The Clothes For Financial Independence
My typical daily uniform isn’t a flashy suit or designer-label clothing. Sorry, no polyester leisure suit either. Once I achieved financial independence, clothing just didn’t matter anymore. Arguably, it didn’t matter before either! What does matter now are thing like comfort, durability, and value. I emphasize value, because sometimes buying better quality stuff is totally worth it.
The Millionaire Wardrobe
First off, let me start by sharing my regular daily ‘uniform’.
Fancy wardrobe isn’t it? Yes, that’s what I’m wearing today. If you see me at the Home Depot today, that’s what I’ll be wearing. My T-shirts are mostly from thrift stores. The Jeans? Yes, I really wear torn jeans like that. Most pairs I own are ripped like that. I haven’t purchased jeans in years, and it’s starting to show. The socks are from Costco, and (like most socks) they wear out easily. Typically I buy a Costco sock-set about once a year to replace the socks with large holes. If I didn’t perform this annual sock purchase, eventually I’d have no socks left. Mrs. Tako secretly throws away the socks with holes, when I’m not looking.
In the winter, I’ll add long underwear or some form of second layer to keep myself warm, but that’s it. That’s my usual wardrobe. That’s what a guy worth a couple million dollars wears. It varies very little from day to day. I don’t usually buy name branded goods, because it’s all just cotton anyway.
Cotton is one of the least durable fabrics, yet nearly all clothing is made from cotton (or some form of cotton blend). As you can tell, I’m not a big fan of cotton – but it is cheap, comfortable, and a fairly renewable resource.
The main (big) problems I have with cotton: It rots, and it’s a terrible insulator. I live in a cold damp climate, and insulation is important. Cotton does a pretty poor job of insulating.
As far as the ‘rotting’ goes…given enough time, all cotton will eventually fall apart, so I skip the branded cotton clothes. Why pay more than necessary for something that’s just going to rot away?
Function Over Form
We’ve talked about planned-obsolescence before on this blog, and clothes typically fall into this category. Why wouldn’t clothing companies design clothes to hold together ‘just long enough’? Afterall, they want to maximize profit, and maximize turnover.
Ever look at one of those fashion magazines in the grocery store when you’re waiting in line? Every season there’s new looks and new fashions to wear…and money to waste. The clothing industry wants you to keep spending, year after year.
Now, imagine for a moment that fashion didn’t matter. Clothing shopping would become like shopping for tools. You’d ask questions like, “How long is this model going to last? What’s the warranty like on this shirt? Does this fabric meet my technical requirements for waterproofing, breathability, and durability?”.
Those kinds of questions would suddenly matter. Clothing manufacturers would respond with better quality clothing, and improved fabrics that last longer.
Thankfully, once you reach financial independence, fashion does cease to matter. You don’t need to go to work anymore, and you don’t need impress anybody.
Consumer clothing is targeted at consumers. Clothing life-spans are short, and costs are low. Industrial clothing works differently. Industrial clothing is typically targeted at companies that need uniforms, medical scrubs, and other work clothing. Long-lasting durability is key here, not fashion. Industrial clothing typically incorporates more polyester (for more durability), and thicker fabrics. It also costs more. Company accountants scrutinize the books down to the penny, so you can bet they want uniforms that give the maximum life per dollar spent.
The only problem – industrial clothing manufacturers don’t usually sell at retail.
After a little internet research, I was able to find a couple. Red Kap and Dickies Occupational Workwear are manufacturers of industrial clothing that do sell to the public (via Amazon). They have the typical uniform-type shirts and pants, but also have fun things like lab coats and speed suits for sale.
At $14+ for a t-shirt I haven’t been tempted to buy industrial clothing (yet). Shopping at a thrift store, I can pick up a t-shirt for $2 or $3. To put this another way, I can purchase 4 to 7 times as many shirts for the same amount. The thrift store wins.
Performance of industrial clothing would have to be significantly better for the financial trade-off to beat the thrift store.
Since I haven’t yet found a durable-enough solution to replace jeans, I’m actually quite curious about industrial pants. Any readers have experience with this kind of clothing? I’ve read that a standard industrial shirt has a 300 wash cycle life, but I’m skeptical.
Anyone want to go try some industrial clothing and report back the results?
When I was still working, I’d buy a pair of tennis shoes and wear them to the ground. Literally, the ground would start showing through in about 1 year. Being the frugal guy that I am, I’d repair them using Shoe Goo. For a while this works…but eventually the water starts leaking in again. Tennis shoes just aren’t durable enough for what I do with them.
Then, one day I found the most amazing pair of shoes I’d ever worn…
It all started on a trip to a family member’s farm. On this particular trip, I had forgotten to bring my boots along…woops! We were going outside to do farm-stuff, and I politely asked if I could borrow some boots. What they loaned me was the most amazing shoe ever…
They’re called Mucksters and sold by the Muck Boot Company. The best way to describe these shoes is a cross between a work-boot, a rubber boot, and a slip-on shoe combined. I’ve owned a pair for about 3 years now. They still look like new. Yes, I’ve really owned them for 3 years.
What makes Mucksters so amazing you ask? These shoes are amazingly tough. They’re made for work, and made to be durable. The outer shell is a thick rubber cocoon for your foot. This makes them super-tough and waterproof.
Not only are they durable, but they’re amazingly comfortable for something so tough!
I’ve worn work boots before, and they’re uncomfortable. They’re also hard to take on and off, and don’t keep my feet nearly as dry.
