The Lean Wardrobe: Using High/Low styling to your advantage

January 12, 2012 · 14 comments

in Classic, How To, Lean Wardrobe

The Lean Wardrobe is an ongoing series of articles exploring the ideas and philosophies behind curating a lean wardrobe… Things like cleaning out whats unnecessary, buying only what you’ll use, spending on things that are worth it, etc.

If you’re interested in creating a lean, mean closet with only stuff you love to wear (while getting rid of the crap that’s taking up space) you should subscribe to Effortless Gent (this will open in a new window).


Hey gents,

I’m a big proponent of understanding basic style rules, and then bending those rules (maybe even breaking a couple) to make them your own. Doing so will help you create a personal style that’s completely yours.

The idea of high / low style isn’t a new thing, but if you haven’t yet incorporated the idea of it into your daily life, why not?

High/low style (or high-low, whatever) is this general idea of combining high-fashion, tailored, and custom pieces with more casual, everyday pieces. Alternatively, the combining of the higher-priced items in your closet with your less expensive items.

Most people have outfits in mind for certain occasions. So, jeans and a t-shirt for going to the store, suit for work or a wedding, etc.

The idea behind high / low style is blurring the lines (something else I’m a big proponent of) so you take on a more casual dressy look, or a dressy casual look. Never too overdressed for any occasion, but never underdressed either.

Probably the most basic high / low style mixture out there? Denim with a sport coat. Looks great, classes up the denim. Throw on some great leather shoes and in 95% of situations, you’d be dressed appropriately.

Waistcoat, denim, dress shirt, sneakers. BOOM.

Some other ideas? A waistcoat and dress shirt with denim and sneakers, suiting trousers with a simple, fitted sweatshirt. Suiting trousers with sneakers and a thick cardigan sweater.

Think mixing high and low can’t look good? It sure can. Remember, if everything fits well, you’ll have a much easier time putting things together and making sure your look is polished.

Other reasons you may want to use high/low to your advantage:

Perfect way to utilize both casual / dressier clothing in your closet

If you’re like most dudes, the suit you bought and had tailored sits in your closet for most of the year, only seeing the light of day when a special occasion arises.

You need to make use of that suit more often. Break it up and use parts of it throughout the week. Throw on your suit jacket with your favorite pair of denim. Wear the trousers with a sweater and some sneakers. Mixing a suit in with other, more casual pieces, keeps shit interesting, and adds another dimension of awesomeness to your everyday style.

Here’s a great article (with images) from Dan T over at The Style Blogger, where he shows five different ways you can wear individual pieces from a double breasted suit.

Lets you be more creative with your combos

It’s easy to get into a routine with your clothing. And there’s nothing wrong with a uniform, but if you’re still figuring out what defines your personal style, you don’t want to get stuck early on. You want to experiment and try as many things as possible, so you can land upon something that’s uniquely your own.


Wondering if you can pair X with Y? Not sure how to pull off slim trousers with anything but the suit jacket it came with? Let’s hear it in the comments below.


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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