Online Discount Shopping
Since writing at Put This On, I’ve made an effort to talk about how men can build wardrobes on tight budgets. My posts on strategic spending and affordable basics, for example, were written in that spirit. With so many blogs and magazines focusing on outrageously expensive items, I think it’s important to talk about more realistic acquisitions. Men can still look well dressed without spending thousands of dollars a year on clothes. 
If you want the most affordable deals, companies such as Land’s End and J. Crew are probably good places to start. J. Crew is a bit expensive at full retail, but much of their company branded inventory (i.e. non-third party stock) is discounted by 50% or so at the end of the season. 
For something a bit better, you’ll have to turn to online discount houses. This is where higher-end brands tend to be sold for 10-40% of their retail value. Granted, given that these items are extremely expensive in the first place, the sale prices can still be somewhat hefty. However, if you’re looking for high quality items at a better price, these are the places to search.
Flash sites: This model is perhaps the most well known - discounted items are offered at some site for a limited time only. The biggest flash site is Gilt Groupe, but there are many others. Check MyHabit, Jack Threads, Belle & Clive, Ru La La, Ideeli, and HauteLook. The stock at these places really range. There’s a lot of junk, but also everything from Jack Spade to Finamore. If you sign up for an account, some sites give you the option of receiving emails from them, which means you can more easily stay on top of their sales each week. 
Clearance houses: Things that couldn’t sell at retail are often sent here for clearance. Yoox and Three Different are two of the bigger online clearance houses. Again, there’s a lot of junk, and they apparently style their models blindly, but if you know your brands, you can pick up some very good deals. If you don’t, do a little research on StyleForum. 
Online discount boutiques: In addition to the big clearance houses, there are smaller boutiques that acquire their stock through a variety of different means. Malford of London, Virtual Clothes Horse, Shop the Finest, and eHaberdasher are very good ones. There’s also Exquisite Trimmings, which focuses on neckties, pocket squares, and scarves. The inventory at these places tend to be better selected than the big discount houses.
Discounted footwear: A Fine Pair of Shoes and eBay seller sausages234 are two very good sources for discounted shoes. Grapevinehill is mostly unremarkable, but they carry Ralph Lauren footwear, some of which is decent. Finally, there’s Classic Shoes for Men. The photos there aren’t as nice as the ones at the aforementioned sites, but the stock is just as good (if not better). The proprietor, Mr. Sevan Minasian, noted that he’ll throw in a free gift with your order if you mention our site. 
Us: Kind of goes without saying, but there’s also our eBay roundups and Inside Track newsletter. The first includes customized search links to help you find deals on eBay and the second has sales announcements every week. But you already knew that. 
Now, I’m sure few people will remember all those sites next time they’re shopping for something specific, so I suggest you bookmark them somewhere and save them for later. You could save yourself some considerable money if you do. 
(Photo above: An inside look at Gilt Groupe’s warehouse, taken by Notcot)

Online Discount Shopping

Since writing at Put This On, I’ve made an effort to talk about how men can build wardrobes on tight budgets. My posts on strategic spending and affordable basics, for example, were written in that spirit. With so many blogs and magazines focusing on outrageously expensive items, I think it’s important to talk about more realistic acquisitions. Men can still look well dressed without spending thousands of dollars a year on clothes. 

If you want the most affordable deals, companies such as Land’s End and J. Crew are probably good places to start. J. Crew is a bit expensive at full retail, but much of their company branded inventory (i.e. non-third party stock) is discounted by 50% or so at the end of the season. 

For something a bit better, you’ll have to turn to online discount houses. This is where higher-end brands tend to be sold for 10-40% of their retail value. Granted, given that these items are extremely expensive in the first place, the sale prices can still be somewhat hefty. However, if you’re looking for high quality items at a better price, these are the places to search.

