There comes a time in every young man's life when he thinks to himself, "I look like a slob and I should probably do something about that." The college days are over. You're settling into a new job or career. That really cool "Less than Jake" shirt won't really be appropriate in most of the social situations you'll find yourself in and it doesn't even fit like it used to anyway. But if you want to start building your wardrobe into something respectable, where do you start? One obstacle is shopping. It's tedious, boring and most guys can't even stand the thought of it. It's also expensive, especially if you want to buy quality items that will last. But there are a few rules you can follow that will help you build up a suitable wardrobe with as little pain as possible.
For one, when you talk about classic men's fashion, there are certain things that never go out of style. Think about a blue oxford shirt, a navy wool tie, dark brown cap-toe Oxford shoes or a herringbone jacket. These things have been in style for decades and they probably will be for decades to come.
Second, buy quality when you can. It may seem silly to spend $450 on a pair of Alden or Allen Edmonds shoes. But think of it this way: Take care of those shoes and you can probably wear them for 20 years. The cost evens out to buying numerous pairs of crappy shoes over time. Once you have a solid pair of brown shoes, that means no brown shoe shopping for 20 years.
Third, another thing that will help you save money is making a list of everything you need. When one of those items goes on sale, buy it.
For some more notes on what makes a basic wardrobe, there are some helpful blogs out there, including Put This On (at www.putthison.com), A Suitable Wardrobe (http://asuitablewardrobe.dynend.com/), Die Workwear! (http://dieworkwear.tumblr.com/) and the London-based Permanent Style (http://www.permanentstyle.co.uk/).
Mr. Wick's The classic men's clothing store, from the various styles of shirts and ties you'll find on its shelves down to the hardwood floors and decor. When you try on shoes here, you don't just saddle up on the nearest stool; you're escorted into a side room, complete with a wooden end table, decorative lamp and a couple of shoe horns to choose from. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and very helpful. Prices are high, but not exorbitant. Ties in classic styles can be found for around $75. There's also a wide array of suits, belts, hats and sport coats. Most of the items are fairly expensive for a young man on a budget, but if you need a quality item in a pinch, Mr. Wick's is a great place to go. Suits here start at about $350. 5924 R Street. Cash, check or credit cards. 501-664-3062. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun.
Bauman's The word here is expensive. If you're not looking to spend $100 on a shirt, maybe Bauman's isn't the place for you. However, if you've got some disposable income and don't recoil at the site of a $900 price tag dangling from fine Italian leather shoes (these are at the upper end of the price spectrum, of course; other pairs are available for much less), then this is the ticket.
The owners of Bauman's pride themselves on selecting the best quality items at every price point, so while some things might be on the expensive side, you can be confident that these are quality items that will look good and last.
One great thing about Bauman's is it has its own line of suits that start out (including alterations) for $599. That's not bad for a suit, especially one you can have tailored to fit just right. It's also a much higher-quality suit than you'll find at warehouse stores like Jos. A. Bank.
If you're looking for fitted shirts, Bauman's will take your measurements and have shirts made just for you, starting at around $150. 8201 Cantrell Road. Cash, check or credit cards. 501-227-8797 www.baumans.com. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon. and Sat., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tues.-Fri.
Greenhaw's You'll find a good balance between quality and price here with quality merchandise, but lower price tags than you'll find at most other stores. There are basics for those concerned with building a wardrobe and some hipper, flashier items for those of you who like to add a little something extra to what you wear.
What stands out here is customer service. If you're not sure exactly what you're looking for, just talk to the staff. They'll walk you through an outfit, from matching the pocket square to jacket, shirt to tie, shoes to slacks.
Greenhaw's also carries Allen Edmonds, the only handmade brand of dress shoes in the United States other than Alden. Allen Edmonds shoes are relatively affordable, of great quality and based on the same classic style you'll find with Alden. If you're looking for a lower price point, Greenhaw's has plenty of other brands in classic styles to get you going. Look for suits here to range between $450 to $1,200. Also, look for fitted shirts to start around $135. 10301 Rodney Parham. Cash, check or credit cards. 501-227-8703. www.greenhawsmenswear.com. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat.
Jos. A. Bank If you look around many men's fashion blogs, you'll find a good number of them trash Jos. A. Bank. Now, there's probably good reason for that. In terms of classic men's fashion, the Bank will keep in stock what they think will sell: mainly middle-aged country club type stuff. However, you can pick up a lot of classic items that hold up well and won't cost you an arm and a leg, especially if you watch out for sales.
One of the best items you'll find at Jos. A. Bank is a line of no-iron, wrinkle-free dress shirts. Just wash these with your other dress shirts, dry on the light cycle and you'll never have to touch them afterward. They're expensive, running around $89 when they're not on sale, but if time is money, these things will be good for your wallet in the long run. From time to time, the store has half-price sales, so you can grab these up, as well as basic ties and pocket squares, for reasonable prices. 203 N. University Avenue and 12800 Chenal Parkway. Cash, check or credit cards. 501-614-9487, 501-225-5524. www.josabank.com. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 12 p.m.-6 p.m. Sun.
Goodwill Never underestimate the power of a good thrift store. Every now and again you'll find a great sport coat, or maybe even a suit at a thrift store. A lot of thrift stores separate suits, so if you find a jacket you like, go ahead and search the pants section for the matching pair. Once in a blue moon you'll find some great ties too. Cash, check or credit cards. Check www.goodwillar.org for locations and hours.
Evolve Here you'll find more modern styles, but there's a vintage section in the back that's worth a look. Great classic ties, picked up from vintage stores, are on sale here for $15-$18. The store has lots of classic patterns and textures, including polka dot ties and wool and knit varieties in many different colors. Be careful if you're a bigger guy, though. Most of these are skinny ties. Also, if you're looking for a good pair of worn-in cowboy boots, Evolve has vintage boots in spades. 207 N University Ave. Cash, check or credit cards. 501-661-0644. www.shoplikeaman.net. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 1 p.m.-6 p.m. Sun.