Shopping the September Issue

My friend Elizabeth recently told me that she had found a really cheap subscription to Vogue, and that she was really looking forward to the September issue, which is basically a giant door stopper of a fashion issue. Other fashion magazines have similarly thick issues in September. I don’t have a subscription to Vogue, but I do have one for GQ, and I usually skip the fashion layouts to read their features, which are actually very good (i.e. this piece, and, duh, this one).

The reason why I skip the fashion spreads is because they usually feature clothing with price tags in the thousands of dollars, and I don’t really want to temp myself by looking at pieces of clothing I can’t afford. But then one day, I befriended a fashion buyer at Barneys, and I asked what the deal was with the expensive clothing in the fashion magazines. Don’t people in fashion know that most people don’t have $1,000 to drop on one sweater?

She laughed and basically said the following: Mike, you idiot, unless you’re very wealthy, you’re not suppose to actually buy any of that stuff. The clothes magazines feature are supposed to be aspirational, and you’re supposed to find affordable pieces at the places you like to shop that mirror the pieces you like. This is why fast fashion stores like H&M copy so many looks off the runway. People will read Vogue or GQ and then run to H&M or Zara or Topshop to look for pieces inspired by looks in those magazines. This was probably an obvious thing to everyone but me.

So: I took a look at the September issue of GQ for pieces I would wear, and looked online for cheaper options. Here we go:

September Issue: Michael Bastian Stripe Sweater, $1,025
My Version: Banana Republic stripe crew-neck, $59.50

September Issue: Brooks Brothers Oxford Shirt, $79.50
My Version: Uniqlo Oxford Shirt, $29.50

September Issue: AG Jeans Straight Leg Corduroy Pants, $198
My Version: Levi’s 511 Cords, $58

September Issue: TAG Heuer Watch, $3,800
My Version: Timex Military Watch, $150 (Or free, because I got this for Christmas)

September Issue: Clarks Originals Desert Boots, $120
My Version: Actually, I think the price for the Clarks boots is just fine.


Photo: josephdepalma


14 Comments / Post A Comment

Megano! (#124)

Hahaha oh Mike Dang, that was such a typical dude thing to think!
GQ does have really good features though. Esquire does too!

Soooo let me get this straight; the aspirational clothing is supposed to make us run to buy the cheaply-made disposable clothing that looks and feels in every way inferior, so we can feel better but not quite good about ourselves.

Mike Dang (#2)

@Jake Reinhardt Or you can just not buy anything until absolutely necessary, and feel fine about it, like I do!

DON (#706)

@Jake Reinhardt It helps to look at it in a broader sense. You might notice an abundance of different textures or patterns in the magazines. Or maybe the thing is to break up your look with different layers of clothing; long shirt underneath a sweater that pokes out underneath, for example. Or whatever, it’s a different look that shows through every year.

You don’t have to go out and buy replicas of everything you see, but maybe you already have half the stuff you see in one form or another, and seeing it all put together will help you put something similar together. Maybe you need a new sweater and seeing some up-to-date styles will influence you to get a size bigger or smaller, depending on new ways you’ve discovered you can wear that sweater. Or maybe you have a paisley something from 9 years ago that you never wear because come on but now you realize you can understate that monstrosity by combining it with something else, and feel good doing it.

You should look at what you already have and match it with a few new purchases. Or maybe you’ll discover you can get similarly smart looks with what you already have after a bit of rearranging.


DON (#706)

@DON er uh, what @readyornot said down there

Megano! (#124)

@DON P.S. Ladies like a guy who puts some thought into how he dresses. Also smelling nice is a bonus.

sea ermine (#122)

@Jake Reinhardt A large part of the reason the more expensive clothing is used is not as a way of encouraging you to buy cheap stuff but as a way to keep the magazine running by getting money from advertising. A lot of fashion magazines have deals with certain brands where if the brands name is mentioned x amount of times they get y amount of dollars (which is even more important now that less people by print media and magazines have less money).

