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Formal

Wardrobe Preservation | Taking Care of Your Clothes

Hang up your clothes!  I can still hear my mother’s unrelenting words from days gone by, when she futilely attempted to get me to take care of my clothes.  As usual, she was right, which I’ve grown to learn over the years.

You may have the best wardrobe in town, but if you don’t take care of it properly, you won’t have it for long; not to mention it won’t look its best on you.  Clothing needs to be maintained correctly in order to extend its life expectancy and condition.  A wardrobe that doesn’t look fresh will undermine your greatest attempts at looking good.  Let’s take a look at some of the basic rules of clothing care, so you’ll be able to keep your wardrobe looking as good tomorrow as it looks today.

This one’s for you, mom… Hang up your clothes, at least the pieces whose shape needs to be preserved; suit jackets, sport coats, blazers, jackets and coats, and any clothing you want to keep wrinkle free.  It’s so easy to just toss a jacket onto a chair and let it stay there until you wear it again, but during that time, while it helplessly lies in a heap, it’s losing its shape and structure because it’s not being properly supported by a sturdy coat hanger.  That’s a rule of thumb to keep in mind no matter what price tag is attached to your clothes.

When threads have worn thin, or clothing is damaged, retire it.  Wearing clothes that are stained or torn only detract from your image.  Be sure to inspect clothes frequently for problems, and remove any unsalvageable items.

Address stains and soil quickly, before they embed themselves permanently.  This leads me to laundry soap.  We typically use more detergent than is necessary to adequately wash clothing, especially when laundering dress shirts and slacks, which tend not to get as soiled as clothing we wear for leisure: t-shirts, jeans, etc.  I know the manufactures specify using a certain amount, but keep in mind, their interest is selling as much of their product as possible.  Being conservative with the detergent will actually extend your wardrobe’s life.  So, try reducing the amount a bit, and see what results you get.

You pretty much get what you pay for when it comes to laundry detergent.  The less expensive brands can be harsh on clothing, causing the material to fade and breakdown quicker than when using a premium detergent.  Buy the best product you can, but still consider using less.  Remember to choose the proper temperature setting when washing clothes, which can often be found on detergent bottles and clothing tags.  While hot and warm water are good at dissolving dirt, today’s laundry detergents are effective in cold water, which reduces fading.

I know how tempting it is to throw all your dirty clothes in the washer together at the same time, but doing so will cause them to take on each other’s colors.  Separate your laundry by color – whites with whites, lights with lights and darks with darks.  This way your jeans won’t make your white t-shirts blue.  It takes a little more effort, but is definitely worth keeping your clothes their original color.

Fabric softeners make clothes smell good, feel soft and reduce static.  Name brands seem to get better ratings than store-name brands in general, but it’s safe to try various brands, since there is not much difference between them.  However, there are some drawbacks to using fabric softeners.  Besides the additional chemicals the product puts on clothing that comes into contact with our skin; whether it’s liquid softener or dryer sheets, these products build up in the washing machine and dryer.  Oily buildup in washers often result in greasy stains on clothes, and dryer sheets tend to coat the lint trap in dryers, reducing air flow; making it necessary to run the dryer longer in order to completely dry the clothes.  Consequently, clothes are exposed to additional heat, which is also detrimental to the clothing’s integrity.  Baking soda is a nice alternative to fabric softener.  Adding ½ cup to the washer during the rinse cycle will make clothes soft, eliminate odors and won’t build up in the machines.  Baking soda is a lot cheaper, too.  Weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself.

Not all clothing can be washed at home.  Suits, sport jackets and coats must be dry cleaned.  Many prefer to have dress shirts and sweaters dry cleaned, as well.  If ever in doubt, check the tag inside the clothing, which will give laundering recommendations.  Should there not be a tag, play it safe and dry clean.  Dry cleaning definitely has its advantages because it eliminates time and energy doing laundry; plus clothes come back ironed and pressed and looking their best.  However, there’s a substantial price tag attached to dry cleaning, so if need be, save dry cleaning for suits and other clothing that can’t be washed at home.

