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by William Phips

I suppose, technically, I have to tell you that this isn’t real investment advice.  But that should be obvious in a minute.

Guys who like to talk about clothes generally spend a lot of money on clothes. And guys who spend a lot of money on something like to convince themselves that it’s worth it. So you’ll often hear fans of classic menswear talk about investing in clothing. Sure high quality clothing costs a lot more but it pays dividends down the road. This line of rationalization usually reaches its nadir when someone trots out the old chestnut, ‘Mother always said we’re not rich enough to buy cheap.’ Which is the sort of thing that - I imagine - has to be said in a Thurston Howell accent.

I can think of exactly one example of someone successfully investing in clothing: Any good Jersey boy has heard the legend of Frank Hague, the son of poor Irish immigrants who later in life would often travel from his suite at the Plaza hotel to the racetrack and place bets with thousand dollar notes, despite never (legally) earning more than $8000 a year as mayor of Jersey City.

Hague got his start in a boxing gym in the old Second Ward. He wasn’t much of a prizefighter himself but convinced a more promising boxer to hire him as his manager. Hague rolled his earnings into his wardrobe and soon the well turned-out and ostensibly successful young man caught the eye of the local political bosses.

About fifty years later and seven miles west of Hague’s empire, my grandpa had a run of luck shooting dice.  Feeling flush, he took his winnings to his tailor down neck in Newark and ordered a few suits. His luck didn’t last, however, and he had to rush back to his tailor to cancel his order and get his deposit back to square things with his bookie. Pop-pop Sam didn’t know when to quit but he was sure was always dapper guy.

If you try to invest in clothes, you’re more likely to end up like my grandpa than Boss Hague. Nice clothes don’t really open doors. And cheap clothes often last just as long as expensive ones. Clothing isn’t something you invest in it’s something you consume.  It’s not about making a return, it’s about enjoying something. And there&rsquos absolutely nothing wrong with that.