Money Can’t Buy Style

April 10th, 2013

You don’t need a lot of money to have style.

To prove this point, last week we organized a $200 outfit challenge. Each member of the team was given $200 cash and a week to put together a complete Spring outfit (including all accessories, alteration costs, taxes, etc).

Here’s what we came up with, along with some budget shopping tips. Don’t forget to vote for the winner of the challenge in the poll at the end of the post!




Here’s an important message I try to get across with Articles of Style: if you train your eye and develop styling skills, you can shop anywhere.

Looking stylish is not about high-end brands or fashion labels. It’s about choosing simple designs that fit properly and putting them together to create a flattering & cohesive look within your personal style.

We don’t usually shop at big box department stores like KMart, Walmart, Kohls, etc. but that doesn’t mean you can’t put together good outfits from their selections. Make sure to try it on, though, since you might want to size down (here the sweater and jacket are both size Small).


JCP hired Nick Wooster and is turning around their menswear with updated fits and on-trend designs. If you’re ballin’ on a budget, you should get to know it.

Street Vendors/China Town

Don’t sleep on the cheap accessories you can pick up from street vendors and booths in areas like ChinaTown (shades, scarves, hats, bracelets, etc).

For example, the design of their $5 street sunglasses has come a long way (they’re basically knocking off designer styles since there are no patents in the fashion industry).

Sure, they’re made of cheap plastic and the lenses are low quality, but they look awesome and they keep the sun out of my eyes. And when I inevitably lose or squash them, I won’t be upset.


Dan’s Outfit:

Shades from NYC sreet vendor: $7
Denim jacket by Wrangler @ KMart: $35.99
Plaid shirt by JCPenney: $25
Sweatshirt by Everlast @ KMart: $4.99
Woven belt @ Kmart: 2 for $10
Khaki chinos by Uniqlo: $39.99
Boat shoes by Thom McAn @ KMart: $20

Total: $142.96


  • Shades from NYC Street Vendor
  • Blue Denim jacket by Wrangler (Kmart)
  • White sweatshirt by Everlast (Kmart)
  • Green Plaid shirt by JCPenney
  • Belt from Kmart
  • Beige Chinos by Uniqlo
  • Dark Brown Boat shoes from Kmart




H&M can be a great spot to find a cheap slim-fit suit. Interestingly, it’s less expensive to buy a blazer and matching trousers as separates, if you’re lucky enough to find your size in both pieces.

Which brings me to my next point, if you find something you love at a high-turnover fast-fashion house like H&M, buy it! If you pass it up, chances are it won’t be there when you come back.  

TTB is an amazing resource for affordable accessories. Think tie bars for $15, cufflinks for $20, cotton & silk ties for $15, pocket squares for $8, etc.

They have a vast selection and most of their designs are simple and wearable.


If you’re a budget conscious style enthusiast, eBay should be at the top of your favorites. Whether you’re looking for broken-in vintage or new deadstock product, if you look hard enough you can come across pieces you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

In fact, Dan got his start in the “fashion business” as an eBay hustler and some of his most sought-after pieces come from winning auctions (or negotiating side-deals).

So dive in and start digging: get to know your measurements, save your favorite searches for email updates, develop relationships with your favorite sellers, etc.


Towni’s Outfit:

Suit Jacket by H&M: $70
Suit Pants by H&M: $40
Shirt by H&M: $30
Tie by TheTieBar: $15
Pocket Square by TheTieBar: $8
Loafers by Bass (eBay): $30

Total: $193




Old Navy

My go-to for “budget” basics.

I refuse to pay more than $10 for a t-shirt – you’ll never see me in designer basics. So I hit Old Navy and stock-up on tees, henleys, Hawaiian shirts, and sometimes choice pieces like this lightweight cotton golf jacket.

Urban Outfitters

These jeans are cheap Urban Outfitters sh-t that I found on the clearance rack, but I plan on ruining them with saltwater and sand by the end of the summer anyway.


Vans are my go-to sneakers for the warmer months. I’ve been rocking them since 6th grade – the checkered, the flames, the palm trees, I’ve had em’ all. Now that I’m more “mature” I tend to gravitate toward the classic off-white or blue.

And I ALWAYS change the laces. It’s the little things that make a big difference.


Alex’s Outfit:

Hat by Ebbets Field: $40
Jacket by Old Navy: $30
Henley by Old Navy: $9
Watch by Timex for Target: $35
Watch strap by Target: $7
Jeans by Urban Outfitters: $20
Sneakers by Vans: $60
Gift Card: -$25 (cheater)

Total: $178





Uniqlo is one of the best places for inexpensive slim-fit basics.

