Buy fewer clothes
Part of the point of this website has always been to encourage men to buy quality clothing in long-lasting styles. The point is to be better dressed, but also to have clothes last longer and look better as they do so.
To that end we make quality a cornerstone of reviews, celebrate how those ‘great things age’, and consistently encourage care, repair and good maintenance.
Those links go to dedicated sections on those areas.
However, a reader recently suggested that given most of the articles are still about beautiful, luxury clothing - week after week - PS could be encouraging overconsumption.
I therefore wanted to write something making this all more explicit. So here it is: don’t buy too much clothing.
But how much is too much?
Well, let’s set some wide boundaries to start with. I doubt any PS readers are as bad as consumers of fast fashion. In the UK, surveys show things like 64% of young women admit to owning clothing they have never worn, one in three consider something worn once or twice to be old and an average woman will own 1,116 tops in her life.
Those clothes are more likely to be plastic, and to be made in countries with both worse labour practices and less environmental regulation. As we’ve covered previously, one fortunate aspect of luxury menswear is that just by being made in somewhere like Europe, its production is more strictly controlled.
On the other hand, we all consume more than previous generations.
My great-grandfather, I’m told, was not atypical in only ever having three suits of clothes: one for Sunday best, one for the working week, and one for manual work. Every year he would buy a new one, and the suits would be shuffled down: the new one became Sunday best, the best became working week, and so on.
The work of Professor Laura Ugolini is good on this, if anyone wants to delve deeper.
So we’re better than some, and worse than others. But none of this excuses us from looking very carefully at how much we buy. After all, we all know friends who care less about clothing than us, but also buy less as a result.
So again, how much is too much?
I think it’s a hard thing to pin down, and will always be a little personal. But I do think there are some things we can say about it. For example, clothing purchases should be considered. They shouldn’t just be done out of boredom, like a form of entertainment.
I’ve been guilty of that occasionally in the past. You’re having a great day out in town, it feels lovely to buy something to celebrate the day. To carry home. Not that you seek something purely for that purpose, but it tips a decision one way rather than another.
Or, you’re at home during lockdown, and scrolling through page after page of sales. Thinking what you like is a form of entertainment, and it would be pointless if it never resulted in a purchase.
This all sounds horrible written down, but I'm sure some readers will be able to relate.
Here’s something else we can say: there’s no point having clothing you don’t wear, or can only wear a certain amount.
Further: if you have so many things that you’re chopping and changing every day, you lose the pleasure of familiarity - of having clothes you particularly love and value.
Actually, value is an interesting way to look at this. Consider how much you value all your clothes, how much emotional connection you have with particular ones, and what pleasure they give. (Marie Kondo would approve.)
The thing that really seems distasteful to me about fast fashion is not the volume, but the fact that the clothes seem to be treated as disposable: they have very little value to the owner.
I know some friends that have a lot of clothing. But clothing is their life, and they hugely value everything they own. They research them, they create with them, they talk about them. And most revealingly, they care about them: the clothes are protected, cleaned, repaired; never just disposed of.
The average person, however, only has a limited amount of ‘value’ they can give to clothing in this way.
And because that value is finite, every time they buy more clothes they slice the value up smaller and smaller. Everything becomes less valued, because there is so much of it.
That’s often the impression you get from caricatures of the ultra-wealthy: they have a lot of expensive things, but they don’t value any of them. Price and value are disconnected.
Understand, I’m not saying value is the most important way to assess overconsumption. The sustainability of production and its impact on people and animals are much more important.
But it can be a useful way to consider whether we are buying too much, and it’s not one that comes up that much.
If we can reach a decision about how much clothing to have, how can we stop buying more?
One approach that I know works for a lot of readers is to be systematic. It’s not very exciting, but making a list of what you own and how it all works together can be helpful in establishing what you wear, and what (if anything) you lack.
It’s also helpful to be inherently suspicious of new fashions. These happen, even in classic menswear, and I find the key is to give the trend time to settle, never diving in early. That’s something we’ve written about before here.
Obviously, avoid impulse purchases, particularly in the sales. The idea of value is useful again: consider how much you would actually use it. The value is not the clothing's original price, it's how much you would treasure it. Compare that to the discounted price instead.
Also, look after clothes well. Not just because it makes them last longer, but because something that has been refurbished often feels as good as new. Even better. Suddenly you have a pair of trousers that isn’t skinny any more, or a pair of shoes with new polish and soles.
It’s a cheaper, more personal and more sustainable retail hit.
I know friends that have other rules, such as ‘one in one out’, so every new purchase requires one to be given away. Or people that don’t buy anything for one month a year, such as January. That can be a powerful exercise, even if just tried once.
Last point: I think it helps if you have an efficient way to find new homes for the clothes you no longer wear. So they can go to someone that will value them more than you do.
Giving to a charity shop is great, but if you want to find the best home, it might be better to sell them through pre-owned sites like Marrkt, high-end ones like Vestiaire Collective, or even vintage shops. Or simply give them to friends and family. Then you know exactly how they’ll be valued.
Between the products I review for this site, and the samples created for the PS Shop, I go through a lot of clothes. I’d find the waste infuriating if I weren’t able to pass them onto people through Marrkt, or give them away to my brother, brother-in-law, and a group of friends of similar proportions. (There’s a WhatsApp group.)
If you can’t avoid buying too much, at least avoid owning too much by selling it on well.
On Permanent Style we’re never going to stop writing about new clothing, and lots of it.
There’s a huge amount to cover, from many different brands, and everything new requires some kind of an assessment in order to be able to give relevant recommendations.
But we would never encourage anyone to buy more than a small amount.
How much exactly is probably something for everyone to consider, honestly, themselves. But hopefully the ideas in this article have helped stimulate some thoughts - particularly looking through the prism of value, rather than just volume.
So how does one get an invite to this WhatsApp group?
Ha! I’m afraid it’s family and friends only Charlie… readers will have to make do with the Marrkt sales. Sorry
So, are you asking us to propose to you, Simon? That is what I understood
Sorry Tamaki, I don’t understand your question. Are you making a joke about proposing, or asking how to get on the list?
It was just a joke, Simon, though a bad one as it wasn’t very clear hahahaha
Aha! Thanks for clarifying. I hate to say it, but maybe it’s one of those times when emojis can be helpful!
Simon, I am surprised you don’t comment here on supporting craft or smaller, local, independent brands. I say this only because I recognise myself in the lockdown purchases, but a few, especially recently, have been from small brands that I fear might not survive without custom.
In some way of course that’s not my responsibility at all, but it is true that given current patterns of consumption a small-ish niche is kept alive by fairly few. This isn’t to say that overconsumption is some kind of responsibility, but rather that some PS readers move in a niche market which may complicate appeals like this, if that makes sense.
Again, entirely support this, but just wanted to raise some questions.
Thanks Zy, that does make sense. I think supporting small crafts is certainly a part of the consideration. Although on the other hand, there used to be more craftsmen, and we bought far fewer clothes. I think the way to ensure the longevity of crafts is to try and increase the pool of people that appreciate them and invest in them, rather than for the small niche to buy more.
That does make sense. Again definitely not arguing for increased consumption just suggesting that given the potential fragility of some smaller brands a dip from those more interested in or committed to craft may be a strain, even if it does come from a good place.