Mucksters solve both these problems – they are lined on the inside with a flexible neoprene, that keeps feet comfortable and dry. Because of the neoprene, they slip on and off easily…way better than a work boot.
Normally, when I work outside in the winter, my feet get pretty cold. Not wearing these shoes! Mucksters are by far the warmest slip-on shoe I’ve ever worn. For those of you who live in cold or sometimes-cold climates, this is an awesome feature. No more cold feet!
Don’t believe me? Go look at the reviews on Amazon. There are hundreds of 5-star reviews for every Muckster model. Some Muckster owners claim lifetimes of 6+ years for a single pair!
Honestly, even if you can get 3+ years out of them (like me), they’re an amazing value. Sure, I still own a pair of tennis-shoes, but I’m a die-hard Muckster fan now.
They may not be terribly attractive, but I wear them everywhere. I wear them to the grocery store, to the library, Home Depot, anywhere you can think of.
Yes, they’re kind of ugly. When it lasts this long, I kind of like ugly.
23 thoughts on “The Clothes For Financial Independence”
I’ve found that hospital scrubs never seem to tear. They’re made to be washed constantly under extremely hot water conditions (to kill off biological material). They’re also not too comfortable either.
I second the Mucksters. Good stuff.
I’m throwing those socks of yours away!!
Thank you…. there are limits 😉
Nice insight in the clothing habits of a FIREd person. I do agree that cloths do not matter too much. They just need to be adjusted to the occasion. In weekend, I also wear jeans and t-shirts. On the socks part, I think I replace them sooner. What I have learned is that buying some more expensive items often means they last longer…
LOL!!!! My husband’s socks look just like yours and every now and then I have to purge his sock drawer 🙂
You and Mrs. Tako would get along well!
I can’t speak to Dickies for adults, but we bought my son (now 10) a few pairs last year because he doesn’t like jeans. We’re through two seasons with the same pairs, and they have held up to the abuse very well. So we won’t see them over a ‘lifetime’, but I may get me a couple of pairs based on what we have seen.
Cool! Good to know.
I have actually owned 6 pairs of Dickies pants, Original Fit 874, assorted colors, for over 4.5 years now. I work in the medical field so each pair gets worn once, then washed in hot water to kill bacteria. I can report the color has not faded much, and the pants still hold up very well. No weak spots or seams coming undone. I will mention that Dickies sells a “cheaper” brand of the same pants called “Genuine Dickies.” These are lower quality versions of the real thing that are made for cheap retailers like Walmart and some internet vendors. I bought mine at Work World. They were about $15 price difference, but if I can get 5+ years out of them, well worth the initial purchase price!
I love it, I’ve dressed like you since I was a kid, but I don’t let the holes grow so large. I resell Sears stuff all the time so I use some of the points to get new shoes for pretty close to free. And dude, just get some new socks, Costco or something.
Its nearly time!
Wow, you do take stealth wealth really serious, don’t you? That being said, we both think it is very admirable that you buy a lot of your clothing at thrift stores, which is both frugal and environmentally conscious. Hat tip to you sir.
But those socks…. really??
Tactical clothing works pretty well durability-wise. 5.11 produces some amazingly durable stuff that lasts for years. They have “covert” lines that look less “tactical” if that isn’t your thing.
I have been really impressed with the “Darn Tough” socks. They even come with a lifetime warranty.
Interesting, I’ll check it out.
Is that first shirt a belly shirt?? You are really taking Stealth Wealth seriously 🙂
It’s a regular t-shirt, just folded. Had to fit everything in the photo.
Clothing is something that really frustrates me. I don’t have a lot, but I have mandated clothing at work (have to have legs covered) but I also walk to work, which can be sweaty. I can do jeans and a t-shirt, unless I have to go to a professional event, where it’s a skirt (yay, out of lab!), but it always seems like I have too many. I’ve even tried a uniform, but I end up back in jeans and a T. Not to mention not wanting to spend money on a shirt that I might have confiscated for spilling radioactivity on. I’m trying to work the ‘red shoe theory’ and have everyone think I’m so brilliant I have no idea what’s normal for one to be wearing at work.
Wow, where do you work? Not many people claim to have radioactivity issues with their wardrobe!
I am still working but have a “uniform” I wear all week. It includes the same jeans, shirt, sweater and shoes. All year long. Once something wears out, I replace it at the thrift store and the process starts all over again. Let’s just say I am not known for my wardrobe. I am looking forward to wearing more festive clothes with personality upon FIRE. For now, this utilitarian garb saves me time and stress.
You’re me Tako san! I bought my last pairs of trousers at Goodwill, and my wife always secretly throws away my socks with holes in them! (Actually not totally true, she washes them and then uses them as rags to clean stuff up. How’s that for frugality? BTW Did you know that Goodwill will take even the most used/destroyed pieces of fabric, as long as they’re not wet/rotten?)
I’ll definitely look into the Mucksters, that would be my kind of thing! (The patagonia I bought on sale in 2014 are showing some serious damage right now… I think I’ll blog a picture one of these days, you’ll see for yourself 🙂 )
Scored some dickies work pants at Goodwill for less than $10. Wear them as dress pants to work. Just sayin’
Duluth trading company for really good socks that will keep your feet warm, inhibit fungus growth, and wear like iron.
I basically have free clothes from gift cards on credit card signup bonuses and points. I don’t travel so mostly use the points for gift cards.