Simplify Your Clothes Part 1: The Foundation

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This is the first of a 5-part series on living more easily by simplifying your closet and your clothes.

Part 1 provides a few basic principles to help simplify your wardrobe. Part 2 will focus on the inclusion of colour. Part 3 will focus on professional or work clothes, part 4 puts all this information into practice with an easy clothes shopping guide. and part 5 is on setting up your closet for easier use.

A few caveats before diving in. 1) I am not and have never been a fashion expert or a very fashionable person. Hell, after graduating from university I thought brown coloured skateboarding shoes were ‘dress shoes’ because they were brown. I like simple, comfortable clothes that fit well, look good and last a long time. 2) I’m writing this with blind people in mind. Just because I am visually impaired, does not mean that I am happy to look like a slob or mismatched. However, I absolutely loathe shopping in fluorescent lit malls and shops, and I think some of the ideas here can help other people to spend less time shopping for clothes, choosing clothes, searching for clothes, and even just thinking about clothes. I am focusing on men’s clothes because that’s what I know, but some of the ideas may apply to women’s clothes too. 3) This series will be filled with my own preferences and biases, so feel free to disagree with me and my ideas.

With that out of the way let’s begin.

1. Ultimate Simplicity

The most extreme example of simplifying your clothes is dressing like Steve Jobs. Find a coat, t-shirt, sweater, pair of pants, shoes and socks that you like, buy several of them, and wear the same thing every single day. You are done! Blog finished, talk to you later.

Too simple for you?

If you are still reading, then I assume that the Steve Jobs method leaves something to be desired. So let’s not quite be that strict in simplifying things.

2. Black or Brown?

To start simplifying things, I want you to choose only one of these colours to appear in your wardrobe. This is particularly important for all leather goods and accessories; bags, shoes, boots, belts, watch straps, and wallets.

I have always thought that mixing and matching brown and black looked really shitty. Black leather shoes with a brown belt? Shit. A brown coat with a black belt and black leather watch strap? Shit. The only person I have seen pull off the brown and black mix is David Beckham, and even then, I still think it looks kind of shitty.

Still not a fan of black and brown

If you wear both colours, you need to have one pair of brown oxfords, and one black pair, a brown belt and a black one, a brown watch and a black one, and so on and so forth. Now every morning you have to first decide “am I wearing brown or black today?” Then you have to store all those brown and black things, and keep them separate from each other. Or you can do what I did and remove ALL brown from your clothes forever. That’s right, say goodbye to brown. All of it. Forever.

I decided to donate all of the brown and beige coloured clothing I have. I sold my favorite shoulder bag because it was khaki with brown leather, and rebought the exact same model in black, and do you know what? I have absolutely no regrets. One simple choice and you basically never have to worry about your shoes, belt, watch, wallet and other accessories matching. It also cuts down on clutter and makes shopping easier. If it is brown, put it down. Do not even pick up, look at or consider buying anything brown. If someone gives you a brown sweater as a gift, return it, or re-gift it. You know those trendy tortoise shell glasses? Fuck ‘em, that’s too close to brown.

This bag is now a restricted item

Why kill the brown? Because of versatility. Black matches everything and always looks good on everyone. Are you going to a funeral? Black shoes, black belt, black watch. Are you going to the gym? A black t-shirt hides sweat well. Are you going on a date? Black always looks classy. Are you wearing a suit? Black shoes and and a black belt will match a black, grey or navy suit. You get the idea. You cannot fail with black.

Much better

Now I might have gone a little more extreme with this than others. I make sure that my jeans have black or grey stitching instead of the usual brown found on many blue jeans. Sorry, any brown just will not do under my watch. I also replaced anything that is yellow gold with white gold or steel.

If you happen to prefer brown, you’ll have to do the opposite of me and obliterate all black from your wardrobe and as you continue reading, any time I say black, you must think brown.

So take a minute before moving on, and make your choice.

3. Assess Your Needs

Based on your job, hobbies and lifestyles you need to figure out what kind of clothing you need most. Casual clothes for everyday outings, casual dates and jobs with no dress code. Semiformal clothes for special dates, and for careers like teaching. Formal clothes for job interviews, weddings or funerals, athletic clothes for sports and hobbies, and lounge wear for those cold or lazy days when you do not want to go out. There’s no point in having 5 suits if you only wear them twice a year.  

4. Double duty saves space

Now that you know what your needs are, can any of your clothes pull double or triple duty? Do you need yoga shorts and mountain biking shorts? Both are loose, comfortable and allow a wide range of movement, but mountain biking shorts are typically tougher and can survive a bike crash in ways yoga shorts could not. So skip the yoga shorts and use mountain bike shorts for both sports. A v-neck sweater is very versatile and can be used to keep you warm while wearing jeans, dress pants or a suit. There is not much difference between yoga pants and pajamas. Do you really need both?

5. After Black, Grey is Your Best Friend

I imagine that 90% of you have decided to expunge the brown and stick with black as the foundation of all your clothes. With that sorted, we go on to the second most important colour, grey.

If I could only wear one t-shirt, it’d be a medium grey v-neck t-shirt, preferably in merino wool from a company like Icebreakers. It’s great for lounging at home, it keeps you warm in winter, cool in summer, is odor resistant and dries fast. This makes it good for sports, or can be used as an undershirt for white dress shirts. Contrary to popular belief, a grey undershirt is better than white as the grey is closer to many people’s skin tone, and pops out less from under a white dress shirt.

Icebreaker grey v-neck tshirt. The only t-shirt you need

Dark or medium grey socks can also be worn with probably any pair of pants or shoes.

A dark grey suit will work at a job interview, and even pass at a funeral with a black tie or black shirt (if you chose brown instead of black earlier you are kind of screwed here). Aside from funerals though, if you chose brown instead of black as your foundation colour, grey works equally well with brown leather.

At this point you have all black (or brown) leather goods and your t-shirts are all medium grey, as are your underwear and socks. Having all the same socks makes doing laundry easier, no more mismatched pairs.

When you go shopping for anything, if you don’t know what to get, default to black or grey. Feel free to stop here if you are a true minimalist, or read on if you need a little more variety in your life .

6. Finishing the Foundation

If only black and grey is too simple and boring for you, the final two colours to complete your wardrobe are navy and white. It is nearly impossible to mix and match black, grey, navy and white and look bad.

These 4 colours will look good anywhere, during any season and can be mixed and matched in many ways. If most or all of your clothing are these colours there is a good chance you can grab any shirt, jacket, pants, socks and shoes and look good without even looking at what you are wearing. I would personally keep the white to a minimum, and only on tops or sneakers.

For those who were unlucky enough to choose brown earlier in this blog entry, fear not, grey, navy and white will still look good with your brown leather shoes, belts and bags.

So if you want to dress more easily and spend less time shopping, buy all your leather goods in black. Buy only clothes that are black, grey or navy, with maybe a few white shirts. Mix and match as you wish, or grab anything in your closet at random.

P.S. Most accessories like a belt, shoes or a watch are attached to you, that’s why even as a visually imparied person, I recommend the colour black. For items like a wallet or cellphone that may get left on a table or dresser, you may want to choose something with a bold high contrast design or pattern on it in order to make it a bit more visible and lower the chances of forgetting where you put it.

The original Pulp Fiction wallet was brown and doesn’t work for me anymore