You’ll have noticed, we hope, that recently things have soured for the makers of throwaway fashion. Their CEOs have been hauled in front of government to explain how they make millions, while their wares go from warehouse to Instagram to landfill within a couple of weeks.
Fortunately, shoppers are finally waking up to their own role in this mess.
The answer, the industry says, is to buy less and buy better. Which used to mean patronising the luxury brands that promise craft, care and quality. However, they too have been on a disposability tip recently – a logo-emblazoned cotton T-shirt doesn’t suddenly become an artisanal investment buy just because it costs as much as a car.
There is still a world of luxury wheat amid the chaff, though, where investing brings rewards. “Luxury clothing usually has better fabric, better cuts and better style,” says celebrity stylist and image consultant Gabrielle Teare. And that quality means longevity, which allows time for you to build the emotional connection with your clothes that’s hard to find on the high street. “It’s better to buy one thing you love than six cheap things you don’t,” adds Teare.
These, then, are the pieces that offer true bang-for-buck, even if that does mean putting a lot of bucks down to attain them. After all, there’s a difference between cost and value. Everything here will last – some of it longer than you – which means that over hundreds, sometimes thousands of wears, even eye-watering price tags can start to look like a bargain. Kind of.
More so than every other layer, a killer coat is a sensible place to put your money, especially if you think long-term. There’s a reason that we still wear the same kind of outerwear as our grandfathers – and their grandfathers. Granted, you can now wear a single-breasted trench coat with a hoodie, rather than just over a suit (or a uniform), but it’s still basically the same thing. The specialist brands are still the place to go, just as they were when they made them for men in actual trenches – a classic coat from Burberry or Aquascutum will never date and still keeps the water off. Just like it always has.
Wear It With
Though the coats haven’t changed much, what they go with certainly has. The beauty of a classic trench, ideally in beige or olive, is that you can wear it with anything from a suit to jeans, so it will transition effortlessly from work to the weekend. That’s good news for your cost-per-wear.
Shoes That Will Outlive You
Three things define a luxury product’s price – what it’s made of, how well it’s made, and how much the brand that made it spends on advertising to make you buy it. Northampton’s artisanal shoemaking brands focus almost exclusively on the first two, which means that even though their brogues, Oxfords and loafers can set you back four figures, they’re also likely to last longer than you. At brands like Church’s, Tricker’s and Edward Green (as well as ‘outsiders’ like London’s George Cleverley and John Lobb) centuries of craft go into every pair, which makes them the hardiest and most comfortable shoes you’ll ever own. When they do wear down, Goodyear-welting means you can just replace the soles and they’ll be as good as almost-new again.
Wear It With
A pair of brown brogues sits handsomely beneath turned up jeans, while black Oxfords are the perfect finish to tailoring. As for boots, it depends how rugged you go – a pair of Tricker’s work boots is most at home with equally hardy selvedge, but they also offer a nice contrast with a suit.
A Watch You Can Wear Everywhere
If punctuality is all you care about, then luxury watches offer awful value for money. In the timekeeping stakes, mechanical movements will never be as accurate as the vibrating quartz crystal that sits inside a black plastic Casio, let alone the connected clock on your phone. But if what you’re after is workmanship, care and dedication to engineering excellence, then Switzerland’s horologists are a wonderful place to put your money. An Omega Seamaster or Tudor Black Bay will complete any outfit and keep ticking for as long you do (so long as you stump up for annual servicing, mind). And if you’re looking for something that offers a literal return on your investment, then unlike almost everything else in your wardrobe, Rolexes and Patek Philippes only tend to go up in value.
Wear It With
Collapsing dress codes mean that most watches are multi-functional these days (in the sense that you can wear them dressed up or down, not that they have a built-in calculator). A sleek three-hander, like a Rolex Datejust or Oris Divers 65, looks as good with a blazer as it does a hoodie.
