Wardrobe Maintenance

I had a few inquires about my own clothing collection, specifically how I take care of my garments. As such – for when the masquerade ball bids adieu and yours truly departs to his solemn dark cave; the cape hung, the walking stick mounted, and the mask shed to reveal a beastly hideousness kept self-imposingly away from the scorn of thy princess’ innocence, for she shall never know the pained lengths to which I keep my dark desires anguished away from – stop – stop – actually that’s too melodramatic of a metaphorical opener.

Even for me yeh? I think I just referred to you the reader as my princess? Okay, let’s skip my usual elaborate imagery and tantamount loquaciousness (< see did it again!) and get to the point. Provided below for your consideration are my thoughts on maintaining your wardrobe, based on how I personally keep my clothes. You’ve invested all of this money and energy into a wonderful collection of fabrics, patterns, and tailorings – no shame in keeping it tidy to ward off the moth balls, extending the wardrobe for decades to come.


Tony’s Personal

Before I go further, how exactly is this a relevant topic to Trad&Prep anyhow? Well in our strictest definition for my ongoing Style Advice editorial series, it’s not necessarily a pure mannerism – “trad” or stylishly otherwise – that the Brothers of Tau Pi (Trad&Prep) religiously follow in secret ritual that only those in the know abide by. But taking care of one’s wardrobe likewise reveals the same kind of detail-oriented mentality in daily practice that all the other mannerisms and tidbits of my advice just as likewise birth from.

Because just like how we put extra attention to fitting, with our tailor on speed dial and Xmas card recipient list, we put in just as much effort in making our clothing last. How we approach maintenance still tracks by the same distance that keeps our parenting sense of style apart from the mainstream masses. Because before you were enlightened and started paying attention to how you look, were you not one of those kids who just threw his clothes off on his bedroom floor after school for mommy to pickup later? Or when your jacket was forced into the closet, was it not lucky to just find itself mantled on a cheap wire hanger, if it were hung up at all as opposed to on the floor of your disoriented closet where it normally rested; perhaps sitting on a pile of the love-torn Romeo & Juliets of sneakers and dress shoes that all jived together in a dizzying unintentional sex party of swingers? The Brothers of Tau Pi expects more from its Pledges, and before you ascend to the highest ranks of knighthood and are able to sit with our Grand Regent – Sir God Mode Prep himself – at the round table, then you have to dive in the nitty gritty of what it takes to have the responsibility of hardened shiny armor bestowed upon you. It takes upkeep like anything else, and in our modern chivalrous times, you’ll soon see that the careful polishing/ironing of your closet/horsestable will go a long way in keeping your suit/destrier ready for the next day/battle.

Storage

Seasonal

I divide my whole collection of garments in accordance with how the brands do it: by catalog seasons of S/S and F/W. Clothes that are clearly meant for one season and not the other (i.e. Nanny Red lightweight chinos for the warmer months) are put away in a few large luggage cases or units and put into storage until the following year. Hence, I do bi-annual changeovers usually around the transition months of May and October; letting climate dictate when it is time to have lighter or heavier fabrics readily available. Or another good practice is to correspond with Daylight Savings Time.

These changeovers serves 3 purposes. The first is to have ample space for my respective seasonal wardrobes in my always-getting-smaller closet space. The second is to direct my ADD-ridden attention to rightful outfits that pair well with that season’s mood and climate, which lessens the potential to make faux pas mistakes out of spur (i.e. having the sudden urge to wear my cotton-linen cocaine white slacks in the middle of January). Thirdly is the unintended opportunity to critique your fluid collection by removing what you no longer wear, or in my case, justifying why I still need a backup ghastly Fun Shirt that I have the occasion to wear about once-in-a-never.

Seasonal storage does not apply to items that I can wear throughout the year. For instance, articles that can go into The Uniform like my standard weight chinos and OCBDs will stay in my closet all year. In fact, I have 15 or so button down shirts and 6-10+ pants that are always prominently featured, taking up the majority of hanging space in my closet. This allows for these primary staple pieces to be worn at a moment’s notice if need be without significant or no ironing, since they should have no creases from folding, making up my first line of defense that allows me to quickly armor up and gallop out the iron gates.

