The process of building great style on a budget is incredibly tricky and only getting trickier, as it seems retail prices are on the up-and-up everywhere (especially at mainstay stores like J. Crew). Budget style has been a frequent focus of this blog (check out the Starter Style series for more on that), but there’s always room for improvements and updates. Last year, I covered how to build a start-up wardrobe for under $250; think of this series as a revamp to that, with a slightly wider selection and some new categories. This first part will tackle the basics you need on your legs — chinos, jeans and shoes, namely. Next week, we’ll tackle casual knits (tees and henleys), casual and dress shirts and sweaters, and then wrap up with accessories. Without further ado, dive in below to check out how you can start to update your wardrobe for as little green as possible.
The Shoes: Versatile Brown Chukka Boots
Starting from the ground up, if you had to go with, let’s say, just one pair of shoes to start, it’s hard to go wrong with a versatile chukka boot (this model’s out of stock right now, but a similar option can be found here for only about $5 more). With just the right amount of sleek styling and in with a build that’s adaptable to both business casual situations and more casual-rugged outfits, this particular chukka pays homage to the more laidback Clarks desert boot while looking more polished. It just looks more natural to wear this with jeans off-duty than a regular, low-cut dress shoe, as well. And in a rich brown, this shoe works across all seasons and can even stand up to harsher fall and winter weather. When considering adding in a pair of casual sneakers on a serious budget, look for a lightweight, neutral plimsoll, like these from Urban Outfitters. Lastly, if you do happen to need plain old dress shoes, this pair from JC Penney should get the job done in a pinch.
TOTAL: About $125
The Jeans: Levi’s Dark Denim
When it comes to buying jeans, it’s really tough to beat a classic original like Levi’s. For about $50 right now through the Levi’s website, you can pick up a pair of great-fitting, dark denim — a wardrobe staple that can be almost worn anytime, anywhere. In both business-casual settings and in any casual situation, a dark, slim pair — like the Levi’s 513 — won’t steer you wrong. At such a low price, it’s much more cost-effective to pick up a few pairs than paying more for one expensive denim. Durability isn’t sacrificed to an extreme degree, either. On a personal note, a pair of Levi’s 508’s (now the 522 model) have held up for well over two years with heavy wear — and that’s just one example of their durability.
The ‘Other’ Pants: Slim Tan Chinos
Unfortunately, dark denim does need to be put aside for more formal business and office settings, and it’s also nice to have different pairs of versatile pants for other situations, too. That’s where a pair (or multiple pairs) of slim chinos can fill in. They look more office-ready than dark denim on some occasions while still staying budget-friendly. Most importantly, don’t make the mistake of thinking the chino can’t be worn casually, either — check out great ways to style them over here at Effortless Gent, as written by yours truly. Uniqlo’s offering a tan chino right now for an outstandingly low price — know that sizes and colors are limited now, but keep an eye on their site for more of these.
TOTAL: About $30
So, starting with just the basic styles here and building off of those, you’re looking at about $200 in total (keep in mind that last year’s style breakdown set the overall budget at $250). However, that’s spending on three pieces that can work practically anywhere, and do so for a long time. And, when dropping more on certain items, it’s wise to know when to cut back in other areas. Look for more next week, when we’ll tackle a full range of shirting options for the stylish guy on a budget.
Any suggestions for alternatives to these styles? Favorite budget picks for jeans, chinos or shoes?