Money, Menswear, and Us (or Is Money Important for Style?)

A podcast and brief essay about money, our career, and how it affects my method in buying menswear.

Some Thoughts

The answer to the title question, put quite bluntly, is yes. But the explanation requires a bit of context, at least in my life. And you’ll soon see, in these words and in the podcast, that it’s not always needed for style. It certainly helps though.

Money, career, and lifestyle are all important things for menswear. Unfortunately, I don’t have much experience with many of those things. I started the blog at age 19 during a particularly stressful early quarter life crisis- finished with a major I didn’t enjoy and with no experience to be employable. It’s the main reason why I’m particularly tightfisted with my money and why every purchase has to be intentional (thankfully my theory of alternatives results in a very versatile vintage-contemporary wardrobe).

I knew I wasn’t going to have the same finance/law career as many other menswear enthusiasts (mainstream, at least). I also knew that despite the blog and Instagram, I wasn’t necessarily well connected to work directly in it; moving also takes a lot of money and my personality is a bit risk-averse. All of this make me very blessed and lucky to be where I am today and to be able to have the wardrobe I do.

That’s why I decided to do a podcast on this topic and have a clear and candid conversation about how money (and career choices) affect the way we acquire menswear. As we say in the pod, Spencer and I still live at home. We make enough money to pay our bills and comfortably enjoy menswear, but certainly not in the way we’d like to- obviously, some of the best stuff is quite expensive and it would irresponsible for us to buy bespoke or the rarest milsurp, at least at this stage in our lives.

You’ll learn that for years, we seldom bought anything besides clothes, which thanks to quarantine, we have slowly remedied. However, the fact that we don’t really eat out has certainly helped cull our expenses. In short, many of our clothes were bought discounted and secondhand- this is due to keen eyes on eBay/fleamarkets or the wonderful friends we’ve made in menswear who give us a bit of a homie discount (or a gift) on rare occasions. That latter note is incredibly important to me, as I try to emphasize it every time I am given something, whether it was my Aldens or my Ascot Chang suit, which I could never have been able get on my own (for now at least).

It’s certainly been a unique journey, but don’t get me wrong- I’d be happy to pay the appropriate price for the few high end garments we have- it would have just taken us a long time to get there. And believe me when I say that I would never have been able to afford it without that assistance (or I would, but then I wouldn’t be able to pay for my car). Not only that, but gave me actual experience with the brands that I’ve only heard about (and dreamed of wearing).

I’m sure it’s a marketing ploy in a sense. Being gifted a pair of Aldens from Brogue ensured that I would be an Alden guy forever. Now I’ve bought Aldens all on my own, as I am confident in my size and how to wear it. The same could be said of Drake’s ties or even Ascot Chang bespoke shirts. The fact that I worked at the later means that I could never go to any other shirtmaker, since I know they make the details I want. Luckily for my bank account, my shirts aren’t going to be replaced anytime soon.

That point on details is certainly important, as we’ve maintained that certain things are just worth the money, provided that they are important to you. I don’t want to say that everything can be approximated, because that’s simply not true. If we want certain novel designs on our ties and jaunty scarves, we will have to get Drake’s. Spearpoints need to be made by Ascot Chang. Aldens make the best shoes that fit within my desired last and aesthetic. Some trousers are better done custom, since Polo RL varies, in terms of details and eBay availability. Of course, certain vintage garments are pricey as well, mainly due to the necessary details. Basically, if we really like it, we don’t mind spending money on it (within reason).

The pod isn’t dark at all, but it is serious in parts, especially considering that after three years of working in menswear, I was forced by the pandemic to find something new. Spencer even details his uncertainty around his major (which he is currently still studying). This leads to a bit of a disconnect that we have with the rest of the menswear world. Most of the young guys in menswear work directly in the industry, usually in big cities like NYC or London. This leads to an enriched menswear experience that we, as remote guys not in menswear (other than our pod/stream/blog) do not have. We also are detached from the more “grown-up” menswear enthusiasts who are often in a better place to regularly (within reason) to buy the brands we enjoy. It was important for me to make this distinction on the pod.

The other side of the pod is quite positive, I think. We maintain that you don’t need a lot of money to have great style. Instead, the lack of it (at least compared to other enthusiasts), allows you to be creative in your search. This could mean buying vintage sack jackets to approximate the soft shouldered, 3-roll-2 sportcoats that are currently en vogue. Or maybe it requires hunting at a flea market to find a vintage leather jacket since you can’t really afford to commission something beautiful from Himel Bros.

