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Hey Gents,

As we put the finishing touches on the new Effortless Gent site (!), the one section I’ve been giving a lot of thought is our About page. I want it to embody everything we believe in and talk about here on EG.

Of course, a big part of that is the concept of a Lean Wardrobe. I’ve internalized this idea so it’s easy for me to grasp, as I’m sure it is for a lot of you longtime readers.

But what about the new guy? The one who accidentally stumbled upon EG looking for answers, and has yet to learn about fit, the difference between a dress shirt and a sport shirt, or why he needs to own a pair of dark, fitted denim instead of the baggy, faded variety?

If he doesn’t know about those things, how could he possibly understand the Lean Wardrobe concept?

I wanted to package up this idea into one bite-sized morsel on the About page, and I think I came up with something good.

The Lean Wardrobe Pyramid

So, here’s my theory. Let’s think of the Lean Wardrobe as a pyramid, split into three levels.

lean wardrobe pyramid

(Click to enlarge)

The bottom is your base. It comprises the building blocks of your wardrobe. All your essentials. Your basics, in both garment style and color.

This is where your navy suit is, your dark denim, your khaki chinos, your T-shirts, your white dress shirt, your blue Oxford cloth button down.

These are typically solid, muted, and / or neutral in color. They go with everything, and they play nicely with each other.

The middle level contains pieces that are limited in their ability to mix with others.

Think bolder patterns, textures, and colors. Your multi-colored plaid, a yellow gingham button-down, that plum-colored henley, those green twill chinos.

These things go well with your base-level items one-on-one, but not so easily with each other. It’s certainly possible, you’d just have to understand how to match and complement colors and textures well.

The top level contains all your trendy, one-off or standout items. Things you see other people wear and want to try, too.

These are items like a white fedora, purple bowties with sunglass print, suspenders, a bold blazer, an in-your-face pocket square.

Own fewer items the more you move up the pyramid

In keeping with the Lean Wardrobe theory, you want a majority of your closet to contain the base items, things that are interchangeable in style and color, because these pieces will go with everything no matter what other clothing you choose.

You should own the fewest top-level items, those unique (yet inflexible) pieces. They’re great to finish off or accent your base outfit, but shouldn’t comprise your whole wardrobe. Not only would that be impractical, but you limit yourself in terms of interchangeability with the rest of your clothing.

Clothing in your base level ≠ someone else’s

What’s trendy or outstanding to you (i.e. suspenders), may be part of someone else’s base level.

The ideal Lean Wardrobe is different for everyone, and completely dependent upon one’s situation, income, and surroundings.

Just keep that in mind when you’re building your wardrobe. Find out what’s important to you and what fits your lifestyle best, and roll with that.

The complete Lean Wardrobe is MORE than just essentials

Sure, a majority of it is your essentials, your base-level items. These clothes are your wardrobe’s building blocks, the starting point of all your outfits.

But a wardrobe built on essentials alone is kind of… boring.

You need mid-level items and top-level trendy accessories. You need to introduce color in your wardrobe other than navy, gray, khaki, and white.

You need to experiment with trends outside of your comfort zone, because who knows, you may discover something you originally thought too far outside your level of comfort is actually pretty awesome and looks great on you. That means you can incorporate it more regularly in your rotation.

Does that help?

Curious to know if this helps you visualize the Lean Wardrobe idea better. Also would love to know if you prefer these shorter, more succinct posts vs our longer-form writing.

Let’s chat in the comments below!

PUBLISHED August 7, 2014


Barron is the Founding Editor of Effortless Gent and the Cladright Association. He's from San Francisco but currently living in New York. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr.



  • http://www.ballerleather.com Terry Lin

    Hey Barron, cool analogy for visualizing it this way. I find it similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but also how comftorable you are with your own self-image to experiment with different things at the top of the pyramid.

    One of my favorite things to wear now is a white/cream pair of jeans with a tailored light blue or lavender dress shirt. When I was younger in my early 20s I would have never considered this as I was way to self-conscious.

    Some folks probably don’t have a strong image of themselves, therefore they stay in boring routines, jobs, and wardrobes all their lives.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Agree; it’s that, plus, just not being used to the clothing itself. It’s hard to wear white jeans suddenly, if you’ve never done it before. That’s the nice thing about stuff at the top of the pyramid. It’s not mandatory, but always available if you’re willing to experiment and try new things.

