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Many of us dudes are tasked with clothing our own bodies. Sometimes we even have to *gasp!* buy the stuff ourselves. A majority of us either hate shopping for clothing, or aren’t exactly sure what we’re doing, so we force ourselves (or are forced by a loved one) to drive to the nearest mall where we end up wandering aimlessly, hoping to find a few things that look decent in as little time as possible, just so we can get the hell outta there.

Sound familiar?

Even if you happen to enjoy shopping, it can be a little daunting if you go at it with the wrong mindset or without a few guidelines to help keep you on track.

These are the three Fs I use before I even think about buying something. This helps keep my closet in check so it only has the necessities. Whether or not you’ve realized it yet, the more minimal your wardrobe, the better.

1.) FIT

How does the garment fit?

Make sure no piece is too tight, or too loose. Here’s a slightly more detailed breakdown:

Shirts / Polos

T-shirts and Polo shirts should slightly hug the body, but not so tightly that you can see every muscle striation or (God forbid) every fat roll. The end of the sleeve should hit mid-bicep, any longer and you’re probably wearing a shirt that’s too big. If your armpit is getting a wedgie, either the sleeve is cut too high and too tight, or the chest is too small and you need a bigger size.

The bottom of the shirt should hit at the hip, just past your belt. If you’re showing belly, that’s not a good look. Conversely, if your tee is hitting your knees, I hope you’re in a rap video because that look doesn’t really work anywhere else.

Pants

The fit of pants can be a little more complicated, but if you try on enough pairs, you’ll get an idea of what works best on your body and what you prefer. Focus on the rise of the pants (both front and back). “Low rise” means your pants will be sitting lower, probably on your hips. Standard rise sits higher up, between your belly button and your hips (example: Levis 501).

Also consider the fit of the leg. Depending on the style (slim fit, skinny fit, loose fit), the width of the leg opening will change. All these descriptive fits are marketing speak; you really have to suck it up, hop in the fitting room, and try on a bunch of pairs to know what looks best on you.

Suiting

Suits are a beast if you’re inexperienced. I highly suggest going to a high-end department store or a specialty men’s shop and speaking with salesmen. It can be intimidating, but it’s worth it because they (should) know how to pick out a well-fitting suit for your frame.

Make sure you ask questions if you’re uncertain of his knowledge (How long have you been working here? Who’s your favorite suit maker, and why? Do you get to work with a lot of clients?) and also if you’re unsure about how a suit should fit (Where should the jacket hit on my shoulders? What’s the cut of these suit pants? Can I wear this material throughout all the seasons?) Don’t worry about seeming out of place or inexperienced; a good salesman will understand that you’re just trying to become a more knowledgeable shopper.

Learn as much as you can so you’re better prepared for your next suit purchase.

If you have questions about how things should fit, feel free to email me and I’ll do my best to help.

2.) FUNCTION

What purpose does this purchase serve?

When I was younger I would just buy shit. I mentioned in previous posts that I get really lucky at sales and clearance racks. I just happen to find really great deals on pieces and they are always my size.

Sounds really great, right? I hardly held back, and it caused a lot of issues with my closet. I ran out of space. I also realized that I was buying to buy, not because I necessarily needed these things.

As I got older, I learned to pare down, got rid of the “meh” pieces and the excess shit that I never really wore, and kept only what I needed and used regularly. This resulted in garbage bags full of stuff I got rid of (donated), and to be honest, I’m still in that process today. You’re never completely done with a process like that, because your tastes and preferences are ever-changing. A sweater you liked three years ago may not even cross your mind as something you’d wear nowadays, and that’s okay.

Don’t do what I did, buying to buy, or buying things you just feel meh about. Think long and hard (that’s what she said) before you make a purchase, and ask yourself how you’ll be using this item you’re considering buying.

That’s also the reason I’m a big fan of owning classic staples, things that never go out of style. I’m talking about navy blazers, a nice set of crisp white dress shirts, a couple pairs of dark denim, slim, well-fitting chinos, brown lace-ups, etc. It’s okay to own more fashionable pieces too, but if your wardrobe has a base of classic pieces, you’ll be set, even if you find yourself getting rid of the more trendy stuff every couple years.

Can I wear this piece with lots of other stuff in my closet?

You want the pieces you buy to complement a majority of your wardrobe. The best wardrobes are flexible; pieces can easily be put together with other pieces to create a whole new look. That flexibility is justification for higher-priced, quality items.

Brooks Brothers navy sport coat. Decent price, will last for years.

