713927_20289815How to look sharp on the cheap

Jeremy Goldman of PHSfit asked for a male version of Andrea Burston’s Wear to Work series – well Jeremy…here ya go. I guess getting voted best dressed at school qualifies me to write this article, but take from it what you will!

While each person’s style is their own and what looks good on Hugh Jackman may (or most likely) not be what looks good on me – you can take some great tips for finding high quality clothing for less! First stop is looking at your school and office culture. Does your office, school or district have a dress code? Are you required to wear a tie? For me – my district is pretty relaxed on dress code for teachers, but I feel that what I wear tells important information about who I am and my standards. It also is a key part of your branding image. How do you want people to view you? I am also pretty young so when I started my job – I decided to dress more foramlly than I needed to which helps reach out to parents with my level of expertise.

I did have to look at my culture and area around me too. When I was job hunting and interviewing – I purchased a bunch of ties thinking I would be wearing them every day. However after looking at what our regional dress code is like – I choose not to wear ties to work. I felt that it would be “overdress” and perhaps send the wrong image to my more casual students/parents/stakeholders. Consider this when designing or re-designing your wardrobe.

Key parts of all wardrobes

The Shirt



I think the shirt the paramount piece of any wardrobe. There are many variations and each has it’s own benefits and downsides. From polos, which say “I am more relaxed, perhaps easier to talk to, or sporty” to the button down that says “professional, expert, and businesslike”. For my closet – I tend to stick mainly to the button downs and polos on Fridays.

For my button downs – I enjoy wearing $100 – $200 high quality shirts (but don’t worry – I don’t pay nearly that much for them!). Some of my favorite shirts are made by Charles Tyrwhitt, Thomas Pink, Brooks Brothers, and Jos. A Bank.
These shirts are well made with the finest materials, they fit well when you buy the correct shirt size for your body type, are wrinkle resistant, and look great.

So how can I get away with it? Ebay. If you don’t mind wearing gently used shirts (which I don’t and all of my purchases have been in like new condition and you would not have known) – I purchase my $100+ MSRP shirts at $10 – $25 a pop. Try getting that at your local Ross Dress For Less! Hit the auctions and know your size and nearly all the shirts have fit to a T. If you stick to a few different brands – you also learn the sizing well and can buy with confidence.

For my polos – I like to also check out Ebay and try to find as many college logo shirts as I can. I am a big fan of the Under Armour polos as they are very comfy, keep you cool, stay wrinkle free, and travel very well in luggage.


I am less picky with the brands of my pants, but believe that most typically darker pant colors (jeans or slacks) look best. I think the most important part of buying pants is the right fit. For me (and what the current fashion trends are) that means a more fitted look. This does NOT mean skinny jeans, but it also does not mean baggy. Think about your pants when you are fitted for a tux or new suit. That fit (length and waist) is what you are looking for. If you are on the bigger side, this actually has a slimming effect (contrary to belief).

If you are going to wear jeans (which is OK!), stick with dark jeans. These are most professional looking, go with lots of different outfits, and are more modern looking. I am a fan of the dark jeans, t-shirt, and sport coat look every now and then!


If there is one thing you invest in – invest in your shoes. Buying a good quality pair of shoes (and taking care of them) will last you many years. Shoes (like most clothes) cover the price scale so you have to figure out your budget, but I would not spend less than $100 on your pair of shoes. Have one nice pair of black and brown shoes and that will match nearly everything. I like to look for full grain leather as it holds up better, is higher quality, and will last longer than the cheaper leather shoes. Check out Zappos.com for decent shoes (don’t get sticker shock) at pretty good prices. They also allow you to buy several pairs, try them on, and return the ones you don’t want at no cost for a full refund. Trying on the shoes is a must.


Your clothing is an investment in you. You have to be willing to set aside some funds each year to keep your closet up to date. If you haven’t refreshed your closet in the last 15 years – you need to. Those old Hawaiian shirts and faded acid washed jeans are not cool. Some easy places to look for some inspiration are Pinterest, GQ magazine, and The Art of Manliness. Just like changing the oil in your car – you need to maintain your clothes. So start today and start looking for your next new shirt!

Got any wardrobe hints, tips, or other thoughts – please comment below! Also share this article with your friends.

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