  • Flash sites: This model is perhaps the most well known - discounted items are offered at some site for a limited time only. The biggest flash site is Gilt Groupe, but there are many others. Check MyHabitJack ThreadsBelle & CliveRu La LaIdeeli, and HauteLook. The stock at these places really range. There’s a lot of junk, but also everything from Jack Spade to Finamore. If you sign up for an account, some sites give you the option of receiving emails from them, which means you can more easily stay on top of their sales each week. 
  • Clearance houses: Things that couldn’t sell at retail are often sent here for clearance. Yoox and Three Different are two of the bigger online clearance houses. Again, there’s a lot of junk, and they apparently style their models blindly, but if you know your brands, you can pick up some very good deals. If you don’t, do a little research on StyleForum
  • Online discount boutiques: In addition to the big clearance houses, there are smaller boutiques that acquire their stock through a variety of different means. Malford of LondonVirtual Clothes HorseShop the Finest, and eHaberdasher are very good ones. There’s also Exquisite Trimmings, which focuses on neckties, pocket squares, and scarves. The inventory at these places tend to be better selected than the big discount houses.
  • Discounted footwear: A Fine Pair of Shoes and eBay seller sausages234 are two very good sources for discounted shoes. Grapevinehill is mostly unremarkable, but they carry Ralph Lauren footwear, some of which is decent. Finally, there’s Classic Shoes for Men. The photos there aren’t as nice as the ones at the aforementioned sites, but the stock is just as good (if not better). The proprietor, Mr. Sevan Minasian, noted that he’ll throw in a free gift with your order if you mention our site. 
  • Us: Kind of goes without saying, but there’s also our eBay roundups and Inside Track newsletter. The first includes customized search links to help you find deals on eBay and the second has sales announcements every week. But you already knew that. 

Now, I’m sure few people will remember all those sites next time they’re shopping for something specific, so I suggest you bookmark them somewhere and save them for later. You could save yourself some considerable money if you do. 

(Photo above: An inside look at Gilt Groupe’s warehouse, taken by Notcot)

