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Brand and shopping advice

How to work out if something is worth buying

How to work out if something is worth buying

Price is not always synonymous with value. Clothes that look like a great deal can turn out to be anything but if you barely wear them. The opposite is also true; spending twice as much as your normally would on a winter coat isn’t frivolous if it lasts you four years, rather than just six months.

Thinking long-term makes shopping easier, too. By spending a bit more on pieces that get a lot of use, you don’t have to replace them as often. It also helps you develop a personal style, built around great, high-quality items that you know will always look good. To help you decide if something’s worth upping your budget for, ask yourself these four questions.

Does it have good cost-per-wear?

“We talk about cost-per-wear a lot at Thread,” says stylist Brooke Philips. “It’s a rough formula that lets you compare things at different prices, so you can see which represents the best value. When you look at items by cost-per-wear, rather than just price, things that seem expensive can actually turn out to be more affordable than cheaper versions.”

The maths is simple: divide the price by how often you think you’ll wear something. Take a pair of brogues: you could happily wear them every other day, all year. A £60 pair might start to fall apart after around 12 months, whereas a pair with Goodyear welting, which can cost around £200, can be repaired, so you could get a decade’s wear out of them. The first pair has a cost-per-wear of 60 / 182 = 33p. The more expensive pair is 200 / (182*10) = 11p. Which means you get the pleasure of a luxury pair of shoes and the warm glow of money well spent.

Does it go with what I already own?

“You should always avoid impulsive buys,” says Brooke. “They tend to be things that catch your eye, but don’t suit what you already own.” The bigger the statement something makes, the less you’ll get to wear it, either because it’s too noticeable to wear every day, you’ve only got a couple of things it looks good with, or it’s part of a trend that disappears as quickly as it arrived. “That’s why at Thread a lot of the outfits we suggest are built around staples,” says Brooke. “The best-value clothes are ones that you can wear in a variety of ways.”

Does it work for my lifestyle?

“When you’re buying clothes, you should think practically,” says Brooke. You might fall in love with a suit, but if your work’s casual and you only ever wear one to weddings, it might make more sense to spend that money on a blazer instead. “Think about whether things work with your job and your hobbies. If you spend a lot of time outside, or have young kids, then a wool coat makes more sense than delicate fabrics like cashmere or suede.”

Can I wear it for a while?

The longer an item’s shelf life, the better your cost-per-wear. That’s why spending more on higher quality clothes is often wiser than buying purely on the price tag. “That said, trendy pieces can often date quickly,” says Brooke. “Classic pieces will good forever, so ask your stylist if you’re not sure if something is a staple or more about fashion. If you are interested in a trend, but not sure whether it’s for you, dabble with a cheaper piece first.” Then if you decide you like it, you can upgrade to a more premium version next time.