Why do you need a minimal capsule wardrobe?
High-profile figures, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama, know that a person can only make so many decisions in a day. To lighten their decision-making load, they’ve adopted extremely basic wardrobes (minimal capsule wardrobe) that consist of multiple copies of the exact same, or quite similar, articles of clothing. They’ve eliminated the choice of what to wear each day by simply wearing the same thing every day.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Doesn’t it get boring wearing the same thing over and over and never expressing your personal style? Maybe so, but I am sure that the CEO of Facebook and the former United States president have more important things to worry about than their fashion choices. Fortunately, a similar minimalist wardrobe can be had with a bit more style.
The #muted33 year-round minimal capsule wardrobe is made of classic pieces, in neutral colors which can be easily swapped in and out or layered. With my minimalist wardrobe, you still get to pick what to wear each day and choose pieces that represent your style. However, all of the items in your wardrobe can be paired together, allowing you to choose any pair of pants, shirt, and even shoes and not have to worry about whether they look good together.
Every article of clothing will match perfectly with the rest, simplifying your entire morning routine. You can select more formal pieces for a special event or opt for casual selections for relaxed weekend outings. There is also no need to swap your wardrobe for the changing seasons. Items for every type of weather will easily fit in your closet since it will not be filled with seldom-used pieces, and layering will allow you to continue wearing warmer weather clothing during the cooler months.
I’m going to show you how to build a perfect 365-day, 33-item minimalist men’s wardrobe that will not only lighten up your morning routine but will also leave you looking stylish and put together every single day. Each item of clothing will also have a corresponding Wardrobe Essentials Guide for in-depth information, a Fit Guide so you know how to buy clothes that will look great on you, and anatomy guides that will dive into the minute details for each article of clothing.
First, I want to go over 7 essential tips to get you started cleaning out your cleaning out your closet and building your new minimalist wardrobe.
Tip 1: Think Like a Minimalist
The first step in minimalizing your wardrobe is changing your mindset and understanding how you view the clothing in your life. I myself had things like a tattered hat from college or those great jeans, I was hoping to fit again someday. I needed to get through these emotional barriers before I had a chance at creating a 33-piece minimalist capsule wardrobe.
Does it serve a purpose? Before you start shopping for your new wardrobe pieces, you need to adopt the minimalist mindset. According to minimalism, every article of clothing that you own needs to serve a purpose. You are probably accustomed to purchasing clothing simply because you like it or it is on sale for a good price, however, the minimalist knows that if that particular item does not fill a current gap in their wardrobe, then they do not need it.
Your things do not define you. Often, we view our clothing as an extension of ourselves and buy pieces based on how we think other people will perceive us when we wear them. One important thing to realize and remember is that your things do not define you as a person. Owning certain items does not make you a better person, and not having the latest version of everything will not make you any lesser than anyone else.
Less stuff equals less stress and more freedom. In fact, having less stuff can actually help you become a healthier, more confident person. Not only will a minimalist wardrobe eliminate part of the stress of your mornings, but simply owning fewer things and decluttering your space will relieve much of the stress in your life. Having fewer material possessions also gives you more freedom.
You can take advantage of that incredible job opportunity, even though it means relocating, without worrying about the logistics of transporting all of your many belongings to another continent. There are so many benefits that come from adopting a minimalist lifestyle, and the only real sacrifice is that you will have fewer unnecessary things cluttering up your house and your life. Which, when you think about it, is not really much of a sacrifice at all.
Don’t fall in love with your stuff. The key to this minimalist mindset is giving up any emotional attachments that you have to your things. Save your emotional ties for the people in your life, not the shirts in your closet. When you eliminate irrational attachments to items, you will be surprised by how easy it is to give up possessions that you once thought were vital to your life. That is not to say that you cannot have things that you enjoy and appreciate but be honest with yourself when you consider a new purchase.
Empty is beautiful. Ask yourself if it will truly serve a purpose in your life, or if you are buying it just to be able to say that you have it. By doing this, you will be able to monitor what comes into your home, keeping it clutter free and surrounding yourself only by things that genuinely have a purpose. Remember that not all spaces need to be filled with something. Oftentimes, sparseness and emptiness are beautiful and enjoyable in their own right.
Get out of the owning mindset. Minimalists understand that you do not have to own things to enjoy them. You can go to an art gallery instead of filling your home with pieces that you will hang on the wall and then walk by every day without actually seeing. Or, on a lighter note, you don’t have to buy that silly t-shirt just because it made you laugh when you saw it in the store. Just appreciate the moment of amusement that it gave you and move on.
Things do not make us happier. Often, we keep buying things that we don’t need in an attempt to fill a void in our lives. Instead of doing this, take some time to figure out what your basic needs are and how to fulfill them. This will help you to stop mindlessly buying items in an attempt to momentarily increase your happiness. When you stop using items to fill holes in your life, you are free to get to the root of the issue and find lasting, fulfilling satisfaction.
Minimalism helps the environment. Living a minimalist lifestyle also allows you to help the environment and boost your local economy. When you are buying less, you can afford to buy local. Often, you will end up with much better-quality products, and you have the satisfaction of supporting small business owners and artisans in your area while helping to cut back on the environmental impact of mass manufacturing and global shipping. Consider making things that you need instead of buying them as well. Not only will you appreciate the final product much more when you create it yourself, but you will also save money that can no doubt be put to better uses.
Tip 2: Minimize Your Current Wardrobe
Unless you already have a minimalist wardrobe, in which case you probably don’t need this guide, you likely have a full closet cluttered up by items that you never wear. So, the first step is to take every single article of clothing that you own out of your closet and dresser. Sort your clothing by category, making piles for pants, Oxford’s, casual shirts, dress shoes, etc. After you have everything categorized, look through each pile and honestly consider every piece of clothing, while asking yourself these questions.
Does it fit me? If you are not sure, try it on right then and there to confirm. If it does not fit perfectly and look good on you, throw it out. Also, if it fits but is uncomfortable, you do not need it anymore.
Do I ever wear it? You only want to have clothing that you wear on a regular basis, so if you have not worn it since your sister’s wedding four years ago, get rid of it. That novelty t-shirt that you are too embarrassed to actually wear in public? It can go too.
Does it look old or worn out? If it has holes, stains, or looks like it has been through the wash too many times, it is time for it to go. You want clothes that are comfortable because they fit and are well-made, not clothes that are comfortable because they are so broken in that they are falling apart.
Is it appropriate for my lifestyle? Be honest with yourself. If you have not gone hiking in years, you probably do not need that pair of hