Starter Style Review: Express

Editor’s note: Building great style on a budget can be difficult and expensive. This is the fourth part in an occasional series chronicling great locations to start a wardrobe and buy affordable, good-looking style staples. Catch the first, second and third parts in the series here . Look for more in the coming weeks!

There are a couple things pretty apparent upon first entering Express. First: It’s bright. Everything from the clothes themselves to that lighting to the bright red 40% sale signs. And it’s kind of loud. The music is often a mix of strange techno-electronic beats, which makes for one interesting shopping experience.

And there it is. That notorious lion logo.
There it is. That notorious lion logo.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s that lion logo. That thing is everywhere — on T-shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, polos, jackets, graphic tees —you name it, that logo’s on it. Since many are now heading in the anti-logo direction, that’s a definite hit against the clothing. Granted, it could be layered over if it’s on a T-shirt, but not so with a sweater. There’s a few stacks of shirts and sweaters without that logo, but a good chunk of the clothing is emblazoned with that large lion. Even items that would be perfectly good on their own seem to have it.

So that’s upon entering the store. When digging around, there are actually some alright finds. The Photographer chino (as pictured below) fits about like a Dockers Alpha Khaki (although it’s more expensive). But in a light khaki shade, a grey and even a darker amber color, it’s a good buy. Generally, anything without a logo is actually quite solid in terms of fit and quality. Outerwear looks to be a good buy from here, as the pieces are often cut slim and in neutral colors.

Actually a decent buy at the right price.
A decent buy at the right price.

The store’s suit separates actually aren’t half-bad either — the trick would be to catch them on a sale. And since suit separates are becoming more ubiquitous this year, it’s a good idea to get into that market at a lower price. The color selection is surprisingly nice, with a few patterns thrown in there, too. The quality and construction isn’t up there with anything from a nicer department store, but in some solid shades (like navy or charcoal), a blazer or pants could be a good buy when on sale. The dressier department is also where the pitfalls keep popping up, unfortunately.

A light shade of khaki that wouldn't look out of place in the summer.
A light shade of khaki that wouldn’t look out of place in the summer.

Certainly most of us remember (and probably wore) the middle school or high school dance-esque bright solid shirt and bold patterned tie combo. It’s not inherently bad, but if it’s ill-fitting (likely the case), it’s a recipe for disaster. In the dress shirt area, that’s what Express seems to specialize in. Granted, the fit of the Express 1MX shirt is a personal favorite, but only makes a ton of fashion sense with a white or light blue shade – not highlighter yellow, bright purple or dark maroon.

Lots of silk ties, not a lot of winter-weight texture.
Lots of silk ties, not a lot of winter-weight texture.

The ties themselves actually have some half-decent patterns to them, but again, harken back to the solid shirt-patterned tie combo. And the lack of winter-weight fabrics or knit ties (at least on the shelves in this store) is somewhat disconcerting.

Other dress shirts are hit or miss, as well. A green checked shirt hanging on one of the racks wouldn’t look out of place under a khaki summer suit with a grey knit tie, but then there are anomalies like an odd shirt fading from one color into another (see below). There was also what looked to be a newer ‘soft wash’ shirt (the phrase on the tag), which felt much more forgiving to the touch than a starchy, bright dress shirt.

This shirt seems to be a miss.
This shirt seems to be a miss.

Neutral basics like crew neck and v-neck tees, along with briefs and boxers, are available in typically bright shades but also dark solid colors — while a bit overpriced, these are likely a decent purchase. Patterned socks from Express are actually a personal favorite, but like much of the rest of the store, wait until a sale to snag two or three pairs at once.

Jeans are another area where Express seems to have some misses. Although they introduced the ‘super skinny’ Alec jean last year, the store still offers (and tries to push, no less) bootcut jeans (for more than $60 on-sale, more than $100 full price). Dark blue denim, free of distressing, is in short supply here, unfortunately.

Accessories from Express (like a belt or a watch) could work on a budget — a reversible leather belt takes care of 2 things at once, for example — but there are certainly better (and less pricier) places to go than Express for, say, a good watch.

The ultimate takeaway from the store would be this: stay away (if it’s your preference) from those large, garish lion logos. Look for solid basics including outerwear and slim suit separates, but steer clear of those neon dress shirts and patterned ties. Keep an eye out for solid buys like crew neck or v-neck tees or a collared shirt with a colorful, understated pattern. Buy on-sale and in pairs with most items like briefs or socks. And maybe pick up some chinos if needed. Again (and this is important) watch out for those lions. Happy shopping!

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5 thoughts on “Starter Style Review: Express

  1. Hey guys,

    Appreciate the honest review. I actually love Exress for two reasons – the merino v-neck sweaters (available down to XS and in a bunch of great colors) and the Rocco jeans (with “skinny” leg fit). They’re not as slim as the Alec (which are too slim for most guys) and have a nice tapered leg.

    I wouldn’t buy anything for full price at Express. They are ALWAYS having sales. Usually a $25 off $100 type thing. But sometimes a buy one get one for 1/2 price. You can basically get two high quality merino wool sweaters for like 30-40 each if you do it right.

    The Rocco’s really are one of my favorite pairs of jeans (similar to the Lucky Brand Deans but a little more modern and lower rise). Just make sure to stay away from any boot cut or flare. Like I said, the “skinny leg” cut is the way to go.

    -Brock

    1. Hey Brock,

      Thanks so much for reading and getting in touch! I agree with you that the v-neck sweaters (logo-less for me) fit very well, I have a few in the closet and enjoy the trim fit. At least in this store, those were in short supply, for whatever reason! One of my first pricier pairs of jeans was the Rocco, which did have that nice, tapered fit, although I felt they wore out somewhat quickly. Your suggestion about buying on sale is HUGE when it comes to Express, and like you said, they really do always have sales. You got it right about avoiding that boot cut, too! At any rate, thanks for reading and look for a new Men’s Style Essentials post later today (Jan. 31). Thanks!

      -Beau

      1. Definitely logo-less for any shirt, especially a sweater (maybe with the exception of a Lacoste polo…that’s pretty classic).

        I hear ya on the Rocco’s. I noticed that the dark washes are VERY inky and need to be soaked a couple of times. Otherwise you’ll have inky fingers and they can stain lighter surfaces. That’s why the Lucky Brand Deans are really my favorites… very similar to J. Crew 484s.

        Really enjoying your work here at Siblings with Style. I’m one of 6 (4 brothers) and it’s so cool to see brothers working on this together.

        Keep it up, and check out The Modest Man when you get the chance!

        -Brock

  2. I agree with you for sure on going logo-less, I also feel like the Original Penguin polo logo is OK (maybe, just maybe?). I unfortunately had that bad experience with the Rocco jeans with the first few wears; I haven’t gotten into the 484’s yet, although I’ve tried a few on and they’re probably next on the list for a purchase!

    Thanks for the kind words about the site overall, I know we appreciate it! The better half here is actually my sister (unless I have an unknown twin brother who knows the log-in info)! She writes under the Women’s Style tab, actually.
    I’ll definitely check out The Modest Man, too! Thanks for visiting the site and stay tuned for future posts, my friend!

    -Beau

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