Can Clothes Ever Be A Good Investment?

December 2019Words by Mr Josh Sims

From left: Academia Correction workshop coat, A Cold Wall, 2017. Hand painted canvas jacket, Craig Green, 2014. Zeltbahn cape, Stone Island, 1982. All photographs courtesy of Westminster Menswear Archive

Stylist Mr James Parkes deals with clothes more than the average person. Still, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call him a sartorial obsessive. He reckons he has 60 Stone Island coats, among other pieces by the Italian brand, mostly bought new and simply never let go of. He’s probably right not to, especially with the brand’s relative rarities. Pick the right item and Stone Island clothing can actually increase in value. “I went full time selling Stone Island at one point, and even sold some pieces back to the Stone Island design team in Milan,” says Mr Parkes. “But I collected it to wear it because it spoke to me, not to store it away in the back of my wardrobe. That said, it’s good to know its value can hold.”

Before you consign that much worn, but now rather too familiar jacket to the local charity shop, pause for thought. Might it be worth tucking away for a while, like a fine wine? Vintage, pre-1960s clothing has long been appreciated at auction – and that’s Bonhams, rather than eBay. Increasingly, however, contemporary menswear is becoming more collectible, chiming with the male inclination towards being nerdy and completist, while providing some kind of cultural resonance.

“This isn’t just about monetary value, but what you might call sociological value,” says Ms Shonagh Marshall, fashion curator and lecturer at the School of Visual Arts in New York. “Womenswear is still all about trends, but menswear has never really cemented itself in that same trend cycle. Rather, it’s about the secret codes, about the cultishness of certain brands and even specific pieces that you see whole sub-cultures built around. Since menswear is increasingly to the forefront in contemporary culture, when a man buys a garment now, he can think of it as part of pulling together his own archive. The question is who decides what becomes of value. It’s hard to gauge what will be in demand next.”