Menswear brands to trust when you don’t have time or money to waste.
By Nick Guzan / Photos By Andrew Snavely
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It’s no secret that many men want to be dressing better. For decades, magazines like Esquire and GQ have been serving up men’s style with the biggest names from the golden screen to the gridiron rocking the latest duds from top designers all to show you just how easy it is to look like Idris Elba or Ryan Gosling… assuming you have a few thousand dollars to drop on a single shirt. What’s more of a secret is how men can affordably dress better. What are the best stores a regular guy can find affordable men's fashion?
A plethora of retailers both online and in person are always offering sweet deals, but rarely have the quality to back it up. On the other hand, it’s easy to reach for that designer suit that will make you feel good about how you look… until you reach for your wallet to pay for it.
Dressing on a budget can be done easily, once you know where to look. This guide is designed to help you determine where to spend your hard-earned dollars based on what you’re looking to buy, whether it’s a t-shirt or a three-piece suit.
These aren’t places where you can expect to find something that you’ll be able to pass down generations to your great-grandchildren, but these shopping solutions allow you to find something of reasonably good quality without having to spend too much of your time or money.
An aside: eBay can be a fantastic place to find affordable fashion picks like that one-of-a-kind vintage suit that fits perfectly, but – like all thrift shopping – it’s all about the luck of your timing as well as investing the time to muddle through the duds and find something that works for you.
The 12 Best Stores for Affordable Men's Fashion for the Guy on a Budget
What It’s Good For: Designer suits, jackets and coats, shoes, designer socks and underwear
Price Point: $$$$
Nordstrom Rack is the place to go if you need something a little more upscale or have an eye for designers, with everything from Lucky Brand t-shirts to Belstaff outerwear and everything in between all for unbelievable discounts. This is where you can find Ted Baker shirts for less than $50 and Hugo Boss suits starting at $350 not to mention an astounding shoe selection from Allen Edmonds, Bruno Magli, and Johnston & Murphy to Adidas, Converse, and Timberland.
Word of Warning: Stick to the online store and avoid having to sift through the random offering your local store has.
What It’s Good For: Jackets, affordable blazers, jeans, t-shirts, starter suits
Price Point: $
H&M exemplifies the “fast fashion” philosophy for mainstream consumers to achieve runway looks, often through collaborations with designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Alexander Wang, and Balmain. Quality can vary so it shouldn’t be the first choice when you’re dressing to impress and sizes can run a bit small, but with few offerings beyond suit separates and outerwear priced above $100, H&M offers customers a place to experiment with modern looks or fill your closet with comfortable $7 t-shirts that you can never have too many of.
What It's Good For:Lots of variety for trendier designs and fits
Price Point: $$$
ASOS, pronounced ACE-OSS, is a UK founded behemoth that offers over 80,000 branded and own-brand products. Imagine H&M but with a ton of third-party brands and more fit options. Definitely worth a look for outerwear, sweaters, pants, swim trunks, and the like.
Word of Warning:With so many products, it's easy to get lost and not know what's what. Their Premiere Delivery is a $19/year Prime-esque service that offers free 2 day shipping.
Primer's “All from Target” outfit
What It’s Good For: Smart casual jackets, starter blazers and sportcoats, sweaters, modern fitting chinos, button down shirts, henleys, a broad selection from straight fit to skinny to big and tall, and perfectly acceptable last-minute suits
Price Point: $$
Target has often been a one-stop shop for men looking to build a starter wardrobe, but the company just introduced its greatest menswear focus yet with its unified Goodfellow & Co. line premiering late last year. A throwback to Target’s turn-of-the-century inception as “Goodfellow Dry Goods,” this exclusive private label responds to the current menswear renaissance with stylish, affordable, and comfortable modern takes on classic staples like tweed blazers, shawl-collar cardigans, and chinos, often for less than $50 each.
Read Primer’s Fitting Room First Impressions for more about Goodfellow & Co.’s selection and fit, and check out our All from Target outfit, a look comprised entirely of items available at your local store.
Part of our Amazon Outfit series, where the entire outfit is available with 2 day shipping with Prime
What It’s Good For:Free 2 day shipping and free returns meaning you can try on for free at home. Best prices for a name brand like Levi’s, Red Wing, etc. Buying budget items confidently based on reviews. House brands like Goodthreads, Amazon Essentials, and Buttoned Down for budget-friendly style.
Price Point: $$$
Though it may be online only, Amazon is often the best – and most cost-efficient way – to get the selection of a department store at your fingertips. As with all online shopping, not being able to try anything on is an obvious drawback, but the ease and expediency of Amazon Prime’s free shipping and free returns on fashion items cuts down on the inconvenience of having to return or exchange something that doesn’t fit.
Naturally, many cheap brands use Amazon as an outlet for their wares. For the most part, you’ll know them (and their too-good-to-be-true prices) when you see them, but pay attention to the reviews. If it’s more than just a generic “good product” comment accompanying a five-star rating, there’s a better chance you’re reading the sincere experiences of someone who’s purchased this item before.
