I'm 40, male, and have no idea where I should be buying my clothes.
January 26, 2014 6:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm in my 40s, and I would love to have a "goto" place to buy my every day clothes. I have no idea where that place should be.

I moved beyond ironic t-shirts, but I still look relatively young (30s). My style is very simple. In the summer I generally wear jeans or kakis with a t-shirt. In the winter jeans or kakis with a pull over long sleeve shirt. I guess I'd call the style simple and classic (though it could also be called boring). But regardless, I know exactly how I like to dress, and what I believe looks best on me.

Shouldn't be difficult to find those clothes, but I live in a small city, where the only clothing stores are generic department stores or old navy / the gap / american eagle. In a pinch I can find what I need at old navy / the gap / american eagle, but I find the clothes are cheaply made, a lot of it has the brand prominently displayed, and in all honesty I don't feel comfortable as a 40 year old man shopping among teenagers.

So I'm guessing my best bet would be buying clothes online, but i've never done that. Should I use Amazon? Is American Apparel a good option? I'm talking pants/jeans, T-Shirts and Pull Overs. Decently made, and decently priced. I just have no idea. Any suggestions on where I could start buying my these staples of my wardrobe would be appreciated.
posted by ratherbethedevil to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Eddie Bauer. And Nordstrom if you can afford it.
posted by kdern at 6:27 PM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Banana Republic. Quality is higher than Gap, Old Navy, and AE. Cuts are more tailored and clothing is generally more upscale. Everything goes on sale so wait for 40-75% off to buy.
posted by sid at 6:31 PM on January 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

Stein Mart. Good house brands, better than average quality, good prices. They don’t even have a kids or young people’s section, but it’s not just old guy golf clothes.
posted by bongo_x at 6:35 PM on January 26, 2014

Yeah, Banana Republic seems to be exactly what you're looking for.
posted by John Cohen at 6:36 PM on January 26, 2014

Best answer: J. Crew, Banana Republic, and Bloomingdale's during sales. Express does one of those "sale every two weeks" kind of thing where their prices are artificially inflated during the non-sale times but reasonably priced otherwise.

Try H&M if you don't want to spend too much money. The issue is that some things will fall apart quickly, but others will last much longer.

Land's End is a division of Sears but, honestly, their turtlenecks fit me well and have stayed in good condition the entire time I've owned them.
posted by deanc at 6:36 PM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like you wear exactly The Gap's style of clothing.

I've never seen any men's clothing there that has the brand prominently featured, at least not in the last decade or so.

Teenagers do not shop at The Gap.

The quality at The Gap is fine, at least as good as anywhere else you're likely to shop unless you want to spend a ton more money.

If you wanted to kick it up a notch you could go with J. Crew or Banana Republic, which sell largely the same styles but cost more money.

You might find good deals on things at places like Marshall's, Kohl's, etc. but it will not be as easy as just going to The Gap/Banana Republic/J. Crew and buying a bunch of shirts and chinos and such.

Unless you're looking to go designer, spend exponentially more, and take a level in formal menswear, concerns about "quality" are not really relevant.
posted by Sara C. at 6:46 PM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'd avoid clothes on Amazon, unless you know exactly what size/brand/color you want. There's just so much on the site that I find browsing it to be completely annoying, plus there's the question of, okay, what does "large" mean to the manufacturer or seller?

I shopped at Old Navy 10-15 years ago when the quality seemed to be better. Target is my go to now for "I just need a couple of black tee shirts or a sweater." Their sizes seems a lot more consistent than Old Navy. I was reupping my tee shirts on Target.com, as the old ones would fade or wear out, but maybe you want to pay cash there now...

Seconding Land's End--you can shop online, and if you don't want to hassle with shipping them back if they don't work out, you can walk into a Sears and return stuff.
posted by Lardmitten at 7:05 PM on January 26, 2014

Best answer: American Apparel is my go-to for easily available, decently-made, plain clothes like that, yeah. They tend to run a lot smaller than those brands you mentioned, so if you're, like, an xl at the Gap you might not have much luck. Target sometimes has some decent stuff if you pay attention to the fabric, and are at a lower price point, but not better quality than what you're wearing.

If you have the time (which I guess from this question you might not be into it), I find a lot of my basic t-shirts and sweaters from thrift stores, where you can get higher end stuff or older clothes. I'm often amazed at the quality of cheap, no-name clothes even from the 90's compared to the rags they sell today.

(Literally rags. This is when I feel like an old person. When I have to inspect my new clothing to make sure it doesn't have holes BEFORE I buy them? Sigh. Get off my lawn.)
posted by jeweled accumulation at 7:14 PM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you shop large and tall like I do, your choices are very limited.