When my current season’s garments are ready for action sitting in my bedroom closet, I like to help preserve the wardrobe with a few ceder wood blocks and moth ball repellent packets lying around in there. The blocks help prevent moisture/odor and the packets keep those pesky little demons away. I also throw a packet into each storage luggage just to be safe.

Button Down Shirts

Of the 15 or so easily reachable hanging shirts in my closet: 3 whites including a single spread collar dress shirt, 2 blues, 1 red university stripe, 2 blue university stripe, 2 tattersalls, and a variety of checks, tattersalls, and minipatterns. This illustrates the precedence evolved from the starter shirt set as seen in The Guide. The rest of my button down shirts (OCBD or dress) that are not worn as often are either folded neatly in my hamper drawers, or kept in storage as previously mentioned until needed.

It would be nice to have ceder wood hangers if you can afford the luxury for your shirts, pants, etc. sitting the closet, but otherwise as long as your hangers do not damage the shape of your clothing (i.e. the cheap metal ones from dry cleaners that you must always throw away when you get home) then you should be okay.

Pants & Shorts

Again, my go-to pants are hanging in my closet or in storage; typically 3 khaki variations, 2+ odd slacks of wool, corduroy, etc, and most all of my dress slacks. For the rest, such as fun pants like my GTH colored chinos and summer fabrics like seersucker or oxford, I too keep folded and placed in my bedroom hamper with the exception being all of my denim located on the closet shelf that affixes the hanging bar. During S/S my shorts are also folded and squeezed on my top shelf next to my denim, while in the F/W this hole is switched out for my four Fratagonia Snap T

Fleece Pullovers and Retro X Vest that I love to throw on for quick errands during the colder months (although I usually keep one of the lighter vintage pullovers out during the summer too just to have for brisk mornings.)

Sweaters & Outerwear

Speaking of my pullovers, since sweaters tend to be inherently thick, I like to keep them individually wrapped in those free gift boxes that you can acquire during Xmas shopping (or niftily recycle extras as reused gift packaging.) This is particularly true for my nicer sweaters that I want to give extra focus to. Protip: Always check “Yes this is a gift item” on online orders if it is offered for free! My boxes have been stocked over the years from mostly Brooks, Press, and Crew since I am such a brand whore. And yes. I keep branded boxes and sweaters in twin sets. Since it would be shear utter madness to have my Brooks Brothers Saxxon Wool Cable Knit Cardigan in a JPress box, and my JPress Shaggy in a Brooks Box. I mean, really….C’mon. C’mon guys. Let us not be like our barbarian brainless foe, my Grace!

Thankfully there is such a thing as a coat closet near the front entrance of your apartment/castle, so I keep my staple jackets there year round. I reuse old plastic coverings from the dry cleaners to cover each individually when not in use.

Suits & Delicates

Unless you are pimpdaddy Barney Waitforit Stinson and have a suit to wear for each day of the calendar year, I will assume that you don’t have 365 handsome suits hanging in a walk-in closet the size of my childhood home, where a personal Alfred dresses you as the rightful Earl of Downtown Friggin’ Abbey that you are. And if you are, then I will assume your closet looks like the Tom Ford dressing room as shown in the title photo, and that you have the corporate bank account to fund such pleasurable purSuits. For the rest of us drafted conclave of serfs and townsfolk, we have to defend the kingdom with our 2 or 3 staple suits – of armor – until we can rise the feudal ladder to the top ourselves. Until then, we have to keep our few precious suits mended from past blows and continuously polished in upkeep for the next surprise internship interview/pillaging.

I always have my suits kept in their suit bags. No brainer . But say that you bought your slightly used Navy 2 buttoned Fitzgerald from eBay for a budget saving $200 (Nice job! Shout out to Rule#10!) instead of from Granddaddy himself. Protip: walk in to your local Brooks Brothers store, or whichever the outfitter in-question is, and request a suit bag. Smile and be charming when you say to the cute sales representative gal at the front desk, “Hello ma’am, I bought a suit recently from the website and they must have forgotten to give me the complimentary suit bag. May I have one from here if possible? Also, my name is….what is your number…call you soon……..will you marry me?” In that order, preferably over a few years of dating. Protip: Say you had three purchases. And this actually has happened to me before, from that very staple 2 Button Navy Fitz I bought on BrooksBrothers.com all those years ago, and they really did forget the complimentary suit bag. Maybe that eases any racing worries just a bit.

