There’s a special quality to new gear, be it the perfectly pressed, three-dimensional shape of a good suit or the pristine look of fresh sneakers. Over time, garments can become like old friends, but they can also lose their shine. A little maintenance, however, can go a long way towards keeping those friends around and looking their best. It’s not only a more sustainable approach to style; it’s just plain smart. With that in mind, we asked a team of experts for the most practical, simple ways to keep a wardrobe in top condition.
Tom Beecroft runs Mayfair tailoring care and alteration expert The Valet, refreshing suits and shirts for clients of Savile Row and Jermyn Street. The sign of a good dry cleaning specialist is that they caution against their own service. “Dry cleaning a suit is often unnecessary,” Beecroft says. “You’d do that, typically, only for heavy soiling or stains, and tailors would normally advise against dry cleaning too often simply because you don’t want to use chemicals if you don’t have to.”
To freshen up a suit, and restore its three-dimensional shape, Beecroft recommends a professional hand press (using only heat and steam and following the jacket’s contours—which is impossible with a standard iron). “Just reshaping the suit with a hand press forces steam through the fibers and leaves the suit much fresher, and of course relaxes the cloth and construction back into the shape it was originally given by the tailor.” This is also why it’s important to find a cleaner who works with tailors: non-specialists, thinking only about removing creases, might flatten a sculpted chest or press a rolling lapel out of shape.
On a day-to-day basis, Beecroft recommends that “using good, shaped hangers and allowing air to circulate around the suit before storing it will keep it fresher for longer. Not wearing the same suit two days running allows for the fibers to relax and air, and when storing the suit, use a breathable cover.” If you need to get rid of surface grime or pet hair, he recommends a soft clothes brush rather than lint rollers.
As with suit care, the basic principle is to buy quality, allow rest between wears, and limit chemical cleaning techniques—a recipe that will ensure longevity.
“We believe in heirloom pieces,” says Nick Bannerman, global sales director at Johnstons of Elgin. The Scottish brand knits garments at a higher tension than Italian makers, Bannerman explains, to give a longer life and slow softening over time. All woolen knits will pill eventually, and when they do, he recommends combing cashmere sweaters with a specialist comb to tease out the pills. As a bonus, a bit of careful combing will soften a new sweater as it relaxes.
Hand-washing in lukewarm water is best, using a mild detergent like Woolite or cashmere shampoo. A hardy lambswool or merino piece can also be machine washed on the relevant setting. The key thing is not to wring or rub the garment: you want to clean the fibers without breaking them. After washing a sweater, you can gently reshape it by hand, before drying it flat, avoiding the direct heat of a radiator or windowsill. Knits can be pressed with a cool iron to restore them to like-new condition.
Our shoe experts are Skolyx, the Swedish brand founded by Emil Jansson and run with Jesper Ingevaldsson (of expert industry blog shoegazing.com). There are four basic steps, Jansson says, to making quality shoes last. “Don’t use the same pair for two consecutive days, brush or wipe off the shoes after use, use shoe trees and treat with shoe cream occasionally.”
Letting shoes rest and giving them a regular light brush can go a long way. With leather, the key is keeping it soft and shined from time to time. “Everyone can treat their shoes with shoe cream and wax polish in a decent way,” Jansson says. “Use good products, like Saphir Medaille d’Or, and it’s easy. If you’re after a proper high shine, which both requires training and some time to achieve, it can definitely be worth it to go to a professional shoe shiner.”
Suede takes a bit of extra care, but it’s not as difficult as people sometimes think. “If you have a proper waterproofing spray it can handle everything from snow to sand. To prevent dirt settling in the nap of suede, it’s good to brush off the shoes after every use.” When serious cleaning is necessary, Jansson recommends a specialist suede cleaner like Saphir’s Omninettoyant, followed by another round of waterproofing spray.
As with sweaters, shoes are best left to dry naturally, away from direct heat. If they seem beyond help, Jansson says, “take them to a cobbler and hear what they say, even if you think the shoes are ruined. Cobblers are sort of magicians, they can solve the craziest things and you can keep wearing your beloved pair of footwear for another year or two.”
For museum-grade sneaker care, we turned to restoration expert Enrique Ruiz, a savior for many sneakerheads and collectors. “The best way to care for your sneakers is to actually wear them,” Ruiz says. “It doesn’t have to be heavy wear but it needs that flexibility and oxygen to keep them lasting for years. If they just sit in the box, they will fall apart faster.”
The solution is regular wearing and regular cleaning. “If you really care for a specific pair of sneakers, clean them after you wear them and condition them with safe products.” Ruiz offers an in-house formula developed alongside his own restoration service, while Jansson recommends a sneaker cleaning formula from Tarrago.
As with any other shoes, the enemies are dirt, moisture and heat. “If you want to be extreme about it,” Ruiz notes, “you can keep them in a temperature-controlled room.”
For tailoring, the most useful accessory is a good hanger. The Rolls Royce of the wardrobe is Japanese brand Nakata Hanger, whose beechwood hangers with trouser bar preserve the contours of the shoulder.
For shoes, Skolyx offers top-grade care packages including polish, brushes and shoe trees, as well as an engraving service for personalized trees and hangers. Generally, Saphir is regarded as the best of the best for a variety of shoe and leather maintenance products.
Finally, for a statement design, look to the valet stand by Milanese luxury furniture maker Ludovica Mascheroni. As well as presenting a suit, shirt and cufflinks for the next day, this Canaletto walnut clothes stand will hold your shoes and even freshen them up with scented wood inserts soaked in oils including laurel and patchouli (available at the brand’s flagship in Milan or by request).