Wardrobe Maintenance Essentials

Wardrobe Maintenance Essentials

Your wardrobe is a big investment, so taking care of it is crucial. To do that, every man worth his style salt should have the following 10 tools to keep his wardrobe in tip-top shape.

Elfa Closet System

A personalized Elfa closet system

Closet Organization

You may think a couple closet drawers and rods don’t make much of a difference, but they can seriously affect the longevity of your clothes. A neatly organized closet will help:

  • Prevent clothes from wrinkling and bunching
  • Reduce “losing” clothes in your own closet
  • Maximize the closet space you have, no matter how big or small the closet

So how do you achieve “better” closet organization? When completed, closet organization systems should be sturdy, attractive, and highly functional. Each section should have a purpose and all of the available space in the closet (floor to ceiling) should be utilized. Sadly, most basics closets only come with a single eye-level bar that wastes the space both above and below. Don’t settle for clothes bars and weak shelving that can’t support a full load with sagging. For a deeper dive into all the options, especially for higher-end budgets, check out our guide to closet and wardrobe systems. For minimal to moderate budgets, begin by removing the existing organization system; even most rentals will allow this if you are willing to install a better system on your own dime. Next, head to your local home supply store to check out budget-priced, DIY options or for a moderate budget, look at the Container Store’s Elfa system. In-store designers will take the dimensions of your space and help you configure and cut a custom closet system that you can install yourself or hire a professional Elfa installer.

Finally, pick up some key closet accessories that will help you get the most out of your space:

Quality Hangers

It’s easy to forget about hangers until a cheap one destroys the shoulders of a favorite garment, or forces you to rush to the dry cleaner on the day of an important event. Your clothes will spend most of their lives on hangers, so it is difficult to understate how important they are to the preservation of your clothes. High-quality, expensive clothes deserve high-quality hangers. We’ve done numerous reviews of hanger brands, but our house favorite hangers come from Butler Luxury. We recommend starting with suit and coat hangers, and then expanding to trouser and shirt hangers. Butler Luxury also offers great hanger packages. They are a one-time investment that will serve your wardrobe well over time.

iron the back side of your shirt placket first

Ironing is an unavoidable wardrobe maintenance step

Clothes Iron & Ironing Board

Discussing the proper pressing of men’s clothing will reveal the fanatic in many a clothes horse. The basic set up, a simple steam iron and an ironing table, are the same that they have always been, and no man who cares about his clothes should go without these crucial wardrobe pieces. But, there are other options out there worth exploring if you are particular about how your clothes are pressed, or you simply prefer to have the best. Traditional ironing boards can be flimsy and unstable, which is why many clothing aficionados turn to purchasing professional vacuum ironing tables for in-home use.

 

Ironing Boards

Vacuum boards are essentially a heavy-weight ironing board with a foot-operated fan. The fan can be used in one of two ways. By pressing the pedal, the fan can draw air down and through the table, which helps secure the garment to the table with a vacuum action while more quickly drawing out steam. The fan can be reversed to gently puff air under a garment, which aids in the gentle ironing of delicate materials or fabrics with a nap, such as corduroy and velvet.

Vacuum tables are a staple owned by bespoke tailors, dry cleaners, and other garment makers.  For professional results, consider the Reliable The Board Home Vacuum and Up-Air Pressing Table.

Steam Irons

Steam irons use a combination of heat and water to release wrinkles in any number of garments. Heat alone can release wrinkles, but it requires higher temperatures and more pressure to achieve the same result as steam, which is gentler on clothes. A high-quality steam iron should feature a water tank, a sprayer, and different heat settings for different types of fabric. A narrow base plate helps the iron get into tight corners while a rounded back edge helps the iron glide smoothly in both back and forth motions, without wrinkling or catching on the fabric.

Rowenta has long produced premium steam irons, and the German company has been producing electric irons for nearly 100 years. The Rowenta Pro-Master Micro Steam Iron boasts the latest iron technology, such as micro-holes that disperse steam more evenly and a water tank that takes regular tap water as opposed to distilled water. It’s a quality choice for professional, quick ironing, but there are also high-rated near competitors such as the Black & Decker Advantage Iron that cost half the price for many similar features. Whichever you choose, a well-dressed man needs a steam iron to look his best.

