on a budget’ shoppers with an interest in menswear. A total of £2000 – £3000 per year for an entire wardrobe budget would be more appropriate.”
Although his point on shoes I believe is wrong . £300-£500 on a good pair of shoes (even if picked up from factory shop) is a great investment.
Secondly, Simon don’t take critical points , particularly around cost , so strongly. I believe readers genuinely want guidance within their budget.
Although you may think that is not the remit of PS it would be a shame to lose such readers to more inferior, compromised blog .
I personally struggle with your guidance on suits and jackets because of the price point you recommend.
P.S. this is a fantastic post and having read your blog for years I have followed the advice on shirts and shoes.
Robin – I may have not made myself clear. I agree entirely that spending £500 and more on well-made shoes can prove to be good value, and arguably cheaper in the long run than buying mass produced shoes. My contention is that Simon’s advice to spend 2 weeks salary, perhaps twice per year, does in no way correspond to shopping on a budget.
Simon, I don’t know if you have the data, but I think it would be interesting to know what the actual average annual spend of your readership is on clothing. With knowledge of similar industries, I suspect the median is actually well below the what the average bespoke suit buyer spends. If that’s the case then I’d understand you not wishing to publish that data as the advertisers would likely hold it against you!
It’s a good point Robin. I think you’re right that the median is low. But also, there are thousands of readers (though probably still the minority) that do buy at these kind of levels – I see that in the number of readers that buy through the adverts, buy on the PS Shop, and buy in the pop-up. All of which is clothing in this range, or more expensive.
On the shoes, bear in mind I said 1-2 weeks, once or twice a year. Make that 1 week’s salary once a year, and it’s more affordable.
i think the article is not about “the best item you can buy for the lowest possible money”. i read it like a description/suggestion of the appropriate mindset to find a balance between personal economy and the early steps for building a quality wardrobe. the word “affordable” just appears once in the article and only in the sense of making something expensive not so expensive
Would it be good advice to recommend to those on a budget that a day at the Northampton shoe outlets be tried?
You have pretty much the whole of the uk’s shoe makers there and can pick up shoes for anything from £100 upwards. I got a pair of cheaney brogues for £45 once. Still going now 10 years later.
From memory you can get crocketts for around £250.
That’s definitely a good tip for shopping on a budget.
Perhaps this article should start with MTM shirts? After all this is about clothes. The good watch could be nr. 10 or a “bonus”. I had in interest in watches before I went bespoke. Today, I do not care any longer. Watches really are a world/an interest/ a hobby on their own. It can takes months & years to find a perfect model and some people never do 😊. Also, like with cars, the value of a “good watch” immediately diminishes outside the shop. Only a handful of models will rise in price over the years. However, there are many good re-sellers of 2nd hand watches. Now, their prices are lower and more realistic. If one wants to re-sell a 2nd hand watch oneself, the diminished value will be less than with a new one. So my advice would be to find a trustworthy reseller.
Thanks. I think this is a lesson that people assume a 1-10 list is in order of importance!
Possibly the list began at watch as you looked down at your hands and wrists on the keyboard as you were typing the article?
Yes you might be right. To be honest, it’s also something that occurs to me often – the value in a watch like that and in the coat too. I’m so grateful I have those watches, I get pleasure out of them every single day, and I know so many others that have bought three or four watches in the space of 10 years, trading up in price each time.
While I could not afford the prices on some items that Simon uses for illustration the advice is still sound and I have built up a good wardrobe using his principles.
I have bought well made “factory second” shoes from an American brand. I’ve also bought shoes on e-Bay (riskier but if you know quality and your size it can work out very well). My suits are RTW but of good make. The same for my sport coats but I have also had luck finding on great Etro jacket at a thrift shop.
E-bay has also been a good source for ties and pocket squares.
Shirts I buy from an MTM maker for the better price/quality ratio and the fit. I have a fairly “standard” body and most RTW fits well with minimal alterations but my arms are longer than average so most RTW shirts in my size have sleeves that are too short.
Trousers are purchased from the same MTM company. Usually on sale. RTW trousers are either poor quality or eye-wateringly expensive. Sometimes both. These are good quality and reasonably priced.
Knit wear is the most difficult. It is hard to find good quality without it also being quite expensive. I’ve only managed to purchase one truly high quality sweater so far. I make do with decent RTW pieces otherwise.
As Simon said, patience is key. It took about 5 years to build my wardrobe to a point where I’m mostly satisfied with it.
Nomos Glashutte is not 2K unless you’re buying their most basic models. Their nicer models can easily run $4-5K. Longines is closer to that price range though, and I think often a good value. However all these things are relative – plenty of people would find the cost of a Longines watch shocking!
The watch recommendation may be too much a stretch for many, however this does depend on your priorities. A good watch can become a family heirloom – providing multiple generations with increasing satisfaction. 6k is not ‘budget’ in a fiscal sense but if my grandchild can look at their wrist during a stressful day and remember me and smile that is quite special.
Regarding shoes – 2 weeks salary is what I budget (being in an income bracket very much near the median for my city). It’s a scary amount of money and a high entry barrier. But after two years I was done – a derby, a loafer and two boots. I buy cheap trainers and Timberlands for yard work, but I’m more or less done.
So on an average income I find this article useful – it validates my approach to shoes and helps me maintain a disciplined focus as I move to other categories. Minimising mistakes, and costs, along the way.
Interesting point on heirlooms. It’s hard to get into this mindset, but to a previous generation pieces like a watch or women’s jewellery were bought perhaps once or twice a lifetime, or given to one that often – for example on your wedding day.
And then they were handed down to the next generation because they were that valuable.
Heirlooms are a tricky proposition because fashions change much more quickly than they used to. 100 years ago, you could invest in an expensive watch secure in the knowledge that it would still be of use to the next generation. I’m not sure if that’s the case anymore. Eg, will people still be wearing non-smart watches 30 years from now? I’m not so sure. Women’s jewelry is a much safer bet.
Simon’s suggestions aren’t as out of reach as you suppose. For instance, say you give yourself an annual budget of 3000 or so (which is r it uncommon for a professional. For that amount, you could get a quality bespoke sports coat or suit from a a local tailor (eg, someone like Graham Browne), 1 pair of good quality shoes (in the 350 range), 2 pairs of made to measure trousers (you can get good quality for 150-200 from Luxire), and 2 pairs of MTM shirts (120 each or so – I get mine from Proper Cloth).
If you continue doing that year after year, you can develop a pretty wardrobe over time.
This site is for really rich people Guillaume. I still like looking at the posts and getting design ideas. My budget is WAY lower than he’s suggesting here and I’m in the top 5% income wise – I think this site is aimed at top 1%ers. I think it may affect this guy’s brand to try and cover all the bases at every price-point.
Think there is some placeholder text in “Rubinacci back in XXXX” that needs updating.
An interesting piece, though some will feel the concept of “on a budget” may have been missed. From a personal perspective it would be useful for some more direct recommendations, particularly in the likes of trousers where I struggle to find anything close to budget that does things like flannel.
On particular pieces, absolutely – the issue is that advice like that would make this piece out of date much quicker.
More ongoing coverage of brands and what I’d recommend for them is served by ongoing articles more generally.
I was more thinking brands rather than individual items, though appreciate many brands are more trend conscious and someone doing flannel trousers this year won’t necessarily do them next year.
I just cant find anything in the gap between CT at ~£70 and the likes of Drakes that are typically ~£300 unless its very fashion forward skinny legs etc
I’ve had good luck with Spier and Mackay, a Canadian online retailer. Luxire is another option.
Natalino does a nice range of flannels too. High-rise and single outward pleats.
Great idea Simon. I guess what is on a butget is debatable to say the least. I would never in my life be able to buy a bespoke overcoat. Never. I understand what you mean….In the end it wil last a long time. But let’s be honest. How many people can spend that much money on a garment. It’s a shame that when you mention ” butget” you stay on the side of these very expensive products and don’t really give tips how to get something great looking and good quality for a butget that is within reach of most people. What to look for I you buy vintage (and not the super hip and expensive vintage shops but the shops where you can buy a jacket for let’s say 40 pound). What about buying surplus…? What shops have the best quality price ratio (without including drake’s and other shops where they sell jackets of 1000 dollar. Your blog is for sure the best if you want to check out the best tailoring in the world and I love it but it would be great to see something that go’s outside of this super expensive and unreachable price range. There is more than bespoke, drake’s ect…
Absolutely, but it is a question of priorities too. If I could afford a Rubinacci jacket when I was a young journalist, most professionals could afford a bespoke coat from The Anthology, or Whitcomb & Shaftesbury, which would be half the price. They just choose not to.
Its interesting to see how people react to your take on what is a budget Simon. I´d figure that reading the blog regularly would at least give people some indication on what it is about.
Good morning Simon,
You make some very sensible points in the above article.Let me just add my two pennyworth in regard to watches.I love vintage gold dress watches but I tend to steer clear in the most part from iconic models like the tank,Reverso,oyster etc. because I like to be a little different from the mainstream in wearing timepieces. Anybody looking at my two gold watches might not realize their difference but I do.Both have larger bezels and one has a fairly rare movement and it’s original gold buckle from the 1950s.I had to source the other watche’s buckle(Omega) later.To be honest I have never seen better dress watches.And I’ve seen a lot.My point to anyone reading and on my wavelength is to search for something different and enjoy the hunt.
Nowadays,their are quite a few microband companies out there.Some have some nice offerings.I recently saw a military homage with an air ministry dial redolent of 1945.Very nice it was too.Be different folks.
Good points. As with the piece we wrote a while back on buying watches, it depends what your priorities are. With me for example, I like the idea of a classic marque such as Cartier, but don’t care so much about the movement. Others will be completely different.
Out of curiousity, what pieces have you bought from Loro Piana over the years? I cant remember seeing any post about this.
One was this suede gilet. Another was a navy bomber I’ve never covered. And a third a deerskin jacket – I think I’ve covered that but can’t find it
Great, thanks. I couldnt find anything on Loro Piana either using the Search function.
Great post as usual.
Why do you go for Edward Green over John Lobb or Gaziano for RTW?
Is there a big jump in quality between Crockett and Jones and Edward Green, and is that jump more noticeable in normal leather rather than suede?
I’d put Gaziano in exactly the same bracket. John Lobb I’ve just never liked many of the styles, and historically they were a little more expensive by virtue of being part of Hermes.
Yes I do notice a difference between Crocketts and EG, and yes it is more noticeable in calf – because some of the benefit is the way it polishes and ages. But there’s still some difference in suede.
One big difference I’ve noticed between higher-end shoes (EG, GG, SC, etc.) and Crockett has been the soles. My Crockett soles will worn down and ready for an expensive resole, while the high-end shoes still have plenty of life left. I haven’t tried handgrade Crocketts, so it’s possible that those use better sole leather.
This is incredibly useful. Thanks so much.
It was a surprise to see a watch as the number one item. The luxury watch market seems to spend huge amounts of money on advertising and celebrity endorsements. In the context of clothing, you’ve always pointed to this as one of the differences between large luxury brands and bespoke (and one of the reasons bespoke is better value overall). Luxury watches are also marketed as a status item for the very rich too. Assuming that celebrity endorsements and signals of wealth or status aren’t what matters to you, why do these features of the luxury watch market not deter you?
I wouldn’t read much into the fact it was point 1. That was random.
But it’s a good point – I do like classic makes of watches, and I am aware I will be paying more for them as a result. Buying second hand helps a lot there, as does not buying complicated movements, or seeking fashionable models or rare ones.
There’s more in these pieces in case you haven’t seen them:
How to buy a quality watchMy watches
This is a million miles from the target audience of this site, but the best way to shop on a budget is to buy vintage, to know what can and can’t be effectively altered, and to either learn to sew or pay someone to do the honours.
I know you occasionally dabble in vintage yourself, such as with your M65, but a while ago it occurred to me that nothing I regularly wear but my underwear and t-shirts was bought new, and virtually nothing is unaltered from when I received it. Not sure quite when it happened, but bit by bit over the last year or so my wardrobe was replaced with vintage finds bought on eBay at a tiny fraction of the original price. My shoes are especially good value for money, with Church’s, Alfred Sargent and Carlos Santos all in excellent condition, each bought for no more than £50.
I’m sure the average PS reader would have little interest in filling their wardrobe with vintage stuff, but it’s well worth the occasional browse to see what pops up. I was quite taken with the PS trench coat recently, but since I don’t have £1,000+ lying around – and my wife would kill me if I splashed out on yet another coat – I picked up a close vintage match on eBay for about £30, fired up the Singer and adjusted it to my liking. It’s a pretty relaxing hobby once you stop stabbing yourself with the needle.
I’m a personal stylist by trade and, obviously, most of the stuff I buy for my clients is new. But I absolutely love finding quality vintage and pre-owned pieces for a fraction of their original price. Making them work specifically for you (with the help of a knowledgeable tailor) is a completely different level of sartorial gratification. And also, you use what’s already been made. Good for the environment, good for your karma.
So I salute you and those brave and curious others who aim to build a perfect wardrobe that is mostly paid for with the time, knowledge, expertise and taste! For it is more challenging, but, truly, so much more satisfying.
An excellent summary, I agree with pretty much all of that.
The £6-7k for the Cartier watch I’d disagree with though. There are good watches for less than that with similar if not equal provenance.
Building a wardrobe is definitely something that is done best when you don’t need it right away. There’s no rush for fittings and deadlines and you can really build solid foundations, taking the time between each commission and learning about aspects of tailoring and style. I find my jeans have been worth the investments as I wear them pretty much every day (3 pairs twice a week) and they look and feel great. I went with Iron heart instead of Blackhorse lane as the fit was better and denim heavier. Also, one really needs much less clothes than one thinks he/she does. I did the 4 PS fabrics bespoke and really, I believe one denim and one Oxford would have been enough. I also have 3 bespoke formal shirts and I have never been short of an available shirt even if I have had to wear them 5 times a week. I feel the hardest thing when starting out is with suit cloth and how it’s going to look into a suit. I accidentally picked a shade bluer navy than what I would have wanted to pick for a blazer (due to artificial lighting etc) and it’s now probably going to be more of a summer sport coat. Also, suit clothing feels light when you are touching it in a bunch book but when you see it in real life, it’s completely different (13oz fabric felt quite light in the fingers until I had it made and is wonderfully balanced and I truly believe perfect for my suit). Another hard thing is to balance what you realistically need with what you expect you need. I bought two black captoe oxfords just in case I need to wear them everyday. I have pretty much never had to, so a brown would have been much more useful. Mine is not the absolutely tightest of budgets, but I have to plan and think ahead, so I never just go and splash out on something I haven’t planned for.
It’s a wonderful journey that’s exciting and I love how it’s “my thing.” Nobody knows how much I spend, on what, how much this excites me and how much I love it. It’s a process and journey not without its disappointments which have mainly come from makers or salesmen who I felt tried to rush me and weren’t as interested in the fit but more the sale.
Good luck to everyone.
Alex N. Dear
If budget is an issue I’d suggest eg a Nomos Tangente handwind, which is around 1,5k € to safe money for tailoring or shoes.