And widening the pool only works to a degree of course. Fast fashion minimises labour costs, socialises environmental cost, and occasionally rips off design. Clothes and craft reflecting the true cost of the work of production and design on a sustainable level are simply too expensive for many. (Which isn’t an excuse for those who can afford to not to buy such products.)
(Always worth reflecting on Terry Pratchett’s insight on the cost of being poor in this regard too. For those unfamiliar with this it’s the “Vimes Boot Theory”.)
Absolutely. Widening can only go so far, but given how huge that market is, and how small the niche, it would make a big difference. I think most of us know people with money that don’t spend it particularly effectively on clothes in that regard
I couldn’t agree more with this. I think this site is great at covering how things age (yes, clothes should!) and how to repair them. The purchase isn’t the end, but the beginning.
I particularly liked the warm liner you had added to a jacket. It took the “let’s repair a hole” logic to the next level, and looked at how you could make an unwearable jacket something more useful.
Good to hear Charles. It is peculiar but keen sense of satisfaction you get from something like that
Completely agree re repairs – not just how to do it yourself but also the right people to go to as well.
I had some RM Williams boots that i barely wore any more because the toes were so scuffed – on PS’s recommendation I took them to the Jaunty Flaneur and Tom has worked a miracle. Super happy with them and looking forward to many more years of wear!
“It’s also helpful to be inherently suspicious of new fashions.”
Ironically, a dependable method for identifying these is by looking at Marrkt, Vulpilist etc.
They’re a gallery of ephemera and soon-regretted purchases…
Good point, you can certainly what certain people had to cut back on. Although I visited Marrkt recently (piece coming soon) and it is interesting how many basic things there are in there too – pretty standard shirts, sweats etc
Hi Simon, great article, that resonates a lot. I must confess I am guilty of all the sins you mention. I buy too much, above my means, a lot of clothes I rarely wear, my wife is tired of this and my appartment way too full. I autocontrol myself (i) by wiring every month, come hell or high water, a predefinite sum of money on a savings account and (ii) by reading your blog and developing a more refined taste for better clothes, more expensive. With comfortable but limited means, luxury means less 🙂 That does not cover all the points you make but it is a start.
very oddly relatable !
Wise words Simon. I’ve been thinking about a lot of this lately. We’re in a unique position in history in having abundance available to us and it runs counter to our instincts to practice restraint. Our ancestors spent most of human history cold and hungry, grabbing whatever little available to them whenever they could (and let’s not ignore, many people are still forced to live like this today)
After going a bit wild in the sales during lockdown, I find myself with many items still unopened their wrappers a year or more later because as you suggest, stuffing my wardrobe with many new pieces reduces the pleasure of old favourites. Better to keep them unworn and get the thrill of the new when the right occasion comes around. They’ll all get worn and used eventually so it’s not a problem in and of itself but clearly not sustainable year on year. Hopefully I’ve learned a lesson as I’m buying far less these days.
Like you suggest I’ve mentally catalogued my wardrobe and then written out a three-tier wishlist: (better) replacements for older, poorer quality items about to wear out, major gaps in my wardrobe and ‘desirable but not essential’.
As I mentioned in a previous comment, biting the bullet and spending more on the best quality wardrobe staples has helped. Getting something that’s near perfect for a fraction of the price proves to be a false economy if it ends up being a stopgap purchase.
Sorry, a bit of an essay again, thanks for a thought-provoking and timely article!
Not at all, it helps a lot to share personal experiences like that Tommy. Thanks
I identify w the purchasing during lockdown aspect! After I’d bought a good Tudor watch, a Good Art bracelet, an Iron Heart N1 deck jacket, a Tellason denim shirt, and an Inis Meain jumper, I had to make 2022 the year of no purchases. All the above will be w me for the long haul, but enough was enough, at least for a while.
Just to inform London-based readers: unwanted suits, shirts, shoes and formal accessories can also be donated to the charity Suited & Booted https://www.suitedbootedcentre.org.uk/ where they will be steamed, measured and passed on, for free, to someone looking to get into work but unable to buy smart clothes to attend an interview. Clients are referred from partner organisations like the Job Centre, homeless shelters, and youth organisations.
Thanks for mentioning that Luke
What you say is very sensible and I am very much in agreement. I am certainly ‘buying less but better’. I fear though that the flaw in all these attempts to buy less of something, be it clothes or food or whatever, is simply that people will redirect their cash towards something else which in its turn mitigates any environmental benefit. The problem with affluence is that is is necessarily about consuming more in whatever form that may take, buying ‘experiences’ is no different from buying goods. Other than simply paying more for things, I think perhaps the easiest way to make an environment impact is put your money in the bank and watch it disappear through inflation! Oh things used to be so simple!
I think that problem is normally mitigated by the better things being that much more expensive! Spend the same amount but on better things, and they’ll be more enjoyable, often be more responsibly made, and far fewer resources will be used in their making because less is being consumed. Goes for other things too, whether food, furniture etc
Affluence is not necessarily about consuming more I don’t think, not at all. Unless it’s conspicuous consumption people are after, and there are so many other problems with that.
Thank you for your interesting article.
Another topic which, in my view, would also be interesting to cover is about at what point does the price of your cloth not justify its value and longevity anymore (I am not talking about fashion brands).
I give an example to make my point clearer. Cifonelli do bespoke tailoring, MTM and RTW. Does a bespoke jacket of Cifonelli really last longer than MTM (which is also fully canvassed) and/or RTW (I think it is also fully canvassed)?
I am only making reference to the longevity, not the fit.
Thanks Stephen. Sure, that’s something I can certainly cover. In brief, bespoke has other advantages like the ability to alter over time, to remake and refit. But things like the cloth used in any type of clothing will probably make a bigger difference.
An interesting and very relevant article; thank you. The last few years have been quite impactful in this regard with the general trend to informality and the Covid-19 enforced pattern of remote working – too many suits not worn, too few jacket and trouser combinations, a problem whose rectification filled up the wardrobe and then tee-shirts and jeans for two (or who knows how many) years. Oh for the stability of formal business attire (uniform) that lets you go (your chosen level of) wild at the weekend!
I’ve certainly reduced what I buy since reading PS and being introduced to quality brands. But is that because the clothes I am interested in are more expensive or because its just better to buy less ? I would say initially more the former and only lately the later.
From personal experience I buy less now because, for example, I have 20 high street shirts that I don’t wear much and 10 MTM shirts that I enjoy wearing more. Could I have just brought 10 MTM shirts and foregone the 20 high street shirts ? I doubt it because the mindset is ” I have enough high street shirts , so I don’t need another £30 shirt, but I like the idea of a £150 MTM “. It’s a strange psychology.
As for our grandparents …. they brought much less but then they had so little choice.
A young man with limited means will buy quantity and only when he grows up and is more discerning does he buy quality.
Very good and relatable article!
Having build a more or less timeless wardrobe over the past decade, I rarely buy new clothes now and only to replace pieces that are beyond repair.
One more point about buying quality clothes and maintaining them is that it gives you one more reason to stay in shape and keep approximately the same weight.
This is a challenging topic, as I think most of us try to live by the old adage of, ‘buy less but of higher quality’. But in reality many don’t succeed, and over the years, accumulate a load of clothes and shoes that rarely get much wear.
I wonder what influence marketing and sales have on driving the level of consumption. I am certainly guilty of purchasing clothes and shoes that I don’t need in order to secure a good deal that was part of a time limited promotion. What responsibility do the brands have in this regard?
