Shopping to update a man’s wardrobe

Shopping to update a man’s wardrobe
Q. I have a number of pieces of clothing that I’ve had for over 10 years, that I imagine I will need to replace before the Fall. What do I specifically need to know?
A. Without more specific information, it will be difficult to tell you what may or may not be out of style in the men’s business wear you have (feel free to follow up with more info). However, given that you recognize the need to make some purchases, and another question I received from a man moving up who needed a full professional wardrobe, I believe you both may benefit from a quick tutorial on shopping FOR MEN and methods of finding the best clothing.
These are ways to get help so you don’t have to rely solely on your own judgment and shopping will not be something you dread . . . as long as you are open to following at least a few of them.

  • Hire a Personal Shopper: If your budget can handle it, this can be a great option. You don’t need to be a celebrity to do this, but you do need to be careful about your choice. (Your partner/spouse may not be the most objective person for the job.)
  • Find a Store that Is Right for You: It will be very much in your interest to buy a large percentage of your clothes in one store. The personnel will regard you, over the years, as a valued customer. You will know the manager, the salespeople, and – just as importantly

    the fitter/tailor. You may not be able to afford the very best store in town, but one at the next level will do just fine.

  • Cultivate a Salesperson with Impeccable Taste: When you walk into a fine men’s store, one salesperson will approach you. In retailers’ parlance, the one who is “up” gets the next customer. But you are in no way obligated to follow the store’s rotation system. Unless you are immediately impressed with the salesperson’s manner and how that person is dressed, say, “No thanks, I’m just looking.” Observe the other salespeople and note the kind of customers they are serving. If you admire the look and style of one, wait until he is available. You approach him. Let him help you dress the way you want to look. He can become your personal shopper. Tuck his card into your wallet. Then be loyal.
  •  Be Willing to Try Things On: Besides hating to shop, another thing men seem to resist is actually trying something on to determine whether or not it is flattering. I strongly urge you to learn to trust your mirror. Especially when shopping alone, do not merely hold an item up to you and check it out in the mirror. Instead, force yourself to go into the dressing room and actually try it on in front of a brutally-honest mirror (full length!). Only then will you know the truth about whether it is a good look for you, is flattering, and fits.
  • Online Shopping: For men who hate going into stores, the world, specifically the world-wide-web, has certainly adjusted to “suit” them. Even so, it works best if the online company has a real brick-and-mortar store where you can go once in a while to establish which sizes in their garments actually fit you correctly. If not, you may have to go through a period of trials and returns before you can feel comfortable with future orders.

Here are two of my most useful tricks:
1.      Whenever possible, buy two or more items at the same time to create a coordinated “outfit.” When I act as a personal shopper, I always shop this way. You can, too. For example, when you buy a new shirt, buy one perfect tie (or, better yet, two) for that specific shirt, so you know they will always go well together. 
2.      Buy doubles/duplicates as soon as you discover you are especially happy with an item. If it becomes apparent to you that some garment you have bought is a winner, go back immediately to the store and buy another one, either in the same color or in another color (perhaps both). Don’t just wear it a lot and think you will buy another in the future. By next year, or even next season, the manufacturer will often have dropped that particular item from its line or tweaked it slightly, just enough to change it from what you really want. (This is always a good idea, but I especially recommend it for garments that are white or have white trim.) 

Be conscious of trading up every time you spend a clothing dollar, not just modernizing. With some purchases, you’ll be inching upward, a bit at a time. With some, you will leap up to new compliment-arousing heights. Did your first purchase of a really expensive necktie send you home wracked with guilt? Possibly . . . but remember that every time you wore that tie you felt terrific.   

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