You’ve spent years refining your fashion sense. You’ve tracked down the best pieces at department stores, vintage shops and high-end boutiques. And, finally, you own an immaculate professional wardrobe. But the hard work isn’t over. Your new job is to take care of those garments so their colours don’t fade and their seams don’t split.
Unfortunately, very few people know how to properly launder their work clothes. Conflicting information abounds online, while odd homespun wisdom spreads by word of mouth. I’m going to keep the instructions simple.
Let’s begin with an outfit most lawyers wear on a regular basis: the suit. We all know that suits go to the dry cleaner. But how often? The truth is that dry cleaning, while effective, is an intensive process that shortens the lifespan of the most durable items of clothing. It should be done as infrequently as possible. A good rule of thumb is the “sniff” test: if the jacket is getting a little funky, take it to the cleaners. Otherwise, run a light brush over the fabric to remove any accumulated detritus, and don’t bother dry cleaning it until it’s essential.
To launder dress shirts, dry cleaning isn’t necessary. Instead, I recommend running your shirts through the washing machine on the “delicate” cycle. You’ll still have to iron your shirts after you wash them — unless, that is, you’ve purchased “no iron” shirts, which, for me, are a gift from the universe. Because what sort of person likes ironing?
It’s easy to overlook footwear, but an unpolished shoe is a bad look. In truth, you should polish your shoes once a month, unless you wear the same pair every day; in that case, you’ll have to do it weekly. The process itself is simple: use a colour-matching polish, let it dry for five minutes and buff the shoes out with a horsehair brush.
Finally, we arrive at denim. Once you discover a good pair of jeans, you never want to take them off. And you shouldn’t wash them much, either. If you have stains, do a spot treatment with a damp cloth. If there’s a smell, hang them outside on a sunny day to air them out. If that’s not enough, wash them inside out, no more than twice in a given year. I can hear your objection: Really? Only twice? Yes. If you want to preserve the shape and colour of your favourite jeans, this advice is non-negotiable.
That covers the basics. Memorize these rules and you’ll be able to maintain your entire work wardrobe with confidence. Best of all, you won’t have to decode those pesky clothing tags, whose hieroglyphics, once you look them up online, still don’t make much sense. It’s better to keep things simple.
Cameron Bryant is a lawyer and lease negotiator with Cirrus Consulting Group. He writes about fashion and style for Precedent.
This story is from our Fall 2019 Issue.
Illustration by Konor Abrahams