I have a lot of respect for companies such as Blackhorse Lane Ateliers, who have kept their pricing very consistent and will never participate in sales. In essence, you are paying a ‘fair’ price today, tomorrow, or next year, so there is less incentive to over consume.
It’s a good point Graham.
Personally I think that in the end, we have to be responsible as consumers and not buy things just because they are on sale. We can’t expect businesses not to find ways to get rid of clothes that have not sold at full price.
Rather cynically possibly but do you not think that even some high end brands manufacture clothing in anticipation that they will sell them almost exclusively at the ‘sale’ price.
Yes they certainly do – I’ve heard Ralph Lauren is particularly guilty of that with outlet stores. But it tends to be with the cheaper stuff, where there’s less risk. And if we buy less of that then there’s less of an issue
Outlet stores are stocked with items by people who think the people who visit outlet stores will want buy.
Maybe not true of all but certainly true of many.
I have seven pairs of Levi’s 501s 1947 rigid (cone mills denim) which I bought over 15 years ago and they are patched and repaired and still good for another few years. The clothing I buy is too expensive to discard so I make do and mend and feel the clothing looks all the better for it.
What works for me is not having enough money to buy a lot of new clothes. Right now, I want to get a new suit, but I also want to finish paying off my credit cards (I’m very close) and a couple of medical bills that the insurance didn’t cover. There’s also bills from Christmas, and the car needs a couple of repairs. I suspect this is a method many people employ.
Very practical Max. I know a few fellows who cultivated a taste for horse as a primary interest. Tailoring quickly took a back seat. The last time I bumped into one of them around St. James’s he told me he hadn’t had a suit made up in a while. In fact he hadn’t even had the old one taken in to account for the weight loss. The drape on that A&S double breasted wasn’t quite what it once was. Imagine! Not for me but it worked for them.
Excellent post. I recently read Scott Hotchkiss’s column on overpurchasing and following his experience, I executed a purge. I now have a smaller, but more integrated wardrobe that I can easily curate annually following a simple set of rules. Yes, it’s smaller but I’m getting custom clothing that makes me look good and ironically, it’s cheaper on my budget.
I wish I had done this 30 years ago. Good reading.
Thanks Bob. Do you have a link to the piece?
I believe Bob is referring to this article
Important article Simon. I’d say with certainty, I’m at the younger end of the PS readership. I hold my hands up, when I started reading PS a few years ago I fell into the trap of seeing all the beautiful clothes presented on a weekly/by-daily basis, the tailoring, the style, on PS and having this feeling of “I need a bespoke wardrobe, I need this, I need that” making unrealistic lists in my head, far above my current means. This has long since changed.
What this has quite literally forced me into, is the mindset of the investor regarding everything I buy, particularly clothing. Asking myself hard questions now. The primary of which, how much life and enjoyment can I get out of this piece of clothing? whether that’s a loop wheeled sweat or a pair of fine bench grade shoes. Another thing I’ve found that has helped, is simply being realistic. As someone that works from home and will likely do so indefinitely, what do I wear on a daily basis? Do I need to invest in more tailoring just now? No, keep the powder dry. Easy as it is to get caught up in the whirlwind of classic menswear. I wear the same knitwear, denim, and boots everyday. That switches to over shirts chinos and loafers/desert boots in the summer. I take care of them, maintain and only make very well thought out purchases at this point. Frankly, a lot of this is thanks to you Simon. PS has entirely changed my outlook.
I already know what I plan to buy this year and this is aided by your very helpful emails outlining the seasons PS releases. Last thing I’ll say, this is exactly why I found PS awards 2022 so helpful. It has helped me further realise how much value there is in well thought out, restrained, planned purchases, regardless of the price or what it is. Getting an insight into other readers style and approaches. Loved it.
Great to hear Chris, on the general mindset and the products emails
hi Simon, very interesting and timely article. I used to really struggle a lot with buying too many clothes and, although I’ve improved in recent years, I still probably buy a bit too much.
In addition to the points you mentioned, a few other rules and behavioural changes have been helpful for me to limit over consumption.
Before any significant purchase, I ask myself if the article I am considering will last, and I can see myself wearing it, for at least 10 years. If I answer no to either, I don’t buy it. This has helped a lot to prevent me from jumping on short-lived trends, as well as avoiding some categories of clothes almost altogether (trainers, sportswear).
I also almost entirely stopped buying clothes online a few years ago. I was returning around 80% of what I bought because of fit or not liking the article in reality as much as I did online, and I got tired of the waste and hassle (even with free return labels). The slower buying process of having to go to a shop, try something on, etc helps me to avoid impulse buys. In particular here in Zurich where there aren’t too many interesting menswear shops so most of my purchases are made elsewhere, I usually have to wait at least a few weeks to pick up something in one of my favorite shops.
The realisation that almost any high quality article of clothing can be repaired by a good artisan, unless the damage is catastrophic, and experiencing the pleasure of getting something back from the repairman that I would have previously sold or given away. Now, I get more pleasure from getting my old shoes back from the cobbler after resoling than I do getting a pair of new ones.
I still buy more than I strictly need for sure, but those three things have helped me a lot to cut back.
I think any female readers may find that opening rather accusatory. Your point about your grandfathers three sets of clothing is interesting and a good one. There are a million IG accounts of corporate european guys who like traditional menswear and use their account to post endless pictures of themselves in what is generally a fairly traditonal and conservative outfit. The old photos of guys from the past dressed in a similar fashion look great and it is almost aways becasue the clothes are used and lived in presumably becuase they only have a small number of them. The modern guys with his endless box fresh shoes, ties jacket etc looks very stale and lacks any sort of style or personality. This is the best argument for owning less and wearing what you have more. You will look infinatly more elegant as a result.
Like most people I have been guilty of buying too much, especially in sales.
So I have plenty of really nice quality clothes that suit someone else more than me.
For me, it becomes too much is apparent, when
So, I have decluttered considerably and still find I have go to clothes and still have clothes I do not touch.
I am sure this is true for many of us.
However, my problem has been that I did not know which clothes would be the default, go-tos, and which would be the ones that just take up space at the time of purchase. Their usefulness and permanency seemed to evolve rather than being immediately apparent.
Your threshold criteria are painfully relevant! Thank you.
Excellent article. Your comments on lockdown scrolling ring true.
I expect most people on here own more clothing than they can realistically wear, myself included. I.e. there are only so many winter days in a year, I can only wear one sweater a day, I don’t wear a sweater every day anyway, so how many sweaters am I really going to use in the course of a year? This can be repeated for everything.
Which leads to a point you’ve mentioned before: buy quality, and buy sparingly. Avoid the sales that may make me think I’m getting a deal until I realize I’m buying something I don’t need, or want beyond the moment.
Be realistic about what I feel comfortable wearing. Some things look better in an advert or a blog post than they will in real life, when I’m living in it. Those bright orange peccary gloves really pop online, but in real life a pair in grey or brown will get a lot more mileage.
In the same vein, I have tried to figure out what colors I like and work for me. A nice burgundy sweater is great – but so is a nice navy, grey or forest green sweater, and I’ll always go for one of those first, and since I’m only wearing one a day (see point 1)… maybe I should just enjoy burgundy sweaters on other people.
I expect that most guys into clothing use about 15% of their wardrobe 90% of the time – in other words, the vast majority of the time they are wearing their favorites. I’m guilty of this as well.
Hi Simon – could you elaborate on what you mean by “suddenly you have a pair of trousers that is not so skinny any more”?