Q and Answer: How Can I Get an Office-Appropriate Wardrobe for $500?
americastoppushing writes: I just got a job at a major publishing house in NYC and the whole staff here is very well dressed. I need to jump from grad school clothes to stylish office clothes quickly. I have about $500 to spare right now and I need to make some significant changes to my wardrobe, including shoes, a laptop bag, and at least a few shirts and pairs of pants. Where can I get the most for my money? I’d like to get things that are fairly versatile.
First, congratulations on the new job and for graduating grad school. I’m actually finishing up a grad program myself, so I can appreciate what a grind it can be. 
As for your wardrobe, I’m afraid $500 won’t going to get you very much, especially if you need it soon. But let’s see if we can’t give it a try. 
For shoes, I recommend a pair of brown derbys (also known as bluchers). Derbys have “open lacing,” which means the shoelace eyelet tabs are sewn on top of the part of the shoe that covers your toes and instep. This differs from the more elegant and formal oxford, which has the eyelet tabs sewn underneath. Oxfords are considered more formal because they make you feet look more “dressed.” However, since you can’t afford suits and sport coats at this time, you should embrace the inherent casualness of what you’re wearing by getting derbys. These can be worn with anything from cotton chinos to wool trousers.
Getting them in brown will mean that you can wear them with trouser color (except black, which you shouldn’t be wearing anyway). I recommend a plain toe design for your first pair, but if that’s too boring for you, you can also get them with a perforated or non-perforated toecap. Any of these will be acceptable in an office environment. You can get a pair at Meermin for about $150.  
For dress shirts, you really ought to have at least ten, so that you can get through two work weeks before having to do laundry. However, ten will almost wipe out the rest of your budget and leave you pants-less, so I recommend getting five for now. As soon as you can, pick up another five. 
Your first five should include three solids and two stripes in a mix of white and light blues. These colors flatter the complexion of any man, and they’ll set a good foundation for when you’re ready to wear suits, sport coats, and ties. You can read Jesse’s post about this subject here. I agree with what he said, and would just add that in your situation, it would avoid having people think “here comes that guy in the bright pink shirt again.” You are going to be wearing each of these often, so best to make them look fairly non-descript. 
Design wise, choose the following if you can: semi-spread collars (they look good on every guy); French placket with no pocket (as a proper dress shirt should be); and barrel cuffs (not French cuffs, as you won’t be wearing these with a suit for now). You can browse TM Lewin’s clearance section to see what they have. Their “slim fits” fit decently well on the average sized guy. At $32 a pop, this should set you back $160. 
For pants, I’m going to fudge here and assume you at least have a pair of khaki chinos you can use for casual Friday. To add to this, I recommend two pairs of wool trousers, one solid mid-grey and another slightly darker. If you must choose a pair of non-grey pants (and only if you absolutely must), I recommend brown. Pick whatever weave you’d like (from flannel to sharkskin), but just make sure the fabric doesn’t look too shiny. You don’t want to look like you forgot your suit jacket at home. Sign up for Land’s End’s newsletter and wait for a coupon code to come up. You can then score a pair of their Tailored Fit wool trousers for about $60. 
Finally, we have the laptop bag. Muji has a canvas and leather shoulder option as well as a “3-Way” bag (an unfortunate name) for $80 and $90, respectively. These aren’t the most professional looking of bags, and there are certainly better options out there, but this slides us in at about $515, just fifteen dollars more than the budget you allocated. 
Of course, a basic business wardrobe should have at least double what I’ve listed above – two pairs of shoes so that you can rotate between them (wearing the same pair everyday will quickly ruin the leather), ten dress shirts, and four trousers. Depending on your office environment, you may also want to get a few suits or sport coats at some point. These will make you much more professional looking, but they’ll be considerably more expensive. 
Remember that you can lower your outlay by acquiring things over time instead of buying everything at once. Try thrifting, using eBay, and waiting for sales. Jesse’s guide to thrifting can help you with the first, our eBay roundups the second, and my sales announcements here and at the Inside Track the third. Give yourself a year or two to acquire a decent, basic wardrobe, and perhaps another five to six years to perfect it. It takes a while to acquire what you need and learn how to dress well, but the process itself can be very fun and rewarding. 

Q and Answer: How Can I Get an Office-Appropriate Wardrobe for $500?

americastoppushing writes: I just got a job at a major publishing house in NYC and the whole staff here is very well dressed. I need to jump from grad school clothes to stylish office clothes quickly. I have about $500 to spare right now and I need to make some significant changes to my wardrobe, including shoes, a laptop bag, and at least a few shirts and pairs of pants. Where can I get the most for my money? I’d like to get things that are fairly versatile.

First, congratulations on the new job and for graduating grad school. I’m actually finishing up a grad program myself, so I can appreciate what a grind it can be.

As for your wardrobe, I’m afraid $500 won’t going to get you very much, especially if you need it soon. But let’s see if we can’t give it a try.

For shoes, I recommend a pair of brown derbys (also known as bluchers). Derbys have “open lacing,” which means the shoelace eyelet tabs are sewn on top of the part of the shoe that covers your toes and instep. This differs from the more elegant and formal oxford, which has the eyelet tabs sewn underneath. Oxfords are considered more formal because they make you feet look more “dressed.” However, since you can’t afford suits and sport coats at this time, you should embrace the inherent casualness of what you’re wearing by getting derbys. These can be worn with anything from cotton chinos to wool trousers.

Getting them in brown will mean that you can wear them with trouser color (except black, which you shouldn’t be wearing anyway). I recommend a plain toe design for your first pair, but if that’s too boring for you, you can also get them with a perforated or non-perforated toecap. Any of these will be acceptable in an office environment. You can get a pair at Meermin for about $150.  

For dress shirts, you really ought to have at least ten, so that you can get through two work weeks before having to do laundry. However, ten will almost wipe out the rest of your budget and leave you pants-less, so I recommend getting five for now. As soon as you can, pick up another five.

