Whether you’ve recently graduated college and are on the prowl for a new job, have lost weight and/or gained muscle and need clothes to show it off or are just looking to update your wardrobe we’ve got the Buyer’s Guide for you. We feature fashionable and stylish menswear, timepieces, shoes and outerwear on the site often but figuring out where to start is difficult and putting together a budget friendly cohesive wardrobe can prove incredibly difficult. ZipRage is here to help with a new ongoing Buyer’s Guide “How to Build a Wardrobe on a Budget for Men.”
Style guideline #1: Fit is King!
Regardless of price, well-fitting clothes will always look better than bad-fitting expensive clothes.
Regardless of age, body type, socioeconomic standing or self-perceived personal archetype these guides are for you. We’ll cover the basics and fundamentals of the men’s wardrobe all while staying budget-minded. Because we know from experience that while a fantastic $200 shirt sure is nice, 5 very good $50 shirts is better.
Proper Fitting Pants Basics
- Your pants shouldn’t fall off your waist if you wear them without a belt
- Your pants should never touch the ground.
- Your pants should never be so loose that no discernible leg structure can be seen from outside them.
- Your pants should never be so tight that you can’t walk properly, can’t get them to your waist or your junk is readily visible.
- Another sign that they’re too tight is if they cling to your thigh when you stand from a sitting position.
Proper Jeans Fit
- Measure your waist size and choose jeans in a straight leg or slimmer cut depending on your personal preference.
- If you choose a slim cut you may want to size down by 1, jeans are quite stretchy and you’ll end up with a better fit.
- Jeans should fit slim in the thigh and should be straight of tapered from the knee down. I would recommend that you avoid bootcut jeans, because no one has calves that flare out wider than their thighs and it just looks silly.
- You have some leeway in jean length if you plan to cuff your jeans. A 1-2″ cuff looks best more starts to look sloppy.
- Stick with a dark wash, they’ll work with just about anything.
- I keep away from distressed jeans, add character to your jeans yourself by wearing them.
Best Budget Jeans for Men
- Levi’s 511 – Clean Dark – $39.99 – Your classic, go to, slim fitting jean with a tapered leg for skinnier guys.
- Levi’s 521 – Rigid Envy – $39.99 – Similar to the 511, but with more room through the thigh for beefier dudes, while still retaining the taper past the knee.
- Bonobos – Flatiron – $125 – Bonobos fit is hard to beat. While the $125 price may be scary there is almost always a way to get steep discounts from Bonobos. They constantly do half priced gift cards through LivingSocial and Groupon so keep your eyes open.
- Other options – Jeans can get very expensive very quickly. Try Nordstrom Rack, Lands’ End Canvas, JackThreads, Huckberry and Gilt for occasional great deals on higher end jeans.
Chinos are usually mid to heavyweight cotton or cotton & polyester blend casual slacks. The most popular colors are solid tan, blue, gray and black. Many people call them khaki’s and they are easy to care for and durable. Chinos are your go to workday pant, they are comfortable, formal enough for a shirt, tie and jacket and will last forever if you treat them right.
Proper Chino Fit
- Chino’s shouldn’t be tight to the leg, but they shouldn’t be so loose that they billow with extra material. They are your more relaxed workday pant so they should look the part.
- Resistance or the pants getting stuck on your thighs while sitting or standing is bad.
- Avoid pleated Chinos, hell avoid pleats in all your pants, flat front is far more flattering and you won’t look like a relic of the ’90s.
- One break – extra pant length that forms a crease when the bottom cuff of the pant rests atop your shoe – is good. If you like wearing boat shoes sock-less like I do you’ll want no breaks in the pant.
- Avoid cargo pockets.
Best Budget Chinos for Men
- Dockers Alpha Khaki – $39.99 – Slim fit, similar to the 511 jean above. I typically stay away from black – it’s less versatile than you think and they seem to lose color quickly, consider navy or the earth tones.
- Dockers D1 Slim Fit – $39.99 – A bit tight in the seat and straight past the knee. A good simple chino.
- Bonobos Washed Chinos – $88+ – Again don’t buy them at full price. The fit can’t be beat.
Dress pants are your formal pant. They are usually made of either wool (preferable) or polyester (more affordable). Dress pants are available in a wide array of colors but most popular are grey, brown, navy, black and herringbone.
Dress pants (also known as suit pants) are a style of pants intended as formal or semi-formal wear. They are often made of either wool or polyester (although many other synthetic and natural textiles are used) and may be designed to be worn with a matching suit jacket. Dress pants have a crease on them because of their tight-fitting nature. Unlike formal trousers (also known as formal pants), dress pants are not to be worn with a white tie outfit and must be bought separately from the suit jacket (unless the suit jacket is a part of a two-piece or three-piece ensemble).
Dress pants can be worn at many formal and semi-formal occasions combined with a shirt that has no tie and a more relaxed fashion, which can be considered smart, smart casual, or casual smart. An example of which could be a christening or non-denominational naming ceremony.
Proper Dress Pant Fit
- Overall you want a similar fit to the Chino, maybe a bit slimmer if that’s your style.
- Find pants that fit your waist, don’t worry about length – have them hemmed.
- Avoid pleated pants like the plague. Really.
- I think one small break looks best in dress pants, some people like to have no break. Either is fine. Just don’t have a large break that covers your shoe or worse touches the ground.
Best Budget Dress Pants for Men
- I don’t have any specific picks for dress pants because they vary enormously. I try to hit up Nordstrom Rack, Lands’ End Canvas and Gilt regularly for great deals. Most Nordstrom Rack stores will also hem pants on site so you can get a perfect fit.
- Typically I buy dress pants in black, shades of grey or herringbone because these colors look the most formal – if I’m not dressing formal I wear chinos anyway – and they are easiest to match with.
Cords (Corduroy Pants)
- Follow the same rules as jeans for fit.
- Look for cords with thin wales – the stripes that make them cords. Thick wales look more casual.
- Avoid cargo pockets, unless your a fratboy or you work at a summer camp.
- Slim, plain front shorts work best.
- Lands’ End Canvas and J Crew have great shorts. I’m particularly fond of Land’s End’s Linen Shorts ($45), they are very comfortable and incredible breathable, though some of you might find them a bit too short.