From watering holes to workouts, relying too heavily on ol’ faithfuls often means getting stuck in a rut. And your style is no different. Perhaps, as the new year approaches, you feel the urge to smarten up? Or maybe you’ve had enough of being asked if you’re going to a funeral because of how you dress? Either way, now’s the perfect time to consider a change.
But while it’s easy to overhaul your look with a budget like Kanye’s and a personal stylist on speed dial, how can you make tweaks if your bank account’s more lemonade than champagne? Check out these tips and hacks for an inexpensive route to looking on-form.
Step 1: Plan With Military Precision
Saving money means being wise about what you invest in, so it’s time to invoke some classic money saving rules before diving into your new wardrobe.
Firstly, if you’re not 100 per cent sure about an item, put it aside, mull it over and come back after 30 days to see if you can’t live without it. Secondly, ask yourself two questions: do you really need it, and will it actually help switch up your style? Are you hoodwinking yourself by making a case for that capped sleeve navy T-shirt when you already own five navy T-shirts?
Although traditionally beloved by the fairer sex, Pinterest is especially useful for guys, too: a place where you can virtually store items for your wardrobe reinvention and visualise how they’ll work together. As you browse online, pin everything you want for your new look and if you’ve got 20 shirts and a single pair of trousers, you might realise where you’ve been going wrong in the past.
Often the most stylish men aren’t the ones wearing the coolest clothes but those who have an aesthetic signature, like a trademark hairstyle or beard. Plus, this is a tweak that could even be free (or at least cheaper than a pair of new brogues).
Try slicking your hair back, even if you don’t think you have the ‘right’ hairline for it; it can look surprisingly flattering on most guys. Similarly, try going clean shaven or commit to a short beard if stubble’s your safe zone.
Other subtle changes you can make include going shorter on the sides (there are very few face shapes a fade won’t suit), growing your fringe out a little, and taming unkempt eyebrows – the latter in particular is a small but effective tweak that’ll instantly elevate your overall appearance.
Step 3: Know the Brands That Have Your Back
Thrillingly, reinventing your look on a budget is about avoiding crazy financial risks. Part of that? Knowing the brands that suit you. If you’re already happy with the fit of a T-shirt or a particular trouser’s break, then chances are you can return to where you got them for a successful rerun.
Topman and ASOS are great for those who prefer their cuts leaner, while both retailers’ enormous breadth of choice means you can try new looks and sample trends with confidence once you identify your ideal size and fit.
Gap and American Apparel, meanwhile, are better for basics; if you’re a fan of their classic T-shirts and sweats, try switching things up with the same styles in colours you wouldn’t normally consider.
Finally, although it might feel like we plug Uniqlo a lot when it comes to wardrobe staples, it’s no accident – the Japanese retailer offers one of the most expansive ranges of quality basics on the high street. If you love the brand’s knits, tees or chinos, it’s easy to go in and find the same piece in a smart new colour or fabric.
Step 4: Accessorise, Accessorise, Accessorise
The most stylish guys this writer knows are those with simple wardrobes that somehow always look fresh because of the way they style things, or the accessories they use to accent their looks. Suits and ties can grow dull, for example, but they take on a new life when the neckwear is knitted or the jacket’s equipped with a pocket square and lapel pin.
There’s a new generation of accessory-makers who have got this down to a fine art. Fusing familiar shapes with exquisite British craftsmanship, Becky French’s label Marwood boasts classic bow ties and ties in sumptuous fabrics like lace and woven silk.
“Accessories can exude personality in an outfit,” says French. “We design ties for occasions as well as the everyday and aim to give them as much time and consideration as the rest of the outfit – we work mainly on colour and pattern each season to add newness to the textiles we create. And we don’t believe that accessories should be an afterthought.”
Beyond the suit, emerging designer Karmuel Young creates shoe accessories that provide an affordable yet luxurious way to transform your feet. “Our shoe cuffs, covers and shoelaces are the catalyst for personalising a look,” says Young. “It’s like a tie for a shirt or a pocket square for a jacket, adding value to a day-to-day shoe. Although they’re tiny design details, we pay attention to proportion, finishing, stitching and workmanship.”
Try jewellery, too – Miansai’s leather anchor wrap bracelets are an affordable favourite, but even a simple titanium ring or a coloured NATO strap for your watch can give your looks that extra something.
Step 5: Take It Up (With Your Tailor)
If you want to update, rather than drastically reinvent, your personal style, try making alterations to your existing wardrobe. Judicious nips and tucks can take wallowing pieces from substandard to outstanding.
Most dry cleaners have an in-house tailor that can take on trouser hems and sleeve lengths, but there is also a crop of experts that can work sartorial magic, making even the most basic suit look like something you picked up on Savile Row.
One of London’s most clued-up practices is Design Alter. “We work with a lot of designer stores and VIP clients,” explains its in-house expert, Lynda Sims. “Clients come to us in the hope that we can repair a garment that they may have had for a long time, which they adore and don’t want to throw away.”
Alongside popular requests like shortening and letting out garments, Design Alter also gets men looking for trousers to be tapered, as well as elbow patches and even sleeves added to garments. “We can also copy your favourite piece and make it in a different colour or fabric,” adds Sims, a service that many tailors now offer and an easy route to reinvention – simply keep the silhouette the same and try a bold new colour or pattern.
Step 6: Steer Second-Hand
If you’re not already au fait with second-hand stores (online and IRL), then, frankly, what are you waiting for? These are often some of the best places to score an entire new wardrobe at a snip.
Online marketplace eBay is the biggest of them all, and one of the great perks is that people often clear out their whole closet at this time of year, meaning if there’s someone whose style you admire, you can sweep up their carefully curated hoard in one go.
Alternatively, if you love a certain designer and want to buy into their aesthetic, sample sales are a goldmine. Most designer labels do them, twice a year towards the end of the season, with discounts of up to 90 per cent off – look to Time Out’s guides as they’re usually the most comprehensive.
There’s no singular rule when it comes to reinventing your look on a dime, but these tips work well in combination. Make a Pinterest board and stick to a budget, but then also think about how some of that budget could be used on tailoring items you already own, rather than splurging it all on entirely new threads. It may even be just as simple as rolling up your sleeves and throwing on a new tie now and again.
How do you change your look for pocket change?
Share your tips in the comments section.