A Minimalist Wardrobe for the Well-Dressed Man

January 5, 2015

Philosophy

About two years ago, I embarked on a journey to improve how I dressed. Like it or not, how you dress plays an important part in how people perceive you and it’s fully within your control. My track record with dressing well was horrible to say the least. Throughout high school, I wore clothes so baggy that it would take two of me to actually fit in them. College wasn’t much better. 90% of the time I wore fraternity shirts. In my late 20s, I fell into the trend of wearing Affliction-style or “Going-out” shirts with a bunch of crazy designs that signaled I had no idea what I was doing. It wasn’t until I actually took an interest in learning about men’s style that I realized how wrong I had been all those years. Since then, I’ve read more books and blogs on the subject than I care to admit and have experimented with numerous articles of clothing. However, being a minimalist, I don’t want a huge wardrobe. I want a limited amount of items that all go well together and can be put together easily in many different combinations. Minimizing your wardrobe and ensuring maximum versatility also controls your spending, which is always a good thing. So, without further ado, these are my selections for the minimalist wardrobe list for the well-dressed man.

Shoes

“If you want to know if a fellow is well-dressed, look down.” -Fred Astaire

Now that you’re a grown-ass man, it’s time to up the shoe game, fellas. It’s been said that it’s the first thing a girl notices about you. Admittedly, there are many types of shoes that a well-dressed man can own that are not on this list, but this is for minimalists. With that being said, expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $200-$300, or in some cases much more, for quality shoes. They will be worth the investment and with proper care, can last many years. As far as shoe makers are concerned, I’ve found Allen Edmonds to be superior for quality and price. Make sure you take care of your shoes and invest in leather conditioner/cleaner, polish, shoe trees, and a shoe horn. Oh, and stop wearing those square toe shoes from the 90’s.

Black Oxfords

allenedmonds_shoes_park-avenue_black_with-tap_lThe most formal shoe you can own. The closed lacing categorizes this shoe as an oxford (as opposed to a shoe with open lacing which is known as a derby or a blucher). This is your wedding, interview, and all around dressed-up shoe.

Brown Lace-up

allenedmonds_shoes_strand_walnut-with-tap_lYour everyday shoe. Its brown color makes it less formal than the black oxford. However, brown shoes are a hell of a lot more versatile and pair well with any color except black.

Low profile canvas sneakers

wtaps-canvas-sneakers-00Your casual shoe. Do yourself a favor and never wear athletic sneakers except when working out. Ever. By wearing athletic shoes casually, you risk looking like Steve Carrell in Crazy, Stupid, Love.  You’d don’t want that do you? Didn’t think so.

Pants

Dark Denim

levis501This is probably going to be your most versatile piece of clothing. Can easily be dressed up or down. Straight fit, dark, and undistressed. If you buy a distressed pair, it will be harder to dress up. Purchase a lighter color and you risk looking like you’re wearing dad jeans. At around $30-40/pair, good old fashioned Levi’s are probably your best value.

Chinos

5173df36In between jeans and flannel trousers in terms of formality. Avoid pleats and an overly baggy fit. The most versatile colors are grey, light brown, and cream. Bonobos and Dockers Alpha Khakis are popular with the slim fit crowd.

Mid-Grey Flannel Trousers

tumblr_nczxkqXHGf1qb49x3o1_r1_1280More formal than jeans or chinos. In general, it is easiest to pair dark blazers/sportcoats with light trousers, so mid-grey flannel trousers are much more versatile than charcoal. The color above goes with just about everything.

Shirts

White/Blue Dress Shirt

3-product-8f746ee80ee0e611bd1e89b448e7c70713a0e56b45-product-8ee9c8187fc913d70282d36c4b9a18aeddd64598

White and blue dress shirts are two of the most versatile colors you can own. You could only own white and blue shirts and that would be just fine. After purchasing your solids, stripes or checks are good options if you want a little bit of patterning. Most shirts fit guys way too baggy off the rack. Ratio Clothing is highly recommended if you want a custom shirt where you control all the measurements. For around $100, it’s a great deal for something custom-made to your body. As far as slim fits are concerned, nothing fits me better off the rack than 5th and Lamar. If you find a brand that fits you off the rack without any tailoring, stick with it. Your mileage may vary, so it may be helpful to try out a few different companies.

White/Blue Oxford Cloth Button Down

24-product-ddbe9b6abe77735a35332a3d0e57f9670d3550f627-product-23be2714967314a86903c6b372c2163fa06f0a6a

The button down collar makes the shirt less formal than the dress shirts above, making it the ideal weekend shirt. It can also be worn during the summer by rolling up the sleeves.

Polo

When-Should-a-Man-Don-the-Polo-ShirtBest short sleeve option for warm weather. Although a regular, plain-colored crew neck t-shirt will always be a casual option for guys, the polo provides a bit more sophistication due to the presence of a collar.

Ties

tieNot much to say here. Solid, stripes, and pin dot are the most common patterns. Black, navy, and burgundy are classic colors.

Sweaters

Merino V-Neck

93735_RD6113_mV-necks work better than crew necks due to their enhanced ability to accommodate a dress shirt underneath as shown above.

Blazers/Sportcoats

The Navy Blazer

DM101- Navy blazer
There is only one blazer widely considered as the most versatile blazer you can own: the navy blazer. There is a reason for that. It goes with just about everything. Instantly dress you outfit up by putting this on.

Suits

Another area where I think folks can seriously upgrade their game. A well-fitting suit will make you look amazing while a poor-fitting suit makes you look like a schlub. A suit will last you a very long time, so it’s better to pay for quality rather than skimp here. Look for half or fully canvassed suits rather than fused. My personal favorite at the moment is Suitsupply. Testers could not tell the difference between the $600 Suitsupply suit and a Armani suit that cost over $3,000.

The Navy Suit

Suits_Navy_Plain_Napoli_P2778_Suitsupply_Online_Store_1There is disagreement as to what the first color of your suit should be. Some say the first suit should be Navy. Others say it should be Charcoal/Mid-Grey. Personally, I lean towards Navy as the first color that you should own. The second would be…

The Charcoal/Mid-Grey Suit

Suits_Grey_Faux_Uni_Napoli_P2505_Suitsupply_Online_Store_1And if you bought this one first, get your second suit in Navy.

Coats

Topcoat

http%3A%2F%2F1.bp.blogspot.com%2F-vrIFM8r3nqo%2FUNC6W4Ff6cI%2FAAAAAAAABOw%2Fu_fMRgwtyC8%2Fs1600%2Fnavy-cashmere-topcoat-suitsupply-supply-suit-men-menswear-blog-e1355174581265Great option as the temperature drops. If you want something shorter, you can always opt for…

Navy Peacoat

dress-shirt-and-tie-and-pea-coat-and-dress-pants-and-derby-shoes-original-3562Another great option as far as coats are concerned. One of the only few stylish things created by the Navy 😉

None of the above matters if the clothes don’t fit you well. How clothes should fit is the topic of another post. However, if you want to look good, you need to find a good tailor. Have your tailor take in shirts and jackets that are too baggy. Buy clothes that complement your figure rather than obscure it. A $20 item of clothing that is tailored to you is better than a $100 item of clothing that fits you horribly.

Alright, that’s about it. Like index funds are to investing, these items form the core of any man’s wardrobe. Boring? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely. By themselves, they are enough. Adding additional pieces to this wardrobe is the equivalent of buying individual stocks. If you have the basics nailed, go for it.

One Comment on “A Minimalist Wardrobe for the Well-Dressed Man”

  1. Brian Chen Says:

    Thank you!

    Reply

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