Where do middle aged men shop for clothes?
March 18, 2014 9:39 AM   Subscribe

I've reached middle age, lost a ton of weight, and need to re-do my wardrobe. Where does a middle aged man shop for clothing in America?

I'm a Caucasian-ish male in my low 40s who recently shed a huge amount of weight. As a result, I need to redo my entire wardrobe.

Up until now I've relied heavily on Target for everyday, Eddie Bauer for the business casual look, and Nordstrom Rack for selected, more formal pieces (e.g. sportcoats -- I work in tech so I don't have to dress up but once a year). I have a particular look. But the look feels younger than my age.

So I've been thinking about moving to a slightly "older," more formal look. The look of the middle aged man who knows he's in his 40s and makes no apologies for it, instead of the man in his 40s or 50s that looks too fashion-forward for his age (I work with a few of them).

Thing is, I have no idea where to shop. Most of the places I've shopped at aim for the 18-35 male. Eddie Bauer is the exception, but I want to go beyond plaid-shirt-nice-jeans.

My current plan is to grab a Nordstrom personal shopper and talk this through, but I would love ideas of where else I can look to re-do my look.

Suggestions? Ideas?

(I'm in Seattle)
posted by dw to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Nordstrom. Not Nordstrom Rack, but the main shop. They have casual and formal shirts, nothing too zany. Talk to a salesperson there. Shoes, pants, shirts.

Also, talk to friends who dress to your tastes, and ask where they shop.

In general, as a middle age guy you can look the part by stepping up on the quality of your shirts and shoes. I.e. instead if Target, try American Apparel for undershirts/tees, which are more comfortable and of higher quality.
posted by zippy at 9:41 AM on March 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

My husband is you. His winter uniform is J. Crew pants and cashmere sweaters, and his summer uniform is J. Crew pants and Brooks Brothers magical non-iron shirts. If you can afford it, Theory is a step above J. Crew and Brooks Brothers, both in fit and fabric quality.

(Don't get thrown off by the models' age, both options are very age appropriate).
posted by rada at 9:45 AM on March 18, 2014

I'm in a similar boat. I've gravitated toward Banana Republic.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:45 AM on March 18, 2014

seconding Banana Republic.
posted by xbonesgt at 9:53 AM on March 18, 2014

Banana Republic, Nordstrom, Macy's.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:53 AM on March 18, 2014

J. Crew + Banana + Nordstrom. Also, I have had some success recently at Club Monaco, but not all seasons.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:55 AM on March 18, 2014

I really don't think you can do better than your plan to enlist a personal shopper at Nordstrom's. It will be the most efficient way to handle the whole upgrade, soup to nuts. Especially since part of your challenge (in a good way) is to see yourself with fresh eyes since you've lost so much weight. Sometimes it's hard to make that internal shift from big-guy style to svelter-guy style.

And don't be afraid of dressing with a bit of flair. I think there's an unfortunate tendency for middle-aged American males to err on the side of frump or blandness for fear of looking like they are trying too hard to be young and hip. In your locale, and your profession, a hint of quirk and edge in your clothing is appropriate and fun.
posted by nacho fries at 9:55 AM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

You might try looking at Frank & Oak (requires annoying registration, but put up with it) or Bonobos (maybe a bit too fashion forward, but maybe not).
posted by brookeb at 10:02 AM on March 18, 2014

Everlane has pretty great basics.
posted by telegraph at 10:18 AM on March 18, 2014

L.L. Bean and Lands End. Jos. A. Bank for dressier stuff.
posted by valkyryn at 10:24 AM on March 18, 2014

The Dappered.com men's fashion blog is for you. They don't necessarily go to a particular store, but they help you dress nicely without spending absurd amounts of money. Nordstrom, J. Crew and Banana Republic are great stores, but too expensive at regular prices. Great blog.
posted by cnc at 10:54 AM on March 18, 2014

I haven't tried them yet but Bonobos is a site that offers great menswear along with ninjas that are basically personal shoppers.
posted by rada at 11:08 AM on March 18, 2014

I had a similar, although not as drastic, weight loss in my mid-late 30s, combined with a dawning realization that teeshirts and military surplus pants didn't hack it any more. So here's what I've settled into:

Blazer or sport jacket from Brooks Bros or Jos. A Banks.
Dress shirts from BB
Jeans from BB (don't scoff) and L.L. Bean
Polo shirts... a lot of polo shirts... In order of most to least favorite: Uniqlo, Eddie Bauer (the top-line ones, eg, the ones featuring cocona fabric blends), BB, Eddie Bauer (whatever else is on sale).
Khakis from Ralph Lauren
Undershirts from wherever. This is kind of a rough call. I like Uniqlo's; they're reasonably durable, stretchy, and most crucially they have very long torsos to ensure they stay tucked under the belt. But they're also very thin, which kind of reduces the shielding-ness that undershirts are good for. I have some Jos. Abboud shirts that are heavy and sturdily-built, but the torso is just serviceably long enough... and I have a short torso relative to my body height.

