Building a wardrobe is a years-long process.

Much like losing weight, building muscle, or growing a business, curating a great wardrobe doesn’t happen all at once.

There is no magic pill. I haven’t met anyone who has a completely empty closet and a spare $5,000 to fill it up.

In most cases, the process unfolds slowly, one item at a time, over many years.

And because it takes years to build something you’re happy with, your tastes can change along the way.

Here’s a real example from my own life: For years, I didn’t wear black. I considered it boring and unimaginative, and I much preferred a bit of color in my wardrobe.

I also told you guys to be more courageous and experiment with color, since black is such an easy fallback, as it goes with pretty much everything.

I still feel this way, and I absolutely think you need good color in your Lean Wardrobe but I’ve opened up to black clothing more since moving to NYC.

It must be the vibe of the city, especially in the colder months, that makes black seem much more appropriate at times.

Today, I’m going to help you add a few black clothing items into your wardrobe to give you a break from all the navy, brown, and charcoal.

Must-haves

Let’s start with my list of must-haves, if you are going to start wearing more black.

Leather oxfords

I’m going to mention a few other things further down the list, and with those, you’ll need a pair of black leather oxfords or bluchers. Don’t know the difference?

It’s up to you how formal you want to go. If you ask me, I’d go with a plain cap toe or semi brogue.

Sneakers and / or boots

This winter, my Chippewa boots have seen the most use.

Not only are they incredibly comfortable, they also hold up well (yep, in the rain and snow), they’re tough (for the New York concrete), and surprisingly light (must be those Vibram soles).

They do come in other colors, but I love the black leather with contrast white stitch and white Vibram sole.

For the summer, I’ll probably stick to lighter colored sneakers, but I’ve been eyeing the leather Old Skools from Vans. I love that combo of black and white, not to mention the tan inside the heel. An alternative would be the Converse Jack Purcell.

If you’re the “all black everything” type, Converse makes a great leather Chuck Taylor in all black.

Socks

I’d be surprised if you didn’t have a pair of black socks, but don’t feel limited to the polyester variety your dad kept stocked in his closet.

Also, you don’t need to stick to solid black. Experiment with texture for an extra level of interest, or patterns to incorporate other colors (think multi-striped, argyle, checked, and so on.)

Necktie

Go with a black silk knit or grenadine tie for everyday wear. Black silk or satin would come in handy for formal events, or when you’re wearing a black suit and white shirt, the most minimal yet classic of combinations.

Remember to stick with a width that goes with the rest of your outfit… meaning slimmer lapels need a slimmer tie, and wider lapels, a wider tie.

Sweater

The nice thing about having a dark sweater is that it can be dressed up (under a suit) or dressed down (with jeans and loafers).

It can elevate a daytime outfit or blend in nicely with an evening one. In short, it’s super versatile and worth the investment.

You’ll get a bang for your buck with merino wool. I feel these hold their shape better, and pill much less than cashmere, although this would be your next step up. Can’t beat that softness. If you take care of it—and if it is of high quality—it will last you years.

Nice-to-haves

I consider the following items nice to have, because you’d get much more use out of the things I’ve mentioned above. When budget and closet space allow, consider picking up stuff from this list:

Suit

If you haven’t yet picked up your first suit, I suggest you make it navy or a medium to charcoal grey. If you haven’t picked up your second suit, I suggest you make it the other one you didn’t pick up the first time.

With your third suit, you can go many ways, depending on your situation, income, and surroundings.

One of the directions you can go is a black wool suit. You got your navy and gray workhorses, so why not own a suit for when you’re feeling extra badass?

blacksuits

Dress watch

Sorry, friend, your Timex on a NATO won’t cut it in this situation. You’ll need something a bit more classy and understated.

Classy + understated doesn’t have to = expensive. You can find something with a white face, black leather strap, and clean lines for under $150.

Jacket

I’m thinking a basic Harrington jacket for warmer weather, and maybe a lightweight trench for rainy days.

For freezing cold winters, you may want to go with a down coat. Here’s the one I picked up when I moved to NYC.

Worth every penny, considering I was freezing to death in the warmest coat I had at the time, a navy peacoat with Thinsulate… not nearly warm enough in January.

Beanie / toque

Not sure what you call it where you’re from, but when the temperatures drop, you’ll want one of these on your head.

You can get a basic acrylic one from somewhere like American Apparel, or something a bit more luxurious.

A few months ago, I found a cashmere beanie at H&M, of all places. It was a medium gray, not black, but still… keep your eyes peeled and you may be surprised at what you can find.

Denim and / or chinos

I’ve embraced the black denim and the black chinos. It’s the next logical step after dark denim.

I pair them with everything from old white Chuck Taylors to tan loafers and navy chukkas. I tend to throw most of the color insecurities I have out the window and treat black denim like dark blue.

I suggest you try it out. If you’re slim, try the Levi’s 513. If you need a bit more room in the seat and thighs, maybe the 541 or 501CT are more up your alley. And for chinos, I usually go with the Dockers Alpha Khaki.

Gym clothes!

I love wearing all black to the gym. I feel like a fat and weakness assassin, out for the kill.

Maybe that’s just me.

Finally

If you’ve already gotten used to living without black, that’s great.

But if you’re looking to incorporate a bit more black into your life, I hope this helped you decide what to experiment with first.

Tell Me

How often do you wear black? Is it a daily thing for you? Or are you like (old) me, still figuring out ways to fit it in? Let’s hear it below!