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Buy Menswear at Department Stores, Not Mall Boutiques

Before I started my new job, my fiancĂ©e kindly bought for me a nice set of buttoned down shirts and ties from the local department store (JC Penney) since it coincided nicely with my birthday in August. Since then I’ve purchased a few more shirts and ties (last night I pulled the trigger on a new dark navy suit and a charcoal pinstripe suit from Men’s Warehouse!) and quickly realized the incredible disparity in prices between a department store like Macy’s and JC Penney’s versus a Mall “Boutique” store like Banana Republic or Express. (I didn’t even consider the high end men’s clothiers like Brooks Brothers or Joseph A. Banks where polo shirts are like $80 a pop)

Don’t develop the mall boutique mentality. My generation sees the stores like Express and Banana as the cool, trendy, and classy stores; we see the department stores as stodgy, older, catalog-type stores that probably won’t have anything that appeals to us. The mentality is that you start your shopping in the mall and then trickle into the department stores if you have time to kill.

Flip that thinking around. The styles in those boutiques will appeal to our generation because they cater to us (the twenty- and thirty-somethings) but the real value lies in the racks of department stores. The prices are more reasonable because as a business professional you’ll be buying lots of shirts and ties and pants, so they want you coming back after you realize how good of a deal you’ve gotten.

A nice button down shirt (for someone in their twenties) should cost you between $20 and $30 a piece. I usually try to go with wrinkle-free or iron-free shirts because they require little to no ironing (crucial, as my friend Chih-Wei would say). What I don’t understand is how places like Banana Republic can get away with selling a shirt for $60? What’s even more ludicrous is that they sell ties for $50! With ties I understand the need for quality because of the abuse these strips of fabric take. However, you can buy three ties at Macy’s for the price of one tie at Banana Republic. That’s just plain crazy.