I think that many of our IRL friends who aren’t in the industry or have finance/law jobs think of clothing in the same way. Countless pals and members of our Discord use grailed and eBay to supplement their wardrobe, both from brands and good vintage. This is also why I try not to focus on brand recommendations on the the blog/podcast. Obviously there are plenty of brands and stores that we enjoy, but when I bring them up, it’s mainly to talk about style inspiration and the approach to creating these outfits rather then the pieces you absolutely need or the brands that you should buy from next. There’s nothing wrong with expanding your wardrobe, but it should be done with a great deal of introspection and conscious look at your own spending ability.

That’s why good style doesn’t require lots of money. It can help, but it wasn’t a huge factor for Spencer and me. Don’t get me wrong though, some items definitely were pricey, but we wanted them for sure. It gives us a sense of accomplishment and restraint, knowing that we were intentional in our purchase rather than trying to skimp out. Of course, we do have a pretty large wardrobe in comparison to some other people, but we gathered it quite conservatively (and at the expense of some other life enjoyments). I expect this will change in the future as Spencer and I move forward in our lives and career. For now, as young 20-year-olds, we do what we can to responsibly enjoy our menswear hobby.

I hope you guys enjoy this latest podcast entry! Obviously this is just to be transparent with all of you, as I do get a few curious cats about my job and life situation. Hopefully now you’ll understand why I buy what I buy, why I haven’t tried bespoke regularly, and why I’m not constantly on the prowl for new clothing (hence why a majority of this blog is based on style choices rather than pieces). In the end, I just want to make sure that I love what I buy. Sometimes it’s impulsive and slightly irresponsible (no boba for a week!) or its calculated and saved for.

Podcast Outline

  • 0:15 – Intro
  • 0:45 – “So JFK got on the radio and said ‘Hey I’m going to be in Dallas, hope nothing bad happens,’ you’ve got to admit he had it coming.”
  • 4:00 – Money in Menswear
  • 6:30 – “Money’s important in menswear; if you like menswear you tend to like high class things. Fancy food, fancy cars, it’s expensive.”
  • 8:40 – Our Situations
  • 8:40 – “People assume a lot of things when you’re into menswear, but to be clear: I’m 25 years old, I graduated college a couple years ago with an MBA, still live at home, I’m not making bespoke money. I don’t think I’ve ever made enough to fit into that classic menswear lifestyle.”
  • 10:25 – “For a lot of the brands we admire, we mostly have to do window shopping or buying the cheaper version.”
  • 11:25 – “I like most of everything in my closet, there are some nice pieces from brands like Drake’s, but it’s also padded out with less expensive brands or vintage.”
  • 15:10 – “It would be nice to not live at home, but then we’d be living paycheck to paycheck. And all our friends are spread out…Spencer and I are 50 miles apart.”
  • 20:00 – “Working social media marketing in a niche industry isn’t that attractive to other jobs, it’s hard to move from menswear somewhere else, especially outside sales.”
  • 21:20 – “I make impulsive purchases sometimes but I still get stressed out when I spend a large amount of money, so I try not to do it as much…it’s got to be something you’re going to actually wear.”
  • 22:05 – “There’s a certain point with large purchases that you’re gonna have to bite the bullet, if it’s something that you like. But do budget!”
  • 22:20 – Our Futures
  • 22:55 – “I don’t need sunglasses for the future, it’s not very bright.”
  • 24:05 – “There’s always going to be a disconnect between the lives we lead and the typical menswear enthusiast.”
  • 25:40 – “You can’t save your way to being rich.”
  • 30:05 – Is Money Important for Good Style?
  • 30:15 – “You can have good style without spending a lot of money, but it’s hard to dress the way we do on a limited college student budget.”
  • 32:55 – “You don’t always have to spend a lot of money, but the good shit costs a lot of money.”
  • 33:20 – “Details matter; a Uniqlo sport coat can have organic materials and soft shoulders, but there’s no canvas, three roll two, extended shoulders…once you get those details, you realize you can’t get them until you buy Spier & Mackay, Drake’s or Ring Jacket.”
  • 39:20 – “Spencer and I have been into vintage since high school, we’ve kept our eyes open whenever possible, Etsy, ebay, facebook groups. You have to be lucky.”
  • 40:20 – Approximation
  • 40:45 – “Getting into fashion through vintage, when we see clothing designers are making, we can spot the references. Then we find out where to get the original.”
  • 45:40 – “A lot of our basics are from Uniqlo. Some sweatshirts, base layer turtlenecks, socks. We don’t shop there for everything, but it’s good for filling gaps and experimentation.”
  • 48:05 – “If you want to find a bunch of really cool clothes for dirt cheap, go to your local flea market.”
  • 49:45 – Who You Know Can Help
  • 58:05 – “The reason our wardrobes are where they’re at is because of luck, friendships, and being ready for those discounts when presented.”
  • 1:01:00 – “You can have luck, you can have friends, but the real secret is to have lucky friends…who are Leprechauns and can grant you wishes.”