Your first five should include three solids and two stripes in a mix of white and light blues. These colors flatter the complexion of any man, and they’ll set a good foundation for when you’re ready to wear suits, sport coats, and ties. You can read Jesse’s post about this subject here. I agree with what he said, and would just add that in your situation, it would avoid having people think “here comes that guy in the bright pink shirt again.” You are going to be wearing each of these often, so best to make them look fairly non-descript.

Design wise, choose the following if you can: semi-spread collars (they look good on every guy); French placket with no pocket (as a proper dress shirt should be); and barrel cuffs (not French cuffs, as you won’t be wearing these with a suit for now). You can browse TM Lewin’s clearance section to see what they have. Their “slim fits” fit decently well on the average sized guy. At $32 a pop, this should set you back $160.

For pants, I’m going to fudge here and assume you at least have a pair of khaki chinos you can use for casual Friday. To add to this, I recommend two pairs of wool trousers, one solid mid-grey and another slightly darker. If you must choose a pair of non-grey pants (and only if you absolutely must), I recommend brown. Pick whatever weave you’d like (from flannel to sharkskin), but just make sure the fabric doesn’t look too shiny. You don’t want to look like you forgot your suit jacket at home. Sign up for Land’s End’s newsletter and wait for a coupon code to come up. You can then score a pair of their Tailored Fit wool trousers for about $60.

Finally, we have the laptop bag. Muji has a canvas and leather shoulder option as well as a “3-Way” bag (an unfortunate name) for $80 and $90, respectively. These aren’t the most professional looking of bags, and there are certainly better options out there, but this slides us in at about $515, just fifteen dollars more than the budget you allocated.

Of course, a basic business wardrobe should have at least double what I’ve listed above – two pairs of shoes so that you can rotate between them (wearing the same pair everyday will quickly ruin the leather), ten dress shirts, and four trousers. Depending on your office environment, you may also want to get a few suits or sport coats at some point. These will make you much more professional looking, but they’ll be considerably more expensive.

Remember that you can lower your outlay by acquiring things over time instead of buying everything at once. Try thrifting, using eBay, and waiting for sales. Jesse’s guide to thrifting can help you with the first, our eBay roundups the second, and my sales announcements here and at the Inside Track the third. Give yourself a year or two to acquire a decent, basic wardrobe, and perhaps another five to six years to perfect it. It takes a while to acquire what you need and learn how to dress well, but the process itself can be very fun and rewarding. 

Finding Cheaper Belts

After I wrote Monday’s post about where to get affordable basics, a reader emailed me to ask if I had any other suggestions for belts. In his opinion, $40-50 is still a lot of money for a belt, which I think is a fair point. 

One thing you can do is check out stores such as Kohl’s. More often than not, you’ll be able to find belts there for about $20-25. They should have phrases such as “genuine leather” or “real leather” stamped on the back. The problem with these is that they’re most likely made from cheap, split leather, or things such as reconstituted leather, which is scrap leather that has been bonded together with latex binders. Reconstituted leather is to quality leather what particleboards are to solid wood. It isn’t very good, to say the least. Plus, if you’re buying a dress belt with top stitching, the stuff in the middle is probably plastic or compressed paper, not full leather, which is what you want. 

You can also often find decent belts at discount stores like Nordstrom’s Rack or even Marshall’s and Ross. While a Polo belt isn’t the finest that money can buy, it’s typically full-grain leather and will rarely set you back more than $40 or so. Look for something where you can see the grain of the leather - if it’s smooth and shiny, that means it’s been buffed and polished, which is a sign of low-quality leather.

Still, these should last for about three to six years before falling apart. If you’re in between jobs or waiting for a promotion, these will get you by until you have a bit more money.

