3 common clothing mistakes to avoid at all costs

Q You wrote about finding quality clothes at an affordable price at a thrift store, and I wonder about a few shirts I bought. They had three white shirts in my size by Hugo Boss and Eton in a cotton-poly blend, and I jumped on them for $5 each. My wife said none of them were all cotton, as you recently wrote, but wouldn’t they go well with a tie and jacket?

A You probably already know that the answer to your question is “No”. Not only will they not appear to be top quality (because shirts with a lot of polyester in the blend are not), but you may lack confidence when wearing them. The more polyester, the more of a problem, and the shirt you purchased may have a very high cotton content. However, nothing beats an all-cotton shirt.

Feeling poorly dressed can be a demoralizing experience. Thinking cheap is one of the common mistakes men make; among the others there are ill-fitting clothes and do not recognize the change of style. In fact, since these shirts are used and probably date back a few years, this purchase may have been a combination of all three mistakes.

To explain, there are three reasons I don’t like polyester shirts: they’re uncomfortable in hot/humid weather because the fabric doesn’t breathe, they “pill” easily at the collar and cuffs, and when the fabric is soiled, it will not return to pure white, no matter how much bleach is used.

I recognize that you make an effort to focus on your appearance, buy appropriate clothing, and not go bankrupt along the way. With a little forethought and effort, you can avoid embarrassing mistakes that make you want to go home, get into bed, and pull the covers over your head.


Purchases like the ones you made or buying new clothes that aren’t well made are a false economy. Often men think that buying quality clothes is an unnecessary extravagance; this is what drives them to spend too little on their clothes. Most people recognize quality clothing on others. Men who wear them are considered winners. Your clothes in a professional environment should highlight your success.

Another way to justify investing in quality clothing is the concept of “cost per wear”. If you were to buy a high-end navy blazer or a handsome gray suit for, say, $700, you could very well wear such a classic item once a week for seven years. The cost per port would be $2. And every time you wear it, you feel like a million bucks.

If, on the other hand, you noticed an $80 green polyester jacket in a store window and bought it, your experience might be quite different. You would wear it and never hear a compliment; you might notice your reflection in a mirror and not be happy; and you could wisely decide after the seventh or eighth wear to remove it and put it in the Goodwill bag. Eighty dollars divided by eight carries equals $10 per carry. It’s expensive.

But how can you do that if you have a limited budget? Be on the lookout for sales in fine stores and be careful when shopping online. Prices are surprisingly different from everyday store prices. There’s nothing wrong with getting an $800 blazer for $200. And, if you’re sure of your “eye” and taste, you can often find bargains at these “nicely used” stores. Even so, make sure it’s fashionable, fits you well, and you’re likely to wear it. The old adage still holds true: “It’s not a good deal if you don’t wear it.”


Even the finest clothes you can buy won’t make you look good if they don’t fit you well. Fit is 90% of the game. Make sure your clothes aren’t too short or too tight.

Learn to look at yourself critically in the mirror and see what can be done to minimize your imperfections and maximize your strengths. Any man who is rude to the tailor is making a big mistake. Tip him, flatter him, ask his opinion, cajole him, do whatever it takes to get him on your side. He may be able to work wonders by making a $400 suit look like $800.


Although men’s clothing does not change as often or as drastically as women’s, it does. Men should be careful. The pendulum of change for men’s styles is slowly swinging; it usually takes about seven years from cycle to cycle. Men who refuse to make adjustments risk looking dated and “old”. While I just said don’t buy anything too tight, if these shirts are puffy (can be pulled more than a few inches from your side), they are obsolete.

If you think changes in menswear make no sense, you’re wrong. Since balance and proportion are essential for designers, when one part changes, others follow. When wider suit lapels were in fashion, less tie was visible; therefore the links had to become broader. Then, when suit lapels narrowed, thinner ties could stand on their own, all in proportion.

So there are reasons why certain clothes and styles help you look your best.

Please send your questions and comments about men’s dress and grooming to MALE CALL:

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