Thank you for this article, it’s a lovely piece and timely reminder to enjoy what I already have!!
I mean, you might have a pair of trousers that you don’t wear because they’re a bit too slim. But you have them altered to let out the leg a little, and the result feels like you’ve got entirely new trousers
Great – thanks! I didn’t realise the contour of the leg could be increased that way round! I’ve definitely enjoyed this experience the other way – slimming a leg that was too baggy or adjusting waists in as I’ve lost weight. Enjoying high-quality clothes again, but with the added benefit of personal patina and affection for the piece.
Perhaps another recommendation this article implies – have a friendly and trusted alterations tailor!
You can increase them to the extent they have inlay inside by the way. A bespoke trouser will often have more than a RTW one
Thanks Simon – I’ll take pleasure in investigating this before the autumn. (I had actually been pondering whether a pair of my Incotex flannels have felt a little slim in the calf/hem this year, and subtle changes will be interesting to explore. Off to peer at inlay then for me).
I love learning about this kind of thing from PS – I would argue there are several examples where PS has saved me significant expenditure through making me aware of these possibilities and the joy that comes from them.
This trouser tip is another nice example of your concrete positive impact on sustainability (at least in this one reader’s case – I would not have thought of this otherwise).
Lovely to hear Ethan
As others have said, the biggest factors in me reducing unnecessary waste is to buy in shops and take more time. Enjoy the process and not regard it as product.
PS has really helped with the capsules.
I find that planning and thinking about my yearly activity aids smarter shopping. This year I expect to be travelling to warmer climes, therefore, for the next few months that will be my focus.
This is a great point. One that I have sometimes lost the enjoyment of during the pandemic, with the forced retreat to Instagram and push-button purchasing.
Amen. Amen. Amen. I recommend Glenn Adamson’s “Fewer, Better Things’.
The case you are making in this post is understandable indeed. But let’s be practical: what does that mean if we consider, say, a decent amount of shoes a PS average reader woking in an office and living in Europe could own? To keep the comments within acceptable boundaries, let’s take up as a starting point your post dedicated to the capsule collection of shoes.
See here: https://www.permanentstyle.com/2019/09/if-you-only-had-five-shoes-a-capsule-collection.html
Could three shoes in A/W be a decent amount? Knowing of course that the Chukka boot would be for the weekend? And hence four shoes in S/S?
I’ve tried to stay away from specifying actual numbers John, because I genuinely think it can vary between people. For example, if someone really likes shoes and values them more than suits and shirts and ties, then there’s nothing wrong with him having more.
And, I think it’s possible to justify having more the longer you own them and look after them and value them. Someone might buy one pair of shoes a year, which is not that much probably, but because they are high quality and he looks after them well, after 20 years he has 20 pairs.
That’s more responsible than someone that never has more than five pairs, but throws one pair away every two years.
Does that make sense?
Sure! Thanks for your reply, Simon.
The timing of this article is perfect as sales are ending in France and I’m getting bombed with last discount mails.
I believe this article is a needed rectification ; as an avid reader of PS, it is easy to think one needs 10 suits, jackets in every colour, an endless amount of shirts, accessories, shoes, etc. and of course, everything bespoke. The reality is that most guys (i) do not need and (ii) can not afford a wardrobe such as yours Simon.
If we compare ourselves to people in the menswear industry as we see pictures of them everyday on social media, we will always feel that our wardrobes are lacking stuff.
Hi Simon, Such an interesting article. Many of the points resonate with me. Purchasing as part of a day out, a sort of boredom and sales, all of which have led to some overbuying on my part in the past and the resultant waste of nice things lurking in the dark recesses of my wardrobe! A few things I have learnt:
I have not turned into a hermit and I’m not trying to save the planet alone, I’m just tying to appreciate things more. With the money I have received through sales or have avoided spending – I invest in the best I can reasonably afford on something that will get used
Thanks again Simon, your article inspired writing the above – nothing new or overly original- just collated thoughts. I hope it’s useful to other PS readers. .
Never buy anything in a sale that you would not have been prepared to pay full price for.
I think many would strongly disagree with that.
I agree with you Lewis. My point about sales is they can make something that is beyond your normal budget accessible. Simon’s RRL cardigan is an example. One should however, I would suggest, apply the same principles as per regular priced items, that I mentioned in the points in my original comment. No hard and fast rules here, just thoughts being shared. Best. S
I interpret Clive’s original comment as being about not making compromises on fit, colour or style just because it is “cheap” and thus ending up with a piece that is really not quite “right”.
Interesting thoughts on value Simon.
There seems to be a lot of emphasis on individual action regarding impact and sustainability in the current public discourse. The reality is that individual action is far from enough to effect any decent change.
The average PS reader might know a lot about clothes to choose a garment that has a smaller environmental impact, lasts longer and is made by workers paid a decent wage. Yet the same reader might be clueless about food, electronics or furniture production. It’s simply impossible to know enough about much of what we consume to make choices that reduce the negative impact on the planet.
To effect serious change the cost of externalities has to be borne by the producer, which creates an incentive to reduce damage. (That is the socialised cost of production, for example: a tannery pollutes a river and the taxpayer pays for it to be cleaned)
We’re getting into a bigger conversation here Noel, but while I agree, I also think companies only change when they are forced to by their customers or by governments. And governments only regulate when they think that, at the least, most of their voters would support it
Of all the posts you have done on sustainability and the “philosophy” behind artisanal menswear, this may be my favorite. It’s very relatable. I have tried one-in-one-out, but can’t do it. I have also tried not buying anything for a month…and failed. The two rules I am pretty good about: (1) get rid of anything I have not worn in a year and (2) strictly follow a budget of what I am allowed to spend on these items annually.
Yes, clothes can be a mild form of addiction, like many others. The Greek term akrasia, or absence of self-control, seems relevant. I am always on the hunt for a plan that forces me to buy less too. I have also tried the not buy for a month scheme…and the buy-one, sell-one routine. Neither have curbed the itch. Now I am experimenting with a lowered annual budget, making a list of things that are really, really wanted (need seems wholly misplaced in this discussion), and thinking much harder about what I already have and how to use it more. And, of course, more regular clear-outs of the un-utilised space-hoggers…So far, so good. But then I began the new regime in January and it’s only mid February…..
Hey, what fabric softener and detergent do you use? I’ve heard fabric softener can damage some clothes
Just any regular detergent, unless it’s a wool wash when I usually use a specialty wool one.
But yes, I only use softener on tough fabrics, like workwear cottons etc
Interesting, thank you
Simon further to this does (in your considerable experience) the use of fabric softeners damage the fabric of good dress and casual shirts, lighter cotton trousers etc ?
Should fabric softener only be used on heavy workwear cotton and sheets and towels etc?
I haven’t really used softeners with those finer clothes, because I was advised that it could affect them. So actually I don’t have any direct evidence there.
I have found it useful on softening up some tougher workwear pieces sometimes though
We stopped using fabric softener in my house years ago, I think it was due to skin reactions, but in any case, I don’t miss it. For shirts, it’s easy to be overzealous on this – they will wear out eventually however you look after them – but with nice ones, I personally prefer to soak them in hand wash detergent for a few hours before brushing up the collars and cuffs with some more hand wash detergent, and then washing the shirts on a delicates cycle with Woolite. It’s fussy, but if I’m honest, I enjoy the ritual; much like hand washing knitwear.
