Is there such a thing as the perfect capsule wardrobe for men? I’ve been trying for a while now to come up with Just that. My forever wardrobe if you will. Due to my lifestyle, this collection contains my absolute essentials. A group of classically styled items with an urban edge that I should be able to keep in rotation for years to come.
Capsule Wardrobe Requirements
This capsule wardrobe won’t fit every guy’s lifestyle, so here are my requirements and hopefully, some will match up with your needs:
- I love and wear mostly all black all day every day. So the wardrobe had to be monochrome.
- I do not like having to overthink what I want to wear in the morning. I want to be able to grab and go. But I like looking put together and styled.
- I don’t like shopping. And I don’t like mindless consumerism. If I buy something I want it classically styled, and cut using quality fabrics so I can keep it in rotation years.
To summarize, my tagline is – Style doesn’t have to be loud to be cool. I want to create a wardrobe that shows exactly what I was talking about. A capsule of classic wardrobe essentials with a cool urban edge. It has to be perfect for the guy who wants to look great without overthinking their wardrobe choices every day.
As a result of these requirements, I’ve created a simple philosophy for this capsule.
Capsule Wardrobe Philosophy
A. Build Minimalist Wardrobe – Built around a core set of 24 pieces that can be added to based on seasonal requirements and are easily interchangeable.
B. Quality – Best I can afford. I’ll want better Fabrics and Styling. So I can have pieces I keep as long as possible. Not every piece has to be a luxury item. In certain situations, I just can’t rationalize the extra cost when there are perfectly acceptable lower cost options available.
C. Style – Classic with modern/urban cuts. Again for longevity and Keeping those pieces in rotation as long as possible.
D. Fit – Tailored but Comfortable. Slightly oversized. I never like feeling constricted.
E. Colors – To make it as simple as possible am going to start with a black monochrome core. Black is classic, easily interchanged, and elevated. And it has that urban edge I’m looking for. Plus I can always add in blues, and beiges for more versatility later on.
Capsule Wardrobe Benefits
This capsule wardrobe will allow me to spend less time buying clothes and les time trying to figure out what to wear. Hence, outside of the cost to build the capsule wardrobe, the result should be more time, more money, and less energy spent on making decisions associated with clothing. Consequently, no matter what the occasion I should be able to find something from this capsule quickly that will look great. With this wardrobe, I hope to only have to go shopping a couple of times a year if I need to replace a worn item or purchase something seasonal.
Men’s Capsule Wardrobe FAQ
Based on Wikipedia, “A capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion, such as, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces.” I’ve created a capsule of 24 pieces which should work for years to come.
To create a capsule wardrobe, you have to plan your wardrobe in advance. You need to know what pieces you require in the final wardrobe and how to minimize your current wardrobe. In my How to Create a Minimalist Wardrobe guide I go over step by step how to minimize and make a capsule wardrobe. The high-level steps are pretty straight forward, check out the article for details:
1: Think Like a Minimalist
2: Minimize Your Current Wardrobe
3: Buy Your Size
4: Choose Neutral Colors
5: Stick with Classic Styles
6: Quality Over Quantity
7: Get Fit
The majority of the items in this capsule wardrobe come from a New York brand called Wardrobe.NYC (W.NYC). Their pieces fit my lifestyle perfectly and the quality is excellent. For cost savings or preference I’ve filled in items from Levis, COS, Adidas, H&M and Uniqlo to name a few. Wardrobe.NYC sells 4 or 8-piece wardrobes. Or you can buy their clothing individually on MatchesFashion.com.
The capsule in this article contains 24. Because I live near Philadelphia it will cover 99% of the days of the year. All but the coldest and snowiest. For those, I’ll need to add a winter coat and some snow boots.
To make this wardrobe as versatile as possible the core is based on black. Beiges and blues can easily be added to expand in the future.
24-Piece Capsule Wardrobe Essentials for Men
My choices for outwear should handle 99% of the weather conditions I’ll face on a normal day. For those really snowy days, I would look at adding a heavy winter coat.
Men’s Denim Jacket
Wardrobe.NYC’s latest release called ‘Denim’ takes this standard staple and pairs it with contrasting gold stitching. I’ve tried looking for alternatives in this style at a lower price point, but the offering from Wardrobe.nyc is the best I’ve seen. But if you’re OK with a black jacket with non-contrasting black stitching there are plenty of alternatives out there. These include the standard trucker jackets by Levis ($50) and J. Crew ($118).