Recommended Links:

And now enjoy some pictures of us, wearing vintage, modern, secondhand, gifts, and everything in between!

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My Barn Coat, given to me by J. Crew SCP for this event. Also wearing a Drake’s tie (purchased from their archive sale), an Ascot Chang spearpoint (a part of my “uniform), and a MTM cotton suit done by friend Atelier Fugue.
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A vintage 1940’s style suit worn with a gifted Drake’s tie and shell Aldens I saved up for during the summer.
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A thrifted sack jacket, eBay-ed Brooks shirt, and clearance J. Crew cords.
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We wear a lot of sack jackets because they’re well made, interesting, and quite contemporary if the styling is right!
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My Ascot Chang suit (given to me during my tenure), Drake’s scarf from the Archive sale, and gifted Aldens from Brogue.
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An Informale vest gifted to me by Steve Calder.
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Spencer wearing a Proper Cloth jacket he won in a contest and MTM Stoffa trousers that he bought himself.
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My Ring Jacket Blazer bought during their summer quarantine sale, worn with thrifted chinos.
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1940’s jacket with Uniqlo pants. Nothing wrong with mixing!
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A second-hand RRL popover bought from a friend.
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Ring Jacket (bought in Japan) and my Drake’s scarf.
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Spencer’s vintage jacket and OG-107s, purchased from different vintage stores. The Aloha was thrifted.
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Joyce randomly gifted me this!
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Spencer’s Drake’s chambray he bought on sale.
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Informale shorts given to me by the Bloke after interviewing Steve Calder!
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Spencer’s camo jungle jacket that he got at a flea market, worn with Grant Stone pennys.
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Spier & Mackay jacket worn with Drake’s tie (on sale) and custom Hertling trousers. Oh, and Aldens I bought before quarantine!
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Ring Jacket (bought during the Bloke’s closure) and Hertling trousers.
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Spencer’s Drake’s Madras with a flea market HBT chore coat.
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Ascot Chang suit and shirt worn with a Drake’s MTO tie given to me for my birthday.
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A 1940’s suit I got for $120 with an LVC sawtooth from the flea market.
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J. Crew cord chore coat and a second-hand LVC sawtooth from a friend.
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A rare Lee chore coat and second hand Alden Indy boots, worth every penny.
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Tweed jacket from Ebay, worn with Drake’s and Craftsman Clothing cords (I work there).
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Spier & Mackay cord suit, one of my favorites.
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Spencer got this Barbour from the flea market and the cord jacket from Goodwill.
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Spier & Mackay with 1950’s flannels from eBay.
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Ring Jacket and a thrifted shirt. Mixing is essential!
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Spier & Mackay has been good for a lot of menswear stuff I’ve been into, like navy jackets and cord pants.
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Spencer in a Uniqlo jacket and J. Crew cords.
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True vintage WWII pants. A bit expensive, but worth it.
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Ring Jacket (I bought in Japan) with a Drake’s sweater vest (on sale). Thrifted shirt and tie.
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All second hand.
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This MTM suit was given to me at a slight discount from Natty Adams.
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Another Atelier Fugue suit with a bespoke fedora, gifted me by Cody Wellema after I was his photographer for a year.
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Uniqlo jacket and pants.
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Spencer’s Proper Cloth jacket and a Drake’s shirt.
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A good approximation of a Drake’s look using vintage jacket, tie, and jeans. The shirt is Drake’s.
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Spencer’s Real McCoy’s N-1, bought second hand from a friend.
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My Wellema.
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A Bronson vest is a good alternative to a Browns Beach.
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A bespoke Wellema fedora I ordered during quarantine.

Thanks for listening and reading along! Don’t forget to support us on Patreon to get some extra content and access to our exclusive Discord. We also stream on Twitch and upload the highlights to Youtube.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan M. Wong

The Podcast is produced by MJ and Matthew.

Big thank you to our top tier Patrons (the SaDCast Fanatics):  Seth Peterson, Austin Malott, Eric Hall, Philip Gregard, and Shane Curry.

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