Garment Steamer

Steamers are a rather recent addition to the clothing-maintenance appliance category, and while they will never replace an iron and an ironing board, they are an excellent tool to help you quickly release wrinkles in a garment. They heat up remarkably fast and make quick work out of freshening clothes. Steam heat also tends to be gentler on clothes than the direct heat of an iron. They come in two main configurations, the first being a floor-based model with a handheld hose, and the second a purely handheld version. If you hate ironing or simply prefer to have a quick alternative, a steamer is a wardrobe must. Here are a couple recommended models:

Rowenta Full-Size Garment Floor Steamer

Travel-Sized Handheld PurSteam Fabric Steamer

Need to save some space? Consider buying a combo iron/ironing board/steamer. Space saving has some limitations. This product does not come with a full-size ironing board, nor is the ironing surface at the standard height, but it’s an alternative for men who live in small spaces and need a multi-purpose tool.

Use a real clothes brush and forget the hacks

Forget lint rollers – use a real clothes brush

Clothing Brushes

Lint rollers are a perfect example of “innovation” that actually created worse results than the product they were intended to replace. Clothing brushes were the original lint rollers. Instead of using reversed tape to remove lint and dust from fabrics, a clothing brush uses densely packed bristles to sweep away particles from clothing and other wardrobe staples. There are a few key reasons why it makes sense to toss your tape lint roller and never look back. Firstly, a clothing brush can last a lifetime, and it has no disposable parts to replace. Tape from lint roller is for one-time use only, and the discarded sheets will end up in a landfill. Secondly, the clothes brush simply does a better job. Tape can only lift particles from the surface of a fabric, but can’t remove lint or dust trapped in the weave. The individual bristles of a clothes brush can reach into the weave of a fabric to release more stubborn dust and fibers that shaking and tape can’t reach.

Clothing brushes will help keep your clothes looking clean and lint-free with just a few quick strokes, and they are a one-time investment. We suggest owning a variety of clothing brushes for different parts of your wardrobe. Keep a brush for dusting and cleaning shoes or mocassins. A curved brush is ideal for cleaning hats. A standard rectangular clothes brush works for garments and overcoats.

Light Brown & Blue Socks with Suede Shoes in Brown

Keep your shoe collection looking great with three key accessories

Shoe Accessories

Shoes can be some of the most expensive items in your wardrobe, and for good reason. A quality pair of shoes last you for 10 or more years if they are well cared for, and therefore they are usually worth the higher price tag and the effort to keep them in good shape.

Shoe Horns by Fort Belvedere

Shoe Horns by Fort Belvedere

Shoe Horns

Shoe horns help you get into your shoes easily without damaging the structure of the shoe over time. Even very snugly fit shoes are easy to get into with the help of a shoe horn. To prevent unnecessary wear and tear to the uppers and heels of your shoes, keep an elegant long shoe horn or a standard shoe horn near your shoe closet at all times, and don’t forget to pack a convenient travel-sized shoe horn for airport security.

Reddish Brown Shoes

Shoe trees help your shoes hold their shape after wearing

Shoe Trees

You need shoe trees for the same reason you would use a shoe horn – to protect the longevity of your leather shoe investments. Shoe trees, despite the odd sounding name, are wooden or plastic forms that are shaped like feet. They are inserted into your shoes to help preserve the shape and size of the shoe. Over time, leather shoes can crack, crease and even shrink if they aren’t supported by a shoe tree. We highly recommend purchasing cedar shoe trees for any leather dress shoes that you intend to keep for more than 3 years. Shoe trees should be shaped as much like a foot as possible. Choosing cedar wood as the material has the added bonus that the aromatic wood will help absorb odors and moisture from the leather; plastic will not.