Here at Articles of Style we’re huge fans of linen and this unlined blazer is a perfect example of why Uniqlo is a go-to. They also have a great selection of chinos in various colors…if Dan had given me an extra $40 best believe I would’ve scooped another pair.


It doesn’t get much cheaper than the local Goodwill. You’ll have to dig, but you can score some good pieces, like this brand new Armani shirt for $7.99.

Remember, it’s all about fit, so save at the store and splurge at the tailor. This shirt was a little big through the body and sleeves, but with Franklin’s help at The Tailoring Room now it fits like it was made for me.

Tweak it Yourself

Doing your own alterations is a great way to save money. Unlike Dan, I’ve never learned how to sew, but that doesn’t stop me from altering pieces to make them my own.

For example, band collar shirts are a personal favorite of mine, so to add my personal touch I cut the collar off this one.


Wes’ Outfit:

Jacket by Uniqlo: $69.90
Shirt by Armani (Goodwill): $7.99
Alterations to shirt: $20
Watch by Casio: $21
Pocket Square is scrap fabric
Belt is an old thrifted tie: $1
Chinos by Uniqlo: $39.90
Sneakers by Converse: $40

Total: $199.76




Thanks, as always, for reading.

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier


Photography by Alex Crawford

  • Paul

    Wes is best.

  • Richard James

    People don’t actually think Alex is stylish do they?

  • BrentK

    Awesome post this is something we all can use. Budget couture!

    • Jameson

      Not true. Some of us are doing just fine. Cheap clothes look like shit.

      • Rafael

        Jameson, just because it’s cheap it doesn’t have to look like shit. I’ve scored designer shirts at Goodwill and just because I paid $8 for them doesn’t mean they’re shit.

        • Dan Trepanier

          Word. The shirt Wes bought was Armani. $7.99

  • Jay

    Wes definitely wins this won, but the shades aren’t listed. Where are they from?

  • Ace Fajardo

    Wes for the win!!!

  • Alan

    To be honest, I think Dan, Wes and Alex failed the challenge; they don’t look good and there’s some Real Emperor’s New Clothes/Stepford Bros shit going on here in the comments. Money may not be able to buy style, but the evidence of this article is that it certainly helps. Alex looks *okay* but hardly good (and I like Alex’s style), Towny is wearing a cheap suit and and second-hand shoes without socks (!), Dan looks like an avatar of self-delusion and Wes…..looks okay in the photograph, but that Uniqlo jacket looks pretty cheap in real life and I suspect it wouldn’t look that good on Wes with the sleeves down and worn buttoned, and even worse after a couple of months.

    I’m not saying it’s easy to go out and put together an outfit in one day for a low cost (outside of January and August, when it should be pretty easy actually), but I suspect the TSB Gang are actually quite far behind much of its global audience, as well as the blogosphere, when it comes to putting together good outfits on a low budget e.g. The Curated Man.

    • Dan Trepanier

      C’mon Alan, have some perspective.

      Nobody is saying we’re the worlds best budget shoppers. Thankfully, we don’t have to be.

      We did this post to encourage our readers and to prove a point; that no matter where you live or how tight your budget, you can look good and dress with style (as long as you know a thing or two about how to put it together). Even if it’s just one 20 minute visit to Kmart or JCPenney.

      That said, had we not excluded our favorite NYC shops for this challenge (vintage, thrift, consignment, etc) we could have found pieces much more in line with our typical wardrobes. But not everybody has that kind of access.

      Anyway, thanks for your continued support.

  • John

    Dan, excellent work and point well made and taken! I frequently make things from K-Mart, Walmart, Target, Old Navy, and Kohls work. I agree the stuff may not last a season, but if you take care of things it can and will. I do think with the amount had left over you could probably have gotten the chinos and shirt from K-Mart, as well and just had them tailored. Still being careful and smart with your cash is a style all it’s own.

  • Jonathan

    WES! The tie being made into a belt was genius!

  • RIchard

    Wes and its not close for me. Right down from the colors to the casual-ness of it. The white on white chucks were a nice touch.

    Love it.

  • Steve

    Hey come on now, you guys could wear a black plastic garbage bag and still probably look great!!

  • Josh

    Hey, love the look wes. question for you…

    Is that the linen/cotton jacket they’re selling on the uniqlo site?

    What size did you get? What’s the point to point? Thanks!!

