Investing in a well-tailored and high quality wardrobe can be an exciting and rewarding experience. It can also make a big difference in your outlook on life and on yourself. Keeping that investment in great shape takes a little work but that effort will keep your clothes in runway shape for a long time.
While it does take some effort on your part, you’ll probably become one of those people that others point to and say, “wow, how does he always look so good?” Part of my interest in wardrobe maintenance is probably genetic. I’m a New Englander and our obsession with using stuff until it literally falls apart in your hands is well-documented.
New Englanders virtually invented the idea of “old money” and popularized the idea of cherishing clothes and heirlooms that, while showing wear and tear, still have a certain timeless appeal. Though the natural aging of fabric and leather and wearing down of cuffs and elbows are normal, it should be held off as long as possible. Doing so allows your possessions to develop character and will help keep them around for years to come.
Here are a few basics that will help your cherished clothes last longer while still looking great.
Hang it up: Make an effort to keep your clothes clean and well-maintained. An easy and basic part of this something called the hanger; just use it. When you get home after a long day at work, change right away and hang up your clothes. Use wood hangers, untreated cedar are a good choice. Don’t crowd your closet. Garments need to breath and should have space to air out. Most wrinkles will work themselves out in between wearings.
More brushing, less dry cleaning: Most suits and sport coats only need to be dry cleaned about once a year. Delicate fabrics and linens may need more attention, but on the whole regularly brushing your garments with a clothing brush will remove most dust and dirt. Spot cleaning can address many minor stains and help avoid unnecessary trips to the cleaners. If your suit is looking a little too lived in, go ahead and take it there, but only for a press. That will freshen it up without the damage of dry cleaning chemicals.
Shoe trees: In addition to protecting your dress shoes’ leather by keeping them polished, make sure to always use shoe trees. There are many models, but the best are full-sized and made from untreated cedar. The shoe tree will absorb moisture and help maintain your shoe’s shape. Varnished trees are fine as well, in fact I’m always on the lookout for the kind you’re likely to find in Ralph Lauren’s closet.
Don’t wear the same pair of shoes day after day; they need to rest and dry out. At the end of the day, give your shoes a quick brush down, insert trees, and give them a few days off. Should you get stuck in a rainstorm or have to tramp through snow, do not try to dry out your shoes quickly; it can permanently damage your fine footwear. Stuff them with newspaper, set them in a room temperature place and leave them alone. Change the paper if it gets damp but don’t rush the process. Also, make sure to brush off road salts or dirt immediately.
Launder with care: When it comes to laundering your shirts at home, cold water is usually better. Iron on slightly cooler settings and lay off the starch. If you need to use it, starch only the cuffs, collars, and plackets; those areas that can get a little unruly. If you regularly send your shirts off to the cleaners, pass on the starch there as well. Commercial presses do a fine job of working out the wrinkles with extra chemicals.