Show me a man that doesn’t like to be debonair, and I’ll show you a man who doesn’t know his worth. However, with this self-awareness comes a working knowledge; that debonair doesn’t always come cheap. In this respect it is not unusual to find men comparing their shopping stories; as if they were women digging for bargains at Filenes Basement; boasting on sales; early-bird specials, telling one another how much they paid for certain items and dare I say the “coupons “used.
Men’s clothing has come a long way and thus in order for your level of refinement to be equal to that of your counterparts, one need to possess spending power. Spending power by definition is the authority to spend in accordance with an approved budget. But what if your budget and taste; don’t quit equal up? Being Bespoke on a budget is what I call it. The Definition of Bespoke (pronounced bee-SPOHK), is a term used in the United Kingdom and elsewhere for an individually- or custom made product or service, traditionally applied to custom-tailored clothing. And although I love my clothing items bespoke, that’s not what this article is about. It’s about bespoking, tailoring; ones style, on a budget.
Having to adjust your taste to your budget is problem number one. But, fear not; bespoke on a budget is all about being creative, with a little gumption.
Step One: One Bad-Ass Suit
A truly stylish man knows the effect of a well worn suit. Generally suits are one of the most expensive items in a man’s closet. While your taste may run toward Armani, Gucci or Ralph Lauren Purple Label suits, your money may not.
For starters every modern man must own the 4 basic suit colors: 1) Black- the old myth says “Black goes well with everything” this suit takes you everywhere from a funeral to a job interview. 2) Navy or Dark Blue- this color stands out and shows presence. 3) Brown- This Color will go with you as far as happy hour on Friday to church on Sunday. 4) Charcoal Grey- Most working men find this color to be the eye catcher; you will definitely get noticed in this one. Once you have all of these then you can proceed to the pin-stripes, Prince of Wales design and other colors.
Bespoking Tip: For the impressiveness of an Armani, aligned with the high class look and unsurpassed quality of Gucci; the secret is tailoring. No two men are created equal and tailoring separates the boys from the men. Finding an excellent Tailor is paramount, and they can be found in the oddest of places. My Tailor is an older man of Asian descent who I refer to as Mr. Lee, was located on the second floor of a building that looked abandoned in the Georgetown area of DC. I took a few of my off the rack suits to him and it’s amazing what this man can do with a sewing machine.
It is vital to have accurate measurements and close attention must be paid to the coat sleeves; fit and length. The inside paneling should offer a tapered fit. The pants should be altered to fall at the perfect shoe length for your height and build, while not adding bulk to your mid and groin area. These small details really bestow the “tailor made” statement. If a tailor is out of your budget, simply have your measurement taken at your local department store or a bridal shop and use online tailoring services to achieve your goal. Some that have worked well for me are www.mysuitshop.com and www.makeyourownjeans.com. Both have great craftsmanship and excellent customer service.
Step Two: All Eyes on Me Shirt and Ties
Shirt and ties pull our look together. They are the staple that holds your professionalism at a respectable level. While the 21st century Renaissance man understands that a Hermes tie is desirable, but not always feasible; he knows the way to spice things up is with your shirt and tie. Be bold in your shirt colors don’t hold back. Show some charisma in your tie selection. Be creative, whatever you choose you can’t go wrong. You have already stuck with the basic color suits no need to do the same with the shirts or ties. Use strips, plaids, bright colors anything that creates you a style that’s all your own, and when in doubt remember no one will ever be mad at you for wearing a crisp plain white shirt.
Bespoking Tip: “Express for Men” is the perfect place for the trendy man on a budget searching for shirts and ties to make an impression. Express allows you to show your individuality through accessible stylings with……..coupons. Vintage styles have come back with a vengeance; and as such venture into your nearest vintage or consignment shops in your high end neighborhoods to find trends that represent who you are. I can almost guarantee no one will have the same item as you if purchased from a thrift store. Most of these eye-grabbers are older which means they are not made any more, so your item becomes a one of a kind; one man’s trash is another’s treasure. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you “don’t forget the tie bar”, go to your local department store (Dillard’s, Macy’s, JC Penny’s) find yourself a low priced tie bar in silver.
Step Three: A Pop of Color
The Almighty pocket square, this little 13X18 inches of cloth makes any suit pop. Brooks Brothers, Burberry and Tom Ford all make gorgeous pocket squares, but $85 for a swatch of material to accent your attire isn’t exactly for the everyday man.
Bespoking Tip: I have been creative in designing my own pocket squares. Go to the local fabric store pick some prints you like and get a small cutting of each. Once again your tailor will come in handy; he/she can cut and sew the edges to your liking. I used this tip and ended with five fresh looking pocket squares having only spent around $25 total.
Step Four: Finishing Touches
First impressions are lasting impressions, and shoes and socks can make or break an outstanding outfit. I love the look of a Prada loafer or a Salvoatore Ferragamo lace up, but a well maintained shoe can give the perception of comfort and class without the price tag.
Bespoking Tip: Next to your tailor your shoe repair guy should be on speed dial. This way you can always keep your shoes with that fresh appearance. Get taps on both the front and the back; this protects the sole and only cost you about $5 bucks a shoe. Make sure you keep your shoe strings looking new and your shoes are shined and or polished. The two colors that are must haves are black and brown. You will feel comfortable wearing them with any of your suits. ALDO and Cole Haan shoes are great, and although good shoes are never really cheap they are not as costly as the prior mentioned.
As far as socks, be bold make a statement. It is best to buy socks in bulk, you will see lots of deals the will give you three pair for around $18…get them. You can never have too many, these deals don’t come around all the time so take advantage. Colorful and solid Argyle prints are always versatile.
I’ve given a few of my secrets, although there is a few other ways to cheat the code, these have worked effectively for me. Ultimately you must initiate your own style, create your own trade mark. These things speak volumes in bespoking one style. As far as the budget thing goes, remember you only live once and you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Bespoking on a budget takes you from the rack to the runway in four easy steps!