Men’s hatred of shopping is a sitcom cliché; the put-upon chap sitting glassy-eyed as his better half tries on everything in the shop, and then leaves with just a scarf and dragging a catatonic boyfriend. But the reason she revels in a Saturday spent perusing the rails, but you’d put your fist in a blender if it got you out of a trip to M&S, is because you’re shopping wrong.
You buy the wrong things at the wrong time from the wrong places. You assume you’re the same size and suit the same styles you did when you were at school. All of which turns an opportunity to hunt out deals and haggle with assistants – those things you relish at B&Q – into a Sisyphean cycle of garments that are equal parts ill fitting and inappropriate. It’s time to jettison your bad habits to start streamlining your in-store experience. Here’s how you can get in and out faster, and look better at the end of it.
Shop like a girl
Your better half treats shopping like a sport. Follow her lead to go from high street five-a-side to the retail Premier League
Pick your squad
Women shop in groups to give second opinions on their more choices, sayspersonal stylist Lizzie Edwards. Enlist a (more stylish) buddy to warn you off those neon pink polo shirts.
Sort your tactics
Before shopping clear out anything you don’t wear, says celebrity stylist Phill Tarling. You can see where you’ve got gaps and plan your purchases, rather than spending hours browsing aimlessly.
Exploit the space
Edwards never takes clients shopping on Saturday. Tuesday morning ensures the assistants’ undivided attention – and you won’t be fighting over those last loafers in your size.
Wait for match day
Twice a year, take a whole day to refresh your wardrobe. You can pack 12 months of shopping into just a few hours and swerve the ill-fitting results of dashing out to pick up a shirt on your lunch break. And the lunchtime wasted when you have to take it back the week after.
Analyse the footage
Note what you’ve bought where in your phone so you can head straight there next time, says Tarling. “Recognise what brands suit you and shop there, rather than trying a million things on.”
Wear the right strip
If you’re after something specific, wear the clothes you’d normally pair with it to make sure they match, says Edwards. If you’re suit shopping, that’s a shirt and Oxfords. If you’re after denim, then rock your favourite sweater and trainers.
A strong wardrobe is built on a few items you love and wear to death, says Tarling. “If you need a blazer, find one in your style and budget then buy it in grey, black and navy.” You know the cut and fit will be flattering and can adapt the colour to different looks.
Question the assistant
Snap stuff you like on your phone, says Tarling, especially if it’s out of your budget. Shop assistants will be able to dig out similar pieces in a less pocket-punishing price range so you don’t need to spend your day digging through the racks.
If your time’s too precious to spend trawling sales rails, it’s worth enlisting an expert. “It’s good for when you’re after a wardrobe overhaul,” says Joe Ottaway, head menswear personal shopper at Selfridge’s. He suggests a guideline budget of around £2,000, which gets you handpicked staples that work across various outfits, plus some statement pieces to keep your looks fresh.
Giving your shopper an idea of the men whose style you admire ensures you get clothes that work for you, rather than trending pieces that make more sense on the catwalk than your back. If you click then keep the relationship going. Ottaway drops in on his City clients’ offices with suits and a tailor, for the convenience of online shopping and the fit of a store. Your shopper will also give you a heads-up on sales, or if something lands that you’d love. Just make sure you remember his help come Christmas unless you want a rack of teal shirts at your next appointment.
Exploit the web
Online shops are like an enormous department store without a changing room. Lots of selection, potluck on fit. “Finding the right size is the biggest struggle,” says Phil Green, VIP personal shopper at Farfetch. You’ve probably got a more generous idea of small than Hedi Slimane, so get professional measurements done then check the size conversion guides onsite.
Green recommends sticking to staple items from familiar brands, rather than splurging on statement pieces and hoping they fit. “Tailoring is tricky and often requires some minor adjustments,” he says. To avoid a blazer you can’t button only ever buy suiting you’ve tried on. If you absolutely have to buy online, err large so your tailor’s got something to work with.
Signing up to newsletters and following stores on social media is the best way to get the jump on sales, says Green. “Brands regularly post offers there first, and sometimes make them exclusive to different platforms.” Find them on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to ensure no offers slip past you.
Suss out the sales
Stores generally offer two big sales in January and June, when they need to shift last season’s stock to make room for the new releases. Get in as early as possible and stick to staples, says Edwards. Those camouflage monkstraps are 70% off for a reason; no one else wanted them, and nor should you. To avoid the hordes head online. Most people shop at lunchtime so a browse when you hit your desk will reveal the new deals added overnight, before your size disappears.