The other thing you can do is to shop for a belt on eBay. My original post was about things you can buy without investing too much time or money, but it’s worth noting that belts on eBay are a bit easier to find than garments such as sport coats and suits. Most men don’t realize that belts can be altered, which means you can be a size 32 and still buy size 46 belts. Most cobblers or tailors should be able to shorten these for you. The job is done by removing the buckle, cutting down the belt from the buckle end, and then reattaching everything back together. This way, you still retain the shape at the pointy end, as well as the same number of holes. 

While we’re on the subject, note that you can also buy slide buckles on eBay, even if they’ve already been engraved with initials. If the engraving isn’t too deep (this will be a judgment call on your end), you can take it to a jeweler and have it removed. Again, since many men don’t realize this, this also means you can score a pretty sweet slide buckle for considerably cheaper than what you’d otherwise pay in-store. 

(Photos above taken from Brooks Brothers)

Affordable Basics
Most people want to dress well, but they don’t care to spend a small fortune or an inordinate amount of time searching for deals. That means no fancy boutiques or thrift stores, just readily available things that can be quickly purchased for not too much money.
Obviously, if you want the best things, you have to spend either time or money. If you just want to look decent without too much fuss, however, here are my recommendations for where you can get affordable basics.
Suits and sport coats: Land’s End Tailored Fits are workable. If you can swing it, Suit Supply is very good for the price. You can read my review of them here. 
Shirts: TM Lewin sells decent dress shirts for $32 in their clearance section or $160 for four in non-clearance. Their “slim fit” fits reasonably well (neither too blousy nor skin tight), and their collar is big enough to hold a necktie well. For oxford cloth button downs, Lands End Canvas’ Heritage line is passable, though the collars are short and skimpy. If you can afford to, get Brooks Brothers instead. They’re better made and designed. Both Land’s End and Brooks will discount things by about 40% at the end of each season.
Trousers: I’ve yet to come across readily available, highly-recommendable, affordable, high-quality trousers. The best I can offer in this area are Land’s End Tailored Fit trousers, but those will need some tailoring, depending on your build. Brooks Brothers Milano trousers are also workable once they go on sale. 
Jeans: Decent pairs can be bought at Levis, Gap (selvedge denim line only), and Uniqlo (“Made in Japan” line is especially nice). All three are holding sales right now. Note that if you want to shop at Uniqlo, you either have to visit their stores in NYC or go through Suddenlee (which you can learn how to do here). 
Rain coats: If you’re on a budget, rain coats are perhaps best bought second hand, but if you don’t want to deal with the hassle, TM Lewin’s mac is fairly nice. 
Shoes: Loake’s 1880 line, Meermin, Charles Tyrwhitt, Markowski, Ed Et Al, Florsheim's Goodyear welted line, and Allen Edmonds are all worth checking out. Slightly imperfect “factory seconds” from Allen Edmonds can be had for a discount at their Shoe Bank store. You can see what models they have in your size by calling them at (262) 785-6666. Nordstrom also discounts Allen Edmonds to $200 or so during their semi-annual sale. 
Ties: Chipp2 sells very respectable grenadine ties for $47.50. You can get whatever else you need at Land’s End. They hold sales fairly often.
Socks: Gold Toes can be had at Costco or Belt Outlet for about $6 a pair. 
Cufflinks: Get these monkey’s fists cufflinks if you don’t need something more formal. Get something from Kent Wang if you do.
Pocket squares: If you can only buy one, pick up a white linen. Kent Wang sells one for $20, Howard Yount for $25, and Sam Hober for $30. 
Belts: You can get a decent belt from Narrangasettet Leather or Austin Jeffers for between $40 and $50.
Wallets: I prefer the slim profile of a card case over a thick bi-fold. Chester Mox makes some nice ones starting at $39 and they’re offering free monogramming right now as part of a Father’s Day promotion. Saddleback also has a very simple and affordable option at $15. 
Watches: Timex on a NATO strap. The watch itself is $25-35 and you can pick up a strap for about $10 on eBay. Or, if you prefer an automatic, try a Seiko - the Seiko 5 can typically be had for about $60, and several other models are under $100.
Finally, don’t forget to set aside a portion of your budget to have things tailored. Things such as suits, sport coats, shirts, and trousers rarely fit perfectly off-the-rack, but if you bring them to a good alterations tailor, you can make them look twice as good and three times as expensive. 
(Photo from Life)

Affordable Basics

Most people want to dress well, but they don’t care to spend a small fortune or an inordinate amount of time searching for deals. That means no fancy boutiques or thrift stores, just readily available things that can be quickly purchased for not too much money.