A black overcoat is so versatile. You can throw it over a hoodie and a pair of joggers or a suit. There is nothing in this capsule that you couldn’t throw an overcoat over and not look great. The Overcoat from Wardrobe.NYC is simply perfect. MatchesFashion.com doesn’t have it for sale so the only way you can get it is either by buying Wardrobes Tailored 01 8-Piece. My go-to fast-fashion alternative would be the overcoats by Uniqlo ($129)
For the longest time, I’d pushed for people to start their wardrobe with a navy blazer. But I’ve moved beyond that. To stay with the elevated theme of this capsule I went with the black blazer from Wardrobe.NYC. The blazer is apart of the brands 4-Piece Tailor 01 wardrobe. So if you’re looking to save some money J. Crew has an offering for about $300 that should fit nicely in this type of wardrobe.
Men’s Trench Coat
The image that inspired me to include a Trench in this wardrobe showed Wardrobes Trench & Double Breasted blazer from their Denim 04 collection. It just blew me away. They were able to elevate the Trench from dad status to urban cool in a single photo. As a result it closed the deal for me. Purchasing the trench from Wardrobe.NCY requires a purchase of their 8-piece Denim 04 wardrobe. So if you’re looking to save a buck Uniqlo ($100), H&M ($129), and Mango ($149) all have affordable options around the $130 range.
Men’s Quilted Vest
As I stated earlier I live near Philadelphia and for the most part the temperatures are pretty mild year-round. Rarely getting below 32-degrees. I went to school at MSU and after having to deal with the Tundra Philadelphia is practically tropical. Because of this 90% of the time, I wear a quilted vest during the winter and really don’t have a need to go much heavier unless with get a snowstorm or I’ll be walking around the city in the cold. Wardrobe.NYC doesn’t offer a quilted vest in their wardrobes but anything from any of the major brands should work. The North Face, Moncler, Canada Goose, Uniqlo, Gap, Triple Fat Goose, Gap all have excellent offerings. I do tend to go with a lightweight packable version that can easily be layered with the trench.
Whatever your activity or event there should be a pair of pants or shorts in this capsule that can handle it.
Joggers are another one of my daily wear pieces. If I was going to build an honest capsule. It would have to include black joggers, track pants, or soccer pants. I’ve got my eyes set on the Wardrobe.NCY Drawstring Cotton-Jersey Track Pants witch is available on MatchesFashion.com. But until I can pick them up my Adidas Tiros will have to do the trick.
Men’s Black Jeans
In my best men’s jeans guide, I taught the virtues of dark wash jeans. You can pair dark wash jeans with almost anything in a standard wardrobe and they’ll look great. As a result, including the jeans from Wardrobe was a no-brainer. The Wardrobe.NYC Jeans are something truly special. They’re available on MatchesFahsion.com, and also in Wardrobe.NYC’s Denim 4-piece and 8-piece collections on the brand’s website. The jeans are black with contrasting gold stitching. Based on the Levis 501 silhouette they’re comfortable and you can pair them with any shoe in this capsule.
Men’s Wool Dress Trousers
Every refined wardrobe needs to have wool dress trousers to pair with a nice blazer. The most popular pants break for these dress pants nowadays, which I still love, is a no break or just touching the shoe tops. Wardrobe.NYC takes a completely different approach and in their fashion photos show a pant with multiple breaks. In previous articles, I cautioned against the look but on their clothes I love it. The pants are still slim, but more straight than tapered, and look great stacked. Swap out the blazer for the Merino wool sweater and you still have a great look.
Casual Drawstring Trousers
I have to say, the casual drawstring pants are my favorite piece in the Tailored 01 8-piece. After trying them on I just want to wear them all day every day. They’re made from a refined wool fabric which is almost suit like. As a result, the fabric elevates these pants much higher than you would expect from a drawstring pant in such a casual silhouette. My favorite combination is these pants, a pair of Adidas Yung-1s, black T-Shirt, Zip-up hoodie, all topped with a black overcoat. Simply perfect. I’ve tried looking for alternatives around the internet that would do justice to this wardrobe capsule, but as of today, I have yet to find something equal to these pants.
Now Wardrobe.NYC doesn’t have cotton shorts in any of their releases. But I wear these quite a bit during the summers. For this wardrobe, I’ll stay with black. I also think the standard cotton shorts could easily be swapped out with a pair of cargo shorts to more closely match the overall look of the Wardrobe.NYC pieces. A pair of the Slater Shorts from Vince ($175) are pictured.
Men’s Sweat Shorts
If you’re going to get your workout on, you’ll need a good pair of sweat shorts. Wardrobe.NYC offers a great pair you can buy individually on MatchesFashion.com, but I think I’m good to go with the ones I have from J. Crew.
Yeah, I know there are a whole lot of sweatshirts in this capsule. But that’s the benefit of working from home. If you’re looking for something less expensive check out my sweatshirt and hoodie buying guides.