Some interesting advice, Simon, but I would take issue on a couple of your points.
On watches, something like a Cartier Tank is going to be too effeminate/petite for many people. For that money you can get a lot in the JLC/Rolex/Panerai/IWC ranges which would offer better alternatives. There are many established businesses selling high quality pre-owned watches which represent great value, which I would point people to.
On shirts, I don’t necessarily agree that MTM is a starting point. I do agree that the collar is the key focuses though, so you could, for example, look at Drakes and see if their standards collar shape suits you. If it does, fit/make quality will not be a problem and so better value will be found there.
On socks, you don’t mention wool, which are going to be longer lasting than cotton, and much more practical during the colder months.
Just my two pennyworth.
Nice pennies Adam, thanks.
You’re right on the other watch brands, I just rather like Cartier. Though on the budget side they do more quartz movements than most of the others, which helps affordability. I also bought all mind second hand.
On wool socks, you’re right they last longer than fine cottons. My feet just get too warm for them.
I do agree for Rolex, less for JLC & IWC, not at all for Panerai, way too bulky to be worn with a suit in my opinion. For IWC, you would often need to go vintage, as most models commercialized since 15 years are on the larger side (41 mm and onwards). Of course, it depends of your general frame and on your wrist size, but the smaller an the better when it comes to a dress watch. Simon, I assume you wouldn’t wear your IWC with a classic suit?
BTW, go second hand! even and excellent Tank could be bought from a respectable dealer for around 3.000 pounds – for a nice vintage dress IWC, even less than that…
Often times, instant gratification is a thing nowadays. People don’t really understand the saving up for something anymore. They just see how much you spend. The ony problem I’d say, is that one may change taste after having learned more. For me at least I find it valueable to experiment a bit with cheaper rtw/mtm before doing a bigger investment later. For example, if one were into the skinny fit today. One would have a hard time investing in bespoke with the looser fit, since one is not aware of how it should fit really with drape and so on. Some if these tastes/knowledges is more of a slow evolution. Thanks for great advice none the less.
With respect, I think this may be a pretty off-putting article for many. I’ve bought a few of PS items which they’ve been fairly extravagant purchases, and I’m always excited when you tackle something that fits more within my usual spending abilities. This looks like that, and then point one is spend 6k on a watch.
I realise lower income earners will be a pretty small part of the PS readership, and I accept that ‘budget’ is massively subjective, but for a very significant proportion of potential readers, almost entry is an indulgent purchase. Number 1 is unthinkable for most people.
I do know what you mean Neil, and it depends a lot on what you think it worth spending money on. As one thing you’ll buy in your entire life, I think that’s worth it. But I know many others would not.
I think the other points are perhaps less personal.
Goodness me, there are a lot of people disputing what constitutes a budget (although the blog must show new tailoring items every year that add up to 10s of thousands at full price).
Surely the observation of the watch is simply that if you want a watch then think about which watch you love that can be worn for 95% of circumstances, save up for it and buy it. Don’t decide to buy two watches, neither of which is quite what you want, so that you have watches that suit 100% of occasions but that you aren’t happy with for the rest of time (so you end up wanting to replace them) The fact that Simon’s choice is £6k is neither here nor there.
As for the rest, this is an exceptionally helpful list of suggestions of how to prioritise your purchases when looking to slowly build a wardrobe that means you won’t be discarding purchases as your average quality improves. The article reminds us to buy slowly, buy well and avoid anything that won’t last (whether because it is a slave to fashion or simply not durable) and if money is tight then prioritise tailoring and shoes. All of which seems very sensible to me and consistent with Simon’s thoughts over the years. I expect to look at this on a regular basis and think the article is as good as the capsule wardrobe articles (which are also excellent resources for people planning their wardrobe over time).
Thank you for the article. I greatly enjoyed reading it.
For the record, I do not wear a watch and have long been of the opinion that I won’t until I can decide what my dream watch is and save up for it. Over the years, I’ve dallied with a fancy for a Patek, a Söhne, a Breguet, a JLC and many others (including plenty that were a fraction of the price of the most regular contenders) but haven’t had a favourite for long enough to ever justify the purchase. On that basis, I’ve spent the money on shoes and although I have no idea what time it is, I’m happy every time I look at my feet.
The watch is the most expensive category and also the one that can be ignored. I sold the only watch I owned (IWC rattrapante) years ago and while I still love it, I am glad I sold it. Not to mention less stress of dropping it, less hassle when putting (even bespoke) french cuffs on and off, no more rewinding, maintenance costs, and the freedom feeling of a lighter wrist…
I feel people may be getting hung up on the watch issue. Taking aside the fact that, if one were to buy the watch new, they may lose upwards of 20% of its value as soon as the transaction is made, I think Simon’s fundamental point is a good one – a good quality, mechanical dress watch is an excellent investment, and Cartier makes some lovely examples (I don’t think they are ‘too small or effeminate’ as one commenter suggested – a dress watch should be understated and elegant, not a chunky dinner plate). If chosen with care and appropriate boning up on the various styles and makes available, it’s very easy to have a one-watch collection that will last a person’s lifetime, or beyond if one chooses to pass it on to younger generations. Just maybe go second hand.
Fantastic article and a great distillation of many of the key lessons I’ve taken from PS over the years. To be honest, I think you could have perfectly happily removed the words “on a budget” from the title, and the contents would be just as relevant as this is exactly how everybody should start out building their wardrobe.
I’m also in enthusiastic agreement with the other commenters who emphasize the value of going SLOWLY. Not just because it’s a way of budgeting, but because you need time to develop your style and understand which items you need. Some of my most expensive “mistakes” were items many would consider staples, but got very little wear simply because they didn’t fit with the way I live and work: black captoe Oxfords (I very seldom wear suits to work and always end up going for dark brown instead) grey heavy flannel suit (the trousers are great, but the whole ensemble is too formal and wears far too hot) bespoke overcoat (made by an English tailor and the structured cut didn’t work with anything even slightly casual). Even if money’s less of an issue, and you can afford to have everything made bespoke, it’s still very easy to buy things that will ultimately leave you unsatisfied if you rush.
Dear Simon, thanks for this article, but it is possible for you to consider writing an article about quality stuff from high street or similar vendors? I remember back in 2006 or 2007 Thomas Mahon wrote an article on his former blog English Cut and quite endorsed M&S suits back then. I believe that in UK you may find decent brands and quality even in brands such as Charles Tyrwhitt, T. M. Lewin, Loake shoes etc.
The issue is to do that well, I would have to see, buy and try a large volume of clothing that isn’t what we normally cover.
However, it is very possible for you to assess this yourself – see the How To Buy Quality guide, for example. That enables you to assess quality in any price range, including M&S suits!
Now how about the guy who fors wear a suit Monday through Friday?
Another great article Simon, thank you.
Where do you stand with regard to activity trackers / smart watches? I find my Apple Watch really helpful for heart rate and step monitoring, and like a Swatch almost classless. But it’s at the expense of something special on my wrist – and the trend of doubling up with both a Fitbit and big watch really doesn’t appeal to me as a look. Am I missing a trick?
Personally, I don’t think anyone them look nice enough or elegant, but then those are my priorities.
I love the look of technology, but I don’t want to wear it. It’s a different look. My clothes are not sleek and smooth and plastic or metal.
I guess the ideal would be activity tracking on your phone, keeping your wrist free?
This is a great article, and I’m apart of the small audience that can’t afford these but I do agree that pieces should be curated slowly over the years. If you were me, starting from scratch as a college freshman, how would you approach your style and starting a wardrobe from nothing?
That’s a big question Nathan, and something we’ve written about a lot over the years I guess.
There is a whole section called ‘Wardrobe building’ in the menu – perhaps have a look through those pieces and leave some specific questions there when you have them?
Good luck on your journey….
A nice piece, and one that seems to have struck a chord for many readers. I appreciate your comments on choosing to prioritize spending your budget on clothing, and also readers’ points on what “budget” really means. Perhaps in the future you could do a post (or a series of posts) that take on the topic of quality menswear within the context of various budgets readers may have for their clothing. For example, you did a nice piece a while back on swapping different pieces of clothing in the context of different office settings– perhaps an analogous piece when it comes to different budgets: $2000/year vs $8000/year vs $20000/year for clothes. Another thought would be do a post on a specific item of clothing– say trousers, or shoes– stratified by price point: what to buy if you are going to spend $200 vs $500 vs $2000.
Making price an explicit focus (or point of differentiation) may help readers work within their various budgets, and also be a useful lens that could be used to discuss the themes this site focuses on so well, such as fit, cut, quality, value.
Nice suggestions Justin, thank you
Great to read this. I have found my own way of using my budget for the things I value and negotiating the choices so I am happy with what I buy. The key thing is to make informed decisions – a reason why I so enjoy your posts. I admit I read the odd few with a ” the man’s mad” thought when I see the pricing of some of the commissions: All part of my education and your wonderful journey!
I sometimes wait for the deal on something I covet – if it comes along great. The factory shops of the Northampton shoemakers can yield gems. I’ve Edward Greens and C&J that I love, bought over the years for a fraction of retail. Usual sale purchasing rules apply : Only buy what you love and would consider paying full price to get.
Shirts I get from Simone Abbarchi exactly as you describe. They are just what I want and so they represent real value.
Part of the fun is the planning and sourcing as well as wearing and caring for the collection in my wardrobe.
Best wishes Nigel
While I enjoyed reading your piece, I do feel – with others – that it does not have anything particularly ‘budget’ about it. I have a very reasonable income, I am an older person and I could never afford any of the items you discuss – except the socks and underwear. I could never pay thousands for a watch, nor for an item of clothing.
I wonder if, sometimes, you misjudge your market. My guess is that there are many out there that, like me, regularly read your articles – even though we could not afford to buy many – or any – of the pieces that you review or buy. How would you describe your typical reader, given that ‘typical’ is a slippery concept (as is budget)? I would think that you would represent a very tiny minority of people if they are people that could easily afford your usual recommendations.
When you set up PS, you clearly had a ‘person’ in mind. Who is that person?
I too would love to read a realistic ‘budget’ piece, written by you. A piece that would describe things that a much broader range of people could buy. Many truly affordable items also have ‘permanent style’.
As soon as I read the first suggestion about the watch, I knew there was going to be a lot of feedback. I agree with other commenters that vintage is one way to go. I would also look at a brand like Seiko, which makes a huge variety of watches from entry-level models available at mid-tier department stores to Grand Seikos aimed at competing with luxury Swiss brands.
It’s entirely natural, and also a little funny, how triggering this piece has been for so many people. As someone who’s read every post for the better part of a decade, I have to say that this advice is absolutely consistent with posts from ten years ago — it’s just more reflective, given years of living with expensive mistakes on the one hand and indulgences that turn out to give more pleasure than one can possibly have imagined. I am an academic, not a profession known for its dress sense, but I like nice clothing and when I reached a point at which I could more or less afford it, I started to wear it. After several expensive mistakes, and more time reading PS, the main thing I have learned about putting together a wardrobe that is both what I want and what I can afford is to go slowly and not settle for something that’s only sort of right because its in the sales or it’s what you can justify to yourself or your partner at that moment. If you do, you’ll be disappointed. And sometimes, also, the indulgence is worth it and grows more so over time — when I was seriously considering pursuing senior administration as a career alternative, I started looking at watches, because although not many faculty wear them, they are a de rigueur part of the academic administrator’s uniform. Clunky, big Rolexes are the norm, as obvious and legible advertisements of status, and had I bought a watch ten years ago, I might have gone with one. But having developed a nice enough wardrobe and shoe collection, and learned what I really like and what I don’t, and how often I wear what level of formality, I was able to settle on a vintage Seamaster De Ville, for about a third of what a flash Datejust or Speedmaster what have cost. Fitted with a perfectly plain cordovan band in color number 8, it goes with just about everything I own and I can wear it for everything except serious hiking. Every time I put it on, it gives me a sense of pleasure that continues to surprise me. It is probably the single best wardrobe purchase I’ve ever made, and second only to my first pair of good Northampton shoes in my affections (pre-Prada Church’s, still with me). The advice in this post is excellent. Go slow, learn what you like, accept that you’ll make one or two catastrophic choices along the way, and for the really big ticket items, don’t take the plunge till you’re absolutely sure you know your own tastes.
1/ Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 white grape. Correct size, perfect versatility and style. Must be seen in person. Get.
2/ Simone Abbarchi
3/ Cheaney Imperial oxfords. Cheaney Jackie III boots. Cheaney Howard loafers
4/ Orlebar Brown Griffon trousers. Wait for 50%+ frequent sales
5/ Graham Browne December offer
6/ eBay. Vintage BurberryS’
8/ that would be nice
9/ LVC 501 1954 raw. Or Anglo Italian for lighter shades
10/ utilise Sunspel 70% sale
Sound advice and I appreciate you relaying this to a segment of your readers who are on a budget. As for jeans, I will only comment that if you are on a budget I think it would be best to invest on a less expensive option for selvedge or non-selvedge, such as J. Crew. They wear well and last. And then as one moves up in budget, to invest in the more expensive jeans options out there.
I disagree that a sports watch cannot be used formally. I saved up and bought an Omega Seamaster Professional and, in my opinion, goes with casual and formal, even a tux. Now, the dial is not huge and it is rather basic which may have something to do with it being flexible.
As for shoes, there are less expensive good year welted options, such as Allen Edmonds. Not on par with Northampton shoes, but less expensive and can be resoled. This is how I started out on the journey of buying better shoes. I have since graduated to Crockett & Jones, and I am now eyeing a pair of Edward Green shoes for the spring.
I do not think someone on a budget needs to buy a bespoke overcoat. Again, many options for someone on a budget. I have this old GAP overcoat which I I still use and get many compliments on.
Finally, if you are on a budget, wait for the holiday or yearly sales. Products will go on sale.
Love these sorts of articles.
I’d add three things:
1. Save up for high-quality casual outerwear – it gets worn A TON and is the first thing people see.
2. Similarly, buy one really good cashmere shawl cardigan in a staple color. SUPER versatile – can be worn in place of outerwear or a sports jacket, and with the most casual of outfits.
3. Get a good-quality leather bag that will age well (Clegg is a great choice in the ~$1,000 price range).
(And on the topic of leather goods, I’d love a more in-depth, visit-type piece on Charlie Trevor and Equus – they’ve started doing some FANTASTIC-looking work on larger-scale items of late…)
The challenge with all of this is your wardrobe should be built around what you do and the life you live. Every flaneur is different.
When I was a globe trotting captain of industry my wardrobe was bulging with suits.
Now I have turned the page to be a gentleman adventurer, my wardrobe is completely different.
As I don’t really have to shop on a budget, my comments could be reasonably regarded as superfluous. That said, I think my contribution would be to encourage a focus on longevity. That is the real economy and that requires knowledge, flair and discipline . I have shoes that are ten years old, they’ve been a great investment. When you do that, what you payed in the first instance, is less of an issue.
Sometimes Simon is quite good on this. Very specifically with some of his joint ventures.