There is controversy to dry cleaning because of the toxic chemicals typically used.  There are now dry cleaners that use safe, non-toxic chemicals and technologies to clean, so if this is a concern, investigate your area for a “green” dry cleaner.

Ok, stepping out of the laundry room, let’s discuss the care of specific articles of clothing.

Suits

Suits are typically the most expensive clothing in your closet.  Special care and attention should be given to them, so they will last for years and look great every time you wear them.  There’s not a lot to it; just some practical and common sense approaches that will keep them in top condition.

  • Dry clean your suit after about every third time you wear it, or as needed if it becomes soiled.  Excessive dry cleaning damages fabric, so minimizing the dry cleaning will lengthen the life of the suit.
  • Always have the entire suit dry cleaned at the same time.  Even if one of the pieces doesn’t need it or hasn’t been worn; in order to keep uniform color throughout the suit, all pieces must be cleaned at the same time, every time.
  • As soon as you bring your suit home from the dry cleaner’s, remove the plastic bag and air it out to rid it of any cleaning solution odors.
  • Hang the suit on a good quality, wide wooden hanger, which offers sufficient shoulder support.  Metal and plastic hangers bend and crack, causing the jacket to collapse and lose its shape.  It may not seem important, but the use of a sturdy hanger will preserve the tailor-made shape of the jacket; extending its life and making a difference in how it looks on you.  There are several companies who offer various hanger sizes, which makes sense.  Jackets are not one size fits all, so why should hangers be?  This is a great option, especially for the big guy.
  • There are several types of pant hangers.  Many suit hangers come with cross-bars or clips.  Avoid those that crease or leave indentations on the fabric.  When hanging pants over a bar, even them out so the weight is equally balanced and distributed, which should prevent them from sliding off the hanger.
  • Hanging a suit outside the closet to breathe for a day, after you wear it, permits odors and moisture to escape before storing it in the closet.
  • Use of a suit or clothes brush removes hair, lint and debris that collect on the suit while wearing.  It’s recommended to brush a suit after wearing it, every time it’s worn; which is especially beneficial for wool suits.  There are various types and qualities of brushes.  Whether the fibers are synthetic or natural animal hair, choose one that’s soft, and only use it on clothing!
  • Store suits in a garment bag to protect them from dust, pet hair, dirt, etc.  Make sure suits have room to hang in the closet without being jammed and crammed in between other clothes, which will cause wrinkles and misshape the suit.  Hanging suits at the very end of the closet is a smart way to keep them safe and away from everyday closet activity.
  • Before hanging a suit jacket, remove all contents of the pockets, so they won’t be weighed down and misshaped.  Keep the jacket unbuttoned while on the hanger.
  • Suits, especially pants, often require ironing in between dry cleaning.  If you’re not able to iron it yourself, bring it to the dry cleaners and request ironing or pressing only.
  • When you’re unable to hang a jacket up, turn it inside out and bring the shoulders together, which will help keep its shape and protect the outside from getting soiled.

 

Sport Jackets and Blazers

  • All the same rules apply to these as suit jackets.  See above.

 

Dress Shirts

  • Always wash a brand new shirt to remove the toxic chemicals on the material, so they won’t get onto your skin.  Washing also removes creases and softens the fabric.  Use a gentle cycle when washing dress shirts, and wash with like or similar colors and fabric.  Use a low heat setting when drying in a dryer, and remember not to dry longer than necessary in order to protect the shirt.
  • When ironing a dress shirt, check the shirt tag and set the iron on the appropriate setting for that specific material, so not to scorch the shirt.  Irons that are too cool will not sufficiently remove wrinkles.  It’s easier to remove wrinkles if the shirt is slightly damp. Since starch can deteriorate cloth over time, using a light starch is best.
  • Dress shirts can be dry cleaned; however, white shirts often yellow in time from the cleaning solution.
  • Avoid wire hangers, since the ends can damage the fabric.  It’s best to use a wider hanger; plastics are acceptable.