This-all is going to run a small fortune without doing some bargain hunting. So here are some tips to make it easier...

Rule one is don't cheap out. The cheaper version of something that looks good on you won't look as good/fit as well/drape as well/move as well. Buying fewer good clothes is preferable to buying a lot of not-as-good clothes. Doesn't matter whether they all came from the same store.

Rule two is that fit will always be a nuisance. Brooks Bros. and L.L. Bean's jeans fit great on me. Eddie Bauer's don't. If Bauer's jeans fit you and Brooks Bros.' don't, then by all means get Eddie Bauer's; you'll look better and be more comfortable. Unfortunately the only way to be sure is to try all of them on. To cut down on incessant caveatting, I'm going write as if we are exactly the same shapes, which I know isn't true...

Jos. Banks has a travel blazer that is awesome; I've slept in it on airplanes, stuffed it into courier bags, and all but treated it like a hunting jacket, and it still looks pretty good. Off the rack it does not as good as a nice quality wool blazer, but it still looks like it came off the rack after being abused like that, and a nice wool jacket would not. It's also pretty cheap as sport jackets go. If you only have one jacket and travel on business, this is not a bad option. If you shop during one of their innumerable buy-one-get-one-half-price offers, get it with a less traditional sport coat.

Brooks Bros. outlet mall stores can be a good way to get BB clothing that was almost as good as the real thing but cost about 1/2-2/3 as much. The polo shirts and dress shirts and jackets look like the real thing, as long as you're not around people who pay scrupulous attention to the details of Brooks Bros. wares. I have some BB jeans that I've been wearing regularly for ten years now, and the worst that's happened is a pocket lining on one of them has torn. They're some of the most expensive jeans I own in terms of ticket price, but probably the cheapest ever in terms of expense over time. When I last popped in to an outlet, though, the denim fabric is a lighter weight than it used to be, and I'm not sure they're the deal they used to be. The main BB store still has the older, heavier style jeans, though.

Similarly, The Ralph Lauren/Polo outlet mall store can have some good items at decent prices. Their khakis are far better than Dockers and don't look like old man's pants.

Uniqlo has an annual sale on polo shirts every spring, either in April or May. Get on their mailing list.

L.L. Bean's online outlet store has a lot of churn and occasional great prices. When you find something good, buy multiples, because you'll usually never see them again; the merchandise is mostly their regular products at end of shelf life.

Stores I haven't had a lot of success in include Banana Republic and J.Crew. Their standard cuts assume I'm much more slender than I am -- not only in terms of body fat, but literally expecting me to have narrower shoulders and hips than I do. Going up a size makes the clothing look baggy and shabby on me. So they're not qualitatively bad, but they're not useful to me. I can say similar things about categories of products from other stores. The only things Ralph Lauren makes that fit me are their khakis. Uniqlo will never make pants that fit me. See point two, above. Sorry this got verbose.
posted by ardgedee at 11:20 AM on March 18, 2014

For shirts, try some made to measure online places, like Proper Cloth, Luxire, Ratio Clothing.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:13 PM on March 18, 2014

Response by poster: I would mark every answer as best if I could. Massively helpful, everyone. Thanks!
posted by dw at 12:50 PM on March 18, 2014

dw: "My current plan is to grab a Nordstrom personal shopper and talk this through"

Do a Google search for "closet consult". I've been thinking of doing one myself since I read this review of one in Orlando, although this one is the third Google result for Seattle and looks very similar. For a small fee, they will come in and go over everything you have in your closet and match you some quality outfits, plus give you a list of things to shop for. I think this would be a better solution than going to a particular store, where they probably pressure you to buy all new wardrobe from their store.
posted by I am the Walrus at 12:52 PM on March 18, 2014

Macy's has some good middle-line brands, and their own stuff. Clearance rack can be excellent.
posted by 4midori at 2:49 PM on March 18, 2014

Nthing the Brooks Brother outlet malls ( just avoid the outlet line 365, it is noticeably cheaper made) and Bonobos, yes they are a little more flashy and style conscious but they do offer big package deals for basically redoing entire wardrobes.
posted by The Whelk at 8:25 AM on March 19, 2014

I did the Nordstrom's personal shopper thing a few years ago and it was great. It is not, however, the place to go on a budget.

Congrats on losing the weight!
posted by Nelson at 9:58 AM on March 19, 2014

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