      • http://www.ballerleather.com Terry Lin

        Yeah buddy!

  • http://www.ballerleather.com Terry Lin

    Hey Barron, cool analogy for visualizing it this way. I find it similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but also how comftorable you are with your own self-image to experiment with different things at the top of the pyramid.

    One of my favorite things to wear now is a white/cream pair of jeans with a tailored light blue or lavender dress shirt. When I was younger in my early 20s I would have never considered this as I was way to self-conscious.

    Some folks probably don’t have a strong image of themselves, therefore they stay in boring routines, jobs, and wardrobes all their lives.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Agree; it’s that, plus, just not being used to the clothing itself. It’s hard to wear white jeans suddenly, if you’ve never done it before. That’s the nice thing about stuff at the top of the pyramid. It’s not mandatory, but always available if you’re willing to experiment and try new things.

      • http://www.ballerleather.com Terry Lin

        Yeah buddy!

  • Josh Longanecker

    I’m digging the idea. What would be nice would be to include how many pair of each someone should shoot for – with the caveat that an individual may prefer more or less (always with the caveats..)

    3 pairs of dark denim jeans, 5 white OCBD’s, 1 Navy suit, etc. in order to fulfill the “base” of the pyramid, for example.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Yeah, I feel like I’ve covered that in a different article. And I have something awesome coming out soon, that will certainly cover those bases.

      Short answer though, I think it depends on your situation. A guy who wears suits to work 5 times a week will need more suits and dress shirts than a guy who works as a web developer.

      And the web developer will need more denim and OCBDs than the guy who’s wearing suits every day, etc.

      • steez

        Could you provide a link to that article you mentioned?

        • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

          This article has a good list to start with, might have to scroll down a bit (or better yet, read the whole thing)

          effortlessgent.com/sartorial-evaluation-how-to-be-stylish-in-your-40s-and-beyond/

          • steez

            Thank you very much sir.

  • Josh Longanecker

    I’m digging the idea. What would be nice would be to include how many pair of each someone should shoot for – with the caveat that an individual may prefer more or less (always with the caveats..)

    3 pairs of dark denim jeans, 5 white OCBD’s, 1 Navy suit, etc. in order to fulfill the “base” of the pyramid, for example.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Yeah, I feel like I’ve covered that in a different article. And I have something awesome coming out soon, that will certainly cover those bases.

      Short answer though, I think it depends on your situation. A guy who wears suits to work 5 times a week will need more suits and dress shirts than a guy who works as a web developer.

      And the web developer will need more denim and OCBDs than the guy who’s wearing suits every day, etc.

      • steez

        Could you provide a link to that article you mentioned?

        • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

          This article has a good list to start with, might have to scroll down a bit (or better yet, read the whole thing)

          effortlessgent.com/sartorial-evaluation-how-to-be-stylish-in-your-40s-and-beyond/

          • steez

            Thank you very much sir.

  • Matt Dalton

    I really like the idea. It can also help people remember that even if they get more advanced, to not let the ratios between the levels get out-of-whack. The diagram reinforces your concepts well, although it would help middle-aged eyes if the lines marking off the levels on the pyramid could be a bit thicker or with a small color adjustment that provides a little more contrast.

    As to long vs. short posts, I think it depends on the subject. I think the length of this post is spot on for communicating the concepts of the pyramid.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Thanks for the feedback, Matt.

      And even in the big, full-sized image it’s hard to see? https://s3.amazonaws.com/eg-siteassets/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/lwpyramid.png (zoom in to see full size)

      • Matt Dalton

        Viewing it full-size on a laptop is fine. It’s just the smaller-size image where I have trouble seeing the lines clearly. I hope this is not coming across as critical, as it is a good illustration and I only mentioned this because I want people to get the most from it.

        • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

          Thanks, Matt. Yeah, I was hoping people would know to click on it to enlarge, that’s why I also linked right below. Can’t do much considering my layout limits the width of images

          • Rob Trauthwein

            B – I have to agree with Matt’s suggestion of more clearly deliniating between the layers by using visual differences. Perhaps make the base of the pyramid a navy color, the middle tier a medium shade of blue, and the top a light one. This not only makes each level stand out form the others from a strictly tactical stand point, but it would be another mental image for the density of your wardrobe that should be represented in each layer.

