The estimable Esquire magazine surveyed nearly two million male readers in 2006 for their advertising media kit, and the results tell a sad tale about the state of men's clothing in the United States. Of this "affluent and successful" readership, just 10% had purchased a suit in the year prior to the survey. Roughly 30% purchased dress shoes and dress shirts, and a quarter bought dress trousers (37% bought a pair of jeans). Even if I wasn't trying to make my point sound modestly amusing, given that I believe that Esquire's readers are more clothing aware than the average man I am forced to conclude that the majority of American males must dress in some combination of sweat pants, tees, sneakers and similar garb. Of course, that's what I see on the street.
Whether a man's budget accommodates Savile Row or thrifting, dressing well requires a modest combination of taste and consistent expenditure. As I've written before, the key is to build a rotation that prevents wearer boredom and gives clothes time to recover after wearing, as well as for cleaning and other maintenance. I think a man should probably strive to acquire four to six changes of clothing each year (that's for wool jackets, trousers and coats - he'll need more if he wears cotton most of the time) and at least one pair of shoes. Until he's filled out his closet, the shoes and four of those changes of clothing are likely to be replacements for worn out items and a higher level of acquisition is probably required to expand the rotation.
I suggest that every man should sit himself down periodically to plan what he needs to buy in the coming year, and what he can afford to spend. His target price per garment is a simple function of his annual budget and he just needs to continue abusing his credit cards until his closet has what he decided it needed. When that initial rotation is filled out, the budget can be reduced or the number of items purchased can be reduced and the quality level increased.
If every man in America bought one pair of dress trousers, a shirt and a pair of shoes each year, production would have to triple and, once supply caught up with demand, we might begin to see a reversal in the tremendous increase in the cost of quality clothing that we've experienced as demand has declined over the years. Get shopping!