Downsizing? What clothes to keep and which to purge

Downsizing? What clothes to keep and which to purge

Q. My husband and I are trying to empty a room that has been essentially our walk-in closet. Our grandson will use it to stay when he goes to college near us. I’m working on culling my clothes, but my husband keeps thinking his old ties, watches, even bell bottoms will come back in style. Can you explain to him what will never return, especially for someone retired?

A. It sounds exciting and a bit terrifying to have your grandson move in. Everyone has difficulty letting go of old favorites; I can imagine you’re having trouble with some choices. But there are certainly many elements of a man’s wardrobe from decades ago that are unlikely to return for a long time, if ever. 

Some items technology has simply put in the past. For the man who uses a smartwatch and a smartphone, multiple analog watches, wallets, and even briefcases make little sense. He may want to sell, pass on, or at least box up some of those items. 

As for more traditional clothing, the more work-oriented or youthful, the less likely a retired man will wear that clothing.

He probably needs at most two suits – one for weddings and funerals, and perhaps another favorite. Those could also be replaced by one or two blazers or sports jackets. assuming they’re still in good condition and in current style. Or he could toss all but one, and purchase something new if the occasion comes up. Urging a man to buy a specific garment for a single occasion can be like pulling teeth; so don’t press him too hard to get rid of every one of his old favorites. Keeping one or two spares could make him more ready to donate the old rejects.                                      

It is unlikely that bell-bottoms will come back in style or be appropriate for someone over 30. The same is true of many other choices from a man’s younger years. You can point out clothing that you know he no longer looks good in or that is inappropriate.   

Below are pieces of clothing that every man could probably purge from his wardrobe.

Shorts that are above-the-knee. 

Shirts that once were stylish but are now outdated, such as those with colored bodies and white contrast collars. Others that are passée include bright solid-color dress shirts from the ‘80s and long-pointed shirt collars that don’t stay tucked inside a jacket’s lapels. 

Accessories that look like, and were, ones he wore in college (maybe whale belts, leather pants, collar bars, too-short socks, wildly-patterned neckties, large, chunky cuff links, etc.

Jeans that might be perfect for his son (or grandson), but are too young looking for him. (Calling someone’s jeans “Dad jeans” is not a compliment.) Avoid any style that draws attention to a paunch that over-hangs the belt.  

Formal wear in offbeat colors with pastel-colored, ruffled shirts (high-school prom dressing). Keep a black or perhaps dark navy blue tuxedo for formal attire. And he will need a tie-it-yourself bow tie. 

Certain menswear pieces have so much history they’re impervious to trends. These include a bomber jacket, pullover sweaters, an alligator belt, vintage watches, silk or cashmere scarves.  

Yes, a few items that are currently out-of-style will come back as the fashion pendulum swings in the other direction. The most likely ones are 1.] pleated or non-pleated trousers, and 2.] wide or narrow neckties. A fashion-aware guy might well hold onto a few pairs of his favorite pleated pants and wider ties; they are both highly likely to return in a few years. 

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