This is a very timely and useful article. The concept of buying fewer, but better clothes is not new as PS has advocated this principle for quite some time. It’s simple, but not necessarily easy to implement as it requires one to be intentional in the clothes buying process. I started trying to do this actively about three years ago. I re-evaluated what type of models fit me best and going forward bought only those. Also for any new purchase I eliminated an existing garment that didn’t fit the new model. This has been a major change that has simplified my wardrobe dramatically and improved the quality significantly. I recommend this idea highly, but to reiterate, it requires intentionality and discipline.
A good summary of the “less but better” approach. I have to admit that I’ve been on a bit of an acquisition trail these last couple of years, although each purchase has been thoroughly considered and in most cases planned in advance. I did find that, as COVID lockdowns continued, I was starting to “self-medicate” with knitwear – but, as I started with almost no knitwear a couple of years ago, I console myself with the knowledge that much of what I’ve bought has been thoroughly mulled over and in many cases bought in sales – which not only saves me money but saves the items in question from disposal. I stalked one particular cashmere crewneck, from Begg&Co, for about six months… then one day it was unexpectedly discounted in their end of season sale, and I pulled the trigger. To the question “how many sweaters can a man wear”, I can only say that “it depends” – for me, from autumn onward I now wear a sweater pretty much every day while working from home, rotating through the whole collection in a surprisingly short time. So rapidly building a collection of knitwear is justifiable – but I probably need to slow down, now!
For other clothing, I find that I’m planning acquisitions sometimes months ahead, and budgeting accordingly – something which the PS seasonal release emails helps with, incidentally. This stuff isn’t cheap, for the proper quality, and funds are neither unlimited nor inexhaustible. If I’m spending on quality, then the funds are reserved for that small number of purchases and don’t get used on quantity.
Now I just have the problem of a wardrobe full of cheaper, older stuff I no longer wear – because it’s no longer “me”, and/or has been supplanted by better quality items – but which I haven’t managed to clear out yet, and which needs to be disposed of in a reasonably sustainable manner.
Here’s the way I have approached this at various times
1. Don’t get sale-itis i.e. don’t just buy it becuase it is in a sale.
2. Some clothes wear quicker than others e.g. shirts but others can last a long time. If you have had it long enough then try
a. Family – brothers and father have had some of mine – jackets, jerseys etc
c. People in work – I have given ties away to younger or new members of staff
d. If in good quality donate to Oxfam and give it tax free with Gift aid. Not only do Oxfam run some vintage shops but if they can’t use your garment they will recycle it so it never ends up in landfill – details here for those interested
e. Finally, regarding worn shirts/pants/socks and anything else not suitable then wear it on holiday, leave it there and have a bit of room in your case when you come back.
3. I have also twice done years where I bought no clothes and I intend to do this again, probably every other year at least. This is admitedly easier when you are buying quality clothes that will last – as many on here do.
Simon you mention Mari Kondo. I used her method last year on my wardrobe and was surprised by how much of it was unloved and hardly worn. After reducing it I have clothes I regularly wear, enjoy wearing and should last for years to come.
I have become suspicious of sales as I have purchased things on deep discount in the past. They seemed like a great bargain but proved very difficult to wear and languished in my closet. One sport coat comes to mind in particular. For all the use I got from it I might as well have burned the money I used to purchase it.
If you buy it but never wear it then it isn’t a bargain, no matter how low the price.
Another area I have found it easy to buy to much of accessories. One tie or pocket square doesn’t seem to cost that much so it’s easy to keep adding to the collection. But as with everything else you keep returning to your favorites.
I’m planning to retire in another three years so now I view my clothes with an eye to what I will need then. I have a mental list of what I will need to keep from my business wardrobe and what I will need for retirement.
Great article and one that resonates with my approach.
I have spent the last seven years or so experimenting with various styles of mostly cheaper RTW tailoring, almost all of which has survived and been worn to various extents. This has informed me as to what works for me and what doesn’t and now I am in a position gradually to buy better quality RTW or commission bespoke/made to measure versions of the things which work for me. I have been passing on all the clothes I no longer wear or don’t work for me to my brother which works really well, he is pleased!
So the aim is to reduce the number of items I have and raise the quality so that they last longer.
One of the best articles of 2022 for sure. It made me think a lot about many clothes that i dont wear any mor ore i didnt ever wear(much). I was making the last week a list of things i want to give away and what i want to buy and quess what, i dont need to buy much more stuff. I work as a doctor so at the hospital i wear my scrubs. On my day i wear some nice loongewear at home and so that leaves me the 2 clothes senarios: heading to work and leaving from it, when i go out with friends-girlfriend. Fot the first one i cant wear much formal cause noone really cares about what i wear going or leaving and i find it a little bit funny to carry trees for my beloved shoes( not all shoes are the same size). That leaves my day shopping etc and my friends meetings. I can easily get along with 3-5trousers including one jeans and one chino, 2-3 shirts and many t-shirts, 4-5 pair shoes, 2-3 wool-cashmere stuff( at home its really warm so a tshirt is more than enough) and 2 coats, one blazer, one puffer jacket and 2-3 coats for other seasons. I quess i dont need many clothes but i stoped beeing in the need for new clothes like 3-4 months ago when i made my first give out. If i would change something that would be more good tshirts and maybe a good jeans shirt and of course underwears and shocks. After that i am planing to keep and enjoy what i have and rebuy the stuff that get overworn or makes me really excited( it happens 2-3 times every year). Im also not the most caring person except my shoes cause i like to keep them nice with some care. All the other stuff except careful washing doesnt get more. I think every person is different and depending one the needs and the lifestyle one can wear his clothes a lot whithout looking the same all the time.
For me at least, the “issue” of this site in relation to overcomsumption is that it educates and introduces me to a whole host of options that I didnt know existed. Had I done your list idea before starting to read this site my number of items would have been less and I would have seen less gaps. Now I have three times the amount of clothing but can see vast gaps because of the extra knowledge.
The no point in owning something you dont wear at least X often is a partial saver… its stopped me pulling the trigger on a black tie outfit because no matter how much I’d like one the reality is only once every other year would I get an opportunity to wear it so cannot justify the cost. However so many other items (shirts, knitwear etc) its easy to tell yourself that of cause a new oxford shirt will obviously get worn just like your other ones but this one will be more slubby so useful in a different way.
Interesting article. I think purchases are driven by the euphoria or good feeling one gets when one buys something new. You feel especially good when you are able to purchase that item of clothing that finally went on sale and saved you money. Also, at times, I think we buy clothes because it literally makes us feel better during these depressing Covid times we live in.
I find that limiting myself to the basics helps me avoid splurging on new clothing. And making a list of items that I want and only purchasing those during the year. Or purchasing only to reward myself for some major accomplishment That and having to save for retirement. Ha.
I recently purged a bunch of older or unwanted stuff from my closet and it was an enormous relief. I also wrote up a little document with the specific things I actually want and like to wear to guide my future purchases. I’m still doing a bunch of scrolling but having a clear plan means I’m not buying stuff that I don’t need.
The point about what our grandfathers and great grandfathers wore is always an interesting one to me. Many of them may have owned 1-3 suits, shirts and pairs of shoes at a time, but even if the tailoring was weighty and repairs more common than today, I can only assume that plenty of clothes were worn to death and knackered before their time? I like to think there is an attainable ideal, in which we own enough, but neither too much nor so little that we prematurely wear out what we have.
