Speaking of fashion being hard on my bank account, I've been reading a couple of men's fashion forums -- Ask Andy About Clothes and StyleForum -- which have got me looking around here for sources of decent dress clothes. I've been doing a few things wrong when clothes shopping for the last little while and have ended up pretty discouraged, but now that I've started to figure out what I'm doing wrong I'm a bit more optimistic. Basically, the first problem is that I've been trying to buy things that I could wear both to work and out and about, which ended up leading me down the path of mediocrity -- conservative and boring all around. So now I realize that I need to have separate wardrobes of office clothes and streetwear, and that things I buy only have to succeed at meeting one or the other of those goals. There'll still be overlap, sure, but I'll be able to concentrate on finding pieces that are really good at one or the other instead of just passable for both.
I'll also be able to spend more time buying things that really, really fit me well and look good on me. Looking through my closet there's way, way too much stuff that makes me just go "meh". Non-fitted Gap polo shirts? Lacoste polos that, when my size were unavailable, I went up a size on? An Old Navy hoodie? Blousy button-down oxfords? What the hell was I thinking?
Also I am not allowed to buy anything from the Gap other than t-shirts, boxers, socks, and maybe jeans. Even then, the guys on styleforum have convinced me that I should try raw denim: plain, un-stonewashed indigo denim that you wear for about six months prior to washing, so the fading on the legs and the whiskering at the top of the leg and back of the knees and so on is all real from you having worn the jeans. Regardless of what you think of the idea of raw denim, that's the sort of thing that I was ignoring before, because I couldn't wear something like that both at work and on the street.
The folks on the forums have a bit more expensive taste than I do -- Allen-Edmonds shoes, Oxxford and Brioni suits, Nudie jeans, and so on -- but they pull it off because they already have a good idea of what they want so they can hit discount sales and Ebay to find it. I'm going to have to ramp up a bit more slowly and with some of the midrange stores like Banana Republic, Mexx, and Club Monaco, I guess. (Although a day-trip to Montreal just to go to Zara and H&M is tempting), and I need to figure out what department-store shirt brands fit me well, and I need to find a good local alterations tailor.
But I'm getting back on the right track, at least. It feels a bit weird, but I do enjoy being in the middle of the whole menswear industry, and I enjoy taking the trouble to get things that look great, so I figure it's just another hobby.