Shirts / Sweaters: Banana Republic, LL Bean
Dress Shirts: Brooks Brothers, Men's Warehouse
Pants: Polo, Men's Warehouse, Levis, LL Bean
Dress Pants: Men's Warehouse
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:22 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Same story here, basically. The Gap used to provide pretty much everything I wore, but LL Bean does the job far better these days. Then again, it would be easy to outfit yourself quite well (based on what you describe) at Target. If you're not concerned about brands, then you'll save a lot. I'm happy to buy $15 Wranglers there and laugh at the fools spending $100 or more on jeans.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:22 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by gillianr at 7:27 PM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

My husband is similar (tshirts and jeans) and prefers tshirts with no pockets or logos or words. For plain tshirts that hold up well, you cannot beat Duluth Trading Company. They're a bit more expensive, but they hold up great.
posted by RogueTech at 7:36 PM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Not quite an answer to your question, but if you do find brands that you like and that fit, see if Zappo's carries them. They've branched out from shoes to other apparel, and they offer the same free shipping and free returns, which makes ordering things in a few different sizes and colors, and sending back the stuff that doesn't fit, a lot more convenient.

(Yes, I know it's not really free, in that they've built shipping costs into the business model, but their prices are the same as retail.)
posted by brianogilvie at 7:39 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: J. Crew, Brooks Brothers and Lands End should have something to offer you.
posted by arcticseal at 7:48 PM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm 30 and would consider myself a "casual conservative" dresser - like you, jeans or khaki's and tshirt, button down or pullover. I've found that Dillard's has well made clothing in a more mature style, yet not old-man nor teen.
posted by mrrisotto at 8:38 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't rule out Kohl's and Target. As an example, the polo shirts I liked most last season after searching high and low were Target Merona Ultimate Polo shirts that were nicely tailored using pique cotton fabric and when on sale were by far the best deal around.
posted by Dansaman at 9:14 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: +1 on Banana Republic. Old Navy is their low end brand, Gap is the mediocre level and Banana Republic is the good stuff. Much higher quality than Gap. Just compare Gap polo shirts or jeans with the BR equivalent, and they are night and day. They look and feel better from the start and also last longer.
posted by w0mbat at 9:20 PM on January 26, 2014

Best answer: J Crew has pretty much exactly what you're looking for. They also sell their outlet brand (J Crew Factory) online and run frequent sales- it's basically a cheaper version of last year's Real J Crew at less than half the price.
posted by MadamM at 9:33 PM on January 26, 2014

Best answer: I'm female, but I've found really good luck with all of the Ralph Lauren brands. Macy's sells Polo and others, but Kohl's sells Chaps, which costs more than most of their other brands but seems to be better quality. I'm counting basics like button-down shirts, khakis and cotton sweaters that would be fairly comparable to men's offerings.

Duluth Trading isn't bank-president formal, but they have great dress shirts, and everything we've gotten from them has been sturdy and high quality.

Really, I think it's about finding the brands that work for you. Then you can buy stuff at TJ Maxx (they have a lot of Izod, which my husband likes) or go online.
posted by Madamina at 10:08 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Uniqlo if you're near one or don't mind doing some mail ordering.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:15 PM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also female, but, Club Monaco (sales). Kind of moddish/preppy/trendy, but I think you might like a lot of their stuff, and I don't think 40 is too old to wear it, necessarily.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:39 PM on January 26, 2014

Another yes to Banana Republic. If you're willing to take some time to browse, you should also take a look at Sierra Trading Post's site. They specialize in outdoor gear but have plenty of good-quality everyday clothes as well, with some really good deals on very high-quality stuff.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:18 AM on January 27, 2014

I like Macys. Excellent sales and there are always nice things there. They have Levis, Nautica and other high quality brands.

I always buy Husbunny's "uniform" pieces on sale, with coupons. Nautica polos for $15, that sort of thing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:50 AM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Aizkolari at 7:37 AM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: I like most of the suggestions above, but lately I've been having bespoke jeans made at makeyourownjeans.com. I'll probably try to order a few pairs of wash pants there, but the quality of their jeans seems very good, and pretty price-comparable to Banana Republic or Express, and since they're bespoke, you can get a very flattering fit.

As for T-shirts, I like H&M. The quality is not great but they tend to use more stretchy materials and they last WAY better than Gap/Old Navy. I tend to get sweaters at Target.
posted by Llamadog-dad at 8:53 AM on January 27, 2014

Banana fan here. Also, wife keeps putting me in LL Bean stuff and it's good. Very high quality, it seems. I do like Duluth Trading company's stuff and will be getting a couple pairs of their work-khakis.
posted by Thistledown at 11:35 AM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: you're trying to address two separate problems: 1) "what kind of clothes should i buy" and 2) "where can i buy good ones." addressing both takes, more than anything, time. at least this has been my experience, naturally, ymwv. also, apologies for how long this reply is.

for 1, the best thing you can do is start looking at other people and how they dress and keeping a mental catalog of styles that you are like. i started this after reading Put This On a few years back. I started becoming a clothes scenester. Start paying attention to patterns, cuts, trends, brands, all that. Start making a list of items you'd like to have and approximately how much you'd pay for it. See somebody sporting a nice pullover or coat but can't find that style yourself? Ask. They might be able to clue you in, even if it's just a niche brand or old (check ebay or thrift stores).

For 2, you need to start going to stores. all of them. you have to visit these places and seek out everything you've been cataloging in 1. and then you need to try on some clothes from all these places and start paying attention to fit, to materials, to construction, to how they wear, and if they are true to size or not (this varies wildly, but knowing will help you shop online). for example: i used to like gap and banana republic, but then i shifted to j crew because their cuts fit me better and were more comfortable. i didn't realize this at first since they have similar male fashion aesthetics, but after a while i would find myself pulling a j crew shirt more often than a banana one. now i just buy accessories like scarfs and gloves at banana republic.

i never used to do any of this, but now if i have time to kill, i will occasionally walk into a store and try something on if it's been on my list or if i've seen somebody on the street "wearing it better", even if i have no intention of buying it. I can calibrate which brands run small or large or if they're inconsistent or whatever. About a year ago i did a massive denim comparison by trying on jeans at every store i could find. i took notes, and now i have three brands that i can order from online. After a short while, i ended up buying some jeans from each.

buying clothes in desperation is where you usually get in trouble and end up spending more than you want to, usually for something you don't really like and for something that usually fits a bit strangely. PTO talks about this a bit. consider buying a single new item every few weeks or so until you know what you're looking for and until you have locked down what works for you and what makes you happy. Then you can do some orders online, do some larger purchases, buy entire outfits. being informed, although time consuming, pays huge dividends here. take advantage of retailers like amazon/zappos who have really forgiving return policies, they're great for not having to make impulse purchases out of stress or sales pressure. either be a hawk for sales

you're right to avoid brands like aeropostale, american eagle and old navy that all target teenagers so the clothes are usually priced low and are not designed to wear long-term and can look a bit out of place on 30+ male. brands like gap and banana republic are aiming slightly higher, mid-20s to 30s young professionals, so they tend to wear a bit longer and cost a bit more. american apparel is ok for basics like tees, but the construction and stitching is inconsistent. department stores are a crapshoot, they have a huge mix, browse everything and try to understand who the clothes are being sold to. look critically at prices, ask yourself why a shirt is so inexpensive at macys over target. in general, higher cost items will usually buy you: style, cut, materials or durability, sometimes all of those, sometimes only a few. your increased powers of observation will usually cue you into which brands prioritize which of those axes.

finally, there are online services like trunk club and frank and oak which attempt to save you the hassle of browsing brands by curating some options for you, similar to what your hypothetical friend at FIT would do for you if you had a friend at FIT. i don't think these are a good idea unless you're totally strapped for time (which is their selling point after all), but they can be a good bootstrap if you need to upgrade your look sooner rather than later. blogs like PTO and places like styleforum are good for getting you familiar with brands.

sorry again for how long this is, but i don't think it's fair to just say "go to uniqlo!" since that advice is not generally helpful. i think that being informed about the market, although time consuming, will often lead you to more satisfying choices and better clothes in the long term and a greater set of available choices when shopping. think of it like a long term investment and you'll buy clothes for the long term and be able to better set expectations for your purchases. take your time, learn a bit and have fun. hope that helps.
posted by nsfmc at 1:19 PM on January 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, lots of great answers.

Just to clarify, I'm comfortable with my style. It's simple, fits me, and took me until my 40s to finally find a style I was comfortable in. We have department stores, but I'm looking for simplicity, at least for the clothes I wear 90 percent of the time. For shoes, as an example, I wear one brand and one style 90 percent of the time, so for the most part, I never worry about shoes. When they start to age, I just go to their website and order the same shoes. I love the simplicity of that.

So while we have department stores, I'd rather have one brand that I trusted for the 90 percent of what I wear, since 90 percent of the time my clothing is very similar. I'm fine looking in every store and putting more effort into it for the other 10 percent.

I'll at least look at the websites of all the suggestion. Part of the problem is we don't have a gap, or banana republic, or J crew, but I'll definitely check them out online, as well as all the other suggestion, many I've never heard of, so that's exciting. (not having a gap is why I had no idea if teens still went there as they did when I was a kid.)
posted by ratherbethedevil at 4:05 PM on January 27, 2014

check out Lands End Canvas -- although Lands End seems to be cutting back on it somewhat, it is worthwhile to check out!
posted by knockoutking at 7:05 AM on January 29, 2014

Why not LLBean? I wear Tall clothes in a style much like yours, and my closet is full of stuff from there. Free shipping, too, so i don't mind taking a flyer on something, and pretty consistent sizing. Great quality and warranty, too: I love them.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:19 AM on January 29, 2014

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