    • Jimi Brady

      Also curious about the size of that jacket, Wes. What’s your usual jacket/blazer size? I’m not sure if I should go with the XS or S.

      • Westley Dimagiba

        I bought a small, that’s my usual sz at uniqlo for pieces like that

  • Mohamed

    Hi Dan, Wes, Alex and Towni, long time reader, first time poster. I love all the outfits especially because they apply to college students on a budget like myself. H.E. by Mango is also a great place to shop if you’re on a budget!

  • RJ

    Thanks for the inspiration Wes! I think I’m going to try wearing some of my ties as a belt. It takes styling to a new level!

  • Miguel

    Nice article guys, I can’t pick who had the best outfit since they all look good for a different occasion, keep it up, love your blog.

    By the way, I need to start shopping at thrift-ed stores

  • Matt

    I love the sneakers that WES is wearing in this post. Do you have more information about them? Possibly where I could snag a pair? Thanks in advance

  • Chris

    Towni… That Tie Bar Tie.. Is it the slim 2 inch version or the standard 2 3/4 inch?

    Great post guys.. Love that Uniqlo Linen blazer on Wes.

    • Dan Trepanier


  • dagobertinax

    you guys never cease to amaze me

    • Dan Trepanier


  • Misha

    In my opinion Wes is the winner on this one. He bought a shirt at the thrift shop, got it tailored and cut the collar off. That is in my opinion the essence, you create your own style with the things you got, in your own way.

    • Dan Trepanier


      • Eric

        How did Wes cut the collar off of his shirt? I saw you (Dan) do it before and wanted to try it with some of mine. Please explain!

  • Mirko

    Hey guys,

    could you upload the video on vimeo or dailymotion? In Germany it is not possible to watch it on Youtube, because of some strange laws concerning the music in some videos.

    Thank you

  • Sudhir

    wes ! way ahead. thanx for this post.

  • In Seoul

    This is coming from a mid-40’s guy, probably elevating the average age of this site’s visitors. Sorry fellas. For even this old guy, it’s not much of a contest. Wes is tops.

    • Dan Trepanier

      Good style translates to everyone…even “old” guys in Seoul

      If it makes you feel better, we get emails from much older readers regularly :)

      Thanks for reading

  • Omar Shaikh

    Dan, bro you’re gonna be the Steve jobs of the fashion industry

    • Dan Trepanier

      If you mean an entrepreneur who strives to make an industry more approachable to the everyday person, I hope you’re right :)

      Thanks for the kind words Omar.

  • Mario L.

    200$ is too much.

    • Tjay

      Welcome to menswear.

    • Dan Trepanier

      Damn. If you think Kmart is too expensive, I’m not sure where to point you…

      • Misha


    • RJ

      Buy one item at a time man or save up. You don’t need to fork out 200 dollars instantly on clothes. Be patient.

      • Jack

        Cutting the budget to $150 or $100 would have made the task more challenging, but I think it’s unfair to say $200 is too much. Great post.

  • JS

    Wes won this contest by a mile. Maybe it’s just that everything he bought fits him much better, but his look is clean, crisp, and fun.

  • Justinjones

    everybody wins!

  • Carlos Giovanni

    Wes has this one, but I am surprised that Alex is in last place. I believed it to be a close one between the two. Great Spring looks guys!

  • EL

    Those Kmart boat shoes are pretty damn fresh. Can’t even be mad.

    • Dan Trepanier

      I was pretty surprised…not bad for $20

  • Marshall Mulherin

    Wes, where did you find those all leather chucks at?

  • M.

    Not surprised that I’ve seen Wes take it over after voting.
    Was going to vote for Alex until I got to Wes.
    Dan, I love the glasses that you found, but the boat shoes look like they’re plastic.
    Alex, good choice with the worn-out jeans, I can’t imagine raw denim with that look.
    Towni, looking sharp as always, ofc, but let’s face it- that suit can’t fit like your tailored pieces. You look at least 10% more sleek in something tailored.
    And Wes… That’s the look I imagine when I imagine a stylish spring wardrobe. I will have to copy that.
    How did you make the tie into a belt?

    • Westley Dimagiba

      I put the belt around my waist so that I can get the proper fit, then I snip the wide part of the tie and create a knot.

      • TO

        Genius! Gonna keep that trick in mind too;)

        And unlined linen blazer?? Pshh, Uniqlo is so great.

      • M.

        I can’t quite understand where the knot is.
        Maybe a blog post with the collar and tie mods would be cool. Something along the lines of “spring creativity”…

  • Chris

    Wes obviously looks the best. However he cheated by not including the price of his shades and bracelet in the total.

