Shopping at massive retailers
As you might’ve noticed, when it comes to shopping I’m a fan of small independent boutiques. Given the choice, they’re my go to place should the need arise to purchase a specific item.
Nowadays, however, we can’t deny that some of items available at massive franchises such as H&M or Uniqlo, are worth checking out. It’s a fact that many of the times the quality of saids items is somewhat doubtful, but if you browse them thoroughly your patience will be rewarded…as will your bank account. Let’s face it, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a privileged financial status, or you’re an outstanding shopper who carefully picks his acquisitions, building a wardrobe solely on high end clothing will pose a daunting task.
The thing is, in my opinion, women are better off in this field: the overall design and quality of womenswear at those retailers is better, making it easier for them to pull of a million dollar look with only 50€ or so. When it comes to menswear though, I find it more of a challenge to put up a great look only with such pieces, as the outcome will most likely appear a bit off, be it due to cut, fabric, shape or design. So…what about us?
Well, I believe there are a few tips to successfully score great items at these stores. First, carefully scout the place and analyze the pieces that caught your eye, don’t be afraid to touch them to get a feel of the fabric, take a look at the labels, scan the seams and stitching, and of course, try them on. Face it as a challenge, finding a needle in a haystack…Secondly, stay away from strong image statement pieces: noticed the bold striped sweater on the window? So did the other 5000 guys that entered the shop; by avoiding these pieces you drastically reduce the chances of bumping into a handful of guys wearing the same as you. Furthermore, people won’t immediately know where you shop, which as I see it, is a plus. Last, but not the least, keep an open mind and try to envision the potential of each garment; some of them will look like a whole different story after being adjusted at your tailor.
That being said, some of your best bets at these stores are accessories and understated or basic pieces which will remain anonymous, such as jeans, tees, cardigans, hoodies or shirts without striking features. Here are a few options:
Oxford cotton shirts by Uniqlo
Pale blue linen blazer, cotton chinos and ties by Zara
Cotton hoodie and cardigans by H&M
As I’ve stressed several times before, one of the most interesting aspects of a look resides in the small details. Carefully mixing and blending them is a recipe for a perfect outfit, one that easily stands out in a crowd.
A great way to tweak an already great piece is adding elbow patches. Coming in a variety of colors, patterns and materials, they’re an easy and affordable way to add sophistication and visual interest to your attire. Although the blazer is probably the most common garment when it comes to this add on, you should broaden your horizons as to the full potential of these patches: sweaters, long sleeves, topcoats or cardigans all account for great alternatives.
Also, don’t be afraid to lively things up a bit by adding bold colors and textures, that’s what will add the extra flare you’re looking for. Going for different fabrics such as tweed or leather instead of being limited to the usual suede patches, is something to consider. Just bear in mind that if you opt for leather patches your items will only be washable through dry cleaning. The though part about the process is finding the right patches, applying them will be an easy and inexpensive task for your tailor or seamstress. If you want to take the easy route, just look for items which originally come with them. With their recent burst in popularity, you should have no problem finding a few suitable options.
One of the pieces I purchased a while ago is this heather grey v-neck wool/cashmere sweater by Annapurna 5+1. Besides the outstanding blended fabric, with a soft touch and slim fit, what really drew me to it were the houndstooth elbow patches. This look combines several interesting aspects: besides the layering, I love the contrast of the lighter tones of the shirt, sweater and plimsoles with the black jeans, and how the shades of green in the houndstooth perfectly complement the ones in the vest.
Charcoal heavy wool blazer by Rice, Green Eskdale vest by Barbour, heather grey v-neck cashmere/wool sweater by Annapurna 5+1, white dress shirt by Paul Smith, black slim fit jeans by H&M, white plimsoles (Musa trainer) by Paul Smith, glasses by Prada, camel scarf by Burberry and watch by Rolex.
The western shirt
Western shirts are definitely having a moment…their rough and laid back feel is perfect for pairing with jeans or chinos, contributing to an original ensemble. Despite being essentially a denim shirt, this variety sets itself apart through its own characteristic detailing: pearl buttons, pointed yokes and double flap chest pockets. As with all denim shirts, the trick here is keeping it slim and avoiding the so called “denim tuxedo”, meaning, if you pair it with jeans go for a different wash or color (a head to toe monochromatic denim attire just looks weird).
A while back I came across this vintage Levi’s western denim shirt on Spot’s Flea Market. At the bargain price of 10€ and after getting it tailored for another 5€, I ended up with a great affordable addition to my wardrobe. Here, I paired it with black slim fitting jeans (the contrast works great) and my 2 button herringbone blazer. This blazer has become one of my favourite “Winter” pieces as its warm enough to use as outerwear, while portraying a put together look and adding texture and pattern. Black jeans are a great way to add variety to your looks, as they’re easily paired with other items and are a refreshing change from your usual blue denim. In fact, colored jeans are a great alternative to invest in, just start with the 3 basics tones: white, black and grey. Also, don’t be afraid to oppose the shirt’s relaxed nature by tucking it in and putting on a tie, or buttoning it all the way up sans tie.
Herringbone blazer by Gentleman Tailors, vintage Levi’s western shirt, black slim fit jeans by H&M, Ibsen leather sneakers by Paul Smith, braided leather belt by ACNE, sunglasses by Ray-Ban, pocket square by Tie Rack and military inspired watch by Swiss Army.
Update a classic: Grey slacks
We often see the term “classic” widely used when describing an array of garments. Usually, it seems to translate an idea of timeless pieces, staples of menswear, who have been and will be around for ages. Several items come to mind, but few bear this stamp in such a deserving way as any suit related garment.
Although the suit is king when it comes to classics, grey slacks follow closely. This is the go to piece when men want to look put together without sporting a full suit, or just want to try out different ensembles with their suit jackets. What makes them so amazing, is the fact they perfectly combine elegance and versatility: you can dress them up or down and its neutral color makes them easy to pair with all sort of tones: navy, black, brown, pink, green, grey…
The first picture that comes to most people’s minds when talking about grey slacks is probably of loose pleated flannel pants. In fact, if you take a look at vintage pics or pay close attention to older men on the street, you might find that image is not far from the truth. However, the ever evolving nature of fashion has redefined this item: nowadays you’ll find several slim fitting alternatives, with flat front instead of pleats, giving them an updated feel.
No matter where you get yours from, be sure to have them tailored to ensure little to no break, as it will make you look taller and draw attention on your shoes (just be sure to have them perfectly buffed). I’ve got a couple myself, which I had made at Gentleman according to my liking:
- 100% wool
- Slim leg
- 19 cm ankle opening
- 3,5 cm cuff
- little to no break
I had mine cuffed as I prefer the way they drape along the leg and the overall aesthetic.
This is something I wore the other day, really like how all the different shades and textures of grey come together to create a polished look. The cap was more of a necessity as it was freezing, but it added a nice relaxed and urban feel to the look.
Grey herringbone 2 button blazer by Gentleman Tailors, grey wool v-neck pullover by Paul Smith, blue micro plaid shirt by Gap, charcoal wool slacks by Gentleman Tailors, brown tasseled loafers by Lottusse, cap by H&M, vintage bowtie, paisley pocket square by Tie Rack, socks by Ralph Lauren and watch by Rolex.