For example, his PW Trench is a masterpiece. If you are starting out and want one coat that can straddle town and country, smart and casual, this is it. At £1500 it may look expensive but when you consider its wear, versatility and longevity , it is a snip.
Conversely, some time ago,he was promoting a ‘Tomahawk’ throwers cardigan that he bought from RL for some ludicrous If he wears it at all, it is probably to dig the garden. It was a ridiculous idea at the time and is even more ridiculous with the passage of time.
At the end of the day, Simon does a great job dissecting this stuff and it is for each flaneur to plow his own furrow.
Are 1-2 pairs of shoes per year necessary? Quality shoes will last a while with resoles. Or are you referring just to the first couple of years? Seems that after a few years most people will have accumulated a good collection of shoes, and can start investing in maintenance instead.
Yes good point, you don’t need more than one after a few years
I love most of your site, but I think you missed the mark a bit on this one Simon. As someone who actually shops on a budget, let me comment on each piece of advice.
1. I’d skip the watch. If you do, you’ll have a lot more money to spend elsewhere. Also, you can be perfectly well dressed without a watch.
2. MTM shirts are often pretty similar in price to RTW shirts, so I won’t object here. I would just add a few points. 1) If you go a little baggier in the fit of the shirt, the shirt will last longer without looking ridiculous. Remember, most of the time you will be wearing your shirt under a jacket, sweater, or piece of outerwear. 2) If it is suitable to your lifestyle, buy more durable cloths like oxford. They last longer. 3) The less you wash your shirt the longer it will last. You can probably get by with two wears between washes, unless you sweat a lot.
3. If you are on a budget, I can’t recommend anything above mid-range, e.g. CJ, Alden, Lof & Tung (not all the same quality, I realize). The returns beyond that point diminish significantly. Also, nicer shoes beyond this range don’t make that big of a difference to one’s appearance. What matters most here is that you buy tasteful shoes that are versatile (e.g. penny loafers, captoe oxfords, NSTS, PTBs). There are many more tasteful options in this price category than there were even 5 years ago. Buy in sober colors. Don’t buy too many shoes. You will probably need 5 or 6 proper shoes to cover your bases (rain, winter, summer, formal, informal, etc.) so don’t go on some quixotic quest to find the perfect one or two shoes.
4. RTW is fine for most. I would just add that you should buy in more durable cloths that last longer. This means heavier fabrics with more integrity (sorry flannel). Also, slimmer pants won’t last as long, so go for something a little less on the slim-side.
5. Most men can be very well dressed in RTW. Maybe once you are out of the wardrobe building phase and aren’t buying clothes as regularly, you can step-up to bespoke. Until, then though, I wouldn’t recommend it. After the fit is good enough, what matters most is taste. There are plenty of good tasteful RTW options these days that will fit many men quite well. I also think most men trying to build a wardrobe don’t have the time for or access to bespoke tailors.
6. This is rather extravagant. I know PS people aren’t that into used clothing, but you can actually get great overcoats for not that much that are used. Unlike jacket styles, overcoat styles haven’t changed that much over time (you don’t have to worry about overly bellied lapels, for instance). Overcoats also hold up really well durability-wise so there are plenty of good vintage overcoats on the market. Older overcoats were also often made in heavier fabrics than most of what you will see today. This is quite nice. I also think overcoats can look quite good when fitting a bit looser (a picture of Simon in a Panico coat comes to mind). As such, super precise fit isn’t that important. I have a couple of vintage coats from Paul Stuart. I think I got each one for about $50. They are both great and much nicer than a RTW coat I bought for $1000.
7. Agree. I would also add that people should buy more conservative items that are more versatile.
8. For many people, the other pieces will be their indulgences. Still, I agree that the occasional unexpected piece can make things more fun and less routine.
9. I don’t wear jeans, so I won’t comment.
10. Agree, except for socks. Nice socks (e.g. Bresciani) can really make an ensemble look much nicer without costing too much. Quality navy, or forest green, or burgundy, or cream, or charcoal socks (preferably in wool) can add a nice understated pop to an outift. Nicer socks cost $20-30 a pair, which means you can get two weeks worth of socks for roughly $200, which is similar to the price of two ties.
As, what I would consider, a low income earner for a PS reader, I think the criticism is a bit harsh and unfounded. Aside from the personal price point placed on a quality watch, I am not sure how you could create a “more affordable” list of suggestions without falling into the cheaper, less sustainable category of fast fashion.
I transitioned from the military at age 28, entering the professional world of finance with only one cheap suit to my name outside of uniforms. My barren wardrobe forced me to buy quite a bit in a short amount of time. This list along with the rest of Simon’s articles have taught me that I still could have been slower and spent less over the long run. As methodical as I was in rapidly ramping up my work wear, I am still paying for avoidable sins. Grudgingly replacing inferior pieces, donating underused purchases, all to create a more cohesive closet.
This article, along with the majority of Simon’s writings, provide enough detail for me to understand the “why”. I can then deduce for myself what my priorities are and spend or save money where I believe it is important. I have not had the pleasure of purchasing anything from the PS shop aside from books but, because of the detail in each article, I have been able to recreate pieces needed that fits my own level of satisfaction.
So before focusing on a single price tag in the article, I would suggest looking at the body of work and spirit of what is being said. From an educational point of view, it is much easier to learn from the best, finest, most detailed wardrobe that money can buy than going from the bottom up and searching for the standard. An old American saying (though it could have just been my uncle’s) is, “No one has ever been inspired to become a baseball player by watching T-ball. “ The highest standard is what inspires and can be learned from. But that doesn’t mean we can enjoy a game of backyard ball.
And I coming down off of my soapbox soliloquy before I scratch my Allen Edmond loafers.
Excellent article Simon. While the issue of budget is always one that is up for debate, viewed through the filter of your posts which consistently resonates the theme of quality it is very appropriate. It certainly appears that there are years of amalgamated knowledge and experience/mistakes that have shaped these insights. Extremely useful and a framework to work with.
Keep up the great work.
Hi Simon, thank you for your wonderful content! Would you suggest someone who is starting to build a wardrobe to get two pairs of trousers for each suit?
Yes, if they are your first suit or two then it’s always worth it
For me, this is the advice I would have been grateful for when I was in my 40s, though I’d have ignored the advice on the watch. It’s the clothing that matters.
As it is, I’m too old and too long retired to benefit. However, thanks to you I discovered Edward Green shoes a few years ago. I’ve a pair of Chelseas and a pair of Banburys. They’re far and away the most comfortable shoes I have.
I greatly enjoyed this article! I am a professional, and well beyond a decade in my career, but honestly I could not afford much of this as more than a single item per year sort of a thing, that said, I’ve amassed my wardrobe largely through inheritance and vintage shops and made to measure and some bespoke as well, and done so steadily, but slowly over many, many years. I did not jump on any band-wagons of fads, for the most part, and took my time and it has benefitted me. I do regret the second to last MTM suit which I commissioned as it is lovely except for the dratted darts which I cannot now abide after consideration.
That said, what I think that a lot of the dissenters have failed to grasp, is that you specifically stated that the development of a wardrobe should be a gradual process. I said this many times to my clients when I owned and operated my own image consultation firm, and it still holds true. You don’t go out and purchase more than a single thing at a time unless you already have an established taste and style and the economic stability to allow such an extravagance. I buy maybe 1 to 3 shirts per year (I have far too many but I enjoy the variety and the different weights for the seasons), and purchasing a $50 vintage Brooks Brothers shirt 2 to 3 times annually or , or a new MTM Mercer and Sons or Michael Spencer Shirt in the $200. range perhaps once or twice per year is my version of acceptable allowance on that. I always purchase Church’s shoes as those are what my Father and Grandfather largely wore, and I have many of theirs, so my purchases are few and far between; deadstock items or factory seconds from Ebay aside. On that note; a good pair of English made shoes should not necessarily ever wear out with proper care, ditto Aldens.
I don’t particularly need many tailored items as I inherited many, but I did recently invest in a DB 4 piece suit, as we previously discussed! It should be arriving shortly! My tailor allowed me to make payments, which I did; most tailors will do this with a reasonable down payment, and it makes MTM and even bespoke far more accessible for anyone.
As a another note, I’d like to suggest that people not chase fads, search for specific items which you need to fill gaps in yr wardrobe, and avoid bold items, go for basics! Instead of a bottle green or lilac colored Shetland sweater, go for a natural colored or Lovat or navy or brown one in a conservative style. Go for versatility; instead of a drastically spread collared shirt, unless that’s particularly suitable for yr face, go for a button down or a simple semi spread or point collar shirt, but as per always only get the best that you can afford, of course.
Simon, I would suggest against a blue overcoat, as a gray or even a camel colored one is more versatile, of course a cotton or blend Balmaccan raincoat in khaki with a liner does double duty, and you can easily procure a decent one from most makers. I’d also suggest that instead of a bespoke overcoat, a MTM overcoat offers most of the same benefits at a fraction of the cost. I typically just wear ones that I’ve inherited, so that’s a moot point for me however, except for my desire to have my Grandfather’s pre-WWII German raincoat recreated by my tailor.
I would say that the one thing that should be high-lighted here, and drastically so, Simon, is that the development and expansion of a wardrobe should be an organic thing that grows as the individual grows. My tastes and style now are not what they were 10 years ago, by far, and are not even what they were necessarily, 5 years ago, though the inklings of it were already present and honestly had always been. Don’t expect to purchase a bespoke or MTM suit or 2 or 3 in one year, along with dress shoes and dress shirts and the rest. Start with a good pair of solid English Oxfords, perhaps some American or English loafers in a discrete and classic pattern, ensure you have one each of a jumper sweater and a cardigan perhaps if it suits yr style and taste. Plain and discrete odd trousers in 3 gradients of formality, ditto that for button up shirts in discrete patterns and colors; think basic stripes and such, eschew loud or bold or busy patterns which are quickly dated.
Keep these coming Simon! I do think some of the people who had a problem with yr cited price points were a bit disingenuous as they are operating from a position assuming that they would be incapable of extrapolating from yr given guidelines for a lower price point as necessary, I know, as I’m sure most others here do, that you were discussing the idea and philosophy behind such a program of wardrobe development.
This article could have avoided much criticism by offering principles and guidelines instead of specific purchasing recommendations. There aren’t that many:
The measure of affordability is $/use (time worn). In order to minimize this quantity, one should 1) find a good local tailor, cleaner and cobbler and 2) buy stuff from durable, quality materials (ceteris paribus): low tc oxfords, denims, twills, flannels, etc. Items become truly unwearable only when the fabric rips or stains. English shoemakers don’t have a monopoly on quality leather.
In terms of visual impact, the primary justification of higher $/use is fit. Whether this justifies mtm or bespoke depends on the buyer’s body. If you have a sample-model figure, rtw works just fine. The suit jacket is probably the item most enhanced by a better personalized fit and that’s why mtm/bespoke jackets/suits are the first to be justified. But it’s conceivable that bespoke shirts are equally justified, given a particularly idiosyncratic body. The key is a detailed knowledge of what looks good, which, thanks to sites like PS, can be acquired for free.
Color/pattern/texture and quality of materials also justifies a higher $/use. The key is knowing what looks good together and what looks particularly cheap.
Stick with age-appropriate, traditional styles and proportions.
Finally, Simon’s points of getting one pair of jeans and economizing on the basics can be generalized into the principle of understanding what makes a visual impact. Bold patterns, colors, and prints speak loudly. Your overcoat dominates in the cold, but that t-shirt becomes equally important on the beach. No one notices that you’re wearing two different gray flannels this week.
Applying these principles with an awareness of sales dates, one can maximize the quality acquired with his budget, even if it doesn’t have room for £1500 suits.
I tend to agree with the first gentleman. 6-7k in a watch isn’t my idea of ‘budget’. But the general principle of a few lovely items is one I try to go along with. I love reading the articles but almost everything that is suggested is way beyond what I could pay. Perhaps I have also been reading the wrong website all this time! Perhaps in fact it’s intended for Anna Wintour’s entourage?!
I think this is a very interesting angle and found this a useful way to think about upgrades. I agree that affordability is relative, but you do make the point of building up over time.
Regarding Northampton shoes, the factory shops can represent excellent value. At C&J and Church’s I have paid less than half of RRP.
About watches- you said that you don’t care so much about movement. As you know some brands will manufacture everything in house eg Rolex. Others will use a pre-manufactured mechanism which can still be very reliable and high quality. I think this parallels with a bespoke tailor making everything by hand and another brand getting Zegna, Rota etc to make their clothing. Nothing wrong with that, but one feels more authentic than the other. I’m surprised this is something that didn’t interest you more given your approach to craft and clothing.
I also think that a classic steel sports watch works well with formal and casual clothing and a dress watch should be the second watch you buy. Just my opinion.
Hello Simon. You are for sure a good sport replying on these comments including mine. Thanks very much.
There seems do be a lot of the same going on in the comments and I think I understand wy. The thing about this budget subject is that people are just very interested in how someone with a lot of expertise would spend his money if he had a much smaller budget. Seriously it’s a returning thing. It happened on the post about vintage clothing too. You see reviews from experts trying butget products all the time on YouTube. A famous wine expert blind tasting bottles below 10 euros for example. A worldclass guitar trying out cheap guitars and gives his opinion about them…It’s just a lot of fun to see and it would be helpful to the people watching it. But.. It looks like you don’t have any interest in doing something like that.
I understand your blog is not really about that. But it would be great if you would do that once in a while. Or maby just once 🙂 :). Thanks once again.
I guess this was a genuine attempt to answer that – the budget described above is still less than I spend and that I know a lot others spend. I have four watches of that value, not one. I have several bespoke overcoats, not one. And I know several guys that have bought one fairly expensive watch, and then three years later decided they can now afford a more expensive one.
I think the issue is often about saving up, as a few people have pointed out. People genuinely find it difficult to save up for one great piece, like an overcoat, and not buy another for 5-10 years. There’s too much consumerism around it.
I can certainly look into a cheaper range, but this is still how I shopped, and certainly aspired to shop, when I was a graduate journalist earning 18k a year. I tend to assume most readers are at that level or above.
Simon – clearly getting a lot of flack here for the price point pitched at still being too high. Slightly maddening in consideration of the website subject matter and the dilution this website would undergo if you started pitching at a “high street” level.
Think you’ve got the balance right and that these articles remain helpful; I don’t want to come here and be recommended a Topshop overcoat because it hits a price point rather than a quality level, however, the occasional cheaper alternative article (such as this one) is extremely useful. We all know the clothing price/quality curve is a steep one for incremental value.
I think it’s a hard balance to find with watches..on the one hand as a person who greatly values watches and owns a couple of pieces a bit above the Cartier Tank price range I feel that a versatile watch is one of the best things to have as it just has a precious value about it above other wardrobe items and can be used every day. However eliminating the expensive watch or even choosing something in the more £1000 range does gives you plenty of budget for the other items Simon mentions. Longines have great options, Nomos more modern but also versatile.
