At one point or another every menswear writer and style blogger has uttered the mantra “Buy Less, Buy Better”. This philosophy came to govern the Americana and Workwear boom of the late aughts, encouraging men to go out and buy classic items like a pair of Selvedge jeans for their heritage and near bullet proof construction, or a pair of Red Wings that are better suited to keeping your toes safe on the assembly line than they are stomping down the streets of Brooklyn.
The theory behind the mantra goes as follows: instead of buying three similar items, buy the best singular item you can afford and wear the hell out of it. Instead of three blazers of different patterns and colors, buy one classic blue blazer that will get you in anywhere, from Bushwood to Output. Good things get better with age, and the wear and tear tells a story. You’ll only come to appreciate an item more as it ages.
Here’s the rub though. If everyone took their own advice on this front, then we would all have stopped buying things years ago. Life is boring without choice. I’m not going to sit here and tell you these are the five items you need to never shop again, while I’m sniping things I probably don’t need off of Ebay with reckless abandon.
Like any maxim, however, there is a good bit of truth at the core of “Buy Less, Buy Better”. Because having a beautiful item of clothing, that is well made and fits perfectly, is a truly satisfying feeling. I have multiple jackets, but I find myself reaching for the same one or two that I splurged on time and time again. The key is to identify which items are true staples in your wardrobe and invest in the best version of those you can. Go ahead and chase trends, anyone with more than a passing interest in clothing invariably does at one point or another, but do so knowing you have your cornerstones in place.
Herewith, one man’s take on the absolute core items you’ll wear again and again that are worth stretching your budget for:
The Blue Blazer
As mentioned, the right jacket can take you from club to country club without so much as a raised eyebrow from a doorman or valet. For starters, look for a two button, single breasted jacket in a hopsack or similarly seasonal agnostic wool. An unstructured jacket with soft shoulders really adds to the versatility of the piece. Throw it on over everything from a button down and trousers to a t-shirt and jeans and forget you’re wearing it. Brass buttons if you’re feeling preppy, horn, wood, or a polished metal if you tend to lean more fashion forward.
The Right Pair of Jeans
If you only take one piece of advice from this article let it be this: a well made, slim fitting pair of jeans in a clean dark wash is the building block of a modern man’s wardrobe. If you’re willing to commit, a pair of raw jeans, so called because the fabric hasn’t been washed before you put them on, results in a beautifully natural and unique patina as the fabric contours to your body over time. For more immediate gratification, look for something in a once-washed fabric that will be a little softer out of the gates. Called “The New Standard” for a reason, the brand APC is often the reference point for someone looking for their first pair of upscale jeans.
The Oxford Cloth Button Down (OCBD)
The OCBD, the mother of all shirts. Buy a bunch in blue, a bunch in white, one in pink for when you’re hungover (a secret the rat-pack knew all too well) and you’re set. Their sturdy fabric is ruffled enough to wear untucked with a pair of jeans, while their history, thank you Brooks Brothers for that perfectly rolled-collar, gives you a dose of quintessential American irreverence when paired with tailored clothing.
A Grey Sweatshirt
Unlike the boxy champion sweatshirt with the yellow pit-stains from High School P.E. class, today’s sweatshirt fits more like a nice wool sweater. Taking their style cues from the classic sweatshirt, think triangle stitching at the neck and ribbed cuffs, today’s sweatshirts toe the line between casual and dressy. The right sweatshirt will look at home both underneath a blazer and over jeans and a button down. Throw it on anytime you need another layer.
These staples aren’t meant to provide you with a paint by numbers approach to getting dressed. That would get terribly boring. Instead, pair them with the unique clothes that you love and the trends that you chase. They’ll ground any piece of clothing you can throw at them. And on those days where you are feeling uninspired, wear them all at the same time. You’ll look as at home today as you would in any black and white photo from the last half-century.