I’ve always had a bit of fashion sense. It started as a child watching my father don his bright red Italian ski sweater while shoveling snow in our suburban New York driveway.
And while watching my sister slide on her silk elbow-length gloves for prom (that pop bought in Milan…he was a Pan Am pilot whose main routes were London, Paris and Rome).
For sure, my eye for sartorial style mostly came from my sisters and pop. Mom and my brother Hal, on the other hand, must have viewed clothing – and those oh-so important accessories that can pull any outfit together — as mere utility. You wore stuff because you just needed to. Fashion was never about making a statement – about who you are, or rather who you wished to be.
I suppose our family could afford to buy upscale clothes, but we seldom did. Yet, pop occasionally schooled us in the rudiments of style by returning home from trips abroad with some seriously cool and classy and exotic things – an Hermès scarf from Harrod’s, a paisley tie from Carnaby Steet, an aquamarine ring from Rio — that gave us an eye for beautiful things.
On an entirely different plane mom instilled in us the notion we were not rich – which we were certainly not – by insisting most everything be purchased or negotiated at sale prices. I recall several times she took me to the local Goodwill to buy ice skates, an overcoat and snow boots.
Being a preteen in a tony New York suburb, I remember sheepishly shuffling around the Goodwill storefront with my head bowed and sweaty hands in my pockets, slinking over my shoulder to make certain none of my friends saw me stepping inside.
But as time and experience and financial hardship seasoned me as an adult, I began to see shopping differently — buying clothes and belts and shoes and glasses in a whole new light.
I’m not gonna lie. I love shopping. No, I love a good deal. No, I love negotiating a great deal. As long as everybody wins when walking away.
Whether it’s houses (we’ve only ever bought foreclosures) or cars (never less than 50k miles) or computer accessories (direct from china). As a lifelong bargain hunter, especially for shoes and clothes, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way. I’ll bet you’ve learned the same…
#1 Quality need not be expensive
Most of the stuff in my closet, shoe rack and jewelry box is filled with items I paid less than half the retail price for: hefty combed cotton Kirkland Signature t-shirts, briefs from wish.com, monk strap shoes and leather sneakers from Nordstrom Rack.
And there’s my 13 vintage sport coats and dress raincoats from Value Village and Goodwill. Average market price at high end mens clothing store: $600. My cost: $40 (not including the first and only dry cleaning)
I’m up to seven watches now, though only 4 work. Average purchase price: $50. Market value average per similar looking luxury brand watch: $1,000.
Would I ever buy a Rolex Submariner for $6,000?
I already have two.
One I paid $90 for in a backroom on New York’s Canal Street. The other is an Invicta. Both are as accurate as the real McCoy.
#2 You don’t always have to get a killer deal
I have a side hustle that often requires being outdoors. I’m in Seattle. That means rain.
As such, I recently needed to buy a pair of waterproof boots. My daughter who lives in Anchorage said I should get XtraTuffs, which are as common around marinas, fishing boats and dog sleds in the PNW as flip-flops in Newport Beach or Birkenstocks in Boulder.
The best deal I found online was $90. I later discovered an off-brand for $50 with comparable quality. But frankly the brown and beige vibe seemed heinously unattractive … anti-fashion even. So I did more research and found killer rubber boots — Grundens, the choice of many a professional seamen. Only not boring brown and beige, but olive green and a pop of that signature Grudens orange. I got them only modestly discounted at Whistle Workwear. Halfway in the middle between the XtraTuffs and the offbrand boots– a $70 purchase that made me happy as a clam, plus dry feet and my style bumped up a notch (what’s not to love about a splash of blaze orange in the right places?).
# 3 Spend a lot to get a lot
When my daughter graduated from PLU with distinction I was so stoked to go to the graduation ceremony held at …. wait for it … the infamous Tacoma Dome! It was cool enough that Annie was being extra honored for her extra hard work, but what was more exciting to my alter-ego-driven brain (pls don’t tell her) was the notion of a chance meeting with the guest of honor in attendance … the King of Norway!
With two months advance notice my scheming brain went turbo. I went online and found the most upscale yet approachable custom shirt maker in the Seattle area. I booked an appointment, the following day met a hunky model guy dressed to the teeth at the Olympic Fairmont Hotel.
In an hour we had picked out the stunning white Egyptian cotton fabric from a massive sample book, chose collar style, buttons, and finally took painstaking measurements in a dozen places from the waist up.
Then I rode my ebike back to the ferry terminal and booked it back home … only to find my wife greeting me suspiciously at the front door with the dreaded question …”You were gone for most of the day. Where’ve you been?”
Out of respect for her — and our marriage — I will spare you the details. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty, nor were my explanations even remotely accurate, or christian. But we recovered, albeit with a tad of eroded trust.
#4 Tell your wife
About ALL your non-essential purchases, whether driven by practicality, vanity, mania, impulse, whatever. Better yet, get buy-in before the big spend, not after. I could write a book about all my misdeeds in this area, but you get the idea. Talk before you buy…in most cases it’s not your money, but both of yours.
#5 Sometimes you just need to feel like a king
There are precious few times when we feel like we’re on top of the world, or need to climb there. I felt it when my daughter was graduating. I was so proud of her. But the idea actually meeting face to face with the guest of honor, the King of Norway. Seriously? I had a better chance of having dinner with the Pope who was halfway around the world than getting within shouting distance of even his entourage.
How much did I pay for that handmade shirt? One hundred fifty dollars.
How much was it really worth…to me?
A thousand dollars.
Why? Because it made me feel like a king for a royal celebration of my daughter’s incredible achievement. And because I’ve since worn it a half dozen times in boardrooms when the stakes were extremelhy high. And I wore it with courage and confidence.
I don’t advocate spending ridiculous amounts of money on stuff you don’t need. But sometimes you just need to play the part, to own the space … at a wedding, a pitch, a speech, a special once a decade dinner.
Because you’re worth it, and so is your distinguished audience — of one or a thousand.
(Taken from the TrailMasters – Style blog)
Style video >>> https://youtu.be/yzG_3UJ-LvU