Obviously, if you want the best things, you have to spend either time or money. If you just want to look decent without too much fuss, however, here are my recommendations for where you can get affordable basics.

  • Suits and sport coats: Land’s End Tailored Fits are workable. If you can swing it, Suit Supply is very good for the price. You can read my review of them here
  • Shirts: TM Lewin sells decent dress shirts for $32 in their clearance section or $160 for four in non-clearance. Their “slim fit” fits reasonably well (neither too blousy nor skin tight), and their collar is big enough to hold a necktie well. For oxford cloth button downs, Lands End Canvas’ Heritage line is passable, though the collars are short and skimpy. If you can afford to, get Brooks Brothers instead. They’re better made and designed. Both Land’s End and Brooks will discount things by about 40% at the end of each season.
  • Trousers: I’ve yet to come across readily available, highly-recommendable, affordable, high-quality trousers. The best I can offer in this area are Land’s End Tailored Fit trousers, but those will need some tailoring, depending on your build. Brooks Brothers Milano trousers are also workable once they go on sale. 
  • Jeans: Decent pairs can be bought at LevisGap (selvedge denim line only), and Uniqlo (“Made in Japan” line is especially nice). All three are holding sales right now. Note that if you want to shop at Uniqlo, you either have to visit their stores in NYC or go through Suddenlee (which you can learn how to do here). 
  • Rain coats: If you’re on a budget, rain coats are perhaps best bought second hand, but if you don’t want to deal with the hassle, TM Lewin’s mac is fairly nice. 
  • Shoes: Loake’s 1880 lineMeermin, Charles Tyrwhitt, Markowski, Ed Et AlFlorsheim's Goodyear welted line, and Allen Edmonds are all worth checking out. Slightly imperfect “factory seconds” from Allen Edmonds can be had for a discount at their Shoe Bank store. You can see what models they have in your size by calling them at (262) 785-6666. Nordstrom also discounts Allen Edmonds to $200 or so during their semi-annual sale
  • Ties: Chipp2 sells very respectable grenadine ties for $47.50. You can get whatever else you need at Land’s End. They hold sales fairly often.
  • Socks: Gold Toes can be had at Costco or Belt Outlet for about $6 a pair. 
  • Cufflinks: Get these monkey’s fists cufflinks if you don’t need something more formal. Get something from Kent Wang if you do.
  • Pocket squares: If you can only buy one, pick up a white linen. Kent Wang sells one for $20, Howard Yount for $25, and Sam Hober for $30. 
  • Belts: You can get a decent belt from Narrangasettet Leather or Austin Jeffers for between $40 and $50.
  • Wallets: I prefer the slim profile of a card case over a thick bi-fold. Chester Mox makes some nice ones starting at $39 and they’re offering free monogramming right now as part of a Father’s Day promotion. Saddleback also has a very simple and affordable option at $15. 
  • Watches: Timex on a NATO strap. The watch itself is $25-35 and you can pick up a strap for about $10 on eBay. Or, if you prefer an automatic, try a Seiko - the Seiko 5 can typically be had for about $60, and several other models are under $100.

Finally, don’t forget to set aside a portion of your budget to have things tailored. Things such as suits, sport coats, shirts, and trousers rarely fit perfectly off-the-rack, but if you bring them to a good alterations tailor, you can make them look twice as good and three times as expensive. 

(Photo from Life)