Read CHAPTER IV - THE CARE OF A BACHELOR'S CLOTHES of The Complete Bachelor Manners for Men , free online book, by Walter Germain, on

There are comparatively few men who can afford the luxury of a good valet, and that personage himself, when found thoroughly competent, is indeed a treasure. But it is an absurd mistake for any one to think that a valet is a necessity. If you take a quarter of an hour for the care of your clothes every day, you can be just as well turned out as if you hired an expensive servant. Even if you have indulged in the luxury of a valet, you yourself should know all about looking after your wardrobe.

Whenever you change your clothes you should first empty all your pockets. Then, as soon as each garment is removed, it should be vigorously shaken and brushed before it is folded and put away. Never hang coats, trousers, or waistcoats; always fold them. Wire coat hangers and trousers stretchers ruin clothes. Whisk brooms are useful only when an extra-vigorous treatment is desired. Take a clothes brush and give your coat, as soon as you take it off, a thorough brushing, and hold it to the light, so that no particle of dust may escape your eye. The coat is then folded exactly in half lengthwise, sleeve to sleeve, the lining on the outside. With evening coats it is sometimes necessary to fold the sleeves in half, owing to the shortness of the waist. In packing a trunk the same method is used, only the sleeves are stuffed with tissue paper to avoid possible wrinkles.

Large and bulky garments, such as overcoats and frock coats, should be folded in triplicate. Lay the coat flat on a table and first fold on both sides, the right and the left, so much of the lapel and collar lengthwise as will cover the sleeve. This will make two folds from the top of the collar to the bottom of the skirt. Then fold the coat again in half lengthwise, using the back as a hinge. You will find the same principle illustrated by a cook with a pancake. The waistcoat is folded in half, with the lining on the outside. Always take off your shoes and unbutton the braces before you remove your trousers, and fold them over the back of a chair, which is to serve you as a clothes rack. Take the trousers by the waist and place together the first two suspender buttons, one on the left and the other on the right. This will make the fold preserve the natural crease and dispose of the extra material, button and buttonhole tab at the waist. Trousers carefully folded will only need pressing about twice a year. Hose should be well shaken, and unless perfectly clean, thrown in the soiled-linen basket. Evening silk hose can be worn several times. The undervest, or undershirt, and the drawers should be also subjected to a vigorous shaking, and hung on the back of the same chair where you have already placed your hose. All these intimate garments are to be aired, and the chair on which you have hung them taken to the window.

Use a closet and a chest of drawers for your clothes. If you are in very limited quarters, six drawers and a trunk should be sufficient for all your belongings. The evening clothes occupy one drawer or shelf, and the morning and afternoon suits the other or two others. The remainder will be for linen, underclothing, ties, and handkerchiefs.

Between each suit of clothes there should be laid a newspaper; those publications which use the blackest of printer’s ink the surest antidote for moths being the best for this purpose. Cover the top of each pile of clothes, when the drawer or shelf is full, with a clean towel.

In a chest with four drawers the bottom one should be used for underclothes, the top for handkerchiefs, hose, and ties, and the two intermediate for your linen. The closet will have to serve for your suits of clothes, or, in lieu of that, your trunk. Otherwise the last-mentioned receptacle is the place for clothes out of season, carefully laid away with a full complement of newspaper and camphor.

When you remove your shirt at night, or when you change for dinner, be careful to take out the buttons and sleeve links, unless you intend to wear the garment again. In that case, hang it up in your closet.

The first gift which a bachelor usually receives from his sister or his sweetheart is a handkerchief case, and I hardly need advise you to purchase what is a standard Christmas offering. Keep your handkerchiefs in this, your neatly folded ties in the second division of the drawer, and your hose in the third. If you should have a silver and plush pincushion with a movable top, your small articles of jewelry go in its interior, or in a small box in the top drawer.

