This story (and many like it) are originally published on the ACL Newsletter. You can read the archives from the past two years here.
Where should I shop so I can generally look better? This question came up the other day and I felt marginally qualified to answer. Many of you are already experts in buying clothes and by this point know all of the most hyper niche brands that make highly specific things. I too like to hunt for very specific things from very particular places. That’s how I developed my own person uniform over the years. But what about people won’t don’t want to make getting dresses a hobby?
My knowledge of the menswear space makes it easy for me personally to know where to shop, but that’s not the case for everyone. Based on anecdotal evidence from my Instagram DMs it feels like many guys don’t know where to start. The difficulty with the emergence of so many hyper-specific brands (like a company with shirts you can’t tuck in or one that makes shirts that will stay tucked in) is that things have become too complicated. With that in mind I put together a straightforward list of brands and stores that offer a simpler approach. I’m suggesting these brands because almost everything at those shops could work together in a wardrobe. I feel comfortable sending someone to Sid Mashburn because everything in the place is good — so there are guard rails.
Simply put, this story is for guys who just want to look better. I’ve purposely keep this list simple so this can be a jumping off point. To answer the question: I want to dress better. Where do I start? The following is a guide to buying clothes that will help make you look your best.
Some Ideas to Start:
Why is clothing for guys so difficult? Things used to be dead simple. There were two companies who made jeans and they had two styles to choose from. Or you could just go to your local men’s shop and get everything from boxers to an overcoat in one place with salespeople who knew what you liked and how things fit. Now there are 4000 denim brands and good luck ever speaking to a human (unless you live in Mountain Brook or Chagrin Falls). If you don’t know specifically what you want, then it is better to shop at a place where much of the collection fits your aesthetic.
These are New Rules.
The old way of building a wardrobe was different. It’s not the 1960s. You don’t need a blue suit, grey suit, three dress shirts, a pair of black shoes and a pair of brown. Everything is different now — there are a million ways you can take your wardrobe. The questions today are both more nuanced and more important. Should I not wear athleisure 100% of the time? Should I put on pants? The correct answers are: no and yes please.
My dad would always talks about the importance of preventive maintenance. That concept applies here. If you do a little work on the front-end you will be comfortable and your appearance will be solid in almost all situations. So where do we begin?
Where to Shop?
This list may be obvious for some, but for many buying clothes is far too confusing. My theory is that’s why people default to only wearing Vuori, Rhone, Lululemon or whatever — it’s comfortable and simple. But buying clothes doesn’t need to be that complicated if you understand yourself and get to know a few key retailers.
Sid Mashburn: There’s much to love about Sid Mashburn the person and the store. First of all, there’s a point of view when it comes to style, craft and overall product design. Sid’s style guides everything the brand makes and the store sells. There are many reasons to recommend Sid Mashburn to people, but to me the best reason is because everything here is good. There’s no compromise when it comes to product, design and merchandising. Sid makes the best version he can and if there’s something better out there —like Filson— he brings it in. It’s a safe space where everything on offer is good because Sid’s name is on the door. What Sid does is the combination of high standards and humility which is rarely seen anymore. It’s also a Harvard Business Review case study in customer service. What’s not to like?
What to buy: Everything including the peanuts.
Vibe: Classic sportswear and tailored from a southern perspective.
Buck Mason: Los Angeles based brand is an excellent resource for classic American clothing. This is like when you go to Brunello Cucinelli and everything in the collection works together really seamlessly. The entire Buck Mason line is earth tones and everything styles together really well. Basically, you could go here and get your entire wardrobe here which would result in your overall style being classic and consistent.
What to buy: Denim, outerwear, tee shirts and everything in-between.
Vibe: California cool guy.
Alex Mill: Alex Mill is a bit more playful than some of the other brands on this list. To me it’s a bit more well traveled than some of the other classic American brands. There’s always a breton striped shirt in the mix and nice knits like this Donegal wool crew neck. There are classic chamois overshirts and Alex Mill also flips the script a bit with corduroy and gives us a classic with a twist. That’s the beauty of this brand — it’s just playful enough to make things fresh — and it’s not the same thing that everyone else is wearing. One other thing, the pants at Alex Mill really stand out. There’s a lot to love with the different fits and the fabrics.
What to buy: Pants, barn coats, sweaters, chore coats, shits and jackets.
Vibe: It’s your Wes Anderson inspired creative director friend who knows his way around Puglia and Silverlake.
Ayr: Ayr just launched menswear this fall and the line is designed by Brice Pattison who is ex-JCrew and ex-Todd Snyder. The Ayr men’s collection is rooted nicely in the classics, but there are also some pieces in the line that standout. Like some of the other brands, there are some 90s references in the line, but perhaps not enough to steer people into strange places if they don’t intend to channel Eddie Vedder in Ojai.
What to buy: Everything. Knits, jackets and especially the overshirts.
Vibe: New Yorker in San Francisco.
J.Crew: The brand is coming alive again and there are some pieces like this Chamois shirt or this retro puffer that I like. If you and your style aren’t exactly East Coast prep this might not be exactly right for you. The classic items here are a good bet and there are still promotions to be found. Lastly, I think the tech pants (and shorts in the summer) are a good alternative golf pant if that’s your thing.
What to buy: Sweaters, shirt jackets, flannel and cord shirts and outerwear. The Ludlow suit is still a good option for tailoring at a price point.
Vibe: Nautical Bowery prep.
Madewell: This is a good place for basics and denim. Everything is mostly unbranded which is a huge plus for me. I think people tend to overlook Madewell when it comes to mens and I like that it doesn’t feel overly connected to an east or west coast style. The fits are good, the styling is easy to figure out and there are a lot of solid categories —from outerwear to bottoms— that will work for many different types of guys.
What to buy: Denim, pants, stuff from the 3rd party selection, light outerwear and even the shoes are great.
Vibe: Classic denim with a dash of The Strokes.
Todd Snyder: A bit more expensive than some of the other brands on this list, the Todd Snyder collection is vast and offers a lot from the main collection to the collaborations. It’s the perfect place to buy leather footwear like these great Nomad desert boots or perhaps a pair of Birks if you are into that sort of thing. Todd Snyder has continued to identify and partner with interesting brands across every possible category from suits, sweats and on to shoes. This means that everything a style conscious guy could ever want is right here under one roof.
What to buy: The exclusives, the collabs, the 3rd party product, outerwear, shirt jackets and the shoes.
Vibe: The best from around the world as seen through a NYC lens.
Other Brands worth mentioning but are perhaps slightly more evolved and expensive.
Drake’s: Everything at Drake’s is excellent. You could theoretically only shop here and your style would be enviable.
Trunk Clothiers: This is a muti-brand store with its own label — not unlike what Sid Mashburn is doing. Based in London, Trunk is one of those stores that I trust implicitly to curate a selection of British, Italian, American and Japanese brands which all work together well.
Polo: Perhaps Polo can at times be overlooked but it’s worth keeping in mind for a few categories. This is an especially good place to go to buy a suit (thinking budget under $1600), knits, chino pants or outerwear. Navigating Ralph Lauren is a bit of a labyrinth but if you take a targeted approach you’ll discover there aren’t many who do it better.
Sunspel: Best known for knits and basics but the entire line is well-made and aesthetically clean. If you want simple but nice things – this is the place.
Slowear: This brand has more of an Italian slant to it, but everything from the four labels which comprise Slowear is stylish and well-made. This would perhaps be a step-up in terms of price point compared to some of the others listed.
Comments on “Where to Buy Clothes”
I went to Harrison’s Limited based on your recommendation on The Contender. The service was top notch. I left with a pair of unlined Alden boots.
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