Today we talk about 15 tips on how to dress like a gentleman on a budget. In my experience there are are 3 main reasons that hinder you from dressing the way you want. 1. You simply don’t have the budget and you can’t afford nice clothes you want. 2. You live in a place where you just don’t have access to nice things. 3. You just lack the knowledge and you have no clue of what actually looks good on you and what makes you stand out. What’s advantageous for you job and the way you want to be perceived. All those 3 things apply to me when I was a teenager. I grew up in a small town in Germany where cows were behind my house and I simply couldn’t access anything. There were no stores in town.
The internet was in its infancy and I was left to my own devices. First, I had to educate myself and I bought the Gentleman book from Bernhard Roetzel, which is apparently now one of the best selling men’s book in the world. You want to learn more about this book and the author, please check out the video interview here. Once I had that book, i dug deeper. I looked for other books, old fashion magazines. I talked to craftsman, tailors, shoemakers and shirt makers. Overtime I built up a wealth of information. Today I share all this with you on the Gentleman’s Gazette. I was just a paperboy, so I really didn’t have much money and I couldn’t afford nice things even if I wanted to. Nevertheless, I was able to build a nice wardrobe on a budget and in this video I’m going to show you how I did it and how you can do it too.
You might not think I’m wearing cheap stuff now, but my entire outfit including my shoes and my pants costs only 217 dollars. Now the shoes I bought in 2003 for a 100 bucks they were new from the vintage store and if you buy vintage and your on a budget you can get it for less. Overall anybody can create a timeless outfit for under a 100 dollars if they have the knowledge and the persistence to invest the time that it takes to find what they need. Before we start, this list is based on the assumption that 1. You want to build a timeless wardrobe that stands the test of time and 2. You don’t want to have pieces that you just throw away after a year and move on and buy it again.
Tip # 1. Know your measurements. If you are on a budget and you want quality clothes. You need to find used clothes.
That means you have to know your measurements because sometimes those suits are maybe bespoke or made to measure and they have to fit you. So the main measurements for a jacket are chest width, back length from underneath the collar. Sleeve length measure from up here to the end when staying straight. And then maybe you have the shoulder width which is very important and if it’s not provided you should always ask for it. Don’t get confused with just sizes. A size 42 regular can mean one thing from one brand and something completely different from another. So it’s important to have the garment measurements. For pants that includes the minimum, the inseam length and the waist size. Sometimes, people can be more advanced and you want to have the hem width as well as the thigh width because if you want a wider pair of pants or slimmer you need those measurements to know what you’ll actually get.
Knowing your measurements will make it easy for you to find clothes that fit without having to waste money on things that don’t.
2. Know what you need. Most men have no idea what exactly they should buy. So first of all I always suggest, know you’re surroundings. Do you work at the bank or another formal office that means you need dark suits. If you work on a start up where a jacket is really dressed up, in that case a sport coat combination is much better than having a full suit. What do you do socially? What kind of people do you meet? Do you go to the opera a lot or do you go to the football stadium? Figure out what places you go to and then determine what clothes you need at those places to be considered well dressed. Once you made that list, you simply buy one item after another until you have the wardrobe you want and need.
Of course, you should always start with the versatile items because that way you get a lot of wear out of them at a very low budget per wear.
3. Avoid bespoke garments. Bespoke is the holy grail of classic men’s clothing because an individual pattern is made for you from scratch. To learn more about the entire process and the distinction of made to measure and ready to wear, please watch this video. If you are in a budget, bespoke is not your option because it is very expensive. So let’s say you have a thousand dollars at your disposal and you just invested in one suit. Well you don’t have shoes, you don’t have shirts, you don’t have ties, you don’t have anything that goes with it. And so even if you though you have a phenomenal suit the rest doesn’t match and that’s bad.
4. Get to know your alterations tailor. I’ve never had a single garment that fit me off the rack when I bought it. And frankly I’ve never met any person where it fit. If you believe that something you just buy somewhere and it fits you perfectly. It just means you just don’t have the eye that is trained enough to see that it doesn’t fit.