For my nicer pants and dress slacks, I do something similiar to my outerwear where I hang them those free plastic coverings that you get from your tailor or dry cleaner. I never pack them up for storage due to the delicate wool fabrics that you would want to preserve away from harsh fold lines.

Shoes

Shoe Trees…..Of course this is the big one. You know of them. You should already be using them. And in my humble but expert opinion, you can even get away with a single set of cedar wood shoe trees if just starting out, because you only require one to reshape a pair after a day’s walking. But the big lesson here: Use ceder wood shoe trees! Let those trees sit in them for a night. Then the next day, take them out and put them in your next well-worn pair. Rinse. Repeat. The natural cedar helps the leather breath and reduce odor, while the mold restructures the shoe that has warped and expanded from wear. Related Protip: Give that particular shoe at least a day of rest as well (I mean…you do have more than one pair of penny loafers…right…) so it fully recovers. Both strategies will give your shoe collection ensured longevity. And I like keeping my dress shoes in their respective brand whore shoe boxes, unless just directly worn which I’ll let them breath in the open for a day with the trees in them.

I currently own three from Nordstrom that I picked up on sale for about $10 each during their annual big summer sale. Although another great cheap source is Jos. A. Bank (which is one of the very few times you will actually see me recommending this otherwise super-nasty terrible excuse of a “mens outfitter”). They often run their trees at less than ten bucks when on sale and often throw in free shipping. It’s such a grand deal that much of the online fashion community/blogosphere has become obsessed with the next JAB shoe tree offering so you can find abundant PSA’s. Typically come out to $8.50 w/free shipping per.

Could watch this guy for hours…wait, it’s 7pm already?! (There used to be a HD version of this clip but can’t seem to find it, shame)

The other popular shoe topic: Shining. Some of you more Type-A Haberdasher Extremists love to obsess with keeping their shoes shined. Makes sense if you are a corporate man or in the military, but as many of you readers are younger and still in college, I will break the almighty rule here and say that you can have your dress shoes shined Prorenata. Have the Park Avenues spit-shined before the frat formal or the big internship interview, and then have it done again a year from now. Maybe you can get away with it 3-5 times a year if excessively worn. This is because I am assuming you are not wearing your nicer pairs on a daily basis. Plus, there is also that other yet-to-be-published trad mannerism that adds to the GoToHell mentality

championing that “Yeah my pennies are scruffed and worn-in to pieces. So what? F*ck off dude. I was born in these loafers. ” attitude that praises the old and the frayed articles that have seen some days. Remember that the original WASPs of the mid century we used look fondly to as model tradsters used to put duct tape on their old Weejuns to keep them falling apart. This was seen as a badge of honor, whereas now it would be seen as a badge of hobo. This is why I resorted my first pair of pennies ever, those Cole Haan Pinch, acting now as my sh*tkicker loafers that I can wear barefoot and trudged through the mud and gravel without a second thought.

Confessional: Yours truely is actually not that well-versed in shoe shining. But I don’t yet as of this point in my life require weekly shines. I do however like using a horsehair brush to remove dirt and particles before and after wear. Maybe when I’ve become a Fortune 500 CEO, or ya’ know, just as close in my career – as Purple Label suits worn daily to the top floor office does need it spiffy wingtips! I have mine shined when I visit my cobbler…

If your tailor is on speed dial, then your shoe cobbler is at least in your list of contacts. Go ahead and look at your smartphone. See, right there, listed as “Cobbler, Shoe”. Mine is an old grandpa who has been in the same mom&pop location for three decades. Maybe even just once a year I visit him with one of my hard soled shoes ready for its tune-up, with each pair lasting about 3 years for me, again depending on amount of wear. My guy also throws in free shoe shining too. Or you can send it in to the original shoemaker if you are more anal. Both Allen Edmonds and Alden for example each have cobbling and touch-up services provided at a higher premium. I plan on going this route with my most formal of dress shoes, such as my Park Avenues and my eventual GMP-level Alden Leisure Hand Sewn (LHS) loafers in colors #8 and whiskey….soon.