Definitely agree w the recommendation of high quality classic shoes, there’s something nice about polishing up some good oxfords
I suppose I relate a bit to some of the other commenters wondering what income bracket we’re referring to when it comes to ‘budget’ buys. Most of the items I see discussed on this site are ones I don’t ever expect to be able to afford, or see friends and neighbors afford, though I live in a very affluent area.
I may not represent your target audience, Mr. Crompton, but I find your website uniquely compelling because you do such an excellent job teaching us broadly in finer details of menswear — especially by explaining the reasons WHY things are what they are. You certainly stand alone in this respect. The mixing, matching and wearing of things as an ensemble is also an education, as is your discussion of what to prioritize and wardrobe longevity. I’m always interested in what might pop up here from week to week, and you always give me ideas and inspiration even though my wardrobe looks nothing like yours.
I see most of the items you discuss elsewhere as archetypal; the best and finest versions of a given thing. They serve me as a model as I explore and consider more affordable options. It trickles down, I suppose you could say, and I would guess I’m not the only one who reads your articles to that end.
I do wonder when I look back your earlier entries — which generally favored a more restrained budget — how many conclusions agree with you now. Your tastes have certainly grown more refined (and so more expensive) from the early days, but are any items you once thought worthy still worthy now? I see your mention of Crockett & Jones above, and also I remember praise for Suit Supply (both of which may better reflect others’ ideas of budget shopping). They may represent something far from the bespoke work you cover now, but in light of your travels through the high-end of the market, are there any manufacturers lower down that still hold merit and relative value?
Yes, I think most of them do. Perhaps less so Suit Supply, but for example my first bespoke overcoat from Graham Browne – I got the design wrong, but it was less than £1000 and would have lasted years and years. And I was on £18k or similar back then, as a fairly recent graduate.
Interested to know what concerns you have with Suit Supply? I am not a big shopper of theirs but for what you are describing above on a budget, and in particular shirts and trousers, then surely they should be in contention as an option for most people? They have a decent range of those items, both in cloth and design but the good thing is the adjustment to make the right fit (not quite MTM) but at least alterations on both shirts and trousers to a decent level?
Interested to hear why you think they should not be recommended?
It’s the experience of several friends over the years there. In general their comments and experiences have been (though this is of course still just anecdotal):
– The quality is OK, but only in proportion to the price. You’re not getting any more than you pay for. This is often in quality of construction, with emphasis on name fabrics instead.
– The style of most things is showy and loud, not necessarily a brand you want to take advice from. That will matter less to people that know exactly what they want, but it’s a reason not to recommend them to everyone else.
– Inconsistent fit and process, often depending on the store or the person serving you. Some things come back great, others are clearly someone working with the system for the first time.
Those that have tried SuitSupply and then some of the other names mentioned here, have said that they ended up trading up in future as it was worth it in the long term.
In the end, they’re not that different to many cheaper MTM houses, and have the same issues. They just tend to get more attention because they’re now so big, and because they’re good at jumping on sartorial trends.
Interested to hear whether any of this chimes with your experiences though.
Good points and you are right. The fabrics are not the best nor the construction.
The key point is the salesperson and the fitting. What helps is if you have been through bespoke or MTM and know what you are after so you can guide them on what needs doing. I think that is the most important point, telling them you need it 1/2 inch higher or the seat needs 1 inch more etc.
I have purchase a couple if jackets, trousers and a few shirts from them over the past 3-5 years..
They all still fit (because I know what I wanted) and going strong.
I choose jackets more for the summer (linen/silk mix etc) so lighter, less construction but easier to wear/ mix and match.
Less formal too – that helps.
One suit as well….I wear that one less these days but the fitting is OK, more the wear and tear..
I guess the point is, your friends are right but if you know the process and can guide the shop assistant it makes a BIG difference to the end product. Also – it’s budget. sub £300 for a linen jacket for the summer or sub £200 for a pair of trousers…it fits some of the readers requirements…possibly.
Thanks David, really useful
I began building my wardrobe about 9 years ago when I was about 20.
I’ve spent thousands of dollars on high street, mr. porter and suit supply. If I look at my wardrobe now, I’ve either sold of gifted every single piece. In the end that was a big waste of money and not what one should aspire to. The one thing I still have is the timepiece I bought. (Used IWC Portofino for about 4K) So to me it absolutely makes sense to spend a little bit more here. That is of course only if a watch is something you consider “important”. One can easily be happy with a swatch or none at all.
The wardrobe I’ve began to build within the last 5 years, is pretty much consistent with your recommendations. It will last years or hopefully decades.
A personal hint: I own about 8 pairs of EG, John Lobb and St. Crispins. All of them bought slightly used on ebay for about half of retail.
Could you elaborate a bit on how their fabrics differ in quality? Do producers as VBC or Reda produce in different quality for Suitsupply? I assumed the fabrics would be good and the difference would be mainly in the construction.
An interesting post. I agree with the comments about saving for something and whilst the advice may not suit more modest budgets, the essence of it can be taken and adapted. Yes, get a nice watch if this is what you want and join a eatch forum where advice and quality secondhand watches are available. Get the best shoes you can afford – one pair perhaps, and use cheaper ones for every day use. I am happy to be patient – took me 2 years to save for my C and J boots. Saved one year for nice pair of flannel trousers. I still can’t see me getting a bespoke suit, however i accept that i will just have to save a long while for what i want. Whilst doing so, it is great to read the advice here (articles and comments). So a helpful article, and as always gives me food for thought. Thank you
Hi Simon, interesting post. Can I ask what your views are on Graham Browne now. I get the impression reading thorough recent posts that mention GB that you are no longer a fan. Is this correct? The reason that I ask is that I notice that they have their annual Christmas sale coming up and wonder whether they would be a good option for people looking for bespoke at a lower price point? Am I correct in saying that the create an individual pattern for each customer and use a fully floating canvas?
I wouldn’t say I’m not a fan, I still think they represent great value for money if you want a structured English suit style. You miss quite a lot of the finesse of a west end suit, but that’s not what everyone wants – and indeed not what those City tailors were set up to offer
Thanks. When you say finesse, what do you mean? Do they represent better value/quality than a RTW or MTM at similar price point?
It’s hard to describe the points in detail, but it’s things like slightly fewer fittings, less finishing and finishing not at the same fineness. Doing the fundamentals of bespoke, basically, like a bespoke pattern, but saving time in every other area.
Simon if a weeks wage is ideal for a pair of quality shoes which I totally agree with. How many weeks salary should be spent on a tailored Jacket?
Good question. Perhaps 2-3? So if £400 on shoes then £800-£1200 on a jacket? It will depend on a few more things though, like whether the person is just starting a wardrobe so will need more than one a year, and whether their body means they benefit more from MTM/bespoke
Thanks Simon! That seems a prudent principle that anyone from any income group can use!
Thank you for always responding to your readers’ comments! Should one be concerned about the colour tone (cold vs warm)of the wardrobe when starting out?
Warm v cold is about things working together mostly, so it’s worth bearing in mind as you add pieces to the wardrobe.
But it will also be partly determined by your lifestyle – formal clothing, suits and black shoes, will tend to be cold naturally, while casual or country things will be warmer.
Dear Simon, I think this article raises a number of important points and I hope you would agree that it is wise to reflect upon them.
First of all, you have constructed a distinct and respected brand in Permanent Style. It is a brand with a consistent voice and integrity. That voice and identity should be preserved because it is what makes you unique.
Second, while regular readers should be very familiar with your clearly stated preference for bespoke and well thought-through philosophy around what constitutes value, it would be a shame if you made the same mistake so many specialist media brands do of becoming elitist and inaccessible. It is therefore refreshing and reassuring to see you attempt a post such as this one.
Third, several readers have made the same observation about you leading your list with a high-end watch and that should be sufficient for you to concede you have made a rare error rather than dig deeper and attempt to justify your decision. It is perfectly okay to make a genuine error and a permanently stylish gentlemen would be better to acknowledge this with good grace and quietly put it right – it’s not as if you are being trolled here.
Fourth, as much as I and many others who enjoy your site may value traditional craft, authenticity and the highest quality materials, it is possible to be stylish without any of those things. Those on the smallest budget can take great joy from your superb articles on colour combinations, contrasting textures and how to put outfits together. Armed with this information memorable style could be achieved from a trip to any high street. I am sure there are many on modest incomes who enjoy your site for the vicarious pleasure it gives them to watch you detail a bespoke commission but the greatest value they take is from having their eyes opened to the benefits of wearing green.
Fifth, any audience is a coalition of different people united by a common thread. Some will be bespoke obsessives, some will be more than satisfied with an off-the-peg jacket from Drake’s and some will be delighted inspiration for a budget. What none of these groups want is dilution, but what all of them want is for you to really commit when you set out to cater for them directly. While in all fairness you piece explains how this is YOUR approach to a budget, that nuance will be lost on the many who associate the word ‘budget’ with having limited income for the nice things in life.
I trust you will take these comments as constructive input from a long-time reader but first-time commenter and not see them as an attack on your character or editorial decision making. This is an excellent resource and one you have clearly taken significant personal risks to continue bringing us. Thank you for the unique and informative worldview you continue to gift us, I’m sure I speak on behalf of many in expressing this sentiment.
Thank you Paul, these are very helpful comments and I really appreciate them.
I do genuinely think one good watch at this value, once in your life, is a good investment, and I hope I’ve put that across with grace. It’s the one thing you can wear every day, and I’ve never regretted my decisions there, even though mine were bought when my income was much lower, and involved significant saving.
It was clearly a mistake to lead with that though.
I do hope this all comes across honestly. I never mean to be defensive, but I also appreciate readers highlighting the risk when it’s there.
One of the greatest things about this site is that back and forth with readers, and the sharing of perspectives.
Thank you again for the thoughtful comment.
I think it’s a helpful piece (and I suspect a lot of the commentary could have been avoided by adding “smaller” in front of budget). Like many readers I take inspiration not orders from the blog. I could afford but not justify bespoke suits – I travel a lot and they’ll get knocked about too much on trains, planes and automobiles. But I’ve found RTW brands that fit well, look good and are at the right price point based on the analysis here. Sports jackets, ties and scarves I tend to buy second hand, shirts made to measure, shows from Cheaney, jeans from BHL or Ironheart (if you think suits are a man’s armour try a pair of their 21oz 888 jeans – amazing), etc. I haven’t cracked trousers yet. And I will never, ever, buy an expensive watch. Feels like an unpleasant display of wealth – but that’s my bias. it’s a journey and Simon provides sign posts I’ve found very helpful. Thank you.
Simon, I think you under-estimate the reach of Permanent Style. Not everyone who reads Evo is in the market for a supercar. That doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy reading about them or can’t draw inspiration from them. Personally, living and working in the rural southwest, I have no need or desire to own either a supercar of a £10k suit. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate these items or that they are irrelevant to me. I don’t need or want to spend that kind of money on a suit. But I might be inspired to invest in a nice tailored jacket, some better quality shirts or some nice knitwear. I think perhaps this article didn’t need to specify a budget at all, as this has unfortunately distracted from its real utility, which for me lies in (a) understanding where to spend more to add the most value (and vice versa) and (b) that if quality is prioritised over speed a wardrobe needs to be built gradually over time. Have a great Christmas.
Thanks Simon. You’re right, perhaps it was mis-titled.
… Or it was incredibly cleverly titled to generate a torrent of comments 😉
I think we should have a competition for the best click-bait sartorial posts.
Could you tell me what kind of bristles Berluti use in the stitching of their soles in the ready to wear Alessandro and Andy Loafer lines.
I’m afraid I don’t know Gohar
Why didn’t you publish my Macan/Bentayga analogy?
I did. I just don’t spend the weekend in front of the computer, so there is a delay.
I do understand that budget is relative, but why overlook RTW options? I know that your blog is partial towards bespoke and luxury, but RTW was still covered every now and then in the past. why spend about 2000 pounds on a bespoke overcoat when you can get a beautifully made overcoat for half that price, if not less. I have a Casentino overcoat by Eidos purchased from No Man Walks Alone for about 1200 dollars that is identical to your Liverano coat (which costed you about 8000 euros) – and I still reckon alot of men would fret at the idea of spending 1000 dollars for an overcoat when you can purchase a very attractive and well made one for no more than 500 dollars from the likes of Spier and Mackay.
I had jackets that imitate Neapolitan-style cuts made for a meek 250 dollars bar the cloth (tailoring here in Beirut is ridiculously cheap) but thats relative to where i am based right now and isnt representative of European bespoke market, and is not the same quality of make per se. But i still buy from Ring Jacket or even Spier and Mackay, brands that represent, if varied in price, great value for money. As for shirts, Suitsupply are simply great, 99 bucks for a shirt with a classic full collar and good fabric. Though I usually indulge by buying spear collar shirts from Edward Sexton for 195 pounds a piece. Also why not mention excellent shoe brands like Carmina or Yanko or TLB Mallorca’s Artista line. Those brands are well coveted and well respected. I reckon buying 300-350 euro shoes – a well made shoes – is still financially accessible for the majority of your readership.
I highlight bespoke coats because I’ve had RTW, MTM and bespoke ones, and found so much more pleasure and inspiration from bespoke examples. I’m sure the Eidos one is lovely and very similar in design to the Liverano, but it won’t be made in the same way and therefore not fit around the body – it just doesn’t have the 3D construction of a handmade coat – and it won’t fit in the same way.
I make the point about these bespoke pieces in particular because they are surprising and perhaps controversial – few would think a bespoke coat could make the difference that I have observed in mine.
As to the other brands, Carmina or Yanko are great, but again having tried shoes at all these levels, I think something like Crocketts is a level most professionals can aspire to, and I think is a great point in terms of value.
Thanks for the comment
oops, was supposed to include C&J. Got the 373 last. excellent. Anyway, on the coat point, maybe I am mis-recalling, but in one of your articles couple of years back you did mention that getting a coat made bespoke was not a priority, a point which i tend to agree on. Of course a RTW coat is inferior to a bespoke one, but you might be surprised by how well this coat is made and how attractive its silhouette is. Anyway I think it all depends on one’s priorities or interests; for me, I spend most on jackets; can always justify spending up to 1200 dollars on one, getting between 4-5 per year. Not too fussy about watches though, my vintage Seiko does the job just fine.
Anyway thanks for the reply Simon
No worries Ali.
I think my view on that has certainly evolved over the years. I think it’s a combination of how much coats are used, the pleasures of that heavy cloth used in bespoke, and the drama of bespoke shape at that size.
..but i would happily spend 5000 + pounds on your Edward Sexton coat only because of how special the piece is design wise.
I like much of what you have written in this article.
One quibble I would have is that I believe wool socks to be far superior to cotton — they breathe better, wick moisture and allow for evaporation of same. Cotton socks will end the day damp and nasty, whereas wool socks will remain dry — far better for the feet and for the life of the shoes. Solid color store brand socks from decent retailers made from merino wool are quite affordable and will deliver far greater value, imo, than cotton.
Thanks. Wool socks were mentioned earlier in the comments – but I don’t blame you for not reading all of them! I agree wool socks are functionally much better. My feet just get very hot so I can’t wear them except on the coldest of days.