    Croquez la vie!


  • Marcus Forlan

    Great post guys.

    Man Wes, you really put together a great looking outfit.

    A word of warning about the cheap sunglasses in chinatown and street vendors – you gotta make sure they have UV protection. If not, this can actually damage your eyes long term because your pupils get bigger when you wear the glasses which means more uv light gets in if the glasses don’t have UV protection.

    This is the main reason I don’t buy cheap street sunglasses – because I don’t have a way to verify.

    • Dan Trepanier

      good point

    • Selfmade Gentleman

      Many opticians have an UV meter to test UV protection of sun glasses. If you are a regular customer of an optician (or if you offer them to pay a few bucks…) they will probably test your glasses for you.

      Here is a good article:

      • Marcus Forlan

        Or you can hit your local big name pharmacy for cheap shades – if you know what to look for.

  • Nick

    Just a little aside, JCPenny fired their CEO yesterday who came on and was the catalyst for their reformation. Does this mean they’re going to fire Nick Wooster and go back to where they were a year ago? Probably not. But it does give you pause as to whether big retailers are catching on to this being the future. I guess the point of this is, just because you know a company is trying to do the right thing, you still need your own sense of style. Not everything at JCrew tshirt or Tom Ford suit is perfect and not everything from Kmart is bad. Know you and you can figure it out.

    Thanks again, loved the post.

    • Marcus Forlan

      Nick –

      The firing of JC Penney CEO, Ron J (formerly of Apple … heading up their retail stores), had very little to do with style and in no way holds the prognosis for Nick Wooster.

      Sales and profit margins tanked after Ron took over – it could be because he tried to do too much too quickly without testing or because their turn around plan just plain sucked. The internet is filled with various viewpoints.

      I personally think that he tried to “tell” the JC Penney customer what they want instead of giving them more of what they came to JC for in the first place.

      Bottom line – it had to do with the bottom line, not style.

  • http://undefined VB

    It was really close between Wes and Dan. However, the deciding factor was the shoes. At $30 I assume that Dan’s shoe’s are plastic which I would consider money wasted.

    • Dan Trepanier

      They were only $20. If they make it through the summer I’ll consider it a decent investment. Again, we did this to prove a point, not for long-term wardrobe building…

      • Brian

        Oooooh, I don’t know about this. $200 to buy one outfit is a lot. Could be better spent investing in quality pieces that go farther and work harder. My two cents.

        • TO

          Obviously investing is better in the long run. But then at this price you won’t get more than a couple quality pieces. Budgeted folks (myself included) need to wear clothes in the mean time!

          But when you think about it (including watch, shoes w. the jacket, pants, etc.) how is $200 a lot for one ‘not-just-basic’ outfit?

          • Brian

            The premise of this post is noble, I think, but the execution rubbed me the wrong way. Dan handing out all the cash to the team was tacky. Wow, great, you have a lot of money. Good for you. I do just fine myself, so don’t take that as bitterness. I just think it sends a contradictory message.

            I feel like this site has turned a corner recently in a direction I’m not totally behind. And I am a long time reader. The ads I am assaulted with on every corner of the site are another part of that. But I digress.

            • Marcus Forlan

              Brian – if you really do “just fine” for yourself, Dan handing out $$ to his cohorts would not have rubbed you the wrong way. But, like you, I digress.

              The ads on this site are minimal. I am sure you can bear this “assault” on your senses to consume this content for free. Otherwise, you would not keep coming here.

              They have to make money somehow. I am pretty sure cheap guys like you who do “fine” will not pay for the content on this site.

              As a long time reader, I think this site has turned a corner for the better. I want them to make money so they can bring us more quality content.

              If you have better ideas, feel free to share.

              • Brian

                Sorry, I don’t play in sandboxes anymore. But maybe I’ll send a thoughtful email since my sense is that the TSB team values the opinions of their readers whether they are positive or constructive.

                • Brian

                  Sorry, I meant to say, “positive or critical.” All comments are constructive. Except for the stupid ones.

        • Sergio

          Although I agree, I don’t this was the point of this specific feature. Take a college student on a budget who may not necessarily be able to buy quality pieces. Yea they can save and put things together but even then it takes time. This is a great example of what you can put together if on a budget. Frankly, even if you aren’t on a tight budget it really is a misconception that you need money to look good. Take Wes for example, the great thing about all his pieces is that they can be worn as separates too.

      • Marcus Forlan

        Dan – stand by your post bro, don’t cop out. Look at what each of you bought with $200 or less in NYC. You made your point well – you can build a wardrobe without spending much money.