Think about it. Let’s say you need a navy blazer. You find one that is a higher price than you normally would pay, but you know the blazer is flexible in relation to your other items of clothing, and it has a higher-quality construction than something at half its price, which means it will last for years.

Assuming you have the funds, why wouldn’t you buy the higher-quality one? Investment in quality comes at a price, and for that price you get a well-constructed, lasting piece that won’t fall apart after a year. You also get something that looks great with the rest of your wardrobe. Win win!

3.) FUN

Will I enjoy wearing this?

That may sound like a weird question or an unnecessary assessment, but if you’re looking at a classic piece, one that will potentially be in your wardrobe for years, you want to enjoy wearing it. You want to be like, “Aw snap, I love wearing this thing, and damn do I look good in it.”

Seriously. Because what’s the point in buying shit you can’t feel good about wearing? If you feel unsure about something after trying it on, put it back on the rack and wait it out. Something else will come along and you’ll be happy you didn’t make such a rash decision.

Those are the three Fs I think about when shopping for new stuff. I don’t have unlimited cash or closet space, so this helps me filter out my potential purchases (and assists me in making good decisions).

What are your three criteria when shopping?

Do mine match yours? What other points are good to think about when buying new garments? Let’s hear it in the comments below.

PUBLISHED June 28, 2011


Barron is the Founding Editor of Effortless Gent and the Cladright Association. He's from San Francisco but currently living in New York. Connect with him on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr.



  • Dan M.

    Awesome post made even better with a “that’s what she said” thrown in for good measure. I knew I loved this site for a reason… 

    And to boot, I’m especially glad I saw this post today before I went to go buy a few unnecessary pieces of clothes online. Definitely made me re-think, and now I’m much happier for it. 
    Keep fighting the good fight, Barron. Much appreciated.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Thanks for reading, Dan. Couldn’t help throwing a bit of Michael Scott in there, and I’m glad I saved your closet from a few more unnecessary pieces. :]

  • Joe D

    I use all three criteria you mentioned and also ask myself the simple question, “Do I absolutely love this piece?” If the answer is met with any hesitation, I put it down.

  • Joe D

    I use all three criteria you mentioned and also ask myself the simple question, “Do I absolutely love this piece?” If the answer is met with any hesitation, I put it down.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Yes, that’s a great point and I also ask myself that. If I’m having a hard time deciding whether I do or not, clearly there’s my answer.

      Very simple, thanks for pointing that out.

  • Acekwest

    Great article. The one about buying just to buy hits close to home. I noticed I would buy thinks just cause it was on clearance or on sale instead of actually loving the piece. I would buy it and forget all about it.

    It’s always best when you buy something and can’t wait to wear it.

    BTW, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way ( cause I’m a huge fan of the site and this is your site) but I think it would be better to reframe from all the curse words in your articles. This is coming from me – a guy that listened to NWA and all the parental advisory music. I know you are making it informal with your readers but I just feel it makes the site a little immature.

    Just my 2 cents. Hope you aren’t offended.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Hey Ace,

      Haha, did I cuss too much in this one? I try to limit myself to a 1-2 curses per article. Perhaps maybe it was more obvious because I used the same one three times.

      In any case, my bad. Wouldn’t want to be off-putting, but at the same time, I gotta keep it real because it’s just how I talk in real life.

      I struggle with self-censoring because I’ve always worked under the principle that if my style or content doesn’t resonate with certain people, then they’re welcome to leave. It’s a big internet out there, is what muh gran-momma usta say. (Not really. But it’s true.)

  • Anonymous

    Not new too your site, but first time posting…

    I completely agree with your criterion. As others have mentioned, buying to buy is my thing…I actually love to shop and peruse the local shopping establishments, and i can get a little carried away…I have learned to tone it down over the last year…

  • Anonymous

    Not new too your site, but first time posting…

    I completely agree with your criterion. As others have mentioned, buying to buy is my thing…I actually love to shop and peruse the local shopping establishments, and i can get a little carried away…I have learned to tone it down over the last year…

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Thanks for your comment. Buying to buy is terrible. I used to do it all the time, but with a little practice it gets easier to step away, especially when you realize you don’t really need something. Anyway, it’s all about being more conscious about the things you bring into your life. Most of it is just unnecessary, burdensome trash after a while.

      Glad this post resonated with you!

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Thanks for your comment. Buying to buy is terrible. I used to do it all the time, but with a little practice it gets easier to step away, especially when you realize you don’t really need something. Anyway, it’s all about being more conscious about the things you bring into your life. Most of it is just unnecessary, burdensome trash after a while.

      Glad this post resonated with you!