 

Slacks and Pants

  • Dry cleaning is always an option, but if you choose to launder at home, wash and dry according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, which is typically found on an inside tag.
  • Be sure to wash similar colors together to avoid getting lighter pants stained by darker pants, should colors bleed and run together.  This is smart tip for washing all laundry.
  • Pressing all slacks and pants that are not wrinkle-free is best to give a fresh, crisp appearance.  Again, iron according to directions.  Pay attention to line the crease up evenly before ironing to avoid making a second crease.

 

Jeans

  • Denim is easy to care for since it’s a strong material; however it does have its issues.  Cotton jeans bleed when washed the first few times, so wash them separately.  I recommend using cold water to avoid shrinkage, and don’t dry them in a dryer unless it’s okay that they shrink a bit because they always do.  If not, air dry them.  Always avoid bleach… it’s denim’s greatest enemy!

 

Sweaters

  • My number one pet peeve with sweaters is the “nipple” or “pucker” I often see on top of the shoulder.  These protrusions exist because the sweater was hung on a hanger.  I don’t care what type hanger you use, sweaters are not meant to be hung up!  Hanging also stretches and causes a sweater to lose its shape.
  • Hand washing sweaters with mild detergent will add years to their life.  At the very least, wash on a gentle cycle in the washing machine with cold water.  Never twist or wring a sweater out to remove excess water because it will misshape it.  Press the water out after rinsing, and lay it on a flat surface on top of a towel to air dry.
  • It’s best to avoid drying sweaters in a dryer, particularly cotton and wool sweaters.  The heat will cause them to shrink.  Synthetic yarns can often be dried without fear of shrinkage; however, the dryer often causes sweater material to get those nasty little fuzzy balls, which make the sweater look old.  It’s safest to air dry all sweaters.
  • About those little balls… I remember watching mom shave her sweaters.  It definitely works, but I do recall her cutting a few, so be very careful.
  • Sweaters can also be dry cleaned, which is the best option for some fabrics, especially wool and cashmere.
  • Fold sweaters so there is no center crease.  Definitely not a good look!

 

T-shirts, Socks and Underwear

  • These don’t really require anything special as far as maintenance.  Just remember the laundering rules, and to throw out any pieces that get holey or stained.  Nothing’s kills the mood like a pair of briefs with a disconnected waistband!

 

Coats and Jackets

  • There are countless types of coats and jackets, but things they have in common are the need of a wide wooden hanger and dry cleaning when needed.
  • Leather outerwear requires maintenance to keep the leather clean, supple and waterproof.  Use only leather approved products when cleaning and conditioning.  Do not over use products for they will build up on the leather, impairing its ability to breathe and look its best.  Always hang leather coats on a wide, padded hanger in order to protect the leather from any punctures.  Never store leather in a plastic bag or garment bag because it needs to breathe.

 

Shoes and Boots

  • Keep them clean and polished and they’ll serve you well for years.
  • If odor is a problem, buy or use any of the many remedies to refresh your shoes.  Keeping your feet dry and wearing breathable cotton socks often prevents this problem from occurring.

 

Belts and Ties

  • The best thing you can do for either of these is hang them up.  Hanging will keep ties from wrinkling, and belts from losing their shape.  If ties get wrinkled and need pressing, place a handkerchief or thin piece of cloth over them to protect the fabric from hot heat and steam, since ties are very delicate and get damage easily.  They can also be dry cleaned.
  • Clean and condition leather belts to keep them looking good.  Check out my article “Belts 101” for more ideas on belt care.

 

Invest in a lint roller and use it when clothing has lint or pet hair on it.  You don’t want people to know you have pets by looking at your clothes.  With three cats in my house, I have multiple rollers!