I have one really good tip for chaps who want to go down this sartorial rabbit hole and that is to write down the minimum requirements they need in terms of things like shoes,tailored jackets,jeans,shirts,watches etc.Go into some detail…colour of shoes,type…colour of suits,weight..I’m sure you get the picture.The list can always be amended if your ideas change.The real benefit of this list is that you try and stick to it.I know from my own experience that it is ever so easy to purchase items that you do’nt really need.For example,I really like Simon’s latest shawl collared cardigan but I already have a similar one which is on my list.I do’nt need another one!I only wear it several times a year.Keep your purchases under control.
Good point and well put. Nothing harms a budget more than making the wrong decisions.
Hi Simon, first of all, congratulations to you and your family on the birth of your 3rd Daughter. I hope your Wife and the new born baby are doing well.
How I shop on a budget.
I earn a very modest salary but I’m still able to dress stylishly
When are the brands sales. Do they have any Outlets – the brands I shop with do apart from CA which means I’m able to save sometimes up to 90% on the retail cost.
Self explanatory really, I personally don’t drink smoke or gamble so I am able to save a little money there the company I work for also pay me £100 a month to buy lunch a which helps me save and I’ll probably save £50/£60 on top of that in order to satisfy my urges
3) Save a little bit more
Become ‘friendly’ with an SA at whatever store you shop in talk with them be polite and respectful towards them yes they work in retail which is largely seen as a lowly job but they make very good money for what they do and don’t want to be treated badly if you’re polite respectful friendly don’t waste his time he’ll take great care of you and if you’re lucky invite you or give you additional discounts.
4) Buy the absolute best you can afford – this is important
Speaks for itself again but let me give you an example buying 3 for £100 shirts seem great but when you’re replacing them bi monthly that’s £600 a year on 18 shirts that are now in the bin that same £600 would buy 3-4 shirts else where more in the sale thatd last you a lifetime with good care and attention within a few years you’ve got all the shirts you could want and need…
Penultimately, I once read “To tell a man is well dressed, look down.” Since reading that I never forgot it and now invest in and look after my shoes a lot more than I did. They say that shoes is the first thing a woman notices on a man…
To end … bespoke is fantastic the way that the artisans create a 3D masterpiece from a 2D piece of material is incredible but if you are on a limited budget you shouldn’t be considering spending it on bespoke unless your wardrobe is already established for want of a better word…
Dear Mr. Crompton,
Many thanks for your website which I have been reading regularly over the years. I react now for the first time on this post and the comments it has attracted.
I am in the happy circumstance that I could actually afford most of the items covered, but I do not. I’m neither lavish nor frugal, it’s simply a matter of priorities. I have other interests for which I will very happily spend the price of one or more bespoke suits.
So my attitude to clothes is purely functional. I have worn good MTM suits all my life – indeed the first one ordered and paid for by my father at graduation – and classic shoes from good reputable brands – some of them covered by this website, but by no means the more expensive ones.
Unless one likes menswear for its intrinsic qualities as you and others do, there is absolutely no need to spend a lot of money on it. I order my shirts RTW from Jermyn Street whenever they have a sale on (which is most of the year these days). The same goes for most other items.
In my experience, what really matters to make an impression is a very good, simple, discreet gold Swiss dress watch (these days impossible to find new even from the best brands and therefore necessarily pre-owned) with a good leather watch strap and good dress shoes. All the rest in between is entirely optional. London clubland (and 10 Downing Street/Elysée Palace/White House) are full of very bad suits.
I therefore wholehearted agree with your choice of putting the watch first, although I would personally consider the Cartier Tank too much of an instantly recognisable item. There are great wristwatches from the ’60ies and ’70ies from brands like Vacherin & Constantin, Audemars Piguet and Baume & Mercier to name a few which will keep most people guessing and are available for much much less. And don’t forget, just one watch will do for a lifetime and more.
With kind regards,
Nicely put, thanks for the comment.
Good point on the importance of those external items like shoes and watches too. I think good ties belonged in that category too, back when more people wore them.
My approach has always been to focus on the things I wear most frequently. I wear jeans 2-3 days per week and have a great pair from Levi’s Lot 1. Expensive but worth every penny. Similarly, I have 5 pairs of northants shoes (c&j, EG, trickers) that I wear ever week and derive a lot of pleasure as they age. My dinner jacket was an obvious opportunity to economise given the relative infrequency of use. My problem is that suits are becoming increasingly less common in the office (as you’ve rightly observed) and consequently harder for me to justify bespoke. Instead focusing on versatile jackets and good quality trousers. It’s a shame but seems the pragmatic choice
Good example on the jeans. Jeans for £500 seems insane to some, but it might be the item that can most easily justify itself in wears/£, with perhaps coat, watch and shoes coming next. Would you agree?
Yes, fully agree Lot 1 jeans are terrific value. I guess jeans and shoes get frequent wear and improve with age so they’re easy to justify. A watch might not improve with wear but you develop sentimental attachment. A quality overcoat will improve to a point but, like jeans, you only need one and can wear it every week. Other leather goods like briefcases probably fall into this category too; buy one, buy well, carry it ever day and enjoy the ageing
I think this is a lovely article and agree some items are not quite budget level for some of the readers.
My views are actually slightly different to most of the comments here and I spend my money slightly differently.
I spend quite a lot on watches, from Rolex (SD43, Daytona), Panerai, Zenith, through to lower end but still interesting (their history, concept, reason behind those models) like Bremont, Tudor (their full inhouse movement 2 yrs ago), Tags and so on…
Love to get through the waiting list on Nautilus and love a Sohne, also a fan of the new Chopard.
In short…I think Watches are beautiful additions to your wardrobe and what you wear for different occasions.
Agree on shirts…less fussy about them and most MTM or online ‘bespoke’ do a decent job. You can get decent shirts from £100 to £200 or even less on some sites if you get your measurements right.
I actually think if people are on a bugdet then shoes like Joseph Cheaney, C&J , Vass shoes will provide value for money rather then EG and more..
Likewise, if close by I find shopping in Bicester for trainers or certain items of ‘fashion/outerwear’ offers good value for money.
I don’t think a bespoke overcoat is needed, like some readers mentioned. I think it’s one item of clothing the fit is not as relevant – you need room.
As long as certain elements like shoulder, length etc are good (maybe some minor adjustments on sleeve) then a lot of good ‘fashion’ houses do great design and probably cheaper than bespoke.
If on a budget, I had no issues with some of the RTW Richard James coats (when discounted) or Reiss/Suit supply on the high street.
In terms of jeans, there’s also a lot of good Japanese denim brands that are affordable and do great products.
Agree with most of the articles, and yep budget is of course relative to each individual.
Thanks for the read!
In my oppinion this is still not an “shop on a budget” publication.
People who are not bespoke enhustiasts regard it as insane to spend more then several hundred EUR/GBP on clothing. I know people erning 100k+ per year, that were not willing to invest in a bespoke suit even for their wedding.
So honestly. Maybe shopping on budget is not really possible. There are people who are willing to pay the price even if this means to save 100 EUR/GBP per month for years. And people who think that this is crazy and that it is more imporant to save to buy for example a house with these money.
My recommendation for people with no budget:
-> Get some Crockett & Jones. They would make the biggest difference in your style even if the rest of your outfit is just jeans and a polo shirt and they are really very good value for money. I have a pair of Crockett & Jones I have resoled already three times. And they still look better than many brands look like after a month of wear.
Hi Simon,one of the many things about your site that I really like is your aim to go for the very, very best in terms of clothing,shoes etc.This cannot be emphasised enough.Whether you are on a budget(and who is’nt) or not your concentration on the finest apparel and discussions about fit is inspirational for all your readers.
Another point I’d like to make is that I read in your comments section some chaps who do not like to wear suits because hardly anybody else does anymore.If that’s what they want to do that’s fine by me but I have a number of suits and I’ll be damned if I’m put off wearing them because other people have such narrow sartorial boundaries.Just wear a fine knit roll neck with the suit…more up to date.Sure I’ll wear casual clothes but taking inspiration from you they will fit and be slim in cut like my suits.Conversely,most people only have one dress option and that is usually ill-fitting casual.
A final point I’d like to touch on is that high dress standards can lead to tense personal relationships.If one’s wife,girlfriend,partner dresses poorly it does create a certain amount of tension in the social dynamic.I’d be interested in what other people’s experience is.Looking at old photographs a lot of women used to dress well years ago but it is no longer the case,in the UK at least.
This has provoked many interesting points from fellow flaneurs.
However, out of all contributors, I think it is BEN who has found the holy grail.
Surely the issue is, as he points out, really $ per wear. This surely being the true measure of economy when it comes to building a wardrobe ?
If I take the vexed issue of your watch proposal. £7K may be a mere bagatelle if you were to have the item for forty years and wear it every day. Unfortunately, I doubt this will be the case with a ‘Cartier Tank’ as it would probably prove to be an occasional watch that would score very badly on the $ per wear measure.
Take instead a Rolex Air King or Rolex Explorer and you have a watch that you could wear night and day for every occasion and which you could even wear in the most challenging and inhospitable environments . Its 365 versatility and lifetime reliability will make it a phenomenally economical purchase. Consequently it’s not the idea of a £7k watch that is the problem – merely the one you recommend.
So it goes across a wardrobe. Nothing makes me smile more that my thirty year old leather jacket when I open my wardrobe. The day I brought it home my wife nearly divorced me. Her words ring in my ears; “You’ve payed what ? – it’s a waste of money”. But you know what, I kept the jacket and the wife and all these years later they congratulate each other on how well they’ve done. In fact, on a $ per wear basis, this jacket must, by now, owe me money and my wife loves it every time I put it on.
Of course getting this sort of value from luxury items requires real taste, a love of the classics and iron clad discipline but it is worth it because the longevity of the item that proves to be the real economy.
I always think it is interesting to consider Reynolds Woodcock’s wardrobe in the movie ‘Phantom Thread’ as some sort of barometer when it comes to this issue.Set in the ‘50s, I can’t think of one piece that Daniel Day Lewis sports that would not look great today. The whole thing is a sartorial masterclass on how to put real style and quality together. Now I bet Woodcock’s $ per wear is the most economical of all albeit his upfront cost may have been a little eye watering !
Nice points Jason, and yes your bang on about dollars per wear.
The Tank is doing pretty well on that score, being worn at least four days a week most of the time. But you’re right, it’s too smart for most casual wear.
Dear Simon! About the northhampton shoes compared to (for example) Carmina: Is there such a significant differente in quality to justify the two times higher price, or could this be a reasonable compromise? Thanks for your opinion.
I’m probably one of your budget readers. I’ve been purchasing reduced Ring Jacket sport coats from the armourys outlet- fit me surprisingly well and haven’t required alterations. For double breasted suits I’ve been lucky in picking up old stock (brand new) D’Avenza suits- fully canvased, fit well through the shoulder and are suitably long (I am 6ft2). For single breasted I may go for old stock Ring Jackets.
A small point on watches. I would never buy a Cartier watch, for the simple reason that they are not watchmakers. They are jewellers. If I am going to invest £6-7K in a watch (which I do regularly), then I want a watch which has intrinsic value in its quality as a timepiece, and not something which is overpriced (based on the craftsmanship) just because it has a brand name attached to it.
You can buy watches which are amazing value when considering the craftsmanship (eg Bremont), which are true investments (PP), or which have real rarity value (anybody see how much the Paul Newman D went for?). Or you can buy watches which are overpriced simply because they have a big brand name on the face.
I would never buy Aston Martin cologne, although I have an Aston, nor would I buy a Bentley fountain pen, or a Chanel skipping rope.
That all makes sense Philip. It depends very much on your priorities, but I see watches as jewellery – and therefore actually quite like that about Cartier.
Cartier manufactures its own in-house movements – while jewellery is its primary focus, it has as much claim to being a high-end watchmaker as any of the brands mentioned. https://www.fratellowatches.com/shut-up-read-the-truth-about-cartier-watches/
Well googled Anonymous.
The vast majority of Cartier watches made and sold today have quartz movements. Most of those in the Tank family certainly do.
That’s true. Omega also produces watches with quartz movements, as does Audemars Piguet, as did Rolex during the height of the quartz boom.
No!….Cartier have way more heritage at watch making than somebody like Rolex. Bremont use too many ETA movements and are not good value for a jewellery buy. For those not on annual six figure incomes I’m not sure it’s prudent to buy £7000 watches. Because a) You will need to live and work in pretty sterile circumstances for it not to draw eyes and the wrong attention. B). Mechanical watches are largely obsolete and wearing one can make some people feel fogeyish and anachronistic. ( i wear a Rolex Oyster Perpetual BTW).
I notice Mr Luigi Solito always wears a smart watch with his jackets and he always looks modern and relevant in his personal style of wearing a jacket even in the most casual of circumstances, rather than trying to appear classic without any reference to the times we live in.
You’re not seriously saying that Cartier are not a watchmaker, but Bremont are?
I think you need to do a bit more research.
Philip makes an interesting point about what is the point or purpose of a watch? Is it a time keeper or jewelry? For me, if the point is to tell the time accurately, my cell phone as a piece of engineering is superior, and I won’t pay a premium for handwork which results in a less effective piece of machinery. I am certainly willing, though, to pay for good design in a watch, since I view a watch as a piece of jewelry that happens to keep good(enough) time
Having followed something very similar to this myself, I would disagree on point 9. I wear out trousers far faster than any other item – and would always recommend having at least 2 pairs of any trouser that you intend to wear more than once per week.
I had a pair of Albam’s which I bought as my “one pair” a year and a half ago, and they have already worn out at the crotch from 1-2 times per week wear despite being well looked after. I will have them mended, but I have also bought a lighter colour from Anglo-Italian for rotation going forward.
I think you should aim to wear a different pair of trousers every day in a week if you want longevity. That still isn’t a lot: for me that means 2 pairs of jeans for the weekend; 2 pairs of suit trousers for meetings; and 3 pairs of smarter seasonal trousers like flannels for ordinary days in the office.
“….mechanical watches are largely obsolete…”
Oh dear me.
Can we please try to have some more substantial points here – and done politely. Thank you.
Well as a functional piece of engineering (as opposed to artistic engineering), I think that’s a definsible point. A cell phone will keep better time, and even a precision quartz movement will keep time for longer with less intervention
Pity you didn’t write a version that aimed at people on a budget – the intent you indicated in the second paragraph – as, relativity, much of this article misses the mark and the watch suggestion is nonsense. Guillaume, Robin, Anon, S, O, Keith, Misbah, Neil, Gonzague, Ondrej, Philip, E L, David, James et al point out the variance of suggestions with reality.
You might argue that it doesn’t fit the site etc. but I ask that you bear in mind the following: that only 2-5% (UK £70k+) of income earners could regularly purchase the items you feature (HNW is £100k+). The next 20% (UK £40k+) might make the purchase of a good suit or a pair of shoes once or twice a year and an average UK male spends £1.2k p.a. on clothing. Moreover everyone is on an earning curve, generally starting low and reaching peak by 40-50.
Either side of this purchasing power is squeezed, especially when young and the need to dress for career maybe high.Yes you write for an international audience but the percentages will be similar. As with many avenues of ‘lifestyle information’ much of the readership may therefore be vicarious. I also (with another reader) wonder whether you’re slightly out of touch with your general readership?
Though everyone has aspirations this leads to tasteful but more economic purchases from the MTM or RTW ranges. Therefore whilst one might aspire to high quality items guidance is still required as to what constitutes quality within this spending bandwidth.
The difference between a blog (as this is) and traditional media is Editors…I think on some occasions you get a little carried away and forget how the real world spends its money – many commenters here point to this. Lastly your comments about watches are in the vicinity of youthful zeal for mechanical objects. As your family grows and spending shifts to their education and activities the glamour of shiny objects will seem irrelevant.
Thanks. I think I’ve answered those points variously above, but let me know if there any you think I haven’t
I want to pick up on one comment by Anonymous above around the absence of having an editor. I don’t necessarily agree with the comment–I don’t know what your motivations and thoughts are in writing posts, and I also think you’ve explained your rationale for “budget” and it is a reasonable one even if some of us disagree. However, the comment has sparked a question for me.
In the abstract, editors do play a valuable role in challenging writers to improve and do their best. I’m wondering if you use your Board of Advisors in this way at all? Do they look at plans for your upcoming posts and provide thoughts? Or do they function more at the level of reviewing and providing thoughts around the business side of Permanent Style?
My motivation here is purely curiosity of how you run PS, and not to use this to make a point of how you should run your blog.
Thanks. Actually I tend to talk to friends who are writers or journalists on those points. The Board is more concerned with the business side, though we do talk about analytics around articles
The advice in the comments section is more useful than the article but the comment under Anon (above Willem’s) is probably the most accurate as to the title and intent. Simple, straightforward advice that helps those on a budget build a quality, long lasting wardrobe. E L and Ben also give very sound advice. I would also ask you to think about Paul’s comments (echoed more widely throughout) about the general tone…
‘it would be a shame if you made the same mistake so many specialist media brands do of becoming elitist and inaccessible’.
Brands come and go the usual reasons for decline are:
– Poor cost control
– Over expansion particularly at the end of a prosperity or liquidity curve
– Management thinking they know more about what the customer wants than the customer (or reader in this case) and, terminally, ignoring their interests and requirements.
A great updated article on the other one you wrote years ago, but on trousers.
I really like natural shoulders, like those on your Elia jackets. Those have light padding, but have you seen any sports jackets with no padding? Do you think one with no padding would look nice in the Escorial wool? I can see it possibly working for summer cloths, maybe.
Or maybe a jacket without padding would just look halfway between a suit and unstructured outerwear? I want to play it safe for my first jackets but also really like sloping shoulders to the point where i’m wondering about no padding.
If it’s your first, I would go with light padding, not no padding. It’s too risky – unless you’ve specifically seen one from the tailor that you like
This is a great Article. I like all the discussions there. Simon’s opinions or suggests can not suit everyone. For me, just take what suits me. For example, I like Simon’s suggestion on watches even it is out of budget. and I like the shoes’ idea as well which I can happen to afford While spending £3,800 for a bespoke jacket is way beyond of my budget that does not suite me. I would look for others’ opinions on jackets or suits that would be good for my case.
Thanks again, though as mentioned and discussed elsewhere, there is lots of data showing the site is more in touch not less as time has gone on – the customers, online and in person, and the readership. Whereas commenters are just guessing, or going off a handful of commenters rather than hundreds and thousands of the above
Allow me to cordially add my two cents.
Although budget is, of course, a relative concept, I agree with those below who observe that there is no alternative universe in which a 7k watch could be regarded as a “budget” item, heirloom or not. People (such as myself) on a budget would better advised to buy a crappy weekend watch ( a 34 mm Swatch, for instance, which transcends time and budget) and a round 35 mm dress watch, such as a second hand Omega Seamaster on a black leather strap. Such a watch is elegant, timeless (pardon the pun) and uses and ETA movement which is reliable and easily repaired if need be. Just as importantly, a clean example can be had for under 1k.
I completely agree with your comments re. Northampton shoes, but the rapidly diminishing marginal gains when moving beyond anything more expensive than C&Js means that they couldn’t really be recommended on a budget.
And finally, a bespoke overcoat on a budget? Surely you’re having a lend of us!
What are you guys on about?! There is some solid advice here to anyone on any budget, except perhaps points 1 and 6. Even with point 1, you dont have to have to buy a £7k tank, you can settle for a cheaper Longines Dolce Vita like I have done. The take-away from advice no. 1 is buy one good watch as it adds a lot of value to your appearance and your outfit. The rest..”avoid fads”, “buy just one pair of jeans”, “economise on basics”…I mean have you even read what is being said!? Obviously Simon has a quality benchmark, so he will not advise you on Topman Jeans and Next shirts as much as you would like. Even if you can only afford suits from M&S and shoes from Clarks, there is a plethora of advice on this forum on fit, alterations, colour, where to spend more/less etc. So no, I disagree that this forum, or this article in particular, excludes people on a tight budget…despite it’s quality/craftmanship bias.
Looks like you have a stalker Simon!!
The best budget tips is to buy on eBay. Learn your measurement and only buy items that fit and which condition is close to new. If you get good at it and resell items you don’t like or use you can dress extremely well almost for free. The hard truth is that most clothing items lose 75-95% of its value as soon as it leaves the store.
Best advice here.
I can assemble $10,000 worth of RTW (Belvest, Brioni, etc.) for under $1,000 in virtually new condition on EBAY..
Its’ not bespoke, but top end RTW, properly tailored (get to know a good one!) can suffice for most of us.
I always remember a piece of advice from my dad (a joiner, so not well off) who’s words I saw repeated in an interview with Alex James (Blur bassist) who quoted an aristocrat as saying “always pay as much as you can for shoes and mattresses because if you’re not in one, you’re in the other”.
Also I was surprised on the watch front (which seems to be a big contention here) that you didn’t mention the option of the secondhand market which can bring a really good watch into the budget category.
This also flows into the Economising on basics point (and mirrors some comments about eBay) that vintage accessories such as scarves, pocket squares, etc. are a relatively cheap way of getting very good quality AND freeing money up that would otherwise be spend on new items in this area on other purchases.
I really do agree with your points about saving up for specific items and letting time go before jumping in, ultimately you avoid the risk of buying on a whim and end up with something that gives enjoyment over a longer period of time.
Finally I must admit that I try to avoid superfine socks as I can’t really afford the attrition rate, but they do make you feel like a king, but only for a day (one pair a year….).
Thanks Chris. I had actually meant a second-hand piece – I presumed readers might know that, given all my watches have been second hand and I’ve talked about that before.
Nice points on vintage, absolutely. It’s an investment of time, but not of money. We tend to have less of the former and more of the latter as we get older.
I should buy a Cartier Tank for £6k or £7k but I can only have one pair of jeans? I feel like a luxury watch is literally the worst thing someone on a budget could buy.
You should buy a good watch once in your entire life John, yes. That’s my personal view.
You may have lots of pairs of jeans in your lifetime.
Thinking further, I do believe that the first step is to understand what suits you, rather than someone you choose as a role model. I’d love to be able to dress like Pierce Brosnan or Byron Ferrari (Bryan Ferry) but they have a taller, slimmer frame. It’s difficult to self judge on this one, especially as you are dreaming how “cool” you look with a certain outfit. I’d recommend having sisters-in-law. If they say that something look good on you, then it does, silence is not positive.
I’m a huge fan of buying quality and the best you can afford. I’ve also followed the advice of buying versatile basics as well.
My question is around the amount of money that is reasonable to spend on clothing a year. I’ve heard the figure of 5% of one’s salary. Is this a good guideline and does it refer to before or after tax income?
I think there are a lot of different figures, and it really depends on your tastes and preferences.
There is perhaps a basic level for keeping yourself clothed in well-made, sustainable and elegant clothing.
But then a larger number is just whatever share of your personal disposable income you want to spend. I’d rather spend more money on clothes than on most entertainment, on sport, on technology. I still spend on those things, but clothes in that case are more a hobby and an interest.
Your comments about data are interesting. If you’re referring to analytics these are shaped by constantly changing algorithms which are always being developed. Even Google knows that their very deep information is not perfect or always accurate. Advanced maths still has problems with confidence values and probability in rendering outcomes. As such search software is updated daily and large changes to algorithm forms happen bi-monthly (see below)…and yet you have your own audience feedback giving you direct information (both positive and negative) which you ignore in favour of data which can only be partially reliable?
It’s the sort of winning strategy that M&S etc. use to boost their incomes…oh wait a minute.
Some of the basic traffic data is from analytics, and as much as algorithms might change, the size of that and its direction of growth is obvious.
But more powerful is the data of people that visit and buy in the PS Shop, visit and buy from brands that advertise, and that visit and buy in the pop-up. They’re all spending at a level consistent with this post, there are thousands of them, and they too are growing.
I’m also nor ignoring any of the feedback in this post, as should be obvious from all my responses.
I’m not sure why, but when I call bespoke/MTM workshops (like I did Alan Flusser today) and inquire a representative about the tailoring process (e.g about the cutter, and details like finishing) they tend to get very defensive, almost rude. Some ask why i’m asking in the first place, as if I am inappropriately probing. Is there a reason why some houses just don’t divulge that information?
I think some see it as you trying to catch them out, and it’s a fine balance. If you’re asking about whether they do hand-sewn buttonholes, that should be fine. But whether the cutter works for them exclusively, for example, or is located in the building, is borderline as to really whether it makes a difference – and can feel like people are focusing on the wrong things.
I have always dipped in and out of your site, having asked about hot weather and shoes which you kindly answered. Always come back to the site to see what else I should be looking towards in my collection.
After now having 2 children and being a little older, maybe not wiser, also doing a house move with the family that really showed how much stuff we had and what we really used (2 skips worth of stuff and still sorting out now and then) really proves how much a through away society we have in the UK with the emphasis on just chuck it away when something is worn etc due to the cheapness of some high street retailers. I remember my Dad gluing the soles of my shoes back so I could continue to wear them due to the soles still having life left, football in the playground was never good for them.
I found this article very good, as this does ring true with how my elders in the family used to buy clothes which they still had on their passing, which is also what I am now understanding that, with having a few things that are very high quality in my possession which allow me to dress around a few key elements, price doesn’t always need to be a factor but buying well does.
You have mentioned that you buy things in the sale, this is the key, how many times are there sales now with there being an opportunity to purchase something that might of been out of reach previously. A lot of my purchases are sale purchases these days, but more often than not they are purchases that seem to rotate a staple of key pieces that I have owned for a long time which is what I believe you are suggesting here.
Purchasing items a few times a year, that you can then build on, not getting swept up in the hype and Instagram fashion trends, buying right and at the right time (life happens and things can mean that the funds are being used for something else.) also during this of the course of a period of time really means that not over stretching yourself can reap rewards.
This is something that I am going to be looking towards in the 2020 with what appears the new items I am purchasing appearing to be moved on with the older items staying for years, to continue on the quest for “buy right buy once” when funds allow.
I think readers will find that personal experience really really useful Tom, thank you
Love this piece, and although like you said you focus on the best quality menswear (i.e. most expensive), pieces like these are extremely useful for the younger crowd such as myself in their early professional careers, but wanting to build up a more rounded wardrobe.
Hope to see more of such content, if you get positive responses of course. Would love to hear about your tips on getting the most versatility from a few pieces of clothing that wouldn’t require me pawning either kidney.
Thanks Jonathan, and nice idea. I assume you’ve read all the ‘capsule’ posts for things to buy, rather than how to wear?
I went with a car coat instead of an overcoat. Just too long with the overcoat and hard to justify in the Bay Area. Same tailor, similar cut, different fabric (dark grey twill): http://www.city-connect.org/the-car-coat/
For jeans, check out Roy Denim, probably not to recommend to your readers. If you can get your hands on one, they’re worth checking out. Some of the construction details are really cool (although wish he’d go back to his earlier/simpler patch designs).
Got a some Good Suggestion from and have a helpful points in your article. Thanks..
A great piece Simon, solid advice all round. I have made the mistakes when starting out of going for faddy things or stuff I liked on its own, and have paid the price in lack of versatility and thus usage.
The watch one is particularly good advice: a classic watch can easily be dressed up or down with a few inexpensive straps. My collection hovers around 10 timepieces, but I only ever really wear 2-3 of them.
Very interesting debate, especially as I’ve read this after under taking the survey.
You may have over estimated what your readership spend on clothing. I think many of us have a few “nice” items but most of our wardrobe is from the high street and ready to wear. I know that mine definitely is and I’m often looking for styling tips and ideas that I can do on my budget, which is not very large for clothes with everything else I want to do throughout the months and year.
Simon: your points are so well taken. the only thing i would add is to caution PS readers to stay away from “sale” merchandise unless it’s the perfect fit. Price is long forgotten when it looks too big or feels to tight.
Sage advice. Especially about an overcoat.
I’d also suggest for those who have to wear a suit most days – particularly for anyone with a fabric-thrashing commute on public transport – is that (re-tailored) vintage bespoke can provide an economic solution. Charity shops in wealthy county towns can sell some astonishing bargains with decades of life in them.
As first bespoke commission, you might also find that a not-for-workwear blazer or tweed sports jacket gives a lot of pleasure and longevity if looked after well.
Wow this really blew up with some great discussion. I had just filled out your survey and asked for just this type of article, but had similar feelings to Guillame. I think people are right in that this is a sort of “one percenter” website, and I am certainly not that audience.
Reading a lot of the comments, I think there’s a lot of fellas in my boat who want the same thing. We love your knowledge and approach to style, and we’re wondering how you can help us understand that more in the places we can actually spend.
Now I get it if you’ve decided that those of us in that boat are simply not your audience. You’ve got a good thing going here and obviously you’re quite successful. Serving your primary audience makes complete sense.
I would say that if you do want to broaden your reach, then as was suggested, maybe pairing with someone (or doing it yourself) and tackling a more value approach for the more “common” man would be VERY much appreciated. I don’t know that your primary audience would mind, and they mind also find it useful.
I’ve spent more on clothing in the last two years than in my whole life (and I am 53), yet I couldn’t buy anything listed in this article. I’m sure there are lots of readers like me. And in the last couple of years, I have found really good quality items in my price range. Things that will last me a lifetime in some cases.
That’s my two cents. I still enjoyed the article and everything you do. Thanks Simon!
This is fantastic. I might argue a bit over the bespoke overcoat idea, but that would just be for conversation’s sake.
Also, as great as bespoke shoes are, I do think there is a serious diminishing returns argument once you get past the general quality level of an Edward Green, Crocket & Jones Handgrade, or J. M. Weston level.
Excellent post. Appreciate the classic and practical advice.
This article quite possibly holds the record for number of comments, as best I can tell.
