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A Solid Foundation—Getting the Bones of Your Closet in Place

Minimalism—from Netflix docs to the Marie Kondo phenomenon—has been enjoying an extended stay in the spotlight. And it's true; we don’t need so much stuff. And when you think about it in clothing terms, you likely have far too many pieces you never wear that cloud your ability to choose a decent outfit.

Decision fatigue is real, man. Here’s how to fight it, and come out looking better than ever:

First Things First, It’s Time for the Purge

Oh boy. Nothing feels better than a good purge, but for the hoarders among us, nothing is more intimidating than tossing everything that isn’t working for fear you might wear these items one day.

Start by picking out the items in your closet you’ve owned for 6+ months and have yet to wear. Things likely won’t be changing anytime soon. Then, make a pile of everything that needs to be replaced—holey jeans, pitted out tees, shirts from old sports teams, and ill-fitting button-ups from your mom.

Everything must go.

Learn the ins and Outs of Fit

From polo shirts to basic tees, button-ups, chinos, jeans, and suits—no matter how much you spend, the wrong fit can kill an otherwise solid outfit.

Very quick tips:

Tees and Polos: Tees and polos should follow the same fit rules. Sleeves should end mid-bicep and hug, not squeeze your arm. Crew necks shouldn't squeeze the neck, nor should they expose your shoulder. If the collar looks stretched out, it's time to toss the tee.

Same goes for V-necks, if the neck looks stretched, it'll have a sloppy effect on your whole look. You'll also want to be aware of the deep V--the male cleavage thing is best left to the early stages of hipsterdom--in the past. A good rule of thumb here is, make sure that the peak of the V does not go any deeper than the top of your armpits.

Chino/Khaki: Seat should lightly hug your butt, not squeeze it. The waist is relatively low, should come up to the mid-hip area. While some older guys like their chinos to have some drape, the younger set likes a slight break—works better if you’re going sockless or want to show off some cool socks.

Wool trousers/Dress Pants: Should fit perfectly around the waist and stay up without the assistance of a belt. Like chinos, you don’t want wool pants to be too loose or too tight; they should gently hug the butt.

Then, The Criteria:

Building a foundational wardrobe relies on showing some restraint when it comes to colors. Stick to black, white, navy, and khaki. Use colors like burgundy, olive, and camel sparingly--these colors work with all your neutrals.

Skip the Flashy Stuff: Channel Naomi Klein and go no-logo. Skip the patterns, logos, and graphics. Here's the thing, if you wear a black or white shirt every day, no one will think twice. You cycle through one or two graphic tees too often; people will wonder if you can afford more shirts.

Versatility: Skip the single-use items like tuxedos or yellow wing tips. While you might run into trouble if you get that rare occasion to gala or a black tie wedding, you can always rent something for that special day.

Appropriateness: Appropriateness is a companion of sorts for versatility. You'll want the majority of your pieces to be appropriate for your job, as well as the things you do outside of your job.

With that in mind, you'll need to factor in in whether you want to lean more toward blazers and button-ups or tees and a leather jacket. Shorts may be an extraneous item for a guy who works in the corporate world, but a total must-have for the freelance graphic designer.

Quality: When you’re thinking like a minimalist, quality beats quantity. Invest in key pieces like leather jackets, denim, and shoes that you’ll wear multiple times a week.

With these rules in mind, here are a few pointers from creating your own personal "capsule collection".

Plan to Do Laundry About Once a Week

That’s reasonable for most guys, right? Alternatively, if you’re traveling a lot for work or are one of those digital nomads, you may want to plan on washing a couple of times a week. With that in mind, your wardrobe should like something like this:

  • 2 pairs of shoes—black boots or dress shoes and a pair of sneakers (think Chuck Taylors or Stan Smiths)

  • 2-3 pairs of pants

  • 2 button-down shirts

  • 8 t-shirts

  • 1 jacket (Denim jacket or sports coat)

  • 2 sweaters—a cardigan and a pullover

Naturally, you can adjust a bit depending on your lifestyle. If you work in an office, you may need more button downs than tees and a couple of blazers. You get the idea. The point is, all items should be interchangeable, so less clothes equal more outfit possibilities.

If you need a bit more guidance, Taylor LaPeyre’s blog is a good place to start looking for inspiration—as is Pinterest.

Where to Shop for Minimalist Essentials:

Everlane—a good resource for everything from tees to totes, this shop is a minimalist’s dream. No logos in sight and neutrals galore. We recommend heading here for the heavy-weight tees, which last longer than your average Hanes shirt, as well as their collection of cashmere sweaters.

Uniqlo—Your budget shop for all things basic, Uniqlo is the place to grab a bunch of undershirts, a pair of neutral chinos, and some reasonably priced button downs and sweaters.

Need Supply—While there are some outliers like camo pants and graphic tees, Need Supply is mostly stocked with interesting takes on quality neutrals from chinos to jackets and the coolest sneakers and sweatshirts.

Acne Studios—A little spendy for T-shirts, Acne Studios is the ideal place to shop for that one investment piece you’ll wear forever. The unfussy Nordic brand brings the basics-with-a-twist your closet so desperately needs.

Classic Essentials Trump Crazy Colors and Trends

As we mentioned above, crazy patterns and graphics don't work so well in a minimal closet. At one point or another, we've all gone through that feeling of not having anything to wear--but a full closet of things we hate.

Consider your work environment. Casual or dressy? If it’s the latter, even better, as your pieces will go further from workday to weekend.

The only problem is, sometimes a wardrobe that’s too basic comes with the risk of not having something on hand for all occasions. For now, let's just keep things firmly in the day-to-day, assuming you'll pick up some suits and stuff down the road.

The real benefit of doing the minimalist thing is the ability to take things from day to night, weekday to Saturday with a simple swap of the shoes.

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