Think of the elements. Grain leather is great for hiding scruffs, and a Dainite rubber sole – the famous British contribution to shoe history – is awesome for gripping slippery surfaces (precisely why my second pair of staple boots is a light brown grain leather Chukka from British shoemaker Herring). Suede is nice for your summer saddle bucks and autumn desert boots, but are allergic to rain.

Polos, Tees, Underwear, etc.

Folded and kept in my bedroom hamper. Separated by polos, tees, undergarments, and miscellany. Iron if must. Keeps your girlfriend’s nakie pics and spare condoms hidden under. Not else much to say.

Neckties

I use this ceder tree hanger that I got on discount from my local Allen Edmonds location. But a ceder hanger is just a nice extra, as long as you hang your ties and don’t let them get thrown together in a pile. Hanging will prevent creases. Also, you NEVER want to send your ties to your regular dry cleaner since the service can make your silk ties loose its “springy-iness”. There are special services you can mail in your ties such as this one. But this will obviously be a rare thing to do, so in the mean time try not to spill spaghetti sauce on them. (Fun fact: this is also a reason why some physicians no longer wear ties since they are fomites, or objects that harbor bacteria, since ties are rarely if ever washed!)

Accessories

I have a stacker that I got from The Container Store that sits on top of my bedroom hamper. This stores my watches, sunglasses, cufflinks, tiebars/pins, wallet, and any other small miscellaneous item. Just a good organizer to have to get into the habit of using so that the next time you’re all “Where the flying f*ck are my keys?” you know the first place to look.

Basic Washing Rules

Washing your clothes is a whole ‘nother ball game. So barring any special circumstances, here are my basic instructions:

Dry Clean your delicates like dress slacks, suits, sportcoats, blazers, outerwear, and the very delicate. This should be obvious, but what may not be is the fact that dry cleaning can also SHORTEN the lifespan of your clothing. So being mindful of individual circumstances regarding to amount of wear, I only have my formal apparel dry cleaned once every 4-5 outings for suits and slacks and 10-15+ for my outerwear.

Cold Wash your colored non-delicate natural fabrics like cottons, linens, etc. I like using Tide Alternative Bleach which helps keep colors bright. Usually can pick up these badboys at Costco or Target but you can find it at all major chains. I just throw in my non-white colored clothing all together because the Tide Detergent does a good job of non-bleeding. Then I use generic Softener Liquid and/or Dryer Sheets (usually Costco Kirkland brand).

Warm Wash your synthetics like fleece, polyester, etc. This is for your techprep stuff. Do NOT use Softener because it can ruin the effectiveness of the synthetics. And you can cold wash too, but many of my synthetics are activity wear that I use for the gym or running so I warm wash to help kill the bacteria. But do NOT hot wash since it may be detrimental to your synthetics.

Warm or Hot Wash your whites, separate from your colors. NEVER use chlorinated bleach since they will make your whites into that nasty yellow color over time. That is why I like using the Tide Alternative Bleach as seen above.

Cold Wash your semi-delicate natural fabrics like wool, cashmere, etc. TUMBLE LOW or HANDWASH settings only. Wool tends to shrink under warm water and heavy tumble, which you may already know from trial and error (RIP Shetland Fair Isle Sweater passed down from my Gramps….you will be missed!) I use Woolite Dark since most of my items are dark colored.

I also use this process for my expensive raw denim – which is a subject that can be an entirely new article on! But for now, the basics are to TURN INSIDE OUT and then cold wash/tumble low as before. I also use the Woolite Dark for this. Aim for washing raw denim 1-3 times a year if you intend on being a hypebeast denim expert enthusiast like the rest of us.

Machine Drying can be for your non-delicate natural fabrics like cotton. Although, I prefer to hang dry my shirts and pants for half a day, just to assist in removing excess moisture (which in turn saves on the energy bill too). Protip: if you want to hang your clothing all the way dry, then you can use a wet cloth thrown into the pile which gives up some moisture for the dry tumble. This allows for a short 5min low heat, energy-saving tumble that is more to give the non-crease effect as opposed to drying. But always make sure to remove your garments right after drying no matter to ward off those creases! Protip: hang your chinos and slacks “sideways” which gives it an artificial loose front crease when they cool down. **I will explain why in a bit.