Silk hats, Derbies, and Alpines or soft-felt hats should never be brushed with a whisk broom. A hatter will sell you for a small sum a soft brush with a pliable plush back, which will do for smoothing your silk hat, the bristles to be applied in removing the dust. A silk handkerchief will also smooth a silk hat. Frequent ironing destroys the nap. Straw hats can be cleaned by first rubbing them over with the half of a lemon, then taking an old nail brush and some brown soap and water and giving it a vigorous brushing. Then you should take heavy books and lay them on the brim of the hat. An old pincushion or several towels rolled into a firm ball, or a book which will fit exactly, should be placed inside the crown. Allow the hat to dry, and do not remove the weights until this is accomplished. You will find your straw as good as new and the shape preserved. The writer has tried this with great success.

Boots and shoes when not in use should be put on wooden trees to keep them in shape. As trees are rather expensive, one can use paper and stuff it inside the boot or shoe. This will not prove a bad substitute. With patent leathers, paper or cotton stuffed in the toes prevents the leather from wrinkling, and in this instance the very cheap material is better than the more expensive appliance. Patent leathers must be creamed and rubbed with a chamois cloth or linen or flannel rag after all mud and dust have first been removed. This operation should be repeated daily. Some men maintain that patent leathers should be varnished as soon as they come home from the bootmaker, but I disagree with them. A varnished patent leather has always a cheap look, and the coat of veneer is only applied as a last resort, to hide the cracks. Russet boots and shoes are treated daily with the special cream sold for them, which can be obtained at any bootmaker’s or shoe shop. The price is small, and the stuff will last a long time. Russet boots, however, can be very well treated with a little vaseline, but that product will not give them the deep-brown color which is so fashionable. The soles of boots and shoes should be painted black. When a man is obliged to kneel in any ceremony, the sight of white or yellow gleaming soles is absurd.

In wet weather it is absolutely necessary to turn up the bottoms of your trousers, to keep them from fraying.

I would suggest a general overhauling of clothes about once a month. At the end of each season the heavy or light garments should receive a final brushing and be stored away in a trunk, chest, or spare room with, as I have already advised, newspapers between them, and some camphor or moth destroyer as an extra precaution. Overcoats, which are in such general use, may be hung during their season of service, but should be frequently brushed and well shaken.

The economy of space thus observed in the arrangement of clothes in a room will make it an easy matter when about to travel to pack one’s wardrobe in a trunk.

A shoe bag is a great convenience. A simple canvas arrangement can be purchased very cheaply, or one of your fair friends can make you one. Your shoes should be placed in this and put at the bottom of the trunk in a corner. Otherwise you should wrap your shoes and boots in paper. If you travel with two trunks, one should be reserved for your outer garments and the other for your shirts and underclothes. With one trunk, a shirt box is as much an article to be desired as a shoe bag, but in lieu of this the shirts should be placed in the first or top tray, the underclothes and hose in the second, and the outer garments in the bottom. A small space in the top can be reserved for your ties and handkerchiefs. Toilet articles are carried in a hand bag; waterproofs, overcoats, and umbrellas and walking sticks in a shawl strap. Your silk hat has but one place, and that is in a hatbox. You can put a Derby in a corner of a trunk but a silk hat would be ruined.

When a long journey is taken, it is economy in the end to purchase an extra steamer trunk for your underclothes and linen. Trunks are not expensive, and you will find that by not crowding your clothes you will save in the long run.

Always keep in your room a small bottle of a good grease-remover as well as one of ammonia, some soft rags, and a chamois for general cleaning purposes. An expenditure of a little over a quarter of a dollar will provide you with these necessaries.

Never lounge around your room in your street or evening dress. If you are to stay awhile, or if you come in for the night, take off your clothes and put on a bath robe or your pyjamas if you do not possess a dressing gown, which is not a necessity.

At your office you should always have an old coat to wear, and if it be summer have one of linen. To sit around in one’s shirt sleeves, even at one’s place of business, is not characteristic of the gentleman.