On the watch…in the world of watches, $6 – $7,000 is still below the $10,000 threshold of “serious investment watches” but your advice does get you a very nice timepiece…a solid piece you can hand down….In any pursuit it is always amazing what most people are aware of..Bicycles? For some, $500 is an outrageous indulgence, for others $10,000 is a barely acceptable ride…Watches are the same thing. Go to a Patek dealer, low – mid price is $30,000 – $50,000. It gets ‘expensive” after that…
One thing I believe was mentioned, but should be stressed – many of these items should not be looked at annual expenditures, but something that will yield 10 years, 20 years, or a lifetime of utility, and thus the true cost is very much less…Being raised on “fast fashion” will get one thinking you buy $2,000 shoes, and then toss them every season….just like Zara….
In general though, buy quality – learn how to maintain it – find a good cobbler, and tailor.
And shop on line for previously owned…many RTW items that start at at a high price ($5,000 tuxedo or blazer) can be had for as little as 5% or 10% of the original retail, and in some rare occasions new with tags…Get them tailored and you will be 90% of the way to bespoke..
Of course do some mix/match – I wear bespoke pants with family heritage fabric (my late mothers’ fabric closet), with a discount store $15 casual shirt, and $1,200 sunglasses – and an $18 belt…I have yet to decide if the quality pieces elevate the “value’ items, or get dragged down by them, but most people notice the quality items, and the others fade into the background….
Perhaps the takeaway from some of the comments, is that each poster seemed to accept the amount spent on one category, but was absolutely puzzled by the amount spent on another…
Keep doing what you are doing Simon, if you started to focus on budget/cheaper items then I would have to find another site to visit. I think you have the balance just right.
Hi Simon, I appreciate what you’re doing here, but it would also be really great to see what you’d recommend for someone on an *actual* budget! That Cartier watch you recommend costs more than I take home in a quarter, and while I certainly *could* save up for a bespoke overcoat, it would take about 2-3 years (which would put me 2-3 more years away from putting a deposit on a flat, would mean 2-3 years without going on holiday, 2-3 years without buying anything else on this list, etc).
I enjoy and appreciate your thoughts on style and clothing quality, so it would be really good to see what you’d recommend when spending thousands on clothes per year simply isn’t an option.
I think by anybody’s standards £6-£7k on a watch wouldn’t be a budget option. May I suggest that a real budget option would be an english made vintage piece by Smiths. You could pick up a beauty in 18k gold for around £300 and it wouldn’t look out of place in any formal occasion.
Some of the comments suggest this site only for the wealthy. What a shame this is the attitude. People who don’t have a fortune to spend on clothes still spend a lot and still can gain from the information in the site. Having started there, I would say if budget were an issue, as it is for nearly everyone, spending on a deluxe brand watch is contrary to the concept of allocating one’s spending. Of all the items in the world of style, watches are more tied to pure status than any other. A great suit fits better, looks better and lasts longer. Same for other types of clothing. A Cartier does not keep better time. In this era of smart phones, people don’t even look at their watches to keep time, regardless of how fantastic their watch is. Many far less expensive watch brands look as good, but ee have even been trained/socialized to think the expensive brands look better. They often do not. Wearing an expensive watch is almost entirely a matter of showing people how much you can spend on yourself. So prioritizing one’s wardrobe spending on a watch is simply wrong. Maybe I’m in the minority on this, but the logic is there to see.
Derek’s latest post at Put This On is a response to this post: https://putthison.com/how-to-shop-on-a-budget/. It’s mostly a best-of of past PTO posts, but useful advice for anyone on an actual budget.
Starting with a ROLEX Explorer I or Air King can be all a younger man needs until a gold dress watch can be added later.
I might also suggest starting with good quality but moderately priced shoes such as Allen Edmonds or Loake allows a younger person to have at least three pair of shoes to rotate. Then by all means work up to Crockett and Jones, Edward Green or Lobb.
I was quite happy to read an article such as this on your site. I’ve been a reader for several years and, despite not being nearly able to budget for the kind of MTM, Bespoke or high-end RTW presented here, I’ve learned a lot about style, craftsmanship and all sorts of little sartorial details.
I find that, though I cannot afford some of the suggested pieces, I definitely find the budget allocation suggestions to be useful: pay more on things that you will get frequent, long-term use out of (shoes, coat, watch), bit less for basics. I might not spend 6k on a watch (boy, did that ever seem like a sore point in the comments!), but I will maybe reserve a larger chunk of my budget (whatever it is) for that compared to, let’s say, a shirt or a pair of jeans. I mean, that example is rather hypothetical, as I haven’t worn a watch for about 12 years, but it illustrates the underlying principle.
Another point I would make, is that I think there’s more than touch of the personal to this website. Simon writes about things he’s passionate about, or that are important to him. Those may not be relevant to everyone all the time, but it’s what you get with honest, personal and thoughtful writing.
Anyway, always an interesting read. Keep up the great work!
Would you have a guide for someone with a total budget of £2-3K. I’m a recent grad but I want to dress as well as I can.
For shoes, I picked up some Grensons wingtips and Loake Aldwychs.
For shirts I picked up some Eton dress shirts on sale for around £60-80 ea.
I am trying to find a solid OTR suit in the 3-800£ range. I was thinking of SuitSupply but I am not too sure. I will be in London mid January. My past suits have been CT and from my understanding they are great. I just want to go up the next step as I’ve grown out of them.
Any advice would be appreciated. I know CT have half canvas S120s wool and SS MTM suits start at £600 which are full canvas.
I think I’d be best placed to give advice on assessing quality, rather than giving specific recommendations, in this price range. Can I ask, have you read the chapters in the Guide to Quality section? Much of it is covered there, and you could leave more specific questions on those articles perhaps
Thanks for your quick response Simon!
Yes I have read your quality guide, and like I mentioned I am going to select a full / half canvas suit with a wool that is not too fine (like S120s) and I will be looking for finer details.
My problem is that London is a big place and I don’t know where to look. I know about Charles Tyrwhitt and SuitSupply but was hoping you could give me some suggestions in that price range. I know low end isn’t your speciality but perhaps you have a guide? Your city guide to London is mostly for non-business suit shops.
I’m afraid I can’t really help, no. That end of the market is particularly problematic because it’s so big, and because offerings change fairly frequently. So even my fairly limited experience might be out of date. I’d suggest asking a friend that’s gone through a similar search perhaps?
RH – London is a big place but I am sure you can find something, there is Hackett, Turnbull, Thomas Pink and Paul Smith shops near Liverpool Street station. A little further at Spitalfields you have others.
With all mentioned above you will need to visit these places and have a look, ask the questions and be happy with the answers to use them. As they will each differ, as I have mentioned my Grandad used to get a suit made in a day years ago and I am sure these places exist?! You just have to put in the steps to find one that gets all or most of your requirements nailed.
You should go for something like Berg&Berg, Natalino or Anglo Italian if you can afford.
For shoes I would stick to Crockett & Jones, since you cannot compromise on footwear.
Maybe try to visit Northhampton and the factories for factory sale?! If you want to get a lot
of wear out of your suit purchases I would not buy SS or CT. The classics like navy or charcoal
suits will require a relatively high upfront investment simply because you will wear them so often and should feel the best in them. Try Prologue perhaps so you get sth tailored to your measurements or, if possible, do your research on entry-level Neapolitan tailors. I know it is expensive and you might have to stretch yourself for it, but it is worth it.
I enjoyed the article and think it has sensible advice.
With all due respect, I must agree with some other commenters that I would not deem this shopping “on a budget”. I’ll write no more as this topic has been thoroughly debated.
I think PS excels in advice around styling–how to put different items together to look the best–combining colours, patterns, textures; the sliding scale of formality. Between that and good fit, I think one is at least 90%-95% of the way to being amongst the best dressed. Those two items don’t cost much money at all, so buying the best quality is really about the last few percentage points, and the benefits from sustainability, longevity, etc.
Some different advice I would give to someone on what I consider to be a budget (closer to $500 a year):
1. Watch: Agree with others that there are marginal returns after the first few hundred dollars; I would not go anywhere near 7k GBP unless one loves watches.
2. Great advice on shirts and trousers. I’d really emphasize budgeting to get RTW purchases of these tailored to fit well.
3. Shoes: This is one area where I think there are significant increases in quality for the first few hundred dollars and one shouldn’t cut corners. I think Edward Green is probably overkill, though. Being from North America, Allen Edmonds gets you Goodyear welted and good quality uppers for $400, and on sale for $250. On eBay you can find them for $50-$100 (might needs some investment in serious polishing and repairing scratches). I would not go below the quality of Allen Edmonds though, if at all possible given the sharp drop in quality, and that those shoes will need frequent replacement
4. While quality construction and cloth is idea, on a budget, I’d recommend vintage or sale purchases of fused garments which an be had for under $200–focus on good fit, and buying 100% wool. I have three suits I bought as a student like this, and they remain my staples. When I visit luxury menswear stores, people regularly think I’m wearing a luxury brand for a few thousand dollars. I think this goes to show that good fit, good styling (conservative colours, good use of accessories) gets you 90%, maybe even 95%, of the way to good style. Of course, if you an afford to move up to better construction, cloth, or custom, there are substantial benefits to that.
5. Overcoat: As with others, discount RTW is more sensible since most people don’t meet and engage with others in an overcoat. The impact of an overcoat is therefore small.
I agree with the principles behind the purchasing decisions. But not the idea of Budget friendliness. But I do think that another site like Parisian gentleman has already got a comprehensive list of makers or Brands from Budget to luxury covered for most categories of clothing and footwear. The principles however are much better elucidated here.
There are so many comments on this, not sure why I’m bothering but I do think we are actually in an amazing era where, thanks to the internet, it is relatively easy to buy high quality pieces at reasonable prices. Consider a J Crew merino sweater, which pills and stretches, particularly at the cuffs, and is made in Vietnam or Bangladesh. It costs USD 90. For USD 150 we can instead order a better constructed merino crewneck from Berg & Berg, with a raglan sleave, finer quality wool, and it’s made in Italy.
It wasn’t long ago where, outside of some parts of Europe, your only options were mall brands or “luxury” conglomerates selling mediocre clothing at exorbitant prices. These days, there are so many well-made products globally available at reasonable prices –it’s become easier to buy less but buy better.
1) Educate yourself with sites like this (and books) on classic style.
2) Define your style and make decisions of what will and won’t work for you.
3) Take your time to build your wardrobe reflecting on what you already have and gravitate to.
4) Seek inspiration from the likes of Simon and Brian Sacawa.
5) Challenge yourself to build the look you want within your budget; that budget can fluctuate over time. Years ago, I could afford very little and now I can afford anything on this site.
6) It can be fun learning, seeking a bargain and being the best dressed man on any particular day in your life.
I wish I learnt it 25-years ago, but its never too late to start and continue learning.
Very nicely put Richard. Thanks for the contribution
While the article was interesting, I have found the discussion fascinating. As someone who can’t afford the type of clothes you regularly write about,but still enjoys much of the advice you share, I am interested especially in your comments about saving up for more affordable bespoke pieces.
As someone who rarely wears a suit, but who likes to have a good one when he does, I used to have an ambition of saving up to get one bespoke suit; UNTILL I started reading blogs like yours! One of the biggest take homes from your writing has been that bespoke is an ongoing process, even someone like you who is used to communicating with tailors will not always get the garment you want first time.
As a car magazine said once, don’t buy a Ferrari unless you can afford two!
The point that Simon is making here (and this applies to every commenter) is that a good wardrobe takes time (Hugo Jacomet has even said on ST that it has taken him over 10 years). Some items are worth spending alot of money on, and others just arent. If you are a multi-millionaire you probably arent reading this site and have more than enough money to piss it away on countless (exceptionally overpriced and terrible quality) clothing items. A good shirt needs to be functional (and as SC said, the collar is the most important part as its the only thing that stands out when wearing a jacket, besides fit through the waist). Spend upwards of 1-2000$ on a watch because it will outlive you! The same will go for a trench coat/overcoat (though IMO Burberry used to be the best, now its gone horribly corporate and fashion based, i shall never ever buy a burberry product). Andreas W has even said “go premium on your jackets, shoes and watches, as the rest is rather cheap for what it is”. And most of all: DO YOUR RESEARCH!! If a company is offering a custom “suit” for under 1000$ its generally going to be rubbish. Learn which companies have pride in what they do and do not charge extortionate prices. Find the most ethical clothing you can, as at least this way your not screwing over some poor 3rd world person for your own “limited” expenses and bolstering a companys profit margin. Some fabric is freaking expensive, and sewing and cutting a suit is artwork wehn done right. If the same people you meet when commisioning any piece of clothing are the same people who make it, pay them well as they are working very hard to create somthing beautiful for you. Also, and lastly, nothing is perfect, not yourself nor your clothing.
Sorry for rambling…. I had to let off some steam, there is far too much bad clothing in the world and far too many people just dont care.
Simon – your recommendations really resonate with me (and much more so than when I first read this article six months ago). With your advice, I am in the process of building a capsule wardrobe and planning my purchases for the next 2-3 years.
One thing I’m stuck on is a colour and pattern for a casual sport jacket and overcoat (among my next two big purchases, as I have a navy sb suit, mid-grey sb suit and navy wool sport jacket, as well as a navy peacoat).
I am leaning towards brown tweed jacket and dark grey overcoat (probably an Ulster-style), although I often see you mention navy for an overcoat? Thoughts on this colour combination with the above?
Additionally, if I go bespoke for the overcoat, do you have any general guidelines to follow in terms of style?
That’s lovely to hear, thanks.
Brown tweed sounds like a very good choice. I presume you’ve seen the points (in the post and in the comments) on this article?
For overcoats, yes navy would be very safe, though a mid-grey might be more useful – if it’s something you think you can wear casually and formally (I don’t know how smart your working environment is). Certainly, if you went for navy I don’t think you’d regret it – it should be something that goes with everything.
In terms of style, perhaps look at this piece first? And then the articles on my personal Ulster coats.
Would navy be considered more formal than grey for an overcoat? I have indeed read both articles you linked (and my work environment is on the casual side – shirts and trousers/chinos, very seldom a jacket or tie).
This is the type of grey I was looking at (with no regard to the brand, as I don’t know it well enough to comment): https://www.poszetka.com/product-eng-6085-Ulster-overcoat-herringbone.html.
My thinking was that grey might better accomodate the basic range of suits as well as work nicely with odd jackets and trousers, or simply jeans/chinos and a sweater?
This colour of grey is very dark, it’s what I would call charcoal. I don’t think it would be that much more casual, or easier to work with casual clothing, than navy. Of the two, I’d go with navy.
However, a mid-grey could do that better.
Hi Simon, I have been eagerly awaiting news of the upcoming Donegal Overcoat and just saw the first photos today, very exciting!
Would this version of the Overcoat fit the “mid-grey” option you refer to above?
I was a little surprised at the larger/wider herringbone pattern and want to make sure this isn’t too much of a statement piece as, along with my navy peacoat, will be worn on a frequent basis (I was anticipating a grey closer to the first iteration). Thanks!
Yes I definitely think it would fit into that category. It doesn’t look that striking at all until you’re pretty close.
Thank you very much for your insightful writing.
