By Alain Ndayishimiye
Before you read any further, I would like to begin by saying that I am not by any means a fashion expert or blogger. But you know, we are brothers and brothers help each other out. I decided to write this post to share a few things I have “learned” in the last couple of years on how to dress well without necessarily spending a lot of money. I think we can all agree that the way we dress communicates strongly about the respect that we have not just for ourselves but also for others. It also says a lot about how much respect we have for where we are going. Plus you never know who you’re going to meet out there. If you want to look sharp at all times, here are the some of the tips that I think you are going to find helpful:
1. Look like you didn’t try at all
This is my number one advice for dressing well. Put in all the effort you want to look as though you put in no effort at all. In other words, try hard to look like you did not try at all. The key thing isn’t not to try. No. One must always try, but make sure that your “trying” does not come across in your outfit. Here’s the thing, we all know that one person that just “tries too hard” and honestly we wanna avoid being that person at all costs. It happens to all of us sometimes, but the goal is to not let it happen often if at all. The simplest way to look like no effort was put into an outfit is to stick to simple, neutral colours. My brother has an expression that I really like, and think about often when putting a look together: he says “avoid anything that talks too much”. It’s that simple! Before you leave your house, look in the mirror and ask yourself: is my outfit “talking too much”? If the answer is yes, then go back and change. For this blog, I took a quick glance at my wardrobe and realized that I only wear black, white, blue and sometimes grey. And for the most part, I wear them in a monochromatic manner for a simple, coherent yet great look. It also helps to avoid unnecessary accessories like hats, earrings, chains or anything that may be deemed flashy.
2. Know where you shop
Dressing well does not have to cost a fortune. To save money on clothes, it is important to know your stores very well. For example, I only buy pants from one store; Zara. I find Zara’s slim fit pants fit me better than pants from any other stores. Now, the thing with Zara is that they rarely put stuff on sale so I know that on average pants will cost me about $60 no matter what. That helps me plan better. I know I cannot just walk into Zara randomly and come out with three pairs of pants (that’s almost $200 and I would rather spend it on something else). Because Zara is slightly higher priced than most stores, I avoid buying anything else from them. Now that we know where to get pants, we wanna narrow it down to the rest of the necessities. You can find good quality shirts and t-shirts at H&M for a really good price. In order not to over-spend, self-control is also key. It helps to have a personal cap for certain items of clothing. Personally speaking, I am not paying any more than $15/$20 for a casual t-shirt, while for dress shirts my cap is usually around $30. Thankfully, that’s the price range at H&M, so I almost always get my shirts from there. ASOS is also one of my go to stores for stuff like t-shirts, shirts, ties and hoodies. Excellent clothes for reasonable prices.
3. Only shop for occasions
I learned this trick a few years ago when I noticed that I was buying a lot of clothes for no reason at all. I was spending too much money on things that I did not really need. I then came up with a solution: only buy clothes when I have an occasion. The reason that I thought this was awesome is because there are only a few occasions a year that are really worth shopping for; birthdays, weddings, graduation, and things of that nature. And the thing is we all know when these type of things are coming so we can take our time to actually buy clothes that are cheap. As a twenty-something Burundian man, I have a lot of friends getting married. But with weddings, you always know ahead of time. If I know I will be at a wedding I start conceptualizing what I will wear like two months before. Then, I begin looking for the cheapest way to achieve the look. Once I know what look I am going for, I find out what articles of clothing I need to achieve it. If I already have shoes and pants for instance, then I know all I will be shopping for is a jacket, a shirt and perhaps a tie or bowtie. I will then spend time looking for those specific things at the cheapest price. Works all the time.
4. Check out thrift stores
If you never shop at a thrift store, you have no clue what you are missing. Shopping at a thrift store is actually one of my favourite pastimes. In fact I bought two of my favourite jackets from the Salvation Army and both were under $20. Now finding good things at a second hand store is tricky, it takes a lot of effort and a great deal of patience. The rule of thumb is to never go to a thrift store with an agenda. If you have a specific thing you’re looking for, a thrift store is probably not the right place because chances are they won’t have it or probably won’t have it in your size. Go to the thrift store just like you’d you go people watching; just wonder around and take a look, you never know what you will stumble upon.
5. Take good care of your clothes
This is one little thing that can make huge a difference. See the thing is, you don’t have to own a lot of clothes to look put together. The most basic thing that every guy should own is an Ironing machine. If you do not own one, you should probably stop what you are doing and go get it now. You will be amazed what difference ironing makes to your clothes. It helps to set aside a day to do laundry and ironing because it can be quite time consuming. Once you finish doing laundry, iron and fold the clothes and just keep them folded. Then next time you pick that piece of clothing to wear it, you will be amazed at how good it looks. Sometimes you have to iron it again to get rid of the wrinkles, but trust me, it’s worth it.
6. Don’t be afraid to spend money on a few essential items
While the objective of this post is to help you dress well for less, I would be hypocritical if I didn’t tell you that sometimes you have to spend quite a bit of money for certain things. If you live on this side of the world for instance, you know investing in a good winter jacket is not gonna come cheap. The good news is most winter jackets usually last for a long time so you still get your money’s worth. I think every guy should also spend money on a good polished suit; the kind of suit you can wear for a job interview. Lastly, guys guys guys guys, invest in some good socks. Seriously. I know you can get like ten pairs of cheap white socks for ten bucks at Walmart and that’s awesome but I think every guy should own great, black ( dark colored) or patterned socks for those special occasions. It’s 2014 and you’d think people would know this by now but I am still baffled by the amount of people I see in suits with white socks on, shameless. That needs to stop.
Alain currently lives and works in Edmonton, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter: @alainndayi