Every young man starting in life and wishing naturally to take a part in social functions and to become a member of that body indefinitely known as society, is confronted with the problem of clothes. A few years ago the ordinary changes of morning, afternoon, and evening were all that were requisite, but to-day, with special costumes for various sports and pastimes, the outlook at first glance to one of limited income is not encouraging. And yet a man with a modest salary can dress very well on two to three hundred dollars a year, and even less. It is only the first step which costs. One must have a foundation or a slight capital with which to start. After that with a little care expenses can be easily regulated.

The evening suit is the most expensive essential of a man’s wardrobe. This he is obliged to have. I would advise, in selecting a suit of this kind, to have it of good material from a good tailor, after a model not too pronounced, so that in case of any small alteration in the fashions it can survive a season or two. With proper care your evening suit should last at least five years. During the first two or three it should be your costume for formal occasions. During the third season you might possibly have another pair of trousers made or renew the waistcoat or even the coat. When you find yourself, thus by the principles of the doctrine of the survival of the fittest, the possessor of two evening suits, use the old one for theaters and small dinners, and the best for the formal functions. White waistcoats are very smart for evening wear, and an investment in one or two of these during the course of a season will save the waistcoat of the evening suit. The prices of evening suits vary. The most fashionable Fifth Avenue tailors charge as much as one hundred and twenty-five dollars for them. Some men argue that this sum insures an excellent investment. However, you can have an excellent one made by a good tailor for an outlay of about forty dollars. The large retail clothing shops have a custom department, and that is their figure for an evening suit made to order. You can even have one for twenty-five dollars, but I would not spend a less amount. Superintend the making of it yourself. Some men have adjustable figures, and they can purchase their clothes from the block that is, ready-made. The only fault to find with these garments is their machinelike cut. The pockets, if any, the lines, the binding, and the entire get-up look as if these affairs had been turned out by the dozen.

White waistcoats for evening wear are, however, somewhat in the nature of luxuries. They are difficult to have laundered, and some very smart men object to having them sent to the wash, and would not wear one after it has gone through that process. The Fifth Avenue tailor will charge as much as twenty dollars for a white duck waistcoat made to order. It may fit you perfectly, but yet again it may not look a whit better than the ready-made which you can purchase at a haberdasher’s for from three to five dollars.

A Tuxedo or dinner coat, as explained in another chapter, is almost a necessity. It is really a saving. If you can not afford to have an entire suit of this kind made you may simply have the jacket, which will cost from twenty-five to forty dollars, and wear it with the trousers and waistcoat, and keep it to be part of your informal evening dress.

I have known men to have their black sack coats or old black diagonal cutaways or old evening coat changed into a Tuxedo by the cutting off of tails, the substitution of a silk collar, or some other alteration. A sack coat is easily arranged, and any little tailor around the corner will make the metamorphosis for three dollars. Suppose you have had one of your old coats transformed into a Tuxedo. You can purchase, if you do not wish to have made, a pair of black trousers of the same material for a very few dollars, and an old black waistcoat, which went with the original coat, can also be altered. Remember that a Tuxedo dinner coat has not to be of a certain material. It must be black and have a silk collar. It is really neglige.

You should start with a capital of at least six evening shirts. If you are a wealthy man these will cost possibly, made to order, as high as fifty-six dollars, but you can also have excellent ones for nine dollars. It is considered smart to have the collars attached, but not necessary. The cuffs, however, should be always a part of the shirt.

White ties are twenty-five to thirty-five cents a piece. Always state the number of collar you wear when purchasing evening ties, and you will never have cause to complain of the length.

Black patent-leather pumps, made to order, are from eight to nine dollars. You can get them much cheaper ready made, but the only trouble with them is that they are not usually good fits, and that in future years you will have cause to regret this economy. Of black silk stockings, of which you will need two or three pair, you can have a choice from a dollar and a half to six dollars a pair.

