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 1800 people have purchased GYS and are in the process of upping their style game. Join us!


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35 Responses

  1. rt on

    Great post. I live in Florida so shorts, oxfords, saddles as my standard uniform. Once in while, when Im feeling “trendy”, I put on a fedora (can’t resist the $5 hat at H&M).

  2. Dave Doolin on

    Jeans and either button shirt or polo shirt with redwing boots and a black belt is the usual. Slowly moving back to khakis, won’t be stopping there.

  3. ghurd on

    Dark jeans, point collar shirts (can’t stand button-downs), classic blazers, white pocket square, and brown shoes, very rarely black. Earth tones is my signature rainbow. Great post.

    • Barron on

      I never wear black either. Any reason you don’t like button-down collars? They’re good for more casual looks, but for your getup, a standard point collar works better anyway.

      • Jeff H. on

        A button down collar (in my opinion) shows that you don’t have enough control over your clothing to make the collar sit where you want it to. It just seems lazy, instead of ironing that collar until it stays, lets just button it there. Part of looking good is looking like you put in a decent amount of effort to make yourself look good. Attention to detail I guess..
        Also, the buttons on the collar look out of place, or dare I say “goofy”, and draw far too much attention to your collar, instead of your face. You want people to look at YOU, not at your buttons.
        Generally speaking, if your going for a more casual look, then logically, you shouldn’t really care if your collar isn’t exactly in place, therefore making the button down collars quite the opposite of casual.

        But this is all my opinion.

        My old work uniforms had button down collars, and I found them to be very odd looking, and out of place. They were small white buttons against a blue w/ white stripe shirt. I always preferred to leave them undone, and if the boss told me to button them up, I would just cut the buttons off so that I couldn’t.

  4. chris. on

    chinos, slim fit button down, great pair of brown lace ups.
    not at work, it’s a white v neck, dark denim, and canvas shoes with no socks.

    • Barron on

      do you ever have to / want to wear a jacket at work? like of the single-breasted sportcoat variety? sounds like that would top off the outfit nicely.

  5. Brian MD on

    dark jeans or chinos, black oxfords or brown loafers, white or blue shirts (point and button down) – with either a casual blue blazer or my black Barbour Beaufort depending on the weather. I live in Portland, Oregon – so it’s mostly the Barbour from October thru April… 🙂

  6. Cameron Frazier on

    I definitely rocks with the navy blazer, some khaki chinos, an oxford button down usually with no tie, and either tassel loafers or wing tips. Perfect in any situation.

  7. Bobby Brooks on

    You gotta wash those jeans, man. It’s not the sweaty thighs, it’s the odoriferous crotch.

  8. Brian Alcorn on

    Work-wise, it’s white oxford, striped tie, and well-fitting dress pants. I haven’t nailed my shoes yet, but I’ll be going cap toe when I do.

    Out on the town, I like dark denim, an oxford (need to add some more color), and, for the summer, a pair of dark brown w/white sole boat shoes. Shoe-wise I’m hoping to add a nice pair of brogues for the fall/winter.

    I’ve been blazer shopping, but haven’t committed yet. I’m also planning on a good tailored suit purchase in the next 8 months.

  9. Michael Rieger on

    For work: Suit or slacks with a simple patterned tie and one of my ever-growing collection of CK dress shirts
    For play: Jeans/cords and button up and maybe a v-neck sweater in cool weather; shorts and a polo or button up in warmer weather.

  10. Wilder on

    Off Work: Black Leather Jacket + Button up (basically anything that doesn’t have stripes) or black/navy/sea-green Sweater + no-show undershirt. Dark Denim, Brown leather belt, Driving shoes, IWC Portuguese

    At Work: Charcoal or Navy Suit (slim notch lapel), clean white or sky-patterned button up, Navy or Red 2.5″ Tie, brown plaque belt, brown wingtips, Glashuette Senator Sixties Chronograph

  11. Zach on

    My standard uniform is blazer, khakis, button-down oxford, and a tie (both neck and bow). Shoes vary, mostly brown loafers or wingtips but bucks in the summer.

  12. Matt on

    Izod Casual Khakis — it’s hard to find a cut that’s flattering on the big & tall man (I’m a 6’3″ football player) who isn’t absolutely round.
    A button-up shirt — I’ve got colours ranging from white to light blue, yellow, or mint, then some patterned ones. (plaids and stripes).
    Add one of my handmade bow ties (right now I’m really digging a light blue & white check gingham with the yellow shirt), brown/wine leather wingtips, and a black or blue jacket.

    Topped with my straw panama hat. For more casual, I wear dark blue jeans. With colder weather out comes my brown and black fedoras, and tweed or corduroy jackets!

  13. Rik Barwick on

    Off work: Jeans, Check Shirts, Polo’s or printed urban tee’s.
    At work: Jeans, Check Shirts, Polo’s, V-Neck Jumpers

    I pretty much work in a casual environment but try and smarten things up a little. My new tan brogues or Kicker boots tend to do the trick!

  14. Zac Champigny on

    The guy on the right at the top looks like an absolute boss. Anyway… I’m always happier when I have a “Uniform” of one or two nice pairs of pants, a few shirts I cycle, and a pair of shoes or two I am comfortable wearing. In the Summer you can barely ever find me not wearing boat shoes

  15. careNfashion on

    I read this post third time, as this post is really worth reading. I am thinking that adopting a typical wardrobe will is putting axe on uniqueness and one is restricting himself to wear wide variety in men dressing.

    I think for a celebrity adopting unique uniform is ok, a good idea. But for layman, I think one should open his wardrobe choices and try very wardrobe according to each situation. But never limit his choices. (I don’t know what you people think about this idea).

    But Barron thank for wonderful post. It is thought provoking

    • Vaibhav Bhatla on

      How about a linen jacket (blazer)? I have a navy blue one from John Lewis and I love it to bits. I got one on eBay for about $20 right after trying it on in the store (where it was almost $250).

      Linen takes a bit of care when washing (if you ever need to), but I wear mine every day of the summer (it’s part of my uniform – I’m the college student who mixes blazers and jeans) and it seems to keep looking better.

      One tip – make sure the piece you get has some distinctiveness (horn buttons are the best – subtle yet classy and different) and try it on to be sure of how it feels; linen jackets are different from suit jackets in that they have a relaxed fit that very closely mirrors your body shape, so you want something that feels like a light but fitting drape.