Once you have a trusted alterations tailor they can take care of things for you and at a relatively low overall budget you can get a garment that fits very well. Of course you must also understand what can be altered and what can not. For example, if your shoulders are extended all the way, that’s a very difficult and almost impossible alteration that even if it’s possible is very expensive. So you always make sure that your jacket fits well in the shoulder. On the other hand if your sleeves are slight too long, it’s easy to make them shorter. Of course, if you have working button holes on the cuff it may be more tricky and it has to be shortened from the top of the sleeve which is more difficult to do and cost more money.
So always bear in mind even the best alterations tailor is not a magician and you should always but things that fit very closely to what you have. When in doubt, always get something slightly too big than slightly too small.
5. Go vintage. The only way to get quality items at a low price is to get with used old quality brands and garments. If you spend a 100 dollars on a new suit, it’s going to be a bad suit with bad construction that will make you sweat and it will make you look bad.
On the other hand if you spend a 100 dollars on a vintage suit it may have cost 2000 dollars new which means you get really nice fabric, you get a nice canvass that makes it breathable and it drapes well and makes you look good. Ideally, you want to know as much as possible about vintage clothes and I suggest you learn and study the articles here in the Gentleman’s Gazette and elsewhere to really understand what is quality and what is not. For example, when I walk through a vintage store, I quickly look at the cuffs and if there are working button holes chances are it is a more higher end garment.
The same thing at the collar if you have a hand stitched collar it indicates that it’s a quality garment and then take a closer look at the rest. That way I can cover the entire store maybe an hour rather than having to spend 10 hours. To learn more about the difference between a 100 dollars suit and a thousand dollar suit, please check out this video here.
6. Invest in a flexible wardrobe. What does it mean? Invest in pieces that you can combine in many different ways. For example, if you have a navy suit you can wear the jacket as a blazer separately with chinos for example. Also if you have a vest you can combine it with many different jackets and if you already have 2 suits in your collection and you add 2 vest, all of a sudden you have a lot more options to combine things and it just makes it look like an entirely new outfit.
7. Take care of your wardrobe. Once you have something, it pays to take care of it because then you won’t have to replace it and it will last much longer.
For example, if you have dust on garments you brush it out because your garment will last longer. Having a brush is less expensive than a lint roller and is actually more effective. Also having nice hanger with a wide shoulder pad helps to keep the shape of your shoulder and you can have the jacket for years to come. On the other hand, a cheap wire hanger will leave wrinkles in it and it will look bad when you wear it and over all it can damage your jacket.
If you take care of your clothes you rarely have to go to the dry cleaner which is actually good because all the chemicals may harm your garments and you should go to the dry cleaner as little as possible.
8. Don’t buy cheap, because the people who buy cheap buy twice. Even if a quality item is on sale sometimes the style is not perfect and timeless and so you will wear it very infrequently. At the end of the day you should look at the cost per wear. For example the pocket square I am wearing here right now cost me 50 bucks. At a time when I maybe spent 50 buck on a jacket or a shirt and a tie together. However it was so timeless and classic and I couldn’t find it anywhere else and I’ve had it for 12 years so my cost per wear is so low that it’s actually much cheaper than a pocket square I could have bought for 5 bucks that I would have worn maybe three times. This pocket square in white and blue can be worn with blue shirts, light blue shirts and white shirts.
And it always looks good and therefore I am wearing it a lot. The same applies for shoes. If you buy a 100 dollar pair for shoes, it will last you maybe a year and you will have to replace it afterwards and you’ll probably spend about 50cents per wear or more. On the other hand I bought a pair of quality good shoes in 2003 that I’m still wearing. And it’s cost per wear is probably 25 cents. So overall it’s a less expensive way to buy and it’s timeless and it looks good. To learn more about the difference between quality shoes and cheap shoes, please check out this video here.
