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How to Elevate Your Everyday on a Budget · Primer

Plus, a high/low outfit you can wear anywhere on a casual evening.

There’s a secret trick that people with average budgets and enviable personal style and amazing well-designed home interiors always rely on: a concept known as high/low. At its core, high/low style is all about striking the perfect balance between investing in special pieces and stretching your dollar on affordable wardrobe staples, then mixing these elements together in a way that feels effortless and cohesive.

It’s the surprising juxtaposition of a vintage leather motorcycle jacket with a $20 sweatshirt, or a hand-thrown ceramic vase sitting on top of an IKEA shelf that makes a space feel curated and cool.

Think of these luxe items as the sartorial equivalent of a classy picture frame. Just as a refined frame can make even the most minimalist, paint splash artwork feel significant and gallery-worthy, a single high-end garment can transform a basic jeans and tee combo into an intentional style statement.

By grounding your look with a few carefully chosen investment pieces, you create a solid foundation that makes the rest of your outfit shine.

men's casual outfit with olive green suede trucker jacket, light gray pocket t-shirt, faded black jeans, and brown chelsea bootsmen's casual outfit with olive green suede trucker jacket, light gray pocket t-shirt, faded black jeans, and brown chelsea boots
A grail jacket with a $10 t-shirt and $28 jeans. Links below.

The true genius of this approach lies in understanding which items are worth the extra cash – the ones where premium quality and craftsmanship are immediately apparent, instantly elevating everything else around them, like a buttery soft leather jacket, a decadent cashmere sweater, a perfectly tailored wool suit, or a one-of-a-kind vintage rug. These are the show-stopping pieces that do the heavy lifting, making everything else you wear look a bit more considered and refined.

High/low mastery is a mindset that goes beyond simply prioritizing what’s on sale. It’s a conscious approach to getting maximum style mileage out of your wardrobe, ultimately about selectively splurging on what you adore while staying perceptive about what everyday items benefit from the big bucks versus where to embrace value, but still well-made, offerings.

To illustrate an example of high/low, we’ve put together the ultimate casual evening Getup that works just as well for a low-key beer as it does for a spontaneous gallery opening, striking an ideal balance between nonchalance and sophistication.

todd snyder dylan suede jacket in olive greentodd snyder dylan suede jacket in olive green

Suede Leather Jacket

High: Todd Snyder (shown) | Read my full review

Low: Quince

The cornerstone of this look is the olive suede trucker jacket, a piece that effortlessly bridges the gap between luxury and laid-back, rugged style. Its rich texture and deep olive hue that looks brown under some lighting inject a dose of understated sophistication, making it versatile enough to pair with anything from a tee to a more structured button-up shirt. This jacket represents the ‘high’ in our high/low mix, serving as a statement piece that elevates the entire outfit.

Gray Pocket T-shirt

High: USA-made Gustin

Low: Hanes (shown: OoS J.Crew)

An easy way to nail the mix of higher priced and lower priced clothing items is to set the more expensive item up to be the star of the show. Let the jacket’s lush nap and distinctive hue be the focus, and keep other pieces subtler to avoid competing textures and shades. A light gray tee allows those jacket nuances to really pop.

Regardless of which price tier you go with, stick to quality, well-fitting basics without a lot of overt logos or branding. You want that minimalist vibe that lets the special pieces (and your personal style) take center stage.

close up of faded black jeansclose up of faded black jeans

Faded Black Jeans

High: Hiroshi Kato

Low: Amazon Essentials (shown)

These faded black jeans have a practical read as dark gray, offering a complementary shade to the light gray t-shirt, that creates a shade hierarchy for the suede jacket to shine on top of.

When it comes to jeans, you don’t need to go all-in on the pricey options every time. Sure, investing in a premium pair that fits you like a glove is absolutely worth it. Quality denim that molds to your body is hard to beat. But you don’t have to approach every single jean purchase with that premium mindset.

Mixing affordable jeans into your rotation is a smart move. The key is balancing it out – maybe you splurge on one or two killer pairs that makes you feel like a million bucks. Then fill out your denim lineup with quality, value-priced options, without killing your style vibe. Rocking those cost-effective jeans with your designer jacket or fresh kicks is the epitome of high/low mastery.

men's chunky chelsea bootsmen's chunky chelsea boots

Suede Boots

High: Common Projects

Low: Thursday Boots (shown)

Those scuffed up, broken-in boots with the chunky lugged sole? High-fashion’s antidote, keeping even the most elevated casual looks from ever veering too precious or pretentious. True style sweet spot achieved.

Rugged legitimately colliding with elevated sophistication – not just randomly throwing stuff together. Mastering that counterbalance of high and low is how you achieve the pinnacle of an “easy cool guy” evening vibe without ever veering into trying-too-hard territory.

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