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.
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 basic 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:
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.
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, is 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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
- Water-based polish emulsion for regular polishing and medium shine
- Turpentine-based wax shoe polish, such as Saphir, for adding high shine on tips and heel caps
- Several brushes: a horsehair polish applicator brush & a rectangular brush for dusting and shining
- A brass brush for suede
- Soft rags or shining cloth for buffing
- Nylon or microfiber cloth for getting the final shine; old pantyhose work well for this too
- A toothbrush for small details
- Edge dressing for sole and heel edges
- A neutral polish as well as colored polishes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 of your receipts and try to develop a relationship with the staff.
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.
In conclusion, wardrobe maintenance isn’t for the faint of heart! It takes a lot of time and deliberate effort on 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?