Vintage and beautiful double monk shoes in brown

Vintage and beautifully polished double monk shoes in brown

Shoe Shine Kit

Shoe shining can be outsourced to a professional, but knowing and owning the basics of the craft will save you from having to leave the house at the last minute in unpolished or dirty shoes. A proper shoe shine kit has quite a few elements, but once you’ve made the initial investment, many of them will last for years. To follow the basic process, you will need to clean, condition, and polish shoes.

Cotton garment bags protect off-season clothing

Cotton garment bags protect off-season clothing

Garment Bags

Rotating your garments in and out of storage is a good way to preserve them from dust, moths, and light in the off-season. Garment bags come in a variety of materials. Buy cotton garment bags if weight isn’t an issue. Since they are washable and breathable, they are the best choice if cost isn’t a concern. Otherwise, buy thin plastic or vinyl garment bags to save on both cost and weight. To keep your clothes smelling fresh, add a cedar plank to the bottom of each garment bag.

Cotton storage box

Cotton storage box

Off-Season Storage

For garments that are best stored when folded, the same principles apply to storage boxes as do garment bags. Opt for natural materials as your budget allows, such as soft cotton storage boxes, or use clean plastic totes to seal away winter sweaters. On a side note, moth balls actually work best in a small contained space, so if you have precious natural wool and cashmere sweaters to protect, a plastic tote with some moth balls is a great way to prevent moth holes.

Maintenance Services

While all of the above tools are necessary to properly maintain your wardrobe, there are some things you simply can’t do yourself. Above all, it’s important to find someone you like and trust in each of these categories.

Build a relationship with your alterations tailor

Build a relationship with your alterations tailor

Alterations Tailor

An alterations tailor is the first priority in the service category. Clothes rarely fit well off the rack for any man, so the alterations tailor will likely be your most-used wardrobe service. They can hem pants, let out waistbands, shorten or lengthen sleeves and repair minor wear & tear. Since alterations tailors are highly local, check the local Yelp and Google listings in your area. Finally, don’t feel like you have to work with a professional tailor in a retail storefront; Craigslist and other hyper-local boards may be the best source for inexpensive yet still highly qualified tailoring.

Dry Cleaner

The dry cleaner has become a surprisingly controversial topic in the last few years. It’s a dry, chemical-based process, and it can sometimes feel like the cleaners are more likely to damage your garments than they are to clean them. Even though dry cleaning has been a staple process for men’s attire for decades, the truth is that you should do your best to avoid it. Hang clothes to air out, use clothing brushes to remove dust and lint, and gently spot clean garments before resorting to dry cleaning.

To avoid some of the major pitfalls of dry cleaning, look for an environmentally-friendly cleaner with solid reviews, clear pricing, a transparent loss-and-replacement policy, and an established local reputation. Ideally, your cleaner should clean clothes on their premises to reduce the potential of loss at an outsourced central cleaning facility. Keep track your receipts and try to develop a relationship with the staff.

Sleeves are a bit too long but that's normal

Hats need maintenance and care too

Hat Blocker

If you are a fan of wearing hats, you may want to find a hat blocker. Though the name is deceptive, a hat blocker can typically reshape hats as well as replace hat bands and spot cleaning. They are often difficult to find, so look in a neighboring city if you can’t find one in your immediate area.

