Style for the Ages: Take a hint from history to get the most out of clothes


AP File Photo

Troy Baptiste is fitted for a suit by tailors Mohan Ramchandani, right, and Bobby Kumar, left, at Mohan’s Custom Tailors, Jan. 31 in New York. Having a tailor mend or fit clothes can save money over buying new ones.

While doing some archival research recently, I came across Zachariah Brigden’s diary from the late 18th century.

A Boston silversmith, Brigden kept detailed accounts of all of his personal expenses like food, alcohol, furniture and clothing. As I examined Brigden’s receipts for clothing, I noticed that he paid to repair almost just as many clothes as he purchased.

This got me thinking — we simply don’t do this anymore. Today, we’re more likely to throw away a sweater with a hole in it rather than mend it, or toss a pair of shoes that have a worn sole.

With the dragging economy and another winter on its way, perhaps you can save some money this season by repairing and upgrading clothes you already own rather than rushing out to spend more money on clothes you probably don’t need. We don’t live in 18th century Boston, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take some fashion advice from our forefathers.

A trip to the tailor, for many men, has fallen to the wayside. I think too many see taking something to the tailor as a hassle or simply unnecessary. We buy a shirt or sweater that doesn’t fit right, let it sit in our closet for a few months without ever wearing it, and then donate it and buy another one.

It doesn’t have to be like this. For around $15, you can have a local Lawrence tailor take the body of that ballooning sweater in or shorten the sleeves of your droopy dress shirt.

But the magic doesn’t stop there. Many tailors also have serger machines that can patch up tattered jeans and are skilled artisans who can mend small holes in tops or bottoms. In short, a tailor should still be a go-to for anyone wanting to make the most of their clothes.

Like our friend Zachariah Brigden, you should also make the most of your local shoe repair shop. Just because the soles are wearing out on your favorite lace-ups doesn’t necessarily mean their life has come to an end. Most shoes can be quite easily resoled for a fraction of the cost of a new pair. Cobblers can also restitch and/or reglue problem areas, or even slap a leather patch over a blown-out side.

Not only will repairing your good old pair of broken-in shoes save you money but it will also help you avoid the hassle of finding another good buy.

But your smart resourcing doesn’t have to stop with tailors and cobblers. Often, you can make small repairs to your clothes yourself. A needle and some thread work just as well now as they did in the 18th century. Repairing your clothes yourself can give you a sense of pride in what you’re wearing, a feeling of possession and thrift. Even more, a patch here or there can give your clothes that personalized, worn-in look that you simply can’t purchase. If you find yourself wary to take on this task, there are hundreds of websites devoted to repairing your own garments on the Internet.

So, as the days get colder, take a hint from history and consider going to your tailor or cobbler before you go to the Gap.

— Vaughn Scribner can be reached at


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