So if Vogue wants to do a spread where a model is wearing a fitted red sweater, blue miniskirt with an exposed zipper, and black thigh high boots they could pick those items from any store carrying them but it would behoove them to pick those clothes from brands that they have advertising agreements with (and for a magazine like Vogue or GQ those are mostly going to be upscale designer brands). This even happens amongst higher level brands too, so if a stylist picks out a pair of black slacks from Vanessa Bruno and then is informed that they are short on the number of times they mentioned Prada in the last issue and the ad people are complaining they will switch to an identical black pant from Prada to get that covered. This is mostly done with basic items that can be easily switched around from brand to brand. For more “unique” pieces they sometimes do straight off the runway shots (very common in US Vogue in recent years) where if the model is wearing, say, Balenciaga it will be styled exactly the way it was on the runway or in the lookbook or whatever to keep the Balenciaga brand managers happy and keep them giving money to Vogue.

This is also why you see perfume and cologne credits in fashion spreads, the bottle isn’t in the image and the model probably wasn’t even wearing that scent when the photo was taken but the the perfume/cologne will still be listed along with the names and brands of all the other items in the picture to make the advertising people happy and keep them giving money to the magazine.

Also, a lot of the lower priced brands where you can get things similar to what higher end brands are doing (like H&M, Zara, Topshop, Mango, etc.) are big fans of doing things “inspired by” those designers that are often very very similar to copying the article of clothing. The expensive fancy brands that want their items in the pages of Vogue and GQ aren’t always really happy about how those companies make almost copies of their clothes (sometimes they don’t care but usually they don’t like it). So if their clothes started to be switched out for similar versions by cheaper brands they’d probably pull some advertising money to get their clothes back in the pages of the magazine.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Jake Reinhardt Try buying women’s clothing and then we’ll talk about what’s cheaply made and disposable, k.

These features do function the same way for men’s and women’s clothing, though — they show you TRENDS, not classics, so when you go out and buy a $30 sweater with this year’s correct stripes or whatever, it’s not meant to last forever and the price is appropriate.

readyornot (#816)

I just got my Vogue September issue. I was so excited, doubly so because this is the first time in YEARS when I haven’t moved in August and bitten my nails over whether changing the address on the subscription would work.

I totally agree with your Barney’s fashion buyer friend, though I would add a couple of variations to how the advice plays out. Lower cost new clothing works, sure, but so can clothing in vintage shops! Especially these days, man, all the designers are harking back. Or look in your own closet! Fashion mags can totally give you news idea about how to pair clothing you already own. It’s just kind of a prompt to putting your looks together.

One other thing that having a subscription over the years has helped me with are what pieces really are the best staples. You can tell which items recur the most frequently, work best on your body, and can adapt to new styles.

pearl (#153)

FYI: You can totally get AG jeans at Loehmann’s for like, 40 bucks.

I don’t think the point of aspirational media is to encourage you to go out and buy cheap knockoffs. That’s the practical result, but I’d argue that the POINT is to sell the fantasy of sophistication and high disposable income to the average reader, to make them feel emboldened/entitled to think they could have such nice things realistically, to grease the wheels of capitalism, and — in the case of women’s fashion, anyway — to assure readers that normal people like them shell out several hundred dollars for staple pieces (like the little black dress, the great blazer, the gorgeous boots) that they can build numerous outfits around with cheaper accents — so why not this reader? The point of aspirational media is to sow distaste for living within one’s means, not find fun ways to look fashionable on a budget.

@beatricks@twitter Ah, I so agree! And the repetition of huge numbers really desensitizes you into the kind of thinking where maybe a two-hundred-dollar sweater is an okay deal.

And @seaermine, whoa, excellent points about advertising.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed about GQ is that they often feature cheap tie bars. Like everything will be $8,995 and then suddenly the tie bar is $15. Is it evidence of the “cheaper (but not cheap) accent” to an insanely expensive ensemble? Like, you can’t afford most of this stuff but you CAN be a GQ man with this tie bar!

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