I would advise the purchase of two business or lounge suits a year for the first three years. In making this estimate I can hardly suppose that you are in the state of Adam, and I would advise you to wear your old suit in winter especially, and on rainy and stormy days. Your overcoat will conceal it in the street, and at the office the older the clothes the better. The pivotal points of a man are his hat, boots, and tie. Have these perfectly correct, and the rest will take care of itself.

For winter buy a thick, useful cloth, such as Scotch homespun or rough cheviot or tweed. Brown and gray mixtures are always fashionable and wear well.

In summer a light-gray check or a blue cheviot or flannel are always smart.

Thus making an old suit of the year before alternate with the new one, you will find that eighty dollars will be sufficient to help you be a well-groomed man.

A half dozen colored shirts for morning wear are necessary, with attached cuffs but detached collars. Every now and then I would invest a few dollars in shirts, and before you know it you will have a large supply. As dress shirts grow old send them to be repaired at any of the many places which you will find advertised, and use them for morning shirts.

Six changes of underwear merino or wool and a dozen balbriggan or woolen hose will be sufficient. Summer underwear is very cheap, and you can get a light merino suit for one dollar. A four-dollar investment will last several seasons. Good winter underwear is expensive, costing four or five dollars a suit.

Pyjamas of Madras or pongee silk, very effective and pretty, can be had for a dollar and a half to three dollars a suit. Four suits of these two for summer and two for winter will last at least two years.

A man must have, besides his dancing pumps, a pair of patent-leather walking boots and a pair of stout common boots for everyday wear. If you can afford it, have two pair of boots made at the same time, or even more. An investment of fifty dollars in boots, at say eight dollars a pair, would be excellent. You can change daily, and they will last you over a period of two or three or more years.

The afternoon suit is more or less a luxury. Unless you frequent afternoon teas or make many afternoon calls, or act as an usher at weddings in any city but New York, the frock coat is not, for the first three or four years of your career, an absolute necessity. In New York, however, where calls are only made in the afternoon, it must form a part of your wardrobe.

A frock coat can be made for forty or fifty dollars; seventy-five to one hundred dollars is charged by the most expensive tailors. When you order it, see that it is not in the extreme of fashion. The conservative garment will last a number of years. The material, as I have already suggested in another chapter, must be of rough worsted, vicuna, or material of that kind, and never of broadcloth.

With it you must have a pair of “fancy” or cashmere trousers. These will cost from eight to fifteen dollars, and they will last you several years. In fact, the purchasing of the afternoon suit in one way is excellent: it does not have to be renewed as often as other parts of your wardrobe. It stays practically in fashion, with little deviation, for almost a decade.

The silk hat, which is necessary for the afternoon suit, is one of the most expensive items of a man’s wardrobe. A top hat must be of the prevailing mode. Autumn is the best time for purchasing, as you can dispense with it after May, except on very special occasions. Two Derbies one for autumn and the other for spring at from two to four dollars, or only one, for that matter, to last through the entire eight months, and a straw hat, from two to four dollars, will be the entire amount expended for headgear by the very best-dressed men. For a Derby you can substitute an Alpine or Hombourg. The opera crush hat is a luxury, and you can wear with your evening suit your top hat of the year before, which you can christen your “night hawk.”

Shirt buttons and sleeve links are also an expensive item. However, the purchase of these occurs but once in a lifetime, and fifteen dollars would do beautifully for enamel or plain gold.

Ties vary in price, and it is difficult to limit a man on this expenditure. Many invest in them as a fad, picking them up here and there, and thus accumulating a large assortment. A little judgment in purchasing will allow you to acquire quite a large wardrobe. If you give your personal supervision to the making of your clothes you can employ a cheap tailor who will turn out very good work. For fashion plates, I do not know of any better than Du Maurier’s pictures of smart London men in the London Punch. Watch the sales in the autumn and the late spring for bargains in haberdashery. Study well the advice given in the chapter on the Care of Clothes in this book, and you will find therein that which will certainly teach you economy.