Yes absolutely Jim, that is an outlier, like the fast fashion examples, just to set context. I think we should be more towards that end than the other, but we don’t have to aspire to that level of stringency
I know every item in my wardrobe (and there are many). Periodically I look thru all my closets. I like the way you approached this; not with numbers but thoughts including being deliberate. Much of my wardrobe use depends on occasion or season. But I want to wear them all. Over the years I’ve done a major weed a time or two; especially when I was moving up in quality. I have a written inventory I update each year with photos for insurance. Because clothing is also a hobby I have shelves of related books and admittedly many clothing items valued for what they are or represent regardless of how often worn. I rarely buy things now on sale or solely because they’re on sale.
The older I get, the more one of my parents’ favourite sayings “buy cheap, buy twice” rings true.
The things I buy now I intend to keep for a long time-at least the rest of my working career which could be another 15 years or so. In that time am I going to succumb to one of my many weaknesses: blue or white shirts, grey trousers, plain blue ties, brown jackets, long socks? Of course, I will. I’d a be fool to try to lie to myself and say I won’t. But as so many others have said. ‘buy less and buy better’ isa maxim to follow.
My parents also said “Buy the best you can afford and look after it. It’ll last longer, you’ll look better in it and be happier for it.” More words to live by.
By 2020 and after 18-months, I had dropped 30% of body weight. A 44 chest was now 36/38 and a 42 waist plummeted to 29. There was a need to reboot my wardrobe.
However, it was also a dangerous time as I had the motivation, wherewithal and space to splurge at the same time as discovering Instagram, PS and some fine books on the matter. To put it into perspective, I could have purchased everything I read about on Permanent Style without saying no to a single item and without affecting any other spending.
The most urgent need was to define my style. What did I gravitate to wear? How do I want to be seen moving forward? After looking through my wardrobe and disposing everything except a 32-year old overcoat, which I had kept for sentimental reasons and once again fitted, I decided to implement a plan. I then started to read and read until my eyeballs burst but with the conscious decision of nothing new for several months except a Barbour jacket and a pair of C&J boots which I had on my mind for many months.
I devised my system for clothing, footwear and accessory purchasing as follows:
1) Value. To me its not how much or little you spend that equals sustainability or value, but how much its used. I went further to look at my potential average cost per wear. To add something the estimated cost per wear must lower my overall average amount. This is a dispassionate metric to help to focus on where I can spend a bit more or should reign in rather than a hazy notion.
2) Clutter. Do I really need this? Nowadays, it must not be a duplicate of something I already own which can perform the same task or is effectively a twin of an existing piece. I mean I would love that expensive cashmere roll neck because of this or that, but my 10 year cotton piece does the job fine, keeps me warm and is in good condition. Any savings will be earmarked for a future clothing purchase or sooner spent on something outside this realm.
3) Style & interchangeability. Does this item this fit with my style? If it does then it must have a minimum of 8 outfit combinations with existing items. It reinforces my value rule.
4) Reward. It then sits on my possible list for at least 6-months to see how I feel as I research. Essentially, this is my cooling off period and if I cant find a reason to say no it then gets looked at seriously as a “reward” linked to an achievement.
5) Savouring & gratitude. Before I purchase a new item, I revisit my wardrobe and look at what I have, when I purchased it and the memories thereof. I give thanks as I savour each item thinking of all the effort that went into its production and purchase. The reverse is thinking, how things would be if I didn’t have this. It makes you mindfully appreciate things. Often these little steps are another stop to an impulse buy.
6) Fit. It really helps to know your measurements. Immediately, you can say no to many things especially on the preowned market.
7) Golden rule. Overall, a purchase must not breach my rule of 30 items of clothing or 10 pairs of footwear. This is constant rule is superior than a single “dry month” of zero purchases.
8) Decisiveness. Subsequently, if a purchase sits idle, it will be resold or gifted quickly. The longer you leave it the more excuses for inaction turn up.
9) The Journey. I find colour combinations, textures, seasonality and the immersion in the whole process; all of which I collectively term the journey as good if not better than the purchase. This can be applied from preowned to bespoke made. If every purchase is a journey, you instinctively embark on fewer of them but retain a deeper and cherished understanding of each.
10) Balance. In the last few years clothing and footwear has become a growing passion, which I chose to dilute with other interests in order to maintain a healthy balance of focus and spending.
The only exception are a bespoke suit, a bespoke boot and MTO footwear pieces; all following significant research and involvement in the process. The same has been applied to my 3 bags. All purchases were again linked to a major achievement in life as a reward and not before.
This approach avoids over-consumption and the Hedonic treadmill for me at least.
There are times I peruse Permanent Style and Instagram and think, that’s a good idea or comment and there are times I think really? Naaah – not for me.
For every 1 yes I agree to, there are many many noes as I continually negotiate with myself. It’s the hardest negotiation you can have but you must not relegate it to a footnote or worse totally ignore it as you the reader, the consumer have the ultimate power /veto over what you choose to purchase.
Just wanted to say thank you Richard for the explanation of your personal rule system. I find myself in a place where I have way too many clothes and I need as well to implement a strict “scoring” system. So thanks again for the insight into your own.
Thank you Richard. That sounds a wonderful discipline. Congratulations if you can keep to it!
I find a big incentive to repair and repurpose is finding a good alterations person. They aren’t easy to identify these days. I pondered whether to get rid of some of my bespoke suits given what has now happened to office use and wear, reluctant however to do so because of the fabric quality and original cost, but have been lucky enough to find a brilliant seamstress who is adjusting them after many years of good service and shifts in my body shape. It’s amazing how the attention of someone who really knows how to adjust and dart suit coats, repair linings and let out trousers well can give a new lease of life to a much loved garment.
So that’s a way to get my traditional menswear purchases limited. I’ve now got to work out how to stop buying the increasingly desirable high end casual stuff!
Fantastic Russ. You’re right, a seamstress is great and hard to find. Do you mind letting us know who yours is and where she operates?
I don’t necessarily think I need to buy less, as long as I fully appreciate each of my (clothing) pieces. Things that are not respected – clothes, shoes, cars and-what-have-you – make me angry. By the way, it doesn’t matter whether they are expensive or inexpensive. The so-called “throwaway society” is one that unites all social classes. My late grandmother gave me a pair of shoes for my 16th birthday; Church’s. I still have them today – and wear them as regularly as ever; now 54 years old.
Have you ever looked into Sirplus? Sustainable, versatile and very good quality.
I have. I didn’t like the style really, but agree certainly on the sustainability front
I actually find this approach easy to follow with business or formal wear (tailoring, dress shirts, nice shoes) but less so with truly casual clothing (even polos, which I find wear out rapidly) and necessities such as undershirts (I know many do not wear them), underwear, socks, etc.
If the clothes are actually wearing out, then I don’t think you have this problem GL. The issue is buying too many things and not wearing them out.
However, if you polos and underwear etc are wearing out that quickly, it might be worth looking at some alternative?
Hello Simon, thank you for a wonderful, thoughtful, and timely piece. If there is one thing I discovered during lockdown, it’s that I don’t need as much of anything really; but, what I do need must be something I love and will derive joy from (apologies if my English isn’t that good – still learning). I can say I wear things with my presence and mindfulness, not to mention happiness. I wish you and all PS readers the same. I hope the weather is ok for everyone in the U.K. Dimos
Thank you Dimos
I don’t frequently comment but feel there is something to address here.