  • Matt Dalton

    I really like the idea. It can also help people remember that even if they get more advanced, to not let the ratios between the levels get out-of-whack. The diagram reinforces your concepts well, although it would help middle-aged eyes if the lines marking off the levels on the pyramid could be a bit thicker or with a small color adjustment that provides a little more contrast.

    As to long vs. short posts, I think it depends on the subject. I think the length of this post is spot on for communicating the concepts of the pyramid.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Thanks for the feedback, Matt.

      And even in the big, full-sized image it’s hard to see? https://s3.amazonaws.com/eg-siteassets/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/lwpyramid.png (zoom in to see full size)

      • Matt Dalton

        Viewing it full-size on a laptop is fine. It’s just the smaller-size image where I have trouble seeing the lines clearly. I hope this is not coming across as critical, as it is a good illustration and I only mentioned this because I want people to get the most from it.

        • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

          Thanks, Matt. Yeah, I was hoping people would know to click on it to enlarge, that’s why I also linked right below. Can’t do much considering my layout limits the width of images

          • Rob Trauthwein

            B – I have to agree with Matt’s suggestion of more clearly deliniating between the layers by using visual differences. Perhaps make the base of the pyramid a navy color, the middle tier a medium shade of blue, and the top a light one. This not only makes each level stand out form the others from a strictly tactical stand point, but it would be another mental image for the density of your wardrobe that should be represented in each layer.

  • Jan

    Great article! Reminds me that I have a wardrobe full of base material so, yes, kind of boring.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      but great to build upon!

  • Jan

    Great article! Reminds me that I have a wardrobe full of base material so, yes, kind of boring.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      but great to build upon!

  • Patrick

    So, in theory I should have more cold weather coats than pocket squares or ties?

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      In theory, yes, but it also depends on how much you wear suits / blazers vs cold weather coats.

      And who needs more than one or two really great winter coats?

      On the other hand, accessories are easy to store, and it’s nice to have a selection. If you wear suits every day, I wouldn’t skimp on pocket squares and ties. I’d have at least 7-10 each to choose from throughout the week.

  • Patrick

    So, in theory I should have more cold weather coats than pocket squares or ties?

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      In theory, yes, but it also depends on how much you wear suits / blazers vs cold weather coats.

      And who needs more than one or two really great winter coats?

      On the other hand, accessories are easy to store, and it’s nice to have a selection. If you wear suits every day, I wouldn’t skimp on pocket squares and ties. I’d have at least 7-10 each to choose from throughout the week.

  • Stu

    I recently found a great coupon for 6% off Kohls through Ebates which you can use an unlimited amount of times. From my research, I learned that Kohls hired ebates to stimulate sales during the recession by offering this coupon. The way this works is that Kohl’s pays ebates a commission every time you use them to buy something. In return, Ebates pays you part of that commission (which is how you get the 6% off). This way everyone wins out including Kohls.

    Check it out for yourself. Here’s the link for ebates’ information page: [URL="http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=SMzek%2F4gTZ0vXsL4z5gkXA%3D%3D&eeid=26471"]www.ebates.com/info[/URL]

    I like the Dockers pants personally, but to each their own. They have a lot of things to choose from.

  • Stu

    I recently found a great coupon for 6% off Kohls through Ebates which you can use an unlimited amount of times. From my research, I learned that Kohls hired ebates to stimulate sales during the recession by offering this coupon. The way this works is that Kohl’s pays ebates a commission every time you use them to buy something. In return, Ebates pays you part of that commission (which is how you get the 6% off). This way everyone wins out including Kohls.

    Check it out for yourself. Here’s the link for ebates’ information page: [URL="http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=SMzek%2F4gTZ0vXsL4z5gkXA%3D%3D&eeid=26471"]www.ebates.com/info[/URL]

    I like the Dockers pants personally, but to each their own. They have a lot of things to choose from.

  • http://www.sizemikk.com/ Craig A

    I like the concept, a smart way of looking at it! (though I’m getting a 404 not found on the image)

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      sorry about that, the site was still in transition. should be back up now