How To: Incorporate Trends In Your Classic Lean Wardrobe

by Barron Cuadro  |  in Smart Casual

I saw this interesting infographic in December’s GQ about the styles and trends that are building up, cresting, and crashing right now (or in the next few months).

There were some interesting things pointed out, some of which I agreed with (leather shoes with colored soles are done / overdone), and others I’m curious to see come to fruition (bolo ties, anyone?)

via GQ
via GQ. Click to enlarge.

If you’ve been reading EG for any amount of time, you may think I’m completely against trends, solely based off the Lean Wardrobe approach I always champion.

While I do think a Lean Wardrobe is best, being anti-trend isn’t the full truth.

In fact, I fully embrace the idea of experimenting with trends that you like, but what I suggest to you is to structure your wardrobe appropriately in order to allow for experimentation without diving head-first into them, leaving you with a completely passé wardrobe come next season or next year.

Think of it this way: If you’re building a house, do you first shop for art to decorate your walls, or lay the foundation? The walls aren’t even up yet! How are you going to hang your art?

Build your classic Lean Wardrobe FIRST (e.g. lay the foundation), then feel free to explore trends as they fit your style and interest (e.g. buy some art for your walls).

Let’s explore this idea a bit more. I’ll show you what I mean by incorporating trends mindfully, why it’s important to take your time, and how you can use trendy items in your classic wardrobe starting right this second.

Classic + Trendy… How?

First, let’s recap the three main characteristics. Your Lean Wardrobe should be:

  1. Basic and simple.
  2. Modern interpretations of classic styles (e.g. a slim-fitting charcoal gray wool suit, vs. a boxy traditional-fitting one)
  3. Muted and neutral (e.g. navy, grays, khakis, white, light blue, etc.)

This type of wardrobe sets the stage for easy experimentation. Why and how?

  • You can combine color, pattern, textures, and trends on top of a simple Lean Wardrobe, because those simple pieces will go with everything.
  • It will never go out of style; it’s made up of items that always look “of the moment”, while at the same time, refined and classic.
  • It’s the perfect base to have under a trendy item or two (or a color you’ve never tried, or a pattern you’re curious about, etc.).

Colorful and interesting accessorizing, along with the addition of patterns and textures, is the way to punch up the overall look of an otherwise basic outfit.

Could you wear the pieces in your Lean Wardrobe together without any colorful, interesting accessories, or without the incorporation of patterns and textures? Sure. But if you get bored and wanted to add some interest, accessories, color, patterns, and textures are the way to go.

The photo above of actor Jason Sudeikis shows him in two suits, very similar to what you might find in a Lean Wardrobe: one in gray and one in navy.

The gray suit, paired with a solid shirt and muted (though patterned) tie is a pretty standard, simple, straight-forward pairing.

The navy one, however, has a bit more visual interest with the bright plaid shirt and dark tie.

Both suit colors are standard in an LW, so you can do the toned-down pairing and be on your merry way… or, if you felt like it, you could throw on a plaid shirt and solid, dark tie to add that punch you may be going for.

Much easier than, say, springing for an actual plaid suit.

How to incorporate trends (or anything new) mindfully

  1. Really evaluate it. Have you been thinking about trying out a bow tie for several weeks, or are you making this purchase on a whim? Buying stuff on a whim often leads to bad decisions and closets stuffed with unused items.
  2. How much is it? You don’t want to spend too much on something you’re not totally sure you’ll like. Also, consider…
  3. Is there an affordable alternative you can try first? Let’s say you wanted to experiment with a dotted shirt; you can find them at virtually any price point. Go for the more budget-friendly option over the pricier one that may have a familiar brand name.
  4. Just get one. You may feel overly confident or excited about your newfound love of cardigan sweaters, for example. But wait one sec! Don’t go snatching up every cardigan in every color you see. Pick up one or two, wear them for a bit, and see how they fit into your weekly rotation. If it turns out they get a lot of use, pick up another one if you need to.

Be daring! Just a little.

If you’ve followed the advice in numbers one through four above, it’s okay to dabble a little in a trend you’re not so sure about. You’ve already thought about it and confirmed you want to try it, you’ve found a more affordable alternative, and you’re picking up one… just one.

You’re all set, now go for it! And let me know how it goes.

Remember, you’re a man with limited time, resources, and closet space

Just like we talk about in our programs, you don’t want to clog up your closet with too many useless, unworn, trendy pieces you won’t even like in six months or a year.

A Lean Wardrobe, on the other hand, will suit you in a majority of your social situations. When you have a wardrobe with standard items in modern silhouettes and basic colors, you will always look contemporary and well put-together.

Contrast that with owning a wardrobe full of camo, graphic tees with witty sayings, light-washed jeans, and shoes with colored soles… which simply isn’t as timeless or useful, much less age- or situation-appropriate.

One final word on trends that excite you

Trends aren’t bad, nor is the incorporation of trends in your wardrobe. Just take your time when picking up on them, and do so because you actually like it. Don’t just start wearing something because GQ or Esquire or your best friend’s stylish girlfriend says it’s “super hot” and “totally in” right now.

Trends can be creative and exciting, and will differentiate the adopters from everyone else. If applied correctly, a trend can take an otherwise standard outfit up a notch or three, without being too over the top. It’s all about balance.


What are some trendy (or colorful, or textured, or patterned) items you’re hoping to experiment with soon? Let’s hear it below.

[photo, photo]