I’m glad you brought the topic of excess to the fore because I’ve been feeling uneasy at permanent style quite some time now.
My father did not have three suits, he had 10. One per work day, warm seasons and cool seasons. The three suit strategy – one suit gets worn 50 times before it becomes a daily work suit, then it gets worn about 250 times before it becomes a ‘beat around’ suit, and then how many, I’m not sure, until it is worn through. Ok. My father wore each suit once per week in the season, so ~25 times per year, and replaced one per year, so each was good for 10 years, or 250 wears. That’s almost the same number of wears per suit until it is no longer office/church suitable, interestingly enough. He had two pair of dress shoes, so they could alternate days; they were resoled sometimes and in galoshes in the rain. A raincoat, a black umbrella, no overcoat. White shirts for a week. Black socks. Jeans for weekends, with some more casual collared shirts, t-shirts, polos, sneakers, a duffle coat. Work boots for heavy work. So four pairs of shoes, total, plus overshoes/galoshes for heavy weather. And slippers, accessories. That’s an entire wardrobe.
I find the notion of accumulating 20 pairs of shoes, for a man, ludicrous and in this context, vaguely offensive. Why would one keep the worn out shoes? Why would one replace those that weren’t worn out?
About the various collections of overcoats; apparently coats for all occasions. It doesn’t appear to me that people are being taught how to pick a single coat based on climate and station in life, but instead, that each man should have perhaps 5 at various degrees of formality? I can’t see it as reasonable or sensible.
I’m not sure I’ve achieved an ideal with 5 dress shoes, but it certainly seems at the high end of common sense rather than the absolute floor. Enough to not wear the same pair twice in a row but also have brown and black options available on any given day. I’m also wearing sport coats, not suits, and have enough to put 5 in the closet each season, following on my father’s model of wearing each once per week. I haven’t worn any out yet. It might be a long time before I do, given only 15 wears per year, each.
I’ve probably exhausted my reader at this point; but I’d like to hear more thoughtful commentary about what is reasonable and necessary, wise, prudent, respectful, and resourceful. I’ve found lately that my interest in good clothes has been best expressed in helping others, a dopamine hit of its own kind, I suppose.
Thanks for your thoughts.
On the shoes, the point is that none of the shoes is worn out. Good leather shoes can last decades, if the leather is taken care of and they are resoled well. Indeed, they often look better after 10 years, unlike almost any other clothing.
On the overcoats, if you’re referring to my recent article on that, I was not suggesting that anyone needs to own all five, as I made clear in the discussion afterwards. But still, between casual and formal, raincoats and wool, most people do have three or four.
Thank you. I was in part responding to your coat article, but also three or so others that I had seen. I agree about shoes having longevity. I’m pondering the implications.
Check out project 333. It’s mentioned in the Netflix docu “the minimalist”….
Its about using for 3 months not more than 33 items. I do it right now and like it.
Pick your best pieces, not more than 33 items and you soon notice that you don’t need more. I noticed that I find more cool and new combinations too. My wardrobe is probably 1/3 vintage. Now trying this 333 thing I know I have to much clothing (while I don’t have that much actually).
Simon, trading clothing is great too.
I trade with a friend of mine with the same size. It’s really fun.
You could start something like that on this website. Imagine how many people have sort of the same taste on this site and clothing laying around that they don’t use or like that other people would love. It could be really cool to open up something like that. It would for sure prevent people buying new stuff.
Its an idea right…
It is, thank you Jasper.
I think guys would mostly want to sell to each other, but we could organise a joint sale event and try swapping as an option for people too.
Brilliant idea Simon. And another great insightful piece as always. Guilty as hell … and I have bought a lot of crap too. Would you ever subscribe to just wearing the same basics, i.e. like Giorgio Armani designs all these wonderful stuff but even he doesn’t wear them. Just a uniform of black t-shirt and pants. Could that ever be the solution to overconsumption?
It could certainly be a solution, yes, but I don’t think it’s a realistic one for guys that really love their clothes. There is no love for the clothes you wear in those daily uniforms.
For a regular guy though, not a reader of PS, a uniform like that can be very effective. Perhaps blue oxford shirts and blue jeans with brown boots, for example, rather than black T-shirts and black trousers…
Simon, I’m sure you may well have considered this before and you may well have some very good reasons for not taking it any further but I thought I’d ask. Why not have a section here, on your PS website where your readers can sell their second hand, no longer wanted items? You would obviously take a cut. Your readers clearly have something in common, a love for fine clothes. You have a captive audience, all in one place. Brilliant idea, eh?
Thanks, it is a good idea and something I’ve looked at in the past. I guess the reason I haven’t taken it further is that it’s not something I want to spend time looking after, and there are other options out there. If I had more time it probably wouldn’t be top of my list of things to do with it. But I can see how it would be unique in terms of the audience.
Maybe I’ll think it over again
Simon and fellow readers, Hello,
A very interesting topic, not least because of the sheer variety of opinions on what constitutes the ideal wardrobe size and how individual it all is.
I recently had a clear out of my wardrobe, following a couple of simple criteria/questions.
I did not use the “how often do I wear it” criteria, because a lot of fine or delicate stuff is for certain occasions only and is used quite often in that context only (relatively speaking).
So “buying fewer clothes”? I buy what I want (certainly way more than I need) provided I love it and (usually but not always) it fills a gap in my wardrobe. I have a list of things I want that will fill those remaining gaps, trousers and chinos in various fabrics and weights, jeans in a few different weights and shades (ecru for example) as well as various items such as those utterly lovely knitted blazer jackets at A&S and some unlined summer weight suede jackets and Connolly’s leather house slippers. These will be over the next few years and once done, I suspect my purchasing will dramatically slow.
Shoes I have plenty but still there gaps that I want to (not need to) fill. But it goes beyond that. Shoes are probably the thing I love the most, so I could easily collect an excessive amount.
Clearly none of the above is needed and is most definitely way way beyond what anyone requires. It could even be considered superfluous.
The whole point for me is that when I think about getting ready or planning what I am going to wear it fills me with joy to see a fully stocked wardrobe yes, but one that is carefully edited so that each piece within is really loved. A minimal wardrobe with 5 pairs of trousers or 4 coats and a few shoes I cannot imagine. Personally speaking, I love clothes, I love dressing and I adore the ritual of choosing what to wear every day. I even come home from a day spent working, early to have enough time to change into a completely different outfit for an evening sojourn.
Many will consider this all very shallow but if in these days of tough times and challenges I don’t indulge my various passions, well, what would be the point of all the hard work?
I should say also that most of my clothes do get worn, not weekly but regularly enough to make it worthwhile. Very little has become a wardrobe Queen as such.
Just my own 2 cents…no intention to cause offence here.
Just a follow up to my earlier, lengthy comment. The size of my current and future wardrobe is a result of very careful consideration and crucially accumulation over many years, decades even.
Each purchase, particularly now, is carefully considered and is usually the best quality I can afford at the time.
Having a large selection of clothing is not the point. I happen to have accumulated many clothes, with more to come, as a by product of buying high quality clothes that I really love. And because they have lasted and I wear them, I keep them.
Once the gaps and desires are filled the buying will drop off dramatically.
Thanks Yash. I think that’s the challenge often – when most things have been filled, do you really stop buying, when it was so pleasurable for all those years?
