We aren’t all high rollers and we all can’t wear Turnbull & Asser every single day. I love my RRL cardigan but sometimes I need some cheaper basics as well. Also for a lot of guys starting out in menswear, it’s a learning process and you don’t necessarily want to invest huge amounts of money into an item of clothing only to discover that it ain’t really you. But just because you aren’t paying that much, doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice quality. Sure, the item won’t be BIFL, but you still want to get the most quality per dollar ratio. Here are a few brands I have come across that are decent for their price.
Fast fashion often gets a bad rap because it’s ephemeral, disposable, wasteful and usually bad quality. One brand stands out from the pack though in terms of quality and it is the ubiquitous Uniqlo. What’s the difference between a good quality t-shirt and a bad one? A lot of it has to do with the materials and construction (like everything else I suppose). You see 100% cotton and think it’s all the same thing, but in reality there is a difference in the length of the cotton fibres, their tensile strength, where it is grown, etc. Uniqlo uses supima cotton for a lot of their t-shirts which is grown in the United States of A and has a long fibre staple. This means over time, their t-shirt collars are less likely to stretch and resemble a wizard’s sleeve. The construction is nothing special but I do have uniqlo t-shirts and oxford button-up shirts which are quite a few years old that are holding up well. I also hear from people in the know (but haven’t tried them myself) that their underwear and socks are pretty good. They also stock raw selvedge denim jeans (the denim is supposedly sourced from the Kaihara Mills in Japan) which is impressive for a fast fashion brand. If you are on a budget, you can dress head to toe in Uniqlo and look pretty decent – some of their collaborations with big fashion names like Lemaire, Michael Bastian, Comme des Garçons, and Jil Sanders add some interesting pieces as well. I do have some gripes with their regular stock stuff – rises are still pretty low on the chinos, shirt collars are pretty small and don’t support a tie very well, but for most guys this is a good starting place.
If I want a decent quality pair of mid-waisted pants, I usually look to Land’s End. Often endorsed by the “trad” crowd and the likes of Jerrod from oxfordclothbuttondown.com for eons, I’m sad to see this company isn’t doing as well in recent times. I like their “tailored-fit” pants which are mid-waisted and slightly tapered leg but not overly so. Mid-waisted pants look better proportioned when wearing a jacket or cardigan, are more comfortable than their low-slung cousins, and make you look less flabby if you have a bit of a middle-aged paunch. It’s annoying that not many companies offer mid to high waisted pants these days and I will be covering the modern shrinking phenomenon of menswear in an upcoming post. Land’s end offers chinos, flannels, corduroys, winter-weight worsted wools, pretty much most things you need really. I don’t like how most of the chinos (they call ‘em khakis) have a non-iron treatment, and I don’t like how the flannels have a bit of poly mixed in. On the other hand, it means you can hand wash them (I have even thrown them into the machine before! Gasp! Horror). They can even hem the pants to a specified length for you and have the option of adding a cuff. Trying to get the length right over the internet is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair and the cuff is a very unfashionable 1 inch so you are probably better off buying them unhemmed then taking them to a tailor. I have also bought pretty decent quality flannel shirts from them and trads swear by their “Hyde Park” OCBD. Of course you can’t go and try them on from Australia so you have to trust measuring yourself and shipping costs to Oz can take some of the shine off but they have sales often and sometimes international shipping becomes free.
A lot of guys on reddit MFA and styleforum swear by Bill’s Khakis so I decided to give ‘em a try. They make 3 models in various types of fabrics, with the model 1 being the most billowy, the m2 being a bit slimmer, and the m3 being the slimmest. Some guys get the m2, and then get the leg opening tapered by a tailor. I opted for a pair of m3 just to dip my toes in the Bill’s water. I bought a pair of stone-coloured Bill’s model 3 in poplin (which is a light summer-weight cotton) on eBay. Because of an almost-company-liquidation and closing down sale, the eBay is full of deadstock Bill’s and I only paid about $60 for a brand new pair. I’m a skinny guy at 5’8” and 67kg and the m3 is not that slim but as I’m getting older I find I like a relaxed fit more. I might try their M2P next time which is pleated. The material is very light and breathable on hot days and I am very happy with the quality. The pants are mid-waisted and very very comfy.
Tune in next week when I’ll be covering some upgraded staples.