        Nit-picking about “plastic” shoes?? C’mon! Dan could have spent $50 more, got the “real” deal (that would have lasted him a couple of seasons more) and still been under budget.

        People take this site too literally sometimes.

  • Joe

    Great job by all, but Wes took this one. I liked the personal touches, like cutting off the collar to make a band collar. Band collars aren’t my thing, but I appreciate the effort and personality that come through (by the way, did you just cut it, or did you have to do something to the edge to get it to not fray?). Again, great idea for a post.

    By the way, on Wes’ page, it has the jacket listed as both from H&M in the price breakdown, and from Uniqlo in the article and featured items caption. Also, where are the shades in the breakdown? You trying to slip an accessory past us?

  • Braden

    Wes captures that seasonal transition! His tones complimented each other and ended off with an amazing look to top it off. But cheers to everyone else, all the other outfits were worthy as well!

  • Mike

    Yeah I’d imagine it’s a bit trickier shopping on a budget during winter haha

    • Dan Trepanier

      Not if you use vintage shops…clothing made back in the day was typically cut from heavier, sturdier fabrics that were meant to last.

  • Rick Lomax

    Video again blocked in Germany, please upload to Vimeo. Thanks.

    • Patrick S.

      Yeah, it sucks….I can watch every single video of the TSB-series except the new one.

      Please upload again on vimeo for the German fans

  • Ian K

    Voted for Dan. Alex was a close 2nd. I agree with Blard. A seasonal version would be great!

  • Poofy

    If I saw dan shopping for clothes at kmart without realizing this was a challenge I wouldve simply hugged him and said “it’s all going to be ok buddy. this too shall pass :’)”

    • Joe


    • Marcus Forlan

      lol. I wouldn’t have felt too bad for him seeing him in his MAB 2 piece at kmart!

      • Dan Trepanier

        No shame in the game!

        • Marcus Forlan

          Haha. Ditto for ur beard. U for real, doe.


  • David

    Wes absolutely killed it. He’s the only one who still looks just stylish as you guys always look.

  • Blard

    I’m a bit disappointed with Towni and Wes, because they used eBay and thrift shops. While they still came under the set “rules” of only using $200, I feel as if they didn’t really stick to the spirit of the challenge. Not all of us can find an Armani shirt for $8 or decent loafers for $30 on eBay or in our local thrift shops.

    I give props to Dan and Alex for sticking to actual retail stores. Out of the two, Dan is the winner, just for shopping at KMart to prove a point.

    • Blard

      Also, I realize Alex technically cheated, but come on, it’s Old Navy. And he was about 3 bucks over even without the gift card, so it’s excusable.

      Anyway, really enjoyed the post and the challenge overall. You should repeat this challenge once a season!

      • A

        Alex could have skipped the watch, or just the replacement band, and he would have come in under budget.

    • Westley Dimagiba

      When discussing this challenge with the team, we opted not to go to a thrift shop but Goodwill instead because you can find one almost anywhere. We could possibly omit both options the next time we do something like this. Thanks for reading!

    • rismomax

      Hi Blard, I agree with you on thrift shops, because even though everyone has a Goodwill close by, some of them carry nothing but crap. I disagree on the ebay statement though. We can all find exactly what Wes and Towni find if we look. If your ballin on a budget, you have to be dedicated. I recently scored a pair of cognac johnston & murphy oxfords for $36…they retail for $200! It took me a good three weeks of watching, but I found them.

      I hope you guys keep ebay as part of a future challenge…it gives me insight, especially thinking about how much you paid for alterations.

      Love this post…and Wes killed it.

      • TO

        @Blard: I disagree. In addition to rismomax’s point above, I lived in a small city for school (nowhere close to the size of a “Metropolis”) and found a lot of awesome stuff there over the years at the local donation stores.

        It would take hours filing through the entire store to find one or two items sometimes, but if I could find stuff there, I don’t see how there would not be good stuff elsewhere.

    • Dan Trepanier

      Why not?

  • John

    Liked all the outfits, but I think Dan’s is probably the best.

    However, I’ll vote for Wes, since his outfit is a bit more formal, thus it can be worn “more”, a big plus when it comes to shopping on a tight budget!

  • David

    Yup, Wes. No question.

  • Josh

    Wes owned this shit. By far.

  • JB

    Yet another example of why this is the best style website on the internet. You guys make a clear distinction between “personal style” and “fashion” and make it relatable to everyday guys. THANKS!!!