  • JR

    Great article, great site. I can relate on the “buying to buy” and Fit. For the past year I’ve been losing all that excess weight (finally), and as soon as I lost one shirt size, two pant sizes, I went out and just started buying new clothes. Granted, I too got lucky with clearance racks or deals, so I didn’t lose too much money, but I was in for a big shock a few months later when I dropped another shirt size, and another pant size. Granted, that is NOTHING to be upset or complain about, but it taught me a valuable lesson, buy only what you really need, ESPECIALLY while you know you’re going to be losing more weight.

    As far as fit, in that same period, I also learned how ridiculous not taking an extra 5 min to try your clothes on is. I would find something in the size, look it up and down, and figure yeah, that looks like my other shirts. Once I got home and actually wore it, I would find out too often that it was either hanging off me like a mini curtain, or still too tight (less of a problem since it gives you another goal to work toward).

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      That reminds me of how I was years ago. I remember I was a 38 waist, pushing 40. When I got my ass in gear and started dropping a lot of weight, I was excited. When I hit a 34 I started buying all this stuff, which was dumb. I acted as if I wasn’t going to lose more weight. I’m a 31 and I have no idea where all those size 34 waist pants are now.

      Thanks for your comment, keep up the fitness.

  • Themb

    Pretty darn goods post. And the advice against buying to buy is just the icing on the cake. What matters even more to me, is the fact that I now have an underyling criteria from which I can built my personal wardrobe. And I can personalize this criteria for myself (mostly through the point fun obviously). May wardrobe is pretty underdeveloped, since I haven’t been a “clothes guy” for the majority of my life. I have only recently developed myself that way and was always sinking in a pretty dogmatic way in regards to building up a wardrobe that would be the underlying of a “classic” style of men’s fashion. This post kind of showed me how I can achieve in a much more open and fun way. And in the end, the result may very well be the exact same thing. So thank you very much for this insight :)

    My 2 cents regarding cursing: I’m not a fan of going overboard to be “gentleman”-ish and thus developing ways to behave, that suit some “british” standard, but are probably not 100% compatible with real life. If someone wants to do this, I’m fine. Everybody is ought to live the life he wants. But I for myself, and there is where I’m getting at, prefer a much more down to earth approach, which accepts that to be a “gentleman” and to have “style” does not mean to follow a certain set of ruled based on a certain peer group, but rather can be defined individually by anyone’s own standard. So if you like to curse, because it suits your style, hold on to it a curse as much as you want. This makes your blog what it is.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Hey Themb,

      I’m glad the pointers are helping you out. If you apply them it will be easier to build up that wardrobe without having to think too hard. And definitely, if Fun is the most important one to you, go with it. Clothing should be fun anyway.

      I’m glad my casual, down to earth style hasn’t deterred you from the site and what we discuss here. I can see how it may be a turn-off to some, but like you said, I’m just being myself and staying true to my own style of writing on my site.

      Appreciate the comment!

  • www.DrivenByFashion.com

    Great article. Hit the nail right on the head.

  • Samuel B Green

    My problem is that I’m completely replacing my wardrobe from scratch, so finding stuff that matches stuff I already have isn’t an option. This is a great post, I’m going to the tailors to get a bunch of shirts made right now (I’m gonna start with 5… will decide colour and all that stuff when I get there). Fit, fit, fit!

    Do you have any articles, or would you consider writing an article, about a good process for completely re-inventing your wardrobe? Lots of things I have read seem to be about iterating and improving on your existing clothes… but I have been super unstylish for years!

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Hey Samuel,

      Are you on the EG list? http://signup.effortlessgent.com. Get on there, I’m releasing a product soon that tackles EXACTLY that issue… re-inventing your wardrobe. Hope to have it ready by the end of this month(ish), so keep an eye out. People on the list get first dibs.

      • Mike

        Im definitely signing up for that!

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/paulabrahamsmusic Paul Abrahams

    Excellent post, I recently replaced my whole wardrobe. I bought as much 2nd hand classic clothes I could find. Now I’m adding quality new pieces here and there and will eventually replace the lot with new. But I got a start pretty much under a grand.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      That’s great to hear. Do you have a lot of thrift store / 2nd hand options near where you live?

      • http://www.google.com/profiles/paulabrahamsmusic Paul Abrahams

        There are quite a few around Sydney, the best are located in better suburbs. My fav is Salvation Army most of the 2nd stores are charity run.

        • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

          That’s great you have options. Thrifting is ridiculous in my area; it’s too popular and prices are high. You have to go to less populated towns to find anything worthwhile.