Problems of the Rich: My Wardrobe Malfunction

For some, turning back the clock this weekend is a signal that it’s time to move clothes from the summer wardrobe to the winter wardrobe. However, my clothing storage arrangements revolve around “fat” and “thin” clothes.

The last weekend was spent filling my big-drobe in the spare bedroom, because the diet I was on really paid off. I have now lost three stones (19kg) and I continue. My new problem is that I have a fairly small collection of clothes that still fit or fit me.

As the world opens up and the occasions requiring formal wear begin to arrive, this poses a few issues. Should I invest thousands of pounds in smart new outfits now, or hold on fire until I hit my target weight?

My recent wardrobe migration was prompted by an invitation to lunch at the Ritz, which ended in awkward fine print – a reminder that the dress code required gentlemen to wear a shirt, tie, and jacket (and no jeans). Panic!

Sadly, stifling dress codes have not been a victim of the pandemic. Yet my old suit jackets now swell like sails. So I delved deeply into my thin dress to find more vintage pieces that would suit the bill.

Styles have changed somewhat over the decade or more that most of these suits and blazers languished deep in the wardrobe.

The labels are good – an Etro, a Hackett and even a Gucci which originally cost around £ 2,500. They fit me pretty well now, but the fit dates a bit from the early 2000s. The waists tended to be too high and the lower legs too soft. And the buttons of the blazer would need a good polish.

The real test of an old costume? An unexpected downpour. A light soak usually confirms whether a costume has aged well or not. If it’s over it’s better, your nostrils will soon be assaulted by a pretty puff of old dog.

None of this mattered, however, as I walked into the Ritz on a sunny fall day in clothes that could have suited my slim physique in 2010 (I owe this carbon dating to a old receipt that I found stuffed in a pocket from its last outing).

Having not been out much in 18 months, I could see that I wasn’t the only man with a faulty wardrobe. Looking around the dining room, some of the guests had clearly been rushed like a vacuum cleaner in the required attire. Others had plundered their classic wardrobe for a “timeless” look. Chef John Williams went out of his way to tempt us with a visually stunning lunch that thankfully didn’t require any adjustment to the pants buttons.

After the pandemic, I go out to more breakfasts, meetings, and membership clubs. If the slimming diet continues, I will reach my target weight in the new year. The question is, do I have to spend the money on intermediate parts to help me out or hang on with an old-fashioned look?

I love a Gieves & Hawkes suit, but the lapels and shoulders of my skinny dress are too big and too padded. Wear this kind of outfit to a business meeting and you’ll walk away empty-handed. But looking at the prices of something I’ll wear once in a blue moon, it’s hard to justify the £ 995 price tag for a plug-and-play replacement.

As I gained weight, buying new clothes was easy and inexpensive. I sat at home, zooming in on massive one-size-fits-all jeans, t-shirts and shirts.

More elegant purchases require a much larger initial investment. I’m going to spend £ 90 on a Ralph shirt, but I would hesitate to drop £ 2,620 on a Tom Ford velor jacket of Prince William’s favorite genre.

And if you’re going to spend that kind of money, you have to find the time to shop in person. The convenience of buying online is balanced by the ease of making terrible mistakes and the super slim return window for designer products. I discovered it the hard way with a Moncler vest that the other third generously bought for me last Christmas. Now that I’m about to become the other half, it’s finally okay.

As temperatures drop and more and more of us return to the office, the trade-off between comfort and style has never been more acute.

On a recent trip to town, I observed the big age difference that has emerged with corporate dress codes. For older men, the return to the Square Mile sparked a suit and sometimes tie approach. Because many changed shape during the pandemic, most of them are ill-suited.

However, for the youngest, jeans, sneakers and vests are the order of the day. Even banks find it difficult to dictate appropriate dress code, as they desperately want their staff to be in the workplace. They also don’t want to alienate millennial talents who may be attracted to tech companies that are much less prescriptive about their working conditions and offer the ability to wear what they love.

Even I admit that my off-duty wardrobe requires a refresh. Re-wearing some of my more casual outfits might make it look like I’m having a midlife crisis. The last time I was able to slip into 34 inch jeans, the only style available was skinny. A 51-year-old man shouldn’t wear skinny jeans, whether they’re his size or made from sustainably sourced denim.

My final sartorial lesson from Lockdown is that being fat damages the right clothes. They expand on the way up, but will never recover from stretching on rolls of fat. Cashmere sweaters become saggy and loose. What about underwear? The elastic stretches, but mine has been so strained that the belts no longer tighten the torso.

I’m not against replacing my current stock of pantage, but the problem here is that most manufacturers seem to have changed their designs. I’m not a fan of underwear that doesn’t have front access. This makes a trip to the bathroom incredibly awkward, requiring either a cubicle or full pants unfolding with confidence (well in the privacy of your own home, but not quite as I envisioned the return to the office).

The hunt for replacements has therefore begun. At £ 50 a piece you pay extra for faster access at Tom Ford, but how can that be justified when the previous supplier (Jack Wills) charged £ 25 for three?

Fortunately, I came across a neat solution. Nine years ago Aubin & Wills (the senior citizen’s Jack Wills) went out of business. A lot of older guys like me were in mourning. But now Aubin is back with an investment from Next, and – hurray – they sell standard boxers with front access at a reasonable price of £ 36 for three.

It is a resolved dilemma. For now, I have decided to lie by saying that I chose to save the planet (but really my bank balance) by continuing to wear my old clothes. But come the January sales, I’m going to rinse the stores and dry my wallet.

James Max is a radio host and real estate expert. The opinions expressed are personal. Twitter: @thejamesmax



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