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Cheap and chic: money can't buy class


Stitched Up

Benjamen Judd looks at how clothes can make or break the modern day man.

View more entries from Stitched Up

ASOS ... a great place to shop online

ASOS ... a great place to shop online

A guy’s guide to dressing dapper on a limited budget.

Following a decade-long campaign of persistent nagging, my grandmother finally won our financial battle of wills and welcomed me into the frugal fold. Though I was resistant to change at first, discounting what I saw as old-timey concerns, her fine emotional blackmail techniques eventually got me over the line. She’d drop gems casually into conversation: “I just want to see you stable before I pass on,” she’d say, getting a little misty for maximum effect. The fact that she remains in fine health and will outlive us all didn’t reduce the impact.

All I can say is, thank god for Nan. A youth spent drinking my rent money and buying whatever I wanted, income be damned, had taken its toll – a sizeable sum that had somehow crept well into the five figures. I began the arduous task of paying off credit cards and debt collectors. And, once I’d managed to get the monkey off my back and finished basking in the freedom of not having creditors calling nightly, I got right to saving.

The first thing to go was clothes. I didn’t exactly have a wardrobe teaming with the latest and greatest but had enough key items and was certainly in no danger of freezing to death. Besides, 50-odd T-shirts is surely enough for any man. For a year I didn’t buy so much as a new pair of socks. It was a small price to pay for aiding fiscal solvency, but once I’d created a bank balance buffer I found it difficult to stop. My grandmother had built a fine little saver, but failed to install an off switch.

Unwilling to spend upwards of $250 on jeans that I would have purchased without a second thought before, and dealing with a slight, age-related size upgrade, I was left shoehorning myself into things that left me looking like a fleshy, aging emo. After a few months of this I was feeling a little less than fresh and knew something had to give.

But what did I do? Well, my fellow cheap-asses, I simply found a way to dress dapper that won’t break the bank. It doesn’t necessarily involve trawling second-hand shops for musty, ol’ duds – though if you can be bothered it’s worth a try – but rather seeking out all options available to you. So, follow these penny-pinching pointers and do your nanna proud!

Online affair

Forget spending your Saturdays lining up at Zara whenever they get a shipment in. They’ve got some decent stuff, but from my experience the fabric and overall quality leaves a lot to be desired. It’s best to go online for budget buys. The Holy Grail for guys being ASOS – who recently opened up their Australian online shop. Though TOPMAN is also a safe bet, ASOS can be great for simple pieces that have a slight edge.

Swap ’til you drop

It may sound a little crunchy, but the ol’ swap meet is back and they’ve raised the stakes. Usually found wherever you find farmer’s markets and the like – which is the Carriageworks here in Sydney – individuals and organisations like Oxfam are holding days where you can bring in your old threads and swap them with others. Important to note: there’s usually quality control at the door to make sure people aren’t swapping rags for riches.

Consider consignment

Though I was happy to spend hours at Glebe Markets in order to find an outfit for the princely sum of $20 as a young teen, as an adult I’d rather eat glass. As luck would have it, the kind people at decent op shops and consignment stores have done the sorting for lazy sods like myself. Find one you like, get to know the guy or gal behind the desk and often they’ll hold stuff they know you’ll be into.

Pop-up shopping

If you’re an inner-city denizen, pop-up shops are nothing new. And though many can be full of over-priced items from seriously delusional designers or stuff that’s been marked up from a good second-hand shop trawl, some of these places still stock great, quality pieces from up-and-comers at a fraction of the cost of established names. Worth a look.

Go global

Suggesting that you head overseas to save money might seem counterproductive, but it can be a penny saver if you’re not doing it on your own dime. For the business travellers among us, take advantage of the situation and clear a couple of hours the next time you head to Asia and search for a tailor who can make you five quality suits in a fabric of your choosing for the price of only one back home. Ask the office’s more seasoned travellers for recommendations.

5 comments so far

  • As an older person (bb), I find it difficult to fit into much of the clothing available at the trendier stores. To comfortably accommodate my girth shirts and trousers have ridiculously long legs and sleeves. It would seem that the average fitting scales that most manufacturers use to produce clothing are not based on middle class, middle-aged Australians. However, I recently had some made-to-measure shirts made in China by an on-line company for less than it would have cost me for similar articles. I have tried to buy clothing in China when I have been visiting there, and found it almost impossible to get large enough sizes, particularly shoes. But when you do find something that fits, it is ridiculously cheap.

    Date and time
    December 09, 2011, 9:23AM
    • tip for the wise - regular exercise allows you to buy great fitting clothes

      Date and time
      December 09, 2011, 4:22PM
      • For those amongst us in offices, shops such as T.M Lewin are invaluable.

        Being able to pick up 5 quality, cotton shirts for less than what a single one at DJs would cost is invaluble.

        Date and time
        December 09, 2011, 4:36PM
        • Consignment is great - you get as new brands. Some Like It Hot in Melbourne (under Flinders St Station) has men's labels like Fred Perry, Ben Sherman plus vintage, Docs, RMs, etc.

          Better than online cos you can try things on!

          The staff are hot too.

          Some Like It Hot
          Date and time
          December 10, 2011, 2:47PM
          • Don't forget Birkenhead Point and DFO. Herringbone also have great warehouse sales, just get yourself onto their mailing list.

            Date and time
            December 12, 2011, 3:11PM

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