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Dressing Like a Stud Without Going Broke

There is nothing wrong with t-shirts, worn jeans, and sandals.  I have plenty of each of these in my closet and dresser drawers.  But sometimes you need to take something a little bit nicer off the hanger.  Special occasions might require a decent suit, and sometimes a designer label or at least something that has a “designer look” can make you more confident for a big date or a night prowling around town.  Conventional wisdom is that if you want to look good, you have to pay for it.  To some extent this is true.  However, with the right strategy, you don’t have to break your bank to buy brand-names.  Here are some ideas for balancing thrift with fashion sense.

Online discount stores like Gilt

Finding sales is not part of most guys’ skill sets.  However, it isn’t as difficult as people think to seek out below-sticker-price clothes.  You don’t have to sheepishly look through racks and racks of suits at a discount store or surplus store in order to find the one respectably branded piece of clothing in the entire place.

Shop smart

Online retailers like Gilt specialize in offering brand name items at steep discounts.  Using Gilt is a bit more inconvenient than the click-and-buy method that most people associate with online shopping.  Gilt has “flash sales” where a limited number of items are put up for sale and offered until the supply is gone.  The sales are usually announced to members via email before they go live.  Unfortunately, highly desired items may only last for a few minutes after the sale is started.  However, with discounts of 50%  or more off of the sticker price, it can be a hell of a good way to get into some designer threads without blowing your budget.  Other sites like Gilt exist, but Gilt’s sub-site: Giltmen, makes it by far the best choice for men who don’t want to wade through sites that are focused on women in order to select something from the usually tiny men’s departments.

Go vintage at Goodwill/Salvation Army

Say what you want about thrift stores, but they do have their advantages.  These are not places that you are going to go if you want brand name clothes.   But if you are looking to stock up on some hip vintage gear, Goodwill, the Sal, or whatever thrift store is located in your area, could hold some incredibly great deals on hip-looking clothes.  These stores can also score you some savings when it comes to accessories like belts, plain white shirts to go under your  suit, ties, and, of course more casual stuff.  Again, thrifts are not for everyone, but if you are more worried about looking good than you are about flashing  brand name labels, these stores might be worth a look.  You don’t have to tell everyone where you shop.

Know your seasons

If you want a great deal on a winter jacket, spring is the best time to buy it.  When a season ends, stores get ready for the next season by clearing all the unsold items from the previous season from their racks.  So the best time to get designer and/or high quality clothing is late in the season that it is made for or early in the following season.  Department stores like Kohl’s and Marshall’s have large sections that are filled with racks holding last season’s fashions.  You won’t be on the cutting edge if you thumb through these racks, but you will probably be able to find stuff that will make you look good at a discount of 50% or more (last season sales at Kohl’s get up to $90 off).

Foreign threads

Personally, my best clothing purchases were made abroad.  Several custom tailored suits, made in Southeast Asia, still hang in my closet.  None of these set me back more than $100.  They lack designer labels, but they are designer quality and they fit better than anything off-the-rack would ever fit.  If you really have to have that label to flash, many developing countries also have pretty respectably knock-offs for about a third of the price of the real thing.  For my purchases, it was a case of taking advantage of the prices while I was in these countries doing other things.  But if you wanted to do a whole wardrobe make-over, it might even be worth the cost of an airplane ticket to take a shopping vacation.  If you can save hundreds, or even thousands, on new clothes, you still might come out ahead after paying for airplane and hotel.

So, it’s not as hard as you might think to grab some respectably fashionable clothes… as long as you look in the right places.

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About Josh Lew Josh Lew lives in the Midwestern US when he is not traveling. He is a columnist for Gadling and has contributed to Hackwriters and Skive Magazine.

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