Shopping on a Budget: An Updated Men’s Style Starter Kit, Part 2

This week on Siblings with Style, we’ll tackle Part 2 in the somewhat extensive process of building a starter wardrobe on a tight budget. Last year’s post tackled how to revamp a wardrobe for under $250, while Part 1 of the new series last week took a look at the basics you need on your legs — affordable, stylish jeans, chinos and shoes. But, style isn’t just one portion of the ensemble — looking your best is about tying in many separate parts across different seasons, different trends and different situations. Consider these picks as a starting point (or a restocking point) for both casual knits and shirts, as well as sweaters. In the next post, we’ll tackle dressier essentials on a budget. For now, let’s keep it casual — look below for (almost) everything you need up top.

Casual Knits/Shirts: Old Navy

In a wide spectrum of colors and styles, Old Navy's your go-to for casual shirting.
In a wide spectrum of colors and styles, Old Navy’s your go-to for casual shirting.

The world of casual T-shirts and other items can actually get pretty extensive, between the different  variations on laidback stylings (V-neck? Crewneck? Pocket tee? Henley?). And it’s no use spending hundreds of dollars on a simple T-shirt. But, no need to skimp on style, either. One location is a tremendous starting point for all of these various essentials — that’s right, Old Navy. As covered on this blog in a Starter Style Review earlier this year, the store is a veritable outpost of affordable knits in all of the variations listed above. Need some basic v-necks that you can wear on their own or underneath other items?  Want a slim henley in a fall-appropriate color? Fancy a casual polo for the warmer months? Old Navy’s the spot. And with several variations on colors for polos, shirts and henleys alike, the store could (and should) become a one-stop shop for various layering needs. The best part is undoubtedly the price — it seems many of these styles retail for, at the most, roughly $20. Assuming you pick up three to start (say, a long-sleeve henley for cold weather-layering, a V-neck T-shirt and a crewneck T-shirt for casual wear), those purchases wouldn’t set you back more than $45 when bought on sale.

TOTAL: $45 (For three shirts)

Casual Buttondown Shirts: Uniqlo

For about $50, you can get the above two shirts right now. Not a bad deal at all.
For about $50, you can get the above two shirts right now. Not a bad deal at all.

There’s a plethora of options out there when it comes to shirting — in this particular roundup, we’re looking at shirts that aren’t designed to be worn with a suit (while that’s broad, think Oxford cloth button-downs and other styles). Many brands are now making terrific-looking casual shirts, but in this case, one brand offers a great mix of pricing and slim, modern styles — Uniqlo. They offer a wide selection of slim-fit Oxford shirts (as seen above) in a wide variety of colors, and frequently run deals on 2 shirts, for example. In fact, 2 Oxford shirts will set you back roughly $50 — a pretty neat discount when you consider the wearability of a classic white OCBD. If you had to start with two picks, you could absolutely find them at the mainstay Japanese brand. A pretty thorough selection of denim and flannel shirts in a diverse color spectrum rounds out their casual shirting selection quite nicely. The one area they appear to be lacking in would be colorful, playful patterns — in that case, searching J. Crew Factory can offer some deviation from the typical solids or checks offered by Uniqlo, at about the same price point.

TOTAL: $50 (For two shirts)

Sweaters: Uniqlo

From extra fine merino to lambswool and cashmere, Uniqlo delivers.
From extra fine merino to lambswool and cashmere, Uniqlo delivers.

Moving up to sweaters (another versatile outer layer as it gets chilly), sticking with Uniqlo is actually a wise choice here. While sweaters from comparable budget brands like J. Crew Factory definitely stack up favorably when it comes to quality, saving money wherever possible is definitely recommended when going through a wardrobe revamp. Although, if you can afford to shell out a few extra bucks per sweater, go for it. Just like their selection of casual shirts, Uniqlo offers excellent variety when it comes to sweaters. From extra fine merino crewnecks in bright shades to striped cardigans that mix things up just enough, the selection is on-point. Plus, a sweater can act as a neutral base to richer color combinations, particularly in fall and winter. More importantly, Uniqlo’s offerings even include cashmere (likely not the best, but worth a mention) and thicker lambswool knits. The cashmere sweaters do creep up towards the triple-digit mark in terms of price, but the extra fine merino wool seems to strike a nice balance in terms of fabric and price. As to those with quality concerns, while it’s clearly not the highest-quality sweater on the market, personal purchases from Uniqlo have held up more than fine with regular wear and proper care. Pick up two extra fine merino sweaters in versatile colors to start, and you’ll be well on your way for about $80.

TOTAL: About $80

So, for today’s entry, the total is roughly $175 — again, substantially larger when compared proportionally to the casual shirts portion of last year’s budget recap, but when considering that this round-up accounts for multiple styles from multiple sites, it’s really not that bad of a deal. Additionally, items from these categories can be mixed and matched — wear a V-neck T-shirt under a cardigan, or a casual buttondown shirt with a V-neck sweater. On the bottom, reach for any of the essentials in last week’s post, and you have a sharp and stellar combination.

Any recommendations for brands you would include? Favorite stops for casual shirts and sweaters? 


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