Many of us 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.