Hang Dry your synthetics. They are not meant to be exposed to heat.

Lay Flat Dry your semi-delicate natural fibers.Especially true for your upperwear like wool and cashmere sweaters. Laying flat allows to retain the shape while hanging tends to mess up the shouldering and neck. I like to lay them on my bed in the daylight sun. Then when totally dry, you can either iron them or machine dry on tumble low using that protip I explained earlier of a damp cloth thrown in. This will help remove any excess creasing.

Removing Stains can be used with my favorite tool, Shout Stain Remover Brush. I pretreat about ten minutes before wash. And I am sure there are other affective agents and brands out there, but I like using this one in particular because of the top brush you can use to scrub in the gel so it seeps in deeper to fight against the stain. The mechanical action of scrubbing really seems to help remove or at least lessen the really bad food, wine, and marker stains. Or use an old toothbrush. Do NOT brush your teeth with it after. Sicko.

Ironing

Many of your button downs and pants that have been hanging in your closet may not need too much ironing, but it’s still nice to look presentable if the occasion calls for it. And admittingly, I will press my polos and even my tees if they have too many creases from sitting in the hamper for too long (or execute that earlier Protip with the wet cloth; does the trick just as easily with less work).

My major piece of ironing advice is to press flat-front pants with a front crease, as this not only gives you a cleancut look but it also makes it easier to walk since it keeps your flat front pants from having that Saturday Night Fever-flared bottoms-aesthetic to it. ** If you hung your chinos and slacks they way I described earlier right after machine drying, then it will be easy to press that already-set artificial loose front crease in.

Other than being weary of which iron setting to use for each fabric in-question, there is no specific guide I can further give. Takes practice on developing perfect ironing form. Used to take me more than 10min to get a cleanly pressed shirt, but now it takes me less than 5 if I am not in a hurry. And I prefer to press my clothes instead of the dry cleaners anyhow. Not a fan of starch which can also decrease the life expectancy of your wardrobe.

I use the Panasonic NI-E650TR. That retractable plug was a blessing sent down to us from the fashion gods! But any cheap ol’ iron will do. Don’t need a fancy one or anything. Prior to this Panasonic that I’ve only had for less than a year, I used a cheap Black&Decker that I got from Wal Mart my freshman year. Still works too.

That should take care of it. Your House of Knightly Refinement should be in working order, since you now know how to maintain Battle Ready Preparedness. The Brothers of Tau Pi will be pleased of the progress you’ve made in your apprenticeship. Now forgive me, as I must bid adieu and depart ways and head back to my underground lair and perve out on my princess…

**Edit 1/24/15:

I was finally able to catch today one of those famous One Day flash sales at Jos A Bank. Items were 66% or more off. Shoes Cedar Trees were down to $8.50 from the regular $25, an awesome deal as described earlier. These trees are especially well known around the menswear community as a quality made in USA product…one of the few things JAB does right…so it’s quite a bargain when you can catch them below $9! There were other great deals for clothing care, like their (Pack of 2) Standard Cedar Hangers down to $5.10 from the original $15 and Contoured Cedar Hanger for $8.16 from $24. Could always use an extra Lint Roller for $1.70 and Leather Shoe Conditioner for $2.38. I’m already set with my previously mentioned Allen Edmonds tie rack, but JAB’s made in USA Cedar Accessory Mate came to $9.52 from $28, perfect for your ties and belts. These will go great for freshening up shirts and pants, especially if I plan for a second or third wearing. And I will use the suit hanger for my precious outerwear/suits that go long periods of time between cleaning, like my Barbour Beaufort and Brooks Brothers Trench. Depending on the Sale, orders may qualify for free shipping for a certain minimum, or if you are lucky then none at all. Today’s Sale was with free shipping for a total order of $50. I ended up closer to $75 since

I packed a few more Trees and Hangers, since with those deals it would be smart to take advantage of stocking up! May seem a little much for clothing maintenance, but these items are a strong investment for our wardrobe. Keep on a lookout for more flash and seasonal Sales from JAB.

Screenshots, in case you need proof of these killer savings 😉