We've gotten a lotttt of questions over the last few months about clothing care. Which feels good. If we're doing our job, our customers have fewer things in their closets, but all better quality and intended to be enjoyed for the long haul. For me, part of the fun of clothes (most things, actually) is getting into the liner notes. It’s like oiling your baseball mitt before and after the Little League season. So with that, here are my personal best practices for all 6 of you, and anyone else wondering how to take care of your clothes. In general, most of us prefer to minimize our trips to the dry cleaners or the shoe shine bench. It’s nice to deal with stuff yourself, on your own schedule, and allows you to better appreciate the garment when you’re taking care of it with your own two hands. Starting from the top…
JACKETS – “The clothes brush is underrated.”
I very rarely ever dry-clean my suits and jackets. A good portion are made of high-twist wool from England. And wool used to be a sheep, so… you don’t need to be as precious with it. (Cashmere, on the other hand, which comes from a special kind of goat, requires a gentler touch.) All you really need is a lint roller or brush, a clothes brush, a good hanger, and some basic tips to guide you.
If your jacket is looking like it’s seen better days, start with the lint roller (or lint brush, whichever you prefer,) before you do anything else. Sometimes that takes care of the problem, especially when pets are involved. I also keep a clothes brush handy. We carry a very good one from Burstenhaus Redecker. They’ve been making brushes in Germany since the 1930s, and they have a very, very cool story. Use it to brush off dust or dirt or dandruff, but it’s also a good idea to brush it out after every few wears. Regular brushing will bring back the “lift” and keep moths away.
About storage. An easy way to get rid of wrinkles is just hanging the jacket on a suit hanger that’s the correct size for the garment (we use 3 sizes for our jackets in the shop: 41cm (16",) 44cm (17",) and 47cm (18.5".) And you’ll want to store it in a well-ventilated place, with breathing room between items. Ideally, your closet isn’t jam-packed because that will encourage wrinkling. And remember that steam can be your friend, whether that’s an actual clothes steamer or just hanging your suit in your bathroom while you take a hot shower (seriously). That, plus a quick brush, can be a great quick fix before an event. If you need to clean a spot, wet a cloth and lightly dab at it. Do not rub or grind, as this can damage the tensile strength/weave and may even make the stain worse.
Now, there are times I might need to take a jacket to the cleaners, or perhaps something unexpected happens on a trip and I need to use the hotel's laundry service. With professionals, I request a light hand press (vs. machine press) for jackets — especially cotton jackets. But if you’ve got a jacket from us that needs a refresh, just bring it by the shop and we can always give it a quick hand press.
TROUSERS– “Again, get a brush.”
Same thing for dress trousers - I try to avoid sending them out if I can and only dry clean when necessary. Wrinkles are most likely to happen at the knees and on the crotch line, and this can be easily remedied at home. Here’s how:
It’s best to hang pants by the bottom cuff using a hanger with a drop bar. The gravity and weight of the waistband should help to ease wrinkles when you hang them up at the end of the day. If your hanger does not have the drop bar, hang the trousers as close to the bottom as possible.Use a steamer or a light, warm iron to get out any remaining wrinkles. In a pinch, the shower trick will work here, too, using your hand to smooth out the surface. I do like a defined crease in my dress trousers, so from time to time I will have them hand-pressed at the cleaners.
SHIRTS – “Every guy should know how to press his own shirt if he's in a pinch.”
For shirts, a lot of our guys take pride in washing and pressing themselves. The garment is going to live longer, you're keenly aware of what “state” your shirt is in, and you get a different satisfaction from wearing something you ironed on your own. I would recommend to machine-wash on cold, then machine dry them to about 90%, until they are just slightly damp, then iron and hang 'em up. Leaving them slightly damp makes them easier to press, you minimize shrinkage, and it’s gentler on the shirt. Do it on the weekend in front of the television during a game or a favorite show, and it’ll feel like less of a chore.
That said, this is probably the one item where I feel the cleaners is totally okay... even a machine press. Just make sure you request very, very little to no starch, which can begin to degrade the fabric over time. I request some on hangers, but ask that the rest be folded for easier packing when traveling.
I like to get two wears out of a shirt before laundering it (barring that I didn’t, say, run in it), and the second wear is best for a weekend or something less formal. But that way you can have fewer shirts that give you little more coverage. Most of guys would be better off with 10 really great shirts that complement the things in their closet, and look good no matter the season… rather than twice as many shirts that aren’t as great and require more care. And no matter how perfectly you care for them, a shirt will wear out eventually. I like to refresh my shirt supply about every 2 years or so if I’m wearing it really regularly, and I let the wear on my cuffs be my guide. (If you’re in that spot – and need a refresh of shirts, here’s a list of our top 5 shirts.)
