I'm often asked how to identify quality clothing.
Let's set the scene.
You sit down quickly and your pant button snaps.
Or you wash your shirt 3 times and the color fades.
What is the common denominator in both of these scenarios?
Poor. Quality. Clothing.
Chances are you spent decent money too.
Have you ever purchased something you thought was high quality but turned out to be cheap?
Far too often many of us have been there.
We spend thousands of dollars over our lifetime to make sure that we have the clothing that we need. Buying pieces that don’t last is literally a waste of money, time, and effort.
So the question is, how do you know quality when you see it?
Well, here are 5 ways to help you properly identify quality clothing.
Within these tips are 2 indicators that aren’t always a full proof way to discern quality and 3 iron clad things to look for that will all but guarantee that you have a high-quality product.
1. Take The Price Of Clothing Into Account
Price is not a good measure of how to identify quality clothing.
The old adage that says “you get what you pay for” is not always accurate but in the case of clothing, it can point you in the right direction.
For example, some shirts are very expensive because of the name brand or the department store that it’s sold in has to maintain a certain profit margin.
Or, perhaps it’s a handmade shirt that is constructed from remarkable fabric with a unique design or pattern, custom fitted (not tailored after the fact) to your body, with an amazing bespoke experience to boot.
The price then is justified because of the quality of the product.
So – as a generalization – price can be tricky when determining the quality of the article of clothing. It’s not a clear indicator but can definitely point you in the right direction.
One way to determine if the price is a strong indicator of quality is to take a look at the other pieces in a store.
If you can find a quality item or a brand you are familiar with, it's more than likely the store is going to follow suit (pun intended) with the quality of all items.
Brands can be misleading as well.
Oftentimes, brands earn their position of being known as high quality.
This has been done over decades using proven, detailed and painstaking manufacturing techniques that produce stellar menswear items.
However, what has happened over the last few years, with the enormous and uncharted growth of some companies is the acquiring of quality brands.
Once this happens, it’s not unusual for quality to suffer because of business practices such as cost-cutting, labor reductions, outsourcing manufacturing to cheaper companies/countries, etc.
When this happens, quality tends to diminish.
With that being said, brand recognition can still hint at you that a particular brand’s pieces are well made.
It may require you to do some research beforehand to verify.
3. Pay Close Attention To Details On The Fabric
Attention to detail is more difficult to quickly notice but it’s a foolproof way to determine quality.
Now to be able to notice small yet valuable details requires you as the consumer and style maven to have done your homework.
It necessitates that you do a little reading, talk to your local haberdasher, and other forms of research so that you can know the makings of quality fabric or the different types of stitching that will indicate that something has been handmade.
I’ve mentioned handmade a few times and let me explain why.
Now, I’m not saying that if an item isn’t handmade it isn’t high quality.
That’s not always the case.
However, when an item is handmade, there are usually time-intensive details and require a great level of care that are put into the crafting of the item.
It shows that the company/brand/manufacturer didn’t cut corners.
For example, let’s take a quality dress shirt. Look at components such as:
- Weight/gauge of the fabric
- Collar construction; is it sturdy and well made
- Stitching per inch (at least 14 stitches/inch) – this is because the more stitches per inch, the stronger the seams will be, thus the shirt is less likely to come apart over time
- Is there a split yoke versus a solid panel on the upper back of the shirt? Split yokes have a better fit.
- Is there a Gusset attached to the bottom of the side panels to reduce the stress of form-fitting shirts?
Doing research beforehand so that you can know what to look for is critical in spotting the detail.
It trains your eye. In fact, this mode of thinking – educating yourself based on your passions and desires, is a tenet at Real Men Real Style and can be applied to grooming techniques, fragrances, jewelry or any other facet of menswear.
4. Quality of the Clothing Hardware
This differs from “paying attention to details” in that the hardware is oftentimes more noticeable. Buttons are a good example.
Whether it’s the buttons on a leather jacket or the buttons on a shirt, it’s a noticeable detail that really will speak volumes when it comes to quality.
- Type of button: Mother of pearl buttons are rarer thus will be more expensive as opposed to standard plastic buttons. Plastic buttons are more apt to cracking and breaking than the mother of pearl buttons.
- Hand sewed: Is the button hand sewn and does it have a shank between the button and the placket of the shirt? A shank is a sewing technique that allows some separation so that the button and fabric will lie flat and seamlessly.
- The gauge of the buttons: The buttons should be at least 3mm thick. A thin button is not as sturdy and will likely fall out of the buttonhole.
- Buttonholes: Sturdy buttonholes with a high stitch count (as previously discussed) are signs of a well-crafted shirt.
It doesn’t matter what kind of menswear item, make sure you take note of the quality of the hardware. Another example can be shoes.
Pay attention to:
- The heel and sole: make sure it’s sturdy and glued well.
- Shoelaces: The shoelaces should be strong with strong aglets. An aglet is the plastic or metal tip at the end of the shoelace. If the aglet is weak, it’s a sign of a cheap shoelace…which can be an indication of a low-quality shoe.
5. Notice Quality Material In The Fabric
Notice the difference between well-made fabrics and regular “run of the mill” fabrics. Learn how to identify quality clothing and educate yourself on fabrics – visit a high-end menswear store or haberdashery.
- Speak to the stylists and salespersons.
- Try on clothing to feel the difference in the fabric’s weight, breathability, mobility etc.
- Notice the deep rich colors.
- Observe the unique patterns and how they align perfectly throughout the garment.
- Ask about the mills where the fabric was created.
- Become an aficionado so that you can buy investment pieces that will last for a decade or two.
You will begin to realize the difference and the range of fabrics that are available.
As with hardware, you can do the same thing with shoes. Pay attention to:
- The quality of the leather
- Imperfections: Examine the texture and shine of the leather. If the shoe is wrought with imperfections, it may not be of the best quality.
- Is the leather stiff and rigid or does it move with your foot as you walk
- Cracks – Does the shoe have major creases and cracks in the toe? *Creases are inevitable but if the shoe creases really easily and quickly, this is an indication of low-quality leather.
Summary – How To Identify Quality Clothing
You've had a lot to take in. Let's do a quick run-through:
- Take pricing into account – it's not necessarily an indicator of quality clothing.
- Do your research on brand names. Some brands let quality suffer to cut costs, but others are synonymous with craftsmanship.
- Understanding the construction of the fabric will help you identify quality.
- Check the item's “hardware.” This includes buttons, laces, and the heel on the show.
- Notice what makes quality fabric – this means being knowledgeable about fabric construction, the mills that produce them, and the alignment of patterns.
Now that you know what it takes to find the best clothing out there, there's nothing stopping you from discovering just what you like and how to find it.
Knowledge is power. Knowledge will help you become the man you know yourself to be.