Recommended ProductsPrice
Container Store Elfa System$-$$$
Long Hanger Hooker with Wooden Handle$
Acko Folding Step Stool$
Wireless Motion Sensor Lighting$
Butler Luxury Hangers$
Reliable The Board Home Vacuum and Up-Air Pressing Table$$$
Rowenta Pro-Master Micro Steam Iron$$
Black & Decker Advantage Iron$
Rowenta Full-Size Garment Floor Steamer$$
Travel-Sized Handheld PurSteam Fabric Steamer$
PurSteam Dual-Pro Iron & Pressurized Garment Steamer$$$
Rochester 6" Shine Brush$
Fedora Hat Brush$
Konex Handcrafted Clothes Brush$
Fort Belvedere Luxury Shoe Horn with Long 25" Handle$$$
Fort Belvedere Luxury Shoe Horn with 15" Handle$$
Fort Belvedere Luxury Travel Shoe Horn$
Stratton Men's Cedar Shoe Tree$
Saphir Pommadier Cream Polish$
Saphir Medaille D'or 1925 Pate De Luxe Black 50ml Wax Shoe Polish$
Kiwi 100% Horsehair Polish Applicator$
Saphir 7" Natural Horsehair Brush$
Ralyn Brass Suede Brush$
Saphir Polishing Cloths$
Kiwi 11906 2.5 Oz Black Leather Heel & Sole Edge Color Renew$
Saphir Medaille D'or 1925 Pate De Luxe Neutral 50ml Wax Shoe Polish$
Household Essentials Cedarline Collection Natural Cotton Canvas Dress or Suit Garment Bag$
Clear Vinyl Storage Suit Garment Cover$
MyHomeIdeas Natural Cedar Moth Protection Hang Up 8 Pack$
Saphir Shoe Polish - Pate De Luxe$
Ultra Size Foldable Storage Bag$
Sterilite 16448012 16 Quart/15 Liter Storage Box$

Conclusion

In conclusion, wardrobe maintenance isn’t for the faint of heart! It takes a lot of time and deliberate effort your part, but in the long run it’s worth it to preserve your wardrobe and keep it wearable for years to come. What wardrobe maintenance tricks do you have that we forgot to mention here?

 

Summary
Wardrobe Maintenance Essentials
Article Name
Wardrobe Maintenance Essentials
Description
An essential guide in preserving your wardrobe as well as recommendations to keep them lasting longer.
Author
Publisher
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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9 replies
  1. W. ADAM MANDELBAUM says:

    The importance of cedar hang ups to counter moths cannot be overly stressed. Learned the hard way, when some Irish sweaters became Swiss cheese, thanks to the little winged. beasties.

    Reply
  2. Loren says:

    What a great list. It reads like a every gift holiday wish list for me.

    Fortunately, I have many of these items already, although I am slowly replacing some with higher quality versions. However, if/when it is time for the ironing board upgrade, I am also going to spring for a gravity feed steam iron.

    Also, a standing ovation for your view on dry cleaning. I would love to see an in depth exploration of how gentlemen maintained their suits prior to dry cleaning becoming common place.

    In addition to the hand steamer, I also have an older Whirlpool steam cabinet. I use it far more than I do the hand steamer.

    Reply
  3. David H says:

    Hello Sven,

    Thank you for another great article! I am pleased to say that as a disabled person and therefore on an extremely modest budget, I am following all of the points raised! One are that would be well worth expanding upon (and please forgive me if this has already been covered before) is that of the proper way to cream polish and/or wax polish shoes. The modern “squirt and run” products really are no good for quality leather footwear and, the correct way to polish shoes properly is a rapidly dying skill….. Perhaps some men would like to learn this essential skill to keep their shoes in top condition. My oldest pair of shoes is twenty three years old and they still look fabulous!

    Reply
  4. Clint says:

    Hi Sven,
    Great article and good advice on how care for our cloths etc, I have a Closet Maid wardrobe system in my walk-in robe, it is a coated steel rack and rail system, great value for money and gives a lot more room that the standard single shelve and rail.
    Anyway, great stuff, keep up the great work. Cheer’s Clint

    Reply
  5. Simon says:

    Another great article!

    If anyone is sitting on the fence about getting a steamer my advice is: take the plunge.

    You will save a packet not having to get your suits and jackets pressed at the dry cleaners. It is amazing to see the wrinkles “melt away” in seconds. My floor standing Tefal steamer is the best gadget I have bought in years.

    Reply
  6. John says:

    Nice Fedora – what brand and model is it ? I haven’t been able to find one with a high straight crown and mid-size brim. What is the brim size ?

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] are many ways to build and maintain your wardrobe, such as investing in good hangers, storing off-season clothing properly, minimizing dry cleaning, […]

  2. […] a new home built in 1916, and the rooms often have tiny or sometimes oddly shaped closets. With two wardrobes to accommodate, we started looking into various wardrobe / closet systems that help us to get the […]

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