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
Beyond Fabric suggests…
This time around, I decided to pair two of my favourite pieces of the year: the chambray shirt and white jeans. Chambray is just one of those fabrics that can’t go unnoticed; love it or hate it, its unique texture sets it apart from the rest and adds a fresh and relaxed feel to any look. This updated take on the traditional chambray shirt, by Sir Paul Smith, features 2 front pockets, contrasting white stitching and cream buttons. Top it off with this navy lambswool shawl collar cardigan by Fred Perry, for added warmth and a play on the different hues of blue. The wooden-like buttons and padded elbows make it all the more interesting. On the bottom, a pair of white jeans: one of the most terrifying pieces for most men (more on that on a future post). White is neutral, so as long as you keep your jeans fitted and simple, you can mix them with pretty much everything. This pair by Nudie Jeans Co. are slim fitting and will treat you good. In what regards footwear, D.S.Dundee’s chestnut oxford brogues in contrasting leather (grain/soft) take it to the next level. Accessory wise, a soft cashmere Stewart tartan scarf by Ralph Lauren will keep you warm while introducing a new color to the look, adding flare and an invigorating twist. Finally, this seamed buffalo leather shopper by Zara is perfect for carrying around your belongings and is a perfect match for those outstanding brogues.
Bear in mind that these looks are mere suggestions to get you inspired.
Fred Perry Lambswool Shawl Collar Cardigan - 137€ @ Asos.
Paul Smith Washed Chambray Shirt - 136€ @ Paul Smith.
Nudie Jeans Thin Finn Extreme Bleach Jeans - 129€ @ Nudie Jeans.
D.S.Dundee Chestnut Oxford Brogues - (approx.) 385€ @ D.S.Dundee.
Ralph Lauren Stewart Tartan Cashmere Scarf - (approx.) 200€ @ Ralph Lauren.
Zara Buffalo Leather Seamed Shopper - 99€ @ Zara.
All plaid out
Unless you bear any resemblance to Bubble Boy and live in an isolated world of your own, you’re aware that plaid/checked patterns have been the hottest thing this year. From H&M to Hermès, every brand out there is offering some kind of plaid alternative: jackets, suits, pants, shirts, you name it. However, the one that stands out the most is definitely the shirt. Lets face it: this is THE must have item for this Fall/Winter (hell, it was this Summer’s must have as well!). If you’re the least enthusiastic about fashion, like to be somewhat on pair with trends and can only afford one item, the plaid shirt is this years’ obvious choice.
The best thing about it? You won’t need to spend much to get your hands on one, as they’re available everywhere and with different price tags, so you’ll surely find something that fits your wallet. Obviously, quality comes at price and you get what you pay for: usually cheaper versions will be more on the casual side of things whereas dressier alternatives will cost you (there are exceptions tough, many high end labels are selling pricey flannel shirts). I’m a supporter of more subtle patterns and often choose the smaller versions (micro plaid, thin stripes) over large ones, but in this case I’ll make an exception. My only advice is for you to balance the pattern with your body frame: if you’re more on the petit side, avoid large plaids; a bigger frame however, will look off balanced with a micro plaid.
Also, an interesting way to get the most out of your money is to choose a piece that you can wear as an outerwear alternative, the so called over shirt. Heavier fabrics are the way to go here so feel free to go with flannel, thick wools and the likes. If you’re buying a shirt for this purpose, keep in mind that you’ll be wearing at least one other layer underneath it, so it might be a good idea to go one size up (while maintaing a trim fit).
I’ll leave you with a few options to get you going:
Our Legacy 1940’s Dove Blue Check - 130€ @ Our Legacy.
Our Legacy Cowberry Check - 120€ @ Our Legacy.
Adam Kimmel Tie Hold Shirt Green Plaid - 238€ @ Trés Bien Shop.
A.P.C. Flannel Over Shirt Red - 146€ @ Trés Bien Shop.
Zara Flannel Shirt - 29.95€ @ Zara.
Gant Rugger Syracuse Twill Check Shirt - approx 85€ @ Gant.