Constructing a killer starter wardrobe, Part II: Adopting A Uniform

June 21, 2012 · 34 comments

in Apparel, How To, Lean Wardrobe

Andre 3000, Tom Ford

 Looking for Constructing a killer starter wardrobe, Part I? It’s right here. 

Possessing awesome style doesn’t mean needing to have a ton of money, an eclectic wardrobe, or an ever-changing look. Many style icons often kept their looks simple, but they made it their own.

James Dean. Cary Grant. McQueen. Bogart. Miles Davis.

Some more modern examples: Clooney. Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Andre 3000. Tom Ford.

Okay fine, so these examples probably do have a ton of money and an eclectic wardrobe. But the point is this: Many of them adopted a sort of uniform, rarely deviating from the usual pieces they wore.

That’s not to say they never switched it up, but when you think of these guys, you picture them in a certain outfit or a specific piece. Their look is tied to their name.

If you’re not flush with cash all the time or happen to hate shopping for new clothes, adopt your own (good) look and you won’t have to think about what to wear all the time. Here are some takeaways from this concept that you can apply starting… right now.

Understand the elements of a great uniform

I hesitate calling it a uniform. I went to private school when I was younger and I HATED having to wear a uniform. The difference between you and a private school kid is that you’re doing so by choice, plus, you have the option to deviate as much or as little as possible any time you feel like it.

At the same time, predictability and not needing to think too hard makes life and looking good more effortless, which is the whole point.

Anyway, the same rules about fit, color, and proportion still apply. In fact, they’re even more important, because if you’re wearing the same pieces often, you want them to fit you like a glove and to complement each other well.

What do you already own and love to wear?

This is a good indicator of what you should include in your everyday uniform. I have several pairs of dark denim, but I wear one in particular practically every single day. It’s perfectly worn, never washed, and fits me like a glove. Best pair I’ve ever owned.

I love my oxfords, and when I’m not wearing Fifth&Brannan, I have these on. I own the same shirt in lavender, light blue, and white, and pretty much cycle through these all the time. they’re nicely worn and starting to fray, which I personally love. It adds character to the clothes and I like things that tell a story. I’ve had these shirts for a few years now and hopefully they last a few more.

I still have my first pair of boat shoes (got em from LL Bean) and they’re probably 7 or 8 years old by now. They’re worn to bits but still my go-to pair, even though I’ve bought many since then.

My favorite pair of brogues are the wine-colored Florsheim Veblen. I feel like I’m walking on a cloud, and since they’re relatively affordable compared to some of my other shoes, I don’t mind beating them up a bit. In fact, they look even better.

Keep it classic

Adopting a uniform doesn’t apply to items like your ratty college sweatshirt or Juicy Couture track suit. The items you wear should be classic and timeless.

If you’re wearing the same type of clothing most days, you want people to think “Damn, how does he always look so good?”, not “Jesus, he wears a different Hypercolor tee every day, what’s wrong with this guy?”

Solids and subtle (very subtle) patterns work best

Subtlety is definitely key when adopting a uniform. If you wear the same red blazer every day, people are going to notice you’re wearing a red blazer every day. This might be okay if you have a closet full of red blazers, but if you only have one, well… you’re going to be that guy wearing the same blazer every day. And seriously, who has a closet full of red blazers?

Now, if it’s a well-cut two-button single breasted navy blazer, you can get away with wearing that almost every day. One, because it’s timeless, and two, because it’s a subtle color.

You very well could have a closet full of navy blazers, but even if you only had one, it still isn’t as obvious. Plus, there aren’t many situations where a great navy blazer won’t work. So, win-win.

Consider where you live and what you do

Wearing lightweight chinos and a navy linen shirt practically every day would make sense for someone who lives in, say, Miami… but if you live in Minneapolis, that’s probably not going to fly.

Personally, I like wearing denim with oxford shirts, a jacket or blazer, and a great pair of shoes. It fits my style, I’m comfortable in it, and it’s weather-appropriate 95% of the time here in SF. These four pieces essentially make up my uniform.

If I lived in a more tropical climate, I would probably wear a lot of light or bright clothing. My uniform would consist of a great pair of well-fitting shorts, a polo or V-neck shirt, and Top-siders, driving shoes, or a pair of canvas sneakers… and not much else. When it’s humid, it sucks wearing suit jackets and denim when you don’t have to.

The climate where you live plays a huge part in what you wear. But no matter what, fit, color, and proportion are still central to a good look. Just don’t forget that.

Be realistic

It’s all about your situation, your daily activities, and where you live! Construct a killer wardrobe based on these things and you’re golden.

So, what’s your personal uniform?

Still looking to put one together so you can stop thinking so hard about what to wear in the mornings? Let us know in the comments below.

By the way, we talk a lot about constructing a killer wardrobe in Graduating Your Style, EG’s first manual. Over 400 people have purchased GYS and are in the process of upping their style game. Join us!

 

[photo, photo, photo, photo]

About

Barron is the founder and editor of Effortless Gent, a site dedicated to helping guys figure out what looks best on them. He's based in San Francisco. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

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