QUANTITY, not Quality: Making the case for “cheap” clothing

August 21, 2013 · 27 comments

in Apparel, Lean Wardrobe, Look Good For Less

summer 07 tagHey Gents,

The other day before heading to the gym, I threw on a grey T-shirt.

(To be honest, it was a little holey. Not holy, mind you, but holey.)

I realized I’ve owned this particular tee for a while now, and out of curiosity, I checked the tag sewn into the side seam to see exactly how old it was.

The tag read “Sum ’07″.

The T-shirt is from Old Navy, and six years later, it’s still going strong.

This made me think… when is it okay to buy affordably? Are cheaper garments really not worth it to buy, or are people just saying that?

Why do we argue for quality over quantity?

Here are some of the common arguments I hear about choosing quality over quantity.

  1. “Quality lasts longer” (you assume you’re paying for durability and whatever goes into creating a long-lasting garment)
  2. “Quality is better” (produced ethically, better practices in the production cycle, though not always true)
  3. “Quality is cooler“, as it usually comes with a brand name, prestige, has history, etc. (Isaia vs. H&M)

Don’t get me wrong. Quality is important. One of the pillars of the Lean Wardrobe philosophy is to buy fewer but better things.

But when does it not really matter as much? When is it okay to buy a cheaper alternative?

This answer will change based on who you ask, and is totally dependent on each person’s lifestyle.

A few things to keep in mind

Here’s how I think of it. This is my thought process when it comes to new garments. Feel free to adopt and / or modify to better suit your situation.

  1. if you wear things out quickly (underwear, T-shirts, socks), buy mostly for affordability, and a few quality versions if you want
  2. if you’re trying out a new style, experimenting with a new look, or adopting a “trendier” piece, go with the more affordable version. You don’t even know if you’ll like it!
  3. if you’re buying a classic item for the first time, it wouldn’t hurt to go with something more affordable

Affordable vs Cheap: Is there a difference?

In a short answer, yes.

There’s a distinction to be made here. Shop affordably, but never go cheap just to save a couple bucks. In the long run, you lose money because you’re buying crap goods.

How do you buy affordably?

  • You can shop higher-end stores’ end-of-season sales.
  • You could find something you like that is full price, and then search for it online at a discounted price.
  • You can hunt for deals on eBay, Style Forum’s Buy and Sell thread, etc.

The guys at Put This On do a great eBay Roundup every week or so, and they also discuss eBay / online thrift shopping quite regularly.

Ultimately, you want to buy well-fitting clothing that you’ll love and wear, regardless of price, quality, or brand.

The first linen suit I owned was from H&M, and I paid $150 for it. Not necessarily top-notch quality, but that fact isn’t apparent to the casual observer. Why? Because I made sure I got that bad boy tailored and it fit flawlessly.

Here’s the bottom line

Well, a few bottom lines. But bear with me.

  1. Sometimes, we want to buy a quality item but we simply can’t afford it. If you can delay gratification, then do so, and wait until you’ve saved up for that great suit, pair of shoes, or whatever that item may be.
  2. If you can’t, and you need that item right away, then find a more affordable version. Know it will suit you well now, but you may have to replace it in the future. The better you take care of it, the longer it will last you.
  3. The general sentiment of buying fewer but better, or buying quality over quantity, can be hard to satisfy sometimes. I’m here to tell you it’s okay if you just can’t afford top quality stuff right now.
  4. If you take a long-term approach and view your grown man wardrobe as a work in progress, you won’t feel so rushed to have the best of everything right this instant.
  5. Don’t feel pressured to buy the best all the time, especially if you can’t afford it.
  6. Do the best you can with what you have, buy the best you can afford, and upgrade when necessary. Simple.

Question: when do you buy affordably, vs buying with long-lasting quality in mind?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Let’s hear em!

PS – We’ll discuss these ideas and much more within the Cladright Association, a new members site I’m developing. If you like the stuff you read on EG, you’ll love Cladright. Sign up here and I’ll send you more info as soon as I can.

About

Barron is the founder and editor of Effortless Gent, a site dedicated to helping guys figure out what looks best on them. He's based in San Francisco. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

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