I definitely won’t stop buying, that’s not possible. Each purchase will be much more carefully considered I think but there will still always be room for purchases that fill no gap but that I simply fall for.
Can I please ask, which shop are you standing in, in this photo? Looking as dashing as ever I might add!
Thank you. It’s the Armoury store on Duane Street in New York
I enjoy your blog and it has given me lots of useful advise in re-creating my wardrobe. One thing that I started to do recently is to buy used clothes. I live in Salzburg, Austria, where we have a fantastic store for high quality, top-producer second hand fashion. Some of my most beloved and highest quality clothes come from there. Perhaps this is an interesting angle on the subject matter as well.
Absolutely, it is, thanks Matthias. I think that’s particularly useful in terms of buying more sustainably, environmentally. Rather than buying too much or too little. Though I guess it’s better to buy too much if it’s all second hand.
I find secondhand great for filling wardrobe gaps – the brighter colour of knitwear , the occasionally worn loafer .
The growth of the secondhand apps demonstrate there is a huge demand( both my mid 20s kids are expert shoppers on Vinted and have been since Uni days). I used Vinted to obtain my spare work boots and quality hand knits can be found if you search carefully.
You are never going to find exceptional quality,but it’s fun,better moderated than e-bay and recycles clothing.
Dear Matthias! Could you please share the name of the store? Thanks
I once heard a stylist mention “the rule of 3” to her clientele: always make sure that any item you’re tempted to buy goes with three other garments in your wardrobe.
By the way, there’s an interesting exhibition about Louise Bourgeois’ bond to textiles at the Southbank Centre these days. Bourgeois, who was dressed in Chanel at the age of 14 already , simply kept all her clothes. A quote from her on the exhibition: “These garments have a history, they have touched my body and they hold memories of people and places. They are chapters from the story of my life.”
Way to elevate the conversation. Thanks Burt
Indeed, one of the biggest pitfalls of having a great interest in clothing is you always want more of it.
I’ve made a list on my phone, a simple check list really, of things I want to add, slowly checking them off as I go.
Sadly I’d say for every item crossed off, it feels like 2-3 are added. But I find it helps me to plan and not shop mindlessly. And as long as it’s only on a list, there’s no harm adding it. Plus it’s very easy to take it off, if you realize after a while that you don’t really need it.
Its interesting how the timing of your articles follow the timing of ones own life decisions sometimes. Just this week I said to myself that I have enough clothes now and should reconsider any future purchase.
Mine is not a large wardrobe by any means. Three business suits, one odd jacket, two overshirt jackets, two overcoats and two pairs of shoes for cold/hot season. Then some shirts and sweaters and functional wear. Still, I find that any more clothing would be difficult to find the time to use. Of course, I could use a few suits or jackets for the hot summer, but its not necessary.
I thus came to the conclusion that instead of keep on building and buying at the MTM level, with the occasional bespoke shirt, I will now gear up and save to go full bespoke for my next suit, maybe even go for a Savile Row suit, and thus my wardrobe will slowly and gradually become higher quality and last me longer.
I already have a friend that I shift all my unused items to, or I have sold through some channels here in Sweden.
Funny thing is, people seem to think I have a ton of clothes, due to the fact that I learned to combine different items, using your advice (and some others). Upon asking my colleagues they guessed that I had 9 suits and 20 shirts in total, when I have a third of that. So, interestingly, following good advice can prove as much of a wardrobe builder as having many items, albeit less expensive and more sustainable.
Thank you for a great article!
Great to read about this topic on fashion blog. I appreciate it. Talking about capsule wardrobe – it is great though there is one or two problems with it. The first it (can) brings uniformity to one’s style. The second it is not very suitable for sport/outdoor style. Anyways I am for capsule, of course.
This is great Simon. Less is more, for me, but for shoes. I have yet to find a pair that fits, is not cheaply made, and works with my style considerations. I do have exceptional feet (exceptionally wide and odd), and health considerations demand I treat them with care. I suppose I use this as an excuse to find the footwear grail. I will keep searching. Meanwhile, I remain a fan of your blog and style.
Thank you for this excellent post. It has me wondering about the expected lifespan of a shirt. I have several shirts that I bought some years ago (all online MTM, made in Vietnam) and all have now started to fray at the collar after, I’d estimate, 100-125 days of wear each. Is this a reasonable lifespan? Would a more expensive shirt made in Europe last longer?
I’ve also read that it’s possible to have the collar removed and reversed to extend the life of the shirt, and was wondering if you had any experience doing this?
That’s not a long lifespan for a shirt, no. Usually I find they will become (accidentally) stained before I ever wear through them, but that would still be considerably longer.
A better shirt should last longer, but also bear in mind that when you get to the more expensive, sometimes finer cottons are used, which aren’t as strong but are seen as more luxurious. So don’t get a particularly fine cotton (see article here)
I don’t have any experience of turning collars and cuffs, no sorry
I wonder have you ever covered the issue of clothing and retirees. It’s interesting because, theoretically, if clothing has always interested you, when you stop working you can end up with a lot of it and nowhere to wear it…a sort of ‘all dressed up and nowhere to go’ syndrome.
This happened to me and, despite a wardrobe full of tailored clothes, when I stopped working I fell into a lazy habit of wearing basically nothing but jeans and a jumper because all I was doing was visiting supermarkets, pharmacies etc and walking my dogs daily.
Not too long ago I woke up and decided I would wear my tailored trousers and shirts along with cashmere jumpers paired with ever-reliable desert boots, despite the fact everyone else I saw on my walks wore nothing smarter than jeans or track pants and trainers.
After a few days I sort of rediscovered my wardrobe and gave it new purpose.
I get looks occasionally from people when I’m walking two Labradors with tailored flannels and a collared shirt with a jumper or a suede bomber but I’ve come to enjoy this daily ritual, no matter how brief it is.
Flannels, chinos, twill or lightweight cotton pants really are an awful lot more comfortable a and breathable than ubiquitous rough and heavy denim – and along with all of it comes a new feeling of individuality.
Just because you no longer work there is no reason to appear in public or interact with people dressed as a slob.
Thank you Rob. That is a lovely journey to hear about – it makes me smile. It really sounds like you are enjoying clothes again.
I haven’t planned anything on the topic, and perhaps it’s hard for me to do so, not being in that position. But I do think a lot of the semi-casual things we write about could be useful in this kind of wardrobe. It’s also perhaps going to be less of an issue in the future, given how casual office wear is becoming.
If you have any more thoughts or experiences in the future, please do share them. And I’m sure other readers will do so too, if they’re going through the same kind of thing.
A lovely story Rob.
I retired early,in my mid fifties, and went from needing a work uniform of suits, jackets and smart trousers, and overnight, became a lazy dresser- jeans and polos. Luckily, I was pointed in the direction of PS.
Needing a new wardrobe,I gave away most of my tailoring and started a decent capsule. I still have a part time job in photography, luckily my office is very casual so no real clash. I imagine that I will never add to my tailored clothing.
The biggest change to my mindset, is that I embrace dressing for pleasure (and,a little selfishly, for me) plus all the associated rituals. Im definitely the area’s best dressed dog walker and coffee shop aficionado .
Not needing tailoring, good shirts, top coats and chinos make up most of my wardrobe expense. Walking regularly has given me a slight obsession with good socks and hats.
Looking back, it’s fortunate I already had a decent selection of quality mens wear and ,with Simon’s advice became ‘clothing literate’ (fit, form design ,colour)