Cashmere Made From The Good Stuff
Plenty of basics brands would have us all believe that you can get cashmere for less than a few rounds of drinks, but like anything, not all cashmere is made equal. The proper stuff – the kind of cashmere that feels like angel’s hair – comes from goats who grow it to survive bitter Mongolian winters, and is then brushed out each spring by their nomadic herders. The cheap stuff comes from sheared goats and can be bulked out with yak or even rat hair. Brands like N.Peal and Johnstons of Elgin do things the right way, tracing their cashmere back to individual flocks, then turning it into knitwear that’s soft, warm and will keep you cosy for years.
Wear It With
A cashmere jumper is an investment, but if you pick one in a versatile colour, you’ve got a layer that goes with everything from jeans to a suit. The challenge will be resisting the urge to wear it every day. For a more cost-effective way in, a cashmere scarf is equally snug, and just as adaptable.
Luggage You Can Count On
Even with Virgil Abloh knocking out streetwear grail pieces, Louis Vuitton still makes the bulk of its money from accessories. But then, it started life as a luggage maker. Invest in an LV trunk and you’re buying the peace of mind that comes with knowing the stuff inside is safe (and, yes, paying a chunk on top for the monogram). But even at more accessible price points, luxury luggage from brands like Rimowa still pays dividends – its aluminium suitcases are bombproof (literally, they’ve survived plane crashes), which means you’ll only ever need to buy one per lifetime, no matter how heavy-handed the baggage handlers are.
Wear It With
Airport style has become a ‘thing’ ever since paparazzi started camping out at arrivals to catch celebs just off the red-eye, so take a leaf from their book – comfy but sleek joggers and an unstructured blazer that you can slip on if the plane’s chilly, but won’t look too rumpled if you sleep in it.
A Suit That Really Suits You
To the layman, a bespoke suit doesn’t look that different from a made-to-measure suit, beyond the cost. But ask a tailor and they’ll tell you that when something’s tailored just for you, it fits in three dimensions. A great tailor, be it at a Savile Row stalwart like Gieves & Hawkes and Anderson & Shephard, or modern bespoke brands like Casely-Hayford and Timothy Everest, can emphasise your best bits and hide the rest. He can account for every slightly lowered shoulder or longer arm, to craft a piece of clothing that moves with you like a second skin. Granted, so long as you’re not that oddly shaped, a made-to-measure suit will generally be excellent. But it will never fit like bespoke.
Gieves & Hawkes
Wear It With
These days, you can wear a suit however you like, but assuming you’re not going to have five or six bespoke suits on rotation, we’d advise going classic so that it outlives the current anything-goes tailoring trend. A navy two-piece will still work with a T-shirt, hoodie or roll neck, but it’ll dress up for weddings, too.
Denim That Can Take A Beating
Considering it was originally the uniform of miners, cowboys and factory workers, it can seem strange that denim can now set you back four figures, and that some of the stuff that does comes full of holes. Ignore it, and look instead to Japanese denim obsessives like Orslow, 45RPM and Iron Heart, who approach their jeans with an obsessive focus on fabric, dyeing techniques and construction. Luxury denim isn’t something that you’ll want to get covered in grease or coal dust, but it’s made so well that it will survive anything else you throw at it and last years longer than the designer versions.
Wear It With
Selvedge lends itself to workwear looks – it’s that blue collar heritage – but the premium stuff is versatile enough to pair with anything from unstructured tailoring to streetwear. Go for a pair in a slim or straight fit, which won’t date as fast as wide or skinny.
Underwear That’s Just For You
For years ‘luxury’ underwear just meant pants made from silk, which weren’t that comfortable and were a nightmare to wash. Today, brands like Hamilton and Hare, Derek Rose and CDLP have re-engineered your smalls, taking a tailored approach to fit that makes this new breed of boxers the most comfortable you’ll ever wear. You might think it seems strange to spend so much money on something that most people will never see. Then you slip them on and realise you’ve spent almost your entire life wearing underwear that’s as uncomfortable as it is unflattering. You deserve better, don’t you?
Wear It With
Well, everything. Which is the point – it makes sense to invest in something you’re going to wear every day. Pair your pants with the fit of what’s outside them – slim trunks with tailored trousers; boxers if you’re more of a pleats guy.