The Virtues of Well-Cared-For Old Clothes

Well-Cared-For Old Clothes

There is an old pair of shoes I wear, maybe once a week or so. Nothing special about them. They are rubber-soled leather shoes in a classic wingtip design that I’ve owned for nearly four years. If new, they would cost around $100.00. As I said, nothing exceptional.

How to care for men's shoes and clothing

Yet, I always receive compliments on those old shoes whenever I wear them. I know why. While they are not exceptional due to brand or craftsmanship, they are always well-presented. I polish the shoes frequently, taking care to add a bit of mirror shine to the toe cap and edge dressing to the soles and heels.  Their shape is maintained with shoe trees-after every wear. I have applied and re-applied rubber taps to prevent heel wear. Those modest, vintage shoes owe their good looks to proper maintenance, not pedigree.

Secon-Hand Suit - Calvin Klein Collection
A 25-year-old Calvin Klein Collection suit ($1500.00 when new) purchased second-hand for $24.00 on eBay.

It is easy to buy clothing and shoes that look great because they are new. However, I derive a deeper satisfaction from wearing well-maintained items that have been in my wardrobe for three years or more. Their crisp good looks can rightfully be credited to careful maintenance.

Why You Should Take Better Care of Your Clothing

No doubt, you have heard of high-priced bespoke tailored men’s suits that are worn by their owners for a decade and more. Prince Charles (The Prince of Wales) can certainly afford to replenish his wardrobe of bespoke suits on a whim. However, notice the observation made by The Telegraph (newspaper) regarding his thrift in the article “The Life-Changing Magic of Making Do“:

“Last year, the journalist Marion Hume discovered a cardboard box containing more than 30 years of off-cuts and leftover materials from the Prince’s (Prince Charles) suits, tucked away in a corner at his Savile Row tailor, Anderson & Sheppard. “I have always believed in trying to keep as many of my clothes and shoes going for as long as possible … through patches and repairs,” he told Ms. Hume. “In this way, I tend to be in fashion once every 25 years.” Prince Charles’s custom is to have his clothes mended and wear them until they’re worn out.”

You don’t need a closet full of bespoke suits. The same level of care will extend the lifespan of tailored menswear that’s not nearly as expensive. Clothing care is just as important as quality when it comes to longevity.

Many of my second-hand suits (typically from better-quality ready-to-wear brands) are a decade old or more when I purchase them. In turn, I easily derive another five years or more of wear from those garments with proper maintenance. This is a good argument for taking care of your clothing. Treat your suits like they were made by pricey bespoke tailors and they will probably last just as long.

Jos. A. Bank suit - Poshmark
My six-year-old Jos. A. Bank suit purchased second-hand for $20.00 on

Old, Not Old-Fashioned

If you buy clothing with classic design (rather than the fads of the moment) you will have added incentive to care for your clothing. Lean toward conservative clothing with sturdy construction and long-wearing fabrics. You can always update accessories such as ties, shirts and pocket squares to freshen your wardrobe over time.

Stick to natural fibers when choosing the most important elements of your wardrobe. Synthetic fabrics and blends tend to look great when new but start to look a bit tired with repeated laundering or dry-cleaning. Pure wool suits can retain their good looks for years with proper care. Avoid polyester linings in suits as they tend to retain odors and heat. After you select clothing that you’ll want to keep for years, the next step is a program of proper care.

How to Make Your Clothing Last Longer

With the right tools and a bit of practice, you can do the needed maintenance to extend the life of your clothes. Here are some articles I have provided with tips for caring for your suits, sportcoats, shirts and other tailored clothing:

  1. How To Iron Cotton Shirts
  2. How to Freshen & Press Men’s Suits
  3. The Clothes Steamer, Your Suit’s Best Friend!
  4. How to Care For Your Suits & Other Menswear
  5. How To Make Rubber-Soled Shoes Last Longer
  6. Choose the Right Hangers for Your Suits
sleeve board & tailor's ham
A sleeve board & tailor’s ham. Essential tools for properly pressing a suit or sport coat.

Learn to Mend Your Clothing and do Alterations

Learning how to replace a button, repair a zipper or mend a ripped seam is another way to extend the life of your clothing. The Internet has an abundance of how-to videos and blog posts that will quickly bring your sewing and mending skills up to speed. If you are so inclined, learn how to do alterations. It is a great way to save money and make your wardrobe look custom tailored.

Save Money By Caring for Your Old Clothes

Be sure to check out my guide to buying second-hand suits for all the tips you need to start thrift shopping for clothing that stands the test of time. By buying gently-used better-quality second-hand clothing and caring properly for them, you get the ultimate savings! -SplurgeFrugal

Leave a Reply