A Tale of Two Jackets

The Brooks Brothers sport coat was fabulous but, I ended up with a splendid jacket from Macy’s, at a tenth the cost.
I left Brooks Brothers empty handed but scored this jacket for $120.

It was the best of bargains. Or it was paying full price. It was a wonderful article of clothing. Or one that’s more than ‘nice enough’. It was a wise purchase. Or one made foolishly and impulsively. It was the hope of replenishing my wardrobe for a modest sum. Or sinking into despair when the credit card comes due. In either case, it was for the season of winter rather than the season of spring. (Apologies to Charles Dickens)

I was in need of a replacement navy sport coat (an essential component of any man’s wardrobe.) On a recent Saturday evening, my wife and I journeyed to the King of Prussia Mall. First stop was Brooks Brothers. Having never shopped at Brooks Brothers, I’ve always been curious whether the quality of their offerings justified the prices.

Well, one of the navy jackets I tried on was 100% cashmere. It fit me well. It looked great! It felt great! For a few moments, I seriously considered purchasing it. It was not on sale but I could get a %15 discount if I just opened a Brooks Brothers charge account…

Then a thought popped into my head: a thought that jarred me back to my proper senses. At $1198, this jacket, a mere article of clothing, cost more than a stainless steel deluxe Weber grill with a built-in searing station! Wow, that just really brought everything back into perspective!

(Full disclosure, I do own a Brooks Brothers jacket, a tweed. My wife bought it for me years ago, at a thrift store for $15. It’s getting a bit ratty now but I still like to wear it for the comfort. And bragging rights.)

Next stop: Macy’s and the men’s winter clearance rack. My wife zeroed in on a Ralph Lauren jacket that’s 75% wool, 20% silk and 5% cashmere. ‘List price’ was $450 before a %60 markdown and an additional 25% off Macy’s purchases that weekend. Final price: $135. But wait, it gets even better. The store did not have the navy color in my size, so we ordered the jacket online. The price online after discounts: $118.49!!! It’s quite nice, but certainly not as spectacular as the Brooks Brothers cashmere. But is the Brooks Brothers jacket ten times better? Probably not, at least for me. Granted the Brooks Brothers jacket does contain 20 times more cashmere.

It can be said: A Tale of Two Jackets concluded with a happy ending.

Takeaways and Lessons Learned:

  1. For many items – clothing, audio gear, bicycles, autos – there is a ‘sweet spot’ of quality and price. Spend less and you give up more quality or features than you save in the lower price. Spend more and there is a rapidly diminishing return on money spent vs. incremental quality and features.
  2. Avoid impulse purchases. For major purchases, sleep on it overnight. What’s a major purchase? That all depends on your current financial circumstances: $20, $50, $100, $250…
  3. To put things into perspective, it’s often helpful to compare the cost of one item to another totally unrelated. Example: the cashmere jacket and a Weber Grill.
  4. The Frugal and Wise are not enamored by status of the retailer or the brand. OK I did end up with a Ralph Lauren jacket. But the brand in no way influenced my purchase (if anything a designer brand is a negative factor, IMO.) Besides, you can buy Ralph Lauren stuff at Kohl’s. (Note there’s nothing wrong with buying certain clothing items at Kohl’s.)

Do you have a tale to tell about fantastic bargains? Please share with other readers.

Cheers, Paul

P.S. Not to worry. I will not be acquiring a stainless-steel Weber Grill anytime soon. The one I trash picked is working just fine.

P.P.S. If you are curious about the $1200 Brooks Brother jacket, here’s the link.

P.P.P.S To refresh your memory, here’s the opening to A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…

© 2017 Paul J Reimold

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