I have one question, which might have been maybe asked by your readers by now, sorry if that’s the case.
By reading your blog, we get to know the quality, craftsmanship and history behind many quality brands.
We also learn overall strategies to build a quality wardrobe with posts like this one. However, it seems to me that one sort of posts is missing to get a complete picture that enable your readers to really get started and plan the construction of their wardrobe over years.
It would be some posts like the one on cheaper shoes brands for which you outsourced the writing, that summarizes options at each price tier level for each piece of clothing..
Like I know for instance by reading PS that Berg and Berg, Anderson and Sheppard are good starting points for knitwear and Loro Piana is in a higher tier, but I feel like it’s still a bit confusing for your readers to put together a mental map for this.
Would you consider writing such content in your future posts?
Interesting point. The first thing to say is that I’m not going to start covering cheaper brands, like in that shoe piece, regularly. It’s not what we do, and I don’t have the capacity to cover everything.
So it will all be at the level of Berg & Berg and up. And there are certainly levels there – for example Berg is usually not at the same level as A&S, which might often be below Connolly, and sometimes LP is higher. I can try and be better in pointing this out, although often with things like knitwear the divisions are much less clear than with shoes or tailoring for instance.
Thank you for your answer.
The cheaper shoes article I refered was to take an example for the type of article with some tier list that I think would benefit the reader, I was not actually refering to the actual price tag 🙂 Anyway, I think you are 100% right to keep covering only the upper segment because there are already plenty of great blogs covering the more affordable segments below.
ALso, I took like knitwear as an example, but of course could be any type of clothing like trousers or ties or whatever you feel like writing about 🙂 …
Thanks George, understood.
By the way, have you read the Guide To Quality, linked to in our menu? That has a lot of content about what makes quality in different categories – it’s from an old column I did for the FT
Yeah, I checked some parts of that guide, thanks for the recommendation.
Hello Simon! I see myself going back to this post which I always find useful. I can’t help myself but ask you where would you go for “budget” trousers today? Would you still try some MTM (via Luxire or else) or stick to RTW such as the Armoury, Incotex, or Drake’s and then get them altered?
Would love to know which strategy/brands you would advise as it’s quite hard to assess the quality of the items online, especially at the time of COVID.
Basically, which trousers would offer the best value when you’re on a budget?
Thanks in advance! Kind regards
If the shops are all closed, I might try Luxire only, but only at a cheaper budget level, and only for smart trousers.
If the shops were open, and if I had a little more budget, I’d certainly go to somewhere like the Armoury or Drake’s and have them altered. The quality would be higher, and I’d have more confidence about the fit as well.
I concur with Simon that finding RTW that fit well is the most important factor. In my experience Incotex “classic fit” has the correct rise and fit for me. Fortunately, the quality of the fabric and make is excellent, and I usually only require hemming/cuffs.
Thank you for the article, Simon. I think one suggestion is still missing: to buy quality second-hand items. There are websites and platforms where one can acquire rarely worn second-hand Crockett&Jones shoes for the price of, say, new Cheaneys. Or Drake’s ties that look as new for around £25. If one knows how to spot good quality items, buying second-hand can be a great solution for those living on a budget. When I was a student, I purchased a lovely loden overcoat from a high-end tailor for just 25 bucks at a second-hand store operated by the Salvation Army. Just one example out of many!
I was wondering why someone would get bespoke shirts over made to measure shirts?
A few things usually:
– Superiority of fit. Much less of a factor with shirts than suits, but still, with fittings and so on it should be better
– More design options. Often bespoke involves creating a collar from scratch, or at least tweaking and existing one. MTM usually means picking from a range
– Handwork. Not necessarily something that comes with bespoke, but usually does
Thank you Simon.
I’ve been doing a bit of research about bespoke makers in my city and I was wondering how I could figure out which maker is good for me. Do I need to get something made for me or do I not need to get anything made before making my decision?
You’ll obviously know a lot when you have had something made, but it’s very helpful to try on something that they have already made too, either for display or for another customer. You need to like their style, just as much as you would when you’re buying something ready-made.
There are of course lots of articles around PS on this as well. To start with try:
– Picking a tailor
– Visiting a tailor
– Visiting an artisan
Thank you for the article recommendations to start. I was wondering what makes a suit draw less attention?
A few things, but in order of impact, probably:
– Cloth colour (dark, sober, eg navy or charcoal will draw less attetnion)
– Pattern (lack of)
– Style (single breasted not double, no waistcoat, no braces etc)
– Cut (no dramatic things like Sexton roped shoulders, or Chittleborough belly lapels)
Could you give me a few examples of suits that draws less attention?
The simple business suit Kyle: plain navy, single breasted jacket, two button. Was my other advice on the points that make something stand out less not clear?
It was Simon but I was hoping to compare and contrast between the type of suit that stands out and the type of suit that does not. Also, thank you MB. I had asked my initial question out of curiousity for the difference between the two.
If you’re looking at shirts specifically, there is also a helpful video with 100 Hands about the bespoke process for shirts. It might not help you pick between two makers but it might be helpful in getting the most out of your appointment!
Revisiting this post and the “on a budget” controversy. Simon’s principles here are what should guide. Start with shoes – the least controversial. If you are a professional man in New York or another American city and are more than a year or two into your career (for your first job you have to buy a bunch of junk at once and that does involve some compromise), you can lay out US$700 each for two pair of conservative Alden shoes that would cover literally every professional and social occasion if you are not too picky about wearing different styles. With the care Simon recommends and resoling (I especially recommend replacing the leather with dainite the first time the leather wears out), you will easily be wearing those shoes for at least 15 years and possibly much, much longer. That will be a clear bargain. Now, suits and jackets. I always bought Hickey Freeman sack suits and odd jackets off the rack and those suits and jackets have lasted 10 years easily (especially worsted suits). Cheaper suits (Brooks Bros) fell apart. Needless to say, fit in all my tailoring has been inferior to what Simon aims for. My interpretation of Simon’s philosophy is that the top two priorities in tailoring are fit and quality of construction. Inspired by this I recently commissioned an odd jacket from W&S. I am excited to experience the bespoke aspects (armholes tailored to my body rather than the general population, a little drape in the chest, etc). The W&S jacket might be 1.5-2x the cost of something like Hickey Freeman off the rack today. Clearly the W&S will last at least as long, but maybe not represent a savings in cost-for-wear the way good shoes do. But I am willing to bet that 10 years from now the W&S will fit and look better than a well constructed off the rack jacket. There is a budget message throughout this blog (not just this on-a-budget post) that can be applied by any male professional to look better, take more pleasure in clothes and save money over time.
I’m pleased that philosophy on budget and investment comes across. Nice to have examples from the US too
Some good thoughts here Simon, and I see this still kicks off new discussions.
I don’t think you have covered this elsewhere on the PS site, but for those of us who aspire to quality Savile Row garments as the basis for a wardrobe but can’t stretch the budget to bespoke suiting (and/or like me, live on the other side of the world and only get to London once a year), an article on the merits of the various RTW suits offered by the likes of Huntsman, Richard Anderson, Dege & Skinner, G&H etc would be very useful. There is a fair range of prices (about GBP1,000 for G&H and D&S up to over 2,500 for some Huntsman, which is still a decent spend) and it seems reasonable differences in construction (some half canvassed, some full, some not-so-sure). Maybe not your usual fare, but your thoughts may be quite beneficial to those wanting to invest limited resources wisely. I would think that a good RTW suit made by Richard Anderson or Huntsman, adjusted where possible for fit, would be a good investment and if cared for properly, would last well.
To be honest, I wouldn’t look to RTW suits by Savile Row tailors as being something that in any way approaches ‘quality Savile Row garments’ as you put it. There isn’t anything special about any of them from a quality point of view – they’re not made by the tailors, and you’ll find the same levels of quality at other shops.
The only reasons to buy RTW from the Row, in my opinion, are because you love the particular cut of a tailor and that is expressed in their RTW (the latter is often not the case, because so much of it is driven by make) or because you get better quality alterations there by experienced tailors. I can’t speak to the latter, having not had it done myself, but I wouldn’t assume it’s necessarily better than at other brands.
If you’re looking at anything approaching 2000 or more, I’d be looking at good MTM rather than RTW, and even bespoke from a cheaper provider.
An excellent, concise, but capacious guide.
Simon, may I ask why you don’t wear a belt with jeans?
Have a look at my piece on how my bespoke Levi’s have aged. I think I talked about it there
OK, thanks. Happy New Year, Simon!)
I love your char-brown trousers and would like to get some made up. However, the £500+ at W&S is too much. Can you recommend other trouser makers in London? What about Saman Amel? Any others you have experience of at a slightly lower price point?
You won’t get cheaper than W&S for bespoke. But for made to measure, yes Saman Amel are good value, as are lots of MTM tailors I’ve covered – summary of those here
Have you seen my summary of the shirtmakers I’ve used? It’s here
Anyone have any thoughts on the brand Natalino? Looking at their trousers.
I’d you’re built like a matchstick, great! if you arent… I had 2 pairs, both went to eBay!
they taper too much.
for me saving grace was yeossal mtm.
Hi Simon, I would like to ask you a question assuming you were just a starter for this journey.
Which categories would you invest more money(proportionately) on shoes(e.g. EG vs C&G) or a jacket (e.g. Bespoke vs MTM/RTW)?
I would aim to get good MTM and C&J, or bespoke and EG, depending on your budget
Interesting, so would you look for a balance between the jacket and the shoes’ price/quality?
For example, if I wear a mid-priced MTM (assuming medium quality) with high-priced shoes (EG). Would you recommend distributing the budget more in a high-priced MTM (assuming top quality) and going for mid-priced shoes(C&G) rather than mid-priced MTM + high-priced shoes?
Yes, broadly I’d do that, but it’s also a question of personal preference – which you will enjoy most. Just don’t let them get too out of whack – eg a bespoke suit with very cheap shoes
I hope this msge finds you well.
Apologies if you have already covered this in the comments, however in re. 2 and 4 above, where would you recommend (for these two things) which are towards the cheaper end of the market?
For made to measure shirts, I like Simone Abbarchi, though you have to wait until he visits (coming in a couple of weeks to London).
On trousers, we’re going to do a round-up piece soon.
Hi Simon, I have been commissioning bespoke trousers as I couldn’t find any RTW trousers which fit my back rise and back knees. I am very satisfied with the fit but am considering doing MTM for the trousers to save some pennies. If I bring in my bespoke trousers for measuring, do you think MTM could be enough to achieve a good fit? Or is it usually something more complicated like jackets?
It probably wouldn’t work like that Jack, because MTM works from a standard block and adjusts that fit. I’m sure bringing in your bespoke trousers would be helpful, but it won’t necessarily be the exact same. That’s why bespoke is what it is.
Also, worth thinking about whether you’re comfortable with having a bespoke artisan make something for you from scratch, and then have a factory-type operation copy their work?
I see. That is something that I have not considered before. Going for bespoke is probably the better option, then. Thanks, Simon.
Hi Simon, what would be the main advantages of bespoke over MTM trousers other than more handwork? If my concern is mainly the fit and doesn’t appreciate hand work for the trousers, do you think MTM trousers by a good tailor would be enough?
It’s hard to say Jack. There is definitely a difference in the fit, but it is less than with jackets, and how much it matters to you will be a little personal and depend on how hard your body is to fit
I see. What would be the factors that make the definite difference in the fit? Would the choice of cloths make any difference? For instance, high twists tend to shape better, so would I achieve a similar fit to the cotton bespoke trousers? Sorry for asking a lot of questions at once.
The fit is all manner of things, hard to describe and dependent on your figure. Things like the relationship between hips, seat and waist point – or the shaping of the trousers with an iron. Small, but that’s what makes bespoke.
The cloths would usually be pretty much the same.
That’s very helpful, thank you, Simon.
Re-discovred this post today, and while I disagree with some of the advice, I think there’s a lot of worthwhile things to think about. I think that dressing better on a budget is easier today than in 2019, simply because the definiton of “well” has changed. Post pandemic the need for tailoring has reduced, which means the most expensive part of a permanently stylish wardrobe is not as high of a priority. It would be interesting to see an updated version of this article, as your style of dressing has definitely changed over the years, Simon. But until we have that, here’s my take:
Watch: most people today who wears a watch at all wears a smart watch or a fashion brand watch. Just by wearing a mechanical watch, you’re upping the game. You can get away with a Seiko in the 500 range and still look well dressed. If you want something Swiss, there’s brands like Oris and Longines. Watches are also probably the best thing you can buy pre-owned since fit isn’t as big of a concern as tailoring. Buying from an established dealer at Chrono24 or similar pretty much ensures you won’t get a fake, and there are brands like Girard Perregaux that have a long history and lots of hand finishing, but are currently out of favour on the market, and that can be had for half of what a new Cartier Tank costs.
Shirt: I agree with everything! Find a MtM maker that makes a collar you like, and stick with them.
Shoes: truth is, unless you’re a shoe person, or your friends are shoe people, not many will notice the difference between a pair of solid lower end goodyear shoes and a pair of St Crispins made on a personal last. How well you take care of them will matter more than who made them. While there can be a great joy in a pair of well-made shoes, for most people the difference between a pair of Loakes and a pair of Edward Greens is how long you have to save up to buy them. Buy the best goodyear welted shoes you feel comfortable with paying for (this goes especially for people living in countries that sees a fair bit of snow and salted roads): a pair of suede chuckas and a pair of suede pennies will get you through 3 seasons in the north, and with some Saphir invuln spray they’re low maintenance to boot (pun intended). There are also a lot of decent European brands in the lower price bracket: Carmina, L&T from skoaktiebolaget, and the Swedish brand Myrqvist all sell decent goodyear shoes that won’t have you take out a third mortgage to pay for them.
Trousers: with bespoke wool trousers not being required in most situations, you can get pretty far with some good chinos. Rubato is obviously great for dressier chinos, but Withcomb (haven’t used) and Cad both provide very affordable off-shore bespoke here.
Overcoats: just get a PS donegal and be done with it? If not, I think overcoats is actually one place where vintage can really pay off. First because wear isn’t as bad: overcoats tend to look better with a slight patina. Second, fit can be easier, since overcoats should be a bit on the roomier side to allow for an extra layer or two beneath. Unlike sport coats, where fit becomes paramount, a nice overcoat that fits sligthly large will just look like you’re not wearing the extra thick sweater and scarf you normally wear with it. There are also RTW overcoats from a few ‘row tailors: the Sexton greatcoats look REALLY tempting… (disclaimer: despite this, I have a bespoke overcoat and will probably end up making another…)
If you’re on an actual budget (that is, constrained by living costs, not by your own spending limits ;)) don’t worry about indulging. Those expensive things, even on sale, are probably where you’ll get rushed into buying something that might not fit into your wardrobe.
For bespoke tailoring in general, anyone on a budget should remember that bespoke is a long-term relationship, and the first commission might not achieve a perfect fit. Might be worth holding off until you have a good selection of quality casual chic clothes, as it will seriously sting if you blow your clothes budget for a whole year on a suit that only ends up fitting “ok”.