TIES – “If we can’t help, we’ve got guys that can.”
Ties, like tailored clothing, benefit from an occasional deep clean (think once a year) but can usually be touched up in the moment with a very light touch with a little mild bar soap and warm water. Remember, don't grind in the stain. This is particular, but in a car, especially when you’re driving, be mindful not to let a seatbelt rub against your tie too much, which can cause pulls and overwear. Another landmine is dining. When I’m eating lunch, I always either unbutton one button and tuck my tie into my shirt, or I toss it over my shoulder. Lastly, when traveling, a plastic tie sleeve is handy to use when packing inside of your luggage – you can always ask us for one next time you’re in the store. We also offer tie services including cleaning, shortening, and narrowing through the undisputed king of tie specialists in the world, Tiecrafters® Inc, in New York (since 1952). If any of your ties need some extra love or some reshaping, just bring them by the shop and we can get them sorted out.
SWEATERS – “Three words…. never hang them.”
I love cashmere sweaters because they're no-fuss and a high-quality one will last you years if you take a little care with it. Storage-wise, the biggest thing to avoid is moths, which you can keep away with cedar or lavender or both. Not everyone has a cedar closet, but pieces of cedarwood and lavender sachets can be tucked in between sweaters in a stack. (Speaking of, folded in stacks is the way to store them. Hangers will stretch out the knit and leave dents at the shoulders.) A light brush-over with a sweater comb will help if your sweater starts to pill. (Be gentle.) You can typically get a bunch of wears out of a sweater before you need to wash it, especially if you’re wearing it over another shirt. But if you spent the night, say, in front of a campfire and need to get the smoke out, you can actually throw cashmere in the washing machine on a gentle cycle with cold water. There are special detergents for this, but baby shampoo works just fine... just do a batch of cashmere sweaters together and don’t mix them with other clothing. Then lay them out on a towel to air-dry. Whatever you do, don't put cashmere in the dryer. Normal wool, on the other hand, can’t go in the washer or the dryer. Sometimes you can hand-wash it if the yarn has been treated properly (check the care label) but untreated wool will start to shrink the second it hits the water. Hand-washing will also work for cashmere too, as well as any other trickier, more special wools like alpaca or yak. Of course, if you don’t want to fool with washing sweaters at home, taking them to the cleaners is totally okay, too.
SHOES – “Bringin’ back the playbook...”
Our Goodyear-welted shoes, with proper care, can last anywhere from 10 years to 40. (Forty!) So the length of time your shoes last can be directly related to how well you take care of them. All you need is shoe trees, and a basic shoeshine kit (that includes buffing brush, a shoe polish mitt & cloth, leather cleaner, Saphir Renovateur, some polish) and a little guidance. We created a pretty in-depth shoeshine playbook broken down by skin (Calfskin, Suede, Shell Cordovan), and three levels of time windows (last minute shine, Sunday afternoon shine, twice a year shine) ... which you can jump into, based on your needs. But here are our tips no matter the shoes or how much you shine them.
• Always use a shoehorn when putting on your shoes to avoid damaging the back.
• Always store your shoes with shoe trees — they absorb the moisture and help the shape recover properly.
• Monitor the heel and sole over time. When either gets too thin or worn, we are happy to help you find the best place to get them repaired and back in rotation. Just bring them by.
• Be vigilant with repair — if one part of your shoes is damaged, it can speed up the wear of all the others.
• When your shoes get wet, stuff them (but don't cram them) with crumpled-up newspaper or tissue paper to draw out the extra water and keep the shape. And then don’t put trees in your shoes until after your shoes have dried to prevent stretching.
• Keep them in rotation — especially if you're wearing sans socks. We love an everyday uniform, but alternating your shoes, if you can, will increase the life of the sole, the insides, and the entire pair.
• If you can only get one shoe care product… Saphir Renovateur is it. It’s a cleaner, conditioner, moisturizer, and polish all in one.
Okay, gang... that’s a lot, but this one felt like it deserved a thorough explanation. The stakes are high! You want to protect your investments! And I think you’ll find that you get a lot more satisfaction when you’re putting a little sweat in. Add a good tailor and a good shoe repair shop, and you’ll be well on your way.