Men’s Black Hoodie
There usually isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not wearing a hoodie. Even in the summer. I just find something very comforting about them. There soo many choices out there, but the favorites that I personally own is from Sunspel, and H&M. The quality of H&M is surprisingly good. Similarly, Wardrobe.NCY has an offering on MatchesFasion.com which I may take a look at in the future.
Men’s Zip-Up Hoodie
A zip-up hoodie is another wardrobe must-have, I wear it less than my standard pullover hoodie, but it’s still in heavy rotation. I did purchases one from Wardrobe.NYC and the quality are amazing. Their gear tends to run oversized so it was a little longer than I expected but it still looks great. I also have a zip-up that I ordered from a good life as well and an older one from Sunspel that I’m very pleased with.
For standard crewneck sweatshirts, It’s hard to beat the offerings from Sunspel Clothing. They’re made from and extremely soft loopback fabric and they go perfectly with daily wear joggers or track pants. For this reason, I have one in black that’ll go perfectly with this capsule wardrobe. These do cost $145 so they’re not cheap but are definitely worth the price. For comparison, the offering from Wardrobe.NYC on MatchesFashion.com is $260.
Black & White T-Shirts
Of course, you need t-shirts. You can wear a good quality t-shirt by itself or layer it with a jacket or a coat. There are so many T-Shirts available out there it would be hard to list them here now. But some of my favorites are from Asket, A Days March, @ Sunspel. Wardrobe.NYC has both black and white versions available on MF.com for $97.
Men’s Merino Sweater
First of all, get yourself a great Merino Wool Sweater. I’m not talking about those thick offerings, but one made from a fine merino thread that drapes beautifully. Something light enough that if you wanted you could wear over a t-shirt during the warmer months. My current favorite is the $99 Black Merino Sweater from COS. I just love it. Wardrobe.NYC also has a merino sweater in their Tailored 01 8-Piece wardrobe or you can buy it individually from MatchesFashion.com.
Men’s Dress Shirt
You need a dress shirt. We’ve got a wool blazer and dress pants in this wardrobe so you need a clean crisp shirt to go with. For years I’ve purchased my spread collar shirts from J. Crew and I’ve been really happy with their offering. As a result, you just don’t need to overthink things when running down to the mall is perfectly acceptable. J. Crews dress shirts can by sized via two measurements. Neck and sleeve. Know your measurements and you’re good to go. That being said I have a poplin from Wardrobe.NYC and it is also a great shirt. But for daily wear, I’d rather spend the $50 bucks at J. Crew than $325 to get the W.NYC version.
Black Twill Shirt
Levis offers a black twill shirt that looks a lot like the Wardrobe.NYC one. I’m sure the cut is a little different, but I’m gonna give the $50 version a shot at earning a spot in the rotation before I go out and spend money on the more expensive version.
Wool blend Shirt
This is the same as the twill shirt. The wool blend from Wardrobe.NYC is beautiful. I just can’t justify spending $455 for a shirt ATM. So I’ll be heading over to Uniqlo and picking up their $29 Black Flannel offering. To fit in the style of this capsule I’ll go up a size and we’ll see how this works.
I wanted to keep the shoe section down to a minimum otherwise I could throw out dozens of options. I kept this selection to a luxury sneaker, a workout shoe, leather boots, and dress shoes. The only thing I left out was a good snow boot but felt it necessary because I only wear them a handful of days a year.
Luxury White Sneakers
My go-to luxury sneakers are my Oliver Cabell Low 1s, and my Common Projects Achilles Lows ($415). I will wear these shoes with anything. And I do mean anything. From Sweats all the ways suits. These kicks are awesome.
Men’s Casual Sneakers
Though the Oliver Cabells and the Common Projectss are my favs, I’m developing a soft spot for Dad Sneakers. The Yung-1s are a great example of these. You can pick up any of the white ones pretty much anywhere for about $100 bucks. But for $162 you can get a pair from WNYC or Matchesfashion.com. They only difference I can see is that they came with a gum outer sole, which I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.
Black Leather Chelsea Boots
This was a tough choice for me. Every wardrobe should have a good pair of rugged boots. I was leaning towards a black pair of Aldens but I just wasn’t feeling them with this wardrobe. I think the Grenson Chelsea’s ($269) bring the right level of coolness and can be paired with all of the pants in the wardrobe.
Finally, to finish out the footwear I chose a classic pair of Derbys. This wardrobe requires clean and unadorned shoes. And, I felt Oxfords would quite cut it. Derbys tend to be more substantial which is needed when you go for more than a break in the pats. The Trickers Woodstock Derby’s ($465) are some of the best out there.
VI. Men’s Capsule Wardrobe Outfit Ideas
OK, so I’ve gone over the reasoning for a capsule wardrobe, answered a few questions, and provided you with great options to develop your own. But what do the outfits in this capsule look like? Below I’ve put together some of my favorite combinations. Let me know what you think.