Welcome to the inaugural post of the Frugal Rake, a monthly blog series for folks looking to build a good-looking masculine wardrobe from the ground up without breaking the bank. In upcoming installments, we'll be covering everything you need to start becoming style-conscious on a budget, including finding the right fit, where and how to shop, and the proper care of garments.
The watchwords of the series are "frugal masculine style," so to kick things off, a note on each of those words. After that, we'll go over some good rules for beginners to take to heart.
Frugality isn't just about being cheap. It's about finding a good compromise among price, quality, and style. Dress shoes from Payless may cost $60, but they'll fall apart in one season and look like shit after only a few wears -- not frugal. On the other hand, $700 Prada loafers aren't frugal even if they'll survive a decade of hard wear, because there are less expensive stylish alternatives that will last just as long.
As a general guideline, we'll strike a balance among price, quality, and style that would best serve someone just out of college and entering the professional world, though an unfashionable middle-aged person finally on the road to dressing well will benefit just as much.
The Frugal Rake's focus is on style and clothing historically in the domain of men assigned the male gender at birth. But it's 2015, and the men's department isn't just for those who fall into the dominant gender narrative. It's time style writing caught up with the times.
The language used in the series will be as inclusive as possible. For example, instead of "men's clothing," we'll be talking about "clothing marketed to men." We'll give tips for women who want to buy from the men's department and for trans men who'd like to emphasize a masculine silhouette. We welcome feedback on ways we can be more inclusive going forward.
Fashion and style are enormous topics, and there are endless ways of expressing one's self through clothing. Focusing on one area of style excludes an infinity of others. Our emphasis at the Frugal Rake is on beginner concepts and the basics of dressing like a grown-up in everyday society, not on how to make a bold statement. Think of it like an intro to cooking class: Learn how to grill a decent hamburger before you worry about Pollock-esque sauce drizzling.
Learn the rules and follow them
Masculine style is dictated by rules. A shirt cuff should extend one quarter-inch past a suit jacket cuff, tie width should match lapel width, Oxford shoes call for closed lacing -- the list goes on and on. Advanced dandies can express themselves through careful breaking of these rules, but beginners should stick to precedent.
Build outfits, don't shop for flash
Too many style beginners focus their shopping efforts on buying individual items that stand out on the store shelf. This results in outfits that clash internally and look like jumbled messes. Instead, consider the important question: What good-looking, coherent outfits can I make using this item and items I already own?
Posture is free
If you slouch, sport a swayback, walk duck-footed, or drag your heels, the cheapest way to look better fast is to fix your posture. Start being mindful of how you walk, sit, and stand.
Fit über alles
Getting clothes that fit well is, categorically, the most important part of being stylish. A $3,000 suit will look like a sack of crap if it's a size too big. Conversely, a $200 suit with $75 worth of alterations can explode the underwear off everyone within a hundred yards of the wearer. We cannot stress this point enough, and we'll be devoting the next installment of the Frugal Rake exclusively to ensuring a proper fit.
Versatility = frugality
When building a wardrobe on a budget, versatility is key. You want to maximize the number of outfits you can make while minimizing the number of items you need to buy. For a lot of beginners, this means going against instinct, eschewing black-toned clothes in favor of brown tones and staying well away from loud or patterned clothing. We'll talk more about versatility as the series goes on.
Patience, young padawan
Building a wardrobe affordably means resisting the urge to buy everything right now. Instead, make a wish list and acquire items slowly. Buy off-season when sales are the best and hunt down rare finds at second-hand stores. Comb through eBay listings and attend clothing swaps. Take your time.