Word of Warning: When in the Fashion section, tick the checkboxes next to “Our Brands,” and “Top Brands” to filter out the random cheap riff-raff.
Shirt jacket and corduroy pants from Uniqlo
What It's Good For:Basic-styled essentials like oxford cloth button-downs, sweaters, chinos, selvedge denim, and blazers.
Price Point: $$
No budget style list would be complete without Uniqlo, the Japanese-based retailer. Often compared to the Gap, Uniqlo is even more basic – simpler patterns, less trends, and a more concentrated focus on the staples. Known for their $20 OCBDsand $30 sweaters, we get most excited by their sub-$50 selvedge denim, with some locations offering while-you-wait inseam hemming.
Linen shirt and 9″ shorts from J.Crew Factory
What It’s Good For:Casual button-up shirts, modern dress shirts, slim suits under $300, chinos, modern, slim shorts
Price Point: $$
Unlike some outlet-oriented versions of popular retailers, J.Crew Factory isn’t merely the irregular or out-of-season rejects from its more upscale parent company. Instead, J.Crew Factory is a brand all its own with its own unique line that shares J.Crew’s sophisticated aesthetic and decent quality but at startlingly accessible prices every day. The J.Crew Factory team keeps an eye on trends, with a vast selection that includes plaid shirts for less than $30 and slim cut suits for less than $300. Sales are reguarly for 50% off and higher.
Andrew's waxed canvas trucker from American Eagle he found on clearance for $35
What It’s Good For: Jeans, sweaters, button-up shirts (the ones without logos), and outerwear
Price Point: $$
The suggestion of American Eagle may conjure images of high school and college-aged shoppers, but the brand has slowly but surely been reinventing itself since its varsity-focused heyday in the early 2000s. After its briefly lived Martin + Osa smart casual line failed in 2010, the company incorporated that more adult-oriented mindset into its offerings to broaden its target audience, balancing its less advisable youth-focused attire (think pre-ripped jeans or polos emblazoned with giant logos) with more mature offerings along the lines of plaid flannel shirts, khaki chinos, and bomber jackets. The quality is superior to others in the same price class (Zara, etc.) you just have to know to avoid giant logos and not let them blind you to the solid staples being offered in their shadow.
When shopped intentionally, American Eagle is a place to buy quality style that can last you beyond your college years while retaining the brand’s youthful flair.
Our outfit made from staples available at Gap
What It’s Good For: Versatile shirts, quality sweaters, jackets, henleys, t-shirts, jeans, shorts
Price Point: $$
Seinfeld jokes aside, there’s a reason that [the] Gap has been a steadily reliable player in its market for nearly fifty years. Gap maintains its consistently broad appeal to customers by offering a wide and neutral selection of timeless staples at reasonable prices, easily adaptable for both work and play and guaranteed to last several seasons. The Gap family also includes Banana Republic for more professional-focused upscale looks and Old Navy for the more bargain-oriented shopper. Here at Primer, Gap is used as a defining benchmark when considering the balance of quality and price of an offering from another retailer: “For the price, is this quality better or worse than Gap?” Making it a smart, convenient choice for most of the staples of your wardrobe.
What It’s Good For: Office wear (business suits and dress shirts) and Levi’s jeans
Price Point: $$$
With more than 700 stores across the United States, Macy’s needs no introduction… though it may need some explanation here given the wide range of the quality of its offerings. However, there’s no denying that a budget shopper can find a sharp wool suit for less than $200 from top brands like Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger among its labyrinth of racks. Find a suit you like, spend a little extra to have it professionally tailored, and you’ll have something that looks worth ten times what you paid for it.
Word of Warning: Department stores run on volume, and that means lots of racks of ugly or baggy designs. Focus on the absolute essentials and ignore the rest.
Andrew's black denim jacket from Zara
What It’s Good For: Slim-fit button-up shirts with interesting patterns, jackets, fashion-forward blazers
Price Point: $$$
If you’re unfamiliar with Zara, think of it as H&M 2.0. Based in Spain, Zara revolutionized the “instant fashion” concept of rushing new products from design to stores in a matter of weeks, preferring new product designs and new store openings to traditional advertising. Zara’s uncanny success in meeting consumer appeal comes from keeping prices affordable in addition to the line’s short product lifespan; if something isn’t selling, it’s removed from stores within a week. (Plus, it’s James Bond-approved.)
When it comes to building a stylish wardrobe, we recommend keeping the amount of money you spend on more “aggressive” fashion-forward items to a minimum, in favor of a quality staple shirt or pair of pants you can wear over and over. For that reason, Zara fills an important niche: A way to include trendier concepts into your style, without paying designer prices for something that may not be in style in a year.
Word of Warning:The price is high because you're paying for designer style for less, not for quality. Don't make the mistake of investing in staples like a classic blazer or pair of chinos from Zara: Better quality can be had for less elsewhere.
Looking for outfits made out of all of these brands? Check out Primer's Getup series for easy style inspiration!
Where do you shop when on a tight budget and a time crunch?