9. Don’t be tempted by list or impulse buys. First of all the list that you created with the things you need should dictate what you buy and what you don’t buy. If you find a garment that’s really cheap with a 90% discount chances are it’s not a timeless garment and people can’t sell that at full price. So if you end up with it, it may just clog up space in your closet and you may wear it 5 times.
And so the cost per wear is actually still more expensive than if you would buy a timeless wardrobe staple at full price. Deals and sales are a distraction and they basically make you do things you otherwise wouldn’t do. After all, there’s a reason why they were discounted, people were not buying it because they didn’t see the value in it.
10. Fit is more important than anything else in your wardrobe. To understand what the most common fit issues are in menswear I suggest that you take a look at our 30 Style Mistakes here.
11. Don’t automatically trust a salesperson. Salespeople simply want to sell and oftentimes they do not have the knowledge or the interest to help you and educate you. After all most clothes salesman in department stores and other places make minimum wage or not much more and they just don’t know about it.
They simply want a job that want to make money and they want you to buy as much as possible. Therefore you should always ask yourself, does it make sense what they say? Do they educate me?
12. When you shop online, is there a good description? Is there someone who explains why you should wear something and why not. Or do they just say “Oh you look fantastic and great in it and you can wear it for any occasion.” That’s rarely true. At Gentleman’s Gazette, educating men about clothing was always our #1 goal and we’ve done it since day 1. Even when we started having our online shop, we explain to you why you should buy it and who it’s for and who it’s not. So why do we do that? Even though it takes a lot of time and effort, we want men to dress better and look better and help them to see the true value of a classic timeless wardrobe.
And good information is the only way to do that. In order to find garments on eBay or department store that are quality yet in a low budget you have to have the knowledge of what’s good and what’s bad. You can only get that form trusted sources. Use the time to read free resources here at Gentleman’s Gazette or take a look at our list with recommended books just so you can build up the knowledge that can help you save money down the line. All that knowledge will help you to make informed purchases that help in the long run save you money and make you look great.
13. Avoid Outlets. Just like with deals, Outlets are usually not good because, today they don’t just sell goods that are not sold at the main stores they are usually inferior products that are produced just for outlets. Therefore stay clear.
14. Stay in touch. Once you’ve done all the research and you find someone who educates you continuously, make sure to stay in touch so you learn about new things and other stuff.
For example, you can sign up for emails that are here and we send you all off our guides, all the knowledge and information directly to your inbox. The same is true from your favorite vintage store. You can see maybe an Instagram what new items that they have and once you find something that fits what you need in your list, you are right there and you can buy it.
15. Stick to your budget. In my experience, it is really hard to do that because you always want to buy more than what you have and then you try to compromise on things and maybe take the item with less quality because you can buy another on top of it.
Ideally, you could simply stick to your budget and if you can’t afford it, save up and get it at a later point. Another option is to sell old things you don’t wear anymore or you just now think don’t fit anymore. In that way you find some new acquisitions. Something I do all the time at my vintage store I would for example, I would buy an overcoat on eBay and then I didn’t like it anymore I would bring it to the vintage store, sell it there and would get the credit to buy things I would actually need. You also have to know your limitations. For example, some people don’t like used shoes. But that’s okay but then you have to make a compromise in the quality you get. You may also have to come up with a method. Personally, I always stuck with vintage clothes and sometimes I will buy new accessories that I really wanted and I knew will stand the test of time.
Actually, all of the items here you can see are vintage. I bought the shirt in 2003 for 20 bucks. The tie for 5 bucks. I bought the coat for 20 bucks. I bought the vest for 5 bucks. And only the pocket square was actually the most expensive thing at 50 dollars. The cufflinks by the way came from a flea market in Hungary for just 2 bucks and I bought them in 2006 so great investment. I wear them all the time because they go with many things and it’s wonderful. Now I know it can be a little intimidating but if you invest the time and if you educate yourself, you can do it too. I know it.