Photo by Muffy Aldrich
The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

When do more expensive clothes save you money?

 A reader question:

Dear Muffy,

These are great questions, and so let me add one more.  I know I often justify buying more expensive clothes with the hope that they will save me money in the long run.  Looking back, sometimes I have been right and sometimes I have not.  Muffy, do you or the community have a sense of what items are worth paying more by the long term cost savings?  

Thank you!

21 comments:

  1. For tweed corduroy and tattersall look no further than Cordings. My favourite brand used to be Bladen who are sadly no longer in business. They made the most exquisite tweed hacking jackets. I bought my first one nearly forty years ago and it still looks like new. I'm told you can pick up on ebay on ebay for a bargain price.

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  2. Men's clothing where spending more often means the items will long outlast less expensive alternatives - even taking into account occasional tailoring, repairs/resoling: Suits, blazers, shirts, belts, shoes, pants, overcoats. Why? because superior materials and construction last a lot longer and look better doing so. You may opt to replace them, but probably won't need to. If you amortize the relative cost of higher vs. lower quality options, it's readily apparent that higher quality is a better way to go - not only because it looks and wears better to begin with, but also because you'll probably end up replacing these items much more frequently if you go with lower quality.

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  3. I believe the question slighty misses the mark. It is high quality, rather than high price, that determines longevity. While they frequently go together, preices are often inflated because of style, rather than quality. I have always been satisfied with the length of time good quality clothes last. A frequent indicator of quality is the absence of synthetics in the cloth. I never buy "blends."

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    1. A very good point as is Andrew's above. Avoid "fashion" brands

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  4. Gentlemen are advised to pay more for shoes, and a good, warm, wool winter coat/jacket, for starters. And I still wear my father’s J Press tweed sports jackets.

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  5. Clothing that is made of sturdy natural fabrics and very good construction is priced accordingly. It often has a more comfortable and less constricting fit, and that reduces wear at pressure points. I find, however, that the most important things to ensure longevity involve how clothes are maintained. Gentle and less frequent washing, line drying, and ironing without starch or sizing help. Woolens usually get brushed and are very rarely sent out for cleaning. For shoes, keeping the leather properly treated, using shoe trees, and a rotation to allow for resting all help.

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  6. Frederick J JohnsonJune 12, 2024 at 2:16 PM

    What He said!

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  7. I prefer to buy higher quality and often more expensive clothing but not because it somehow saves me money. That's a utilitarian argument that in any case probably does not hold water. I prefer them for aesthetic reasons.

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  8. Excellent quality shirts, good blazers, cashmere sweaters, good shoes. Suits cuts change, but a classic blu blazer holds itself to a higher standard

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  9. I remember that back in early 1968, the Times Magazine carried an article comparing Hubert Humphrey with Robert Kennedy (Sr.). It said that Humphrey was well dressed in the latest fashions, but that like a lot of rich men, Kennedy’s clothes were so well made that they lasted forever and as a result looked a bit old fashioned. That’s been my motto ever since. When I graduated from college a few years later, my father got me a grey suit from Brooks Brothers, and I have always purchased there or J. Press (especially after Brooks went trendy with pleated pants and fanny flaps on their jackets). I don’t wear suits very much these day, but recently attended a wedding in a Brooks MTM suit from 2002. Can’t beat old things that are classic and well made.

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    1. It's still common to see older lawyers and judges wearing suits they've had for decades. Not being in the latest cut is a way of quietly wearing your experience on your sleeve.

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  10. I'm reminded of NBC's Tim Russert's comment,
    "I only have three tailors, L, L and Bean."

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    1. This is off the subject but I have not heard his name mentioned for a long time. I miss the old news shows and personalities like Russert and Brinkley.

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    2. It seems that L L and Bean no longer sell many items that are of the same quality that was sold a few decades ago. It is only the same company on paper and in name

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    3. Sadly, so true. But still some very reliable cotton turtle necks and t-shirts.

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  11. That’s a hard question. I have a Gap jean jacket that is at least 30 years old. It was a steal price wise and one from Old Navy that’s not much younger. Whereas I’ve bought more expensive items that were considered quality brands that have fallen apart within a year.

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    1. I have an Arrow dress shirt, dark checkered pattern, made in Bangladesh, that I bought maybe 15 years ago at Ross. I have worn it in dirty factories and warehouses. I have thrown it into a washer with jeans, then in a dryer until completely dry. But lately I have grown fond of it and bring it to the dry cleaner with my "real" dress shirts. It still looks almost perfect - no damage, fraying, or loose threads. Although most of my shirts are BB because I like the look and fit, I am skeptical that you have to pay a lot for quality.

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  12. I have tremendous luck at thrift stores that I rarely need to "pay more", however cheap shoes will never maker you happy. If you're going to treat yourself, do so on your feet.

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  13. Quality will win out in the long run!

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  14. They save you money when they're well-made and last longer and are broadly appropriate. If they're badly made or too weird to wear very often, they don't.

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  15. One consideration is the opportunity cost of not investing money. If I have the choice between buying a $150 shirt that lasts 15 years, compared to a $40 shirt that lasts 3 years, it may seem like the former saves money in the long terms But assuming a 10% real growth rate of an index fund, you're better off paying $40 and saving the $110.

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