We have it really easy in this day and age with all the convienent, easy-care fabrics on the market.  Caring for clothes has never been less complicated and more of a no-brainer; making it something everyone can do.  Put the time into maintaining your wardrobe, so it will look its best and reflect your alpha image!

by Aaron Marino


Past Topics

New Topics Added Weekly!
All About Men's Slacks | Khakis, Chinos, Dress Pants -
January 13, 2012
Modern Tailor | Custom Tailored Pants Men's Khakis and Slacks | Proper Fitting Pants Alpha can't stand shopping for pants off-the-rack. He doesn't love the fit, so he buys a pants that are passable and not 'great'. Aaron Marino of alpha m. covers the three most common pants as well as the difference between khakis and chinos. Khakis: Guys love khakis that refer to color and style. They fit the aveRead More»
Belts 101 -
December 18, 2011
Belts, both functional and fashionable, come in an assortment of styles, colors and types, and without one, make a pair of pants look naked. Like everything else we wear, belts are a reflection of our personality and fashion sense, and have the ability to make or break an outfit. Belts give our body a balanced look, separating our upper from our lower; creating symmetry no matter what our shape orRead More»
Men's Pant Rise | Standard, Mid, Low -
December 18, 2011
Aaron Marino of alpha m. discusses the pant rise which is the distance between the waist band to the bottom of the crotch. A standard rise is about 12 inches. 'Standard' was standard back in the 50's and 60's, which they wore their pants at their belly button. We currently wear pants around our natural waist. Designers are now making low and mid rises (8 to 11 inches) making the pant fit better wiRead More»
How To Buy A Men’s Suit -
December 16, 2011
Nothing makes us feel quite as attractive and confident as a well fitting suit. Wearing it has a way of making us feel powerful, and tends to bring out the best in us. As a main player in everyman’s wardrobe arsenal, I recommend owning at least one suit; preferably more to include a variety of colors and fabrics. Time and time again, I hear men express concerns about buying a suit, so I’ve wriRead More»

Smoke and Mirrors | Short Men’s Fashion -
December 16, 2011
Hello!  My name is Aaron Marino and I’m five feet-six inches tall.  If you’re one of the millions classified as short, I understand the wardrobe challenges we have.  Dressing can be especially frustrating and disappointing – from finding the right clothing to wearing it properly –  so, I’d like to share what I call the “smoke and mirrors” way of dressing to look taller. This artiRead More»
Improving Your Style from the Far East -
December 16, 2011
Over the past year, I have had the fortunate opportunity to visit Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea on separate occasions for leisure. During each of my trips to these east Asian countries, I not only experienced a wholly different culture, complete with unique languages, customs, and foods, but also the distinct styles expressed by the people in each country. I really did not know what to expect Read More»
Out the Door Checklist | Preparing for a Date -
December 14, 2011
So, you are going out on the town.  It may be a hot date you have been working towards for months, or it may be your wedding anniversary, and you are surprising your wife with a well planned night on the town.  This night is special for more than just one reason. You took extra time and care while picking out what to wear. You put on a bit more deodorant (not your typical single swipe applicatioRead More»
Men's Dress Shirt Collar Options | Point, Tab, Pinned, Spread Collars -
September 30, 2011
To start, Alpha thought it would be wise by starting with an explanation of collar construction: collar points, collar point length, collar band, collar height, tie space, and spread. Now, Aaron Marino of alpha m. discusses collar styles. Obscure Varieties Band  - collar without the collar! It sucks. Don't wear! Stafford  - it's like ... uh... makes Alpha smile. Wing Up  - associated with tuxeRead More»
Wear a Vest and Kill It | Men's Dress, Casual, and Sweater Vests -
September 23, 2011
Alpha used to think vests looked amazing on other men but not him. But he realized he was being a pussy so he got a vest and looked awesome! He even got a compliment! That's all it took. He's now a vest wearing slut. Aaron Marino of alpha m. presents different kinds of vest and how to wear them. Vests are a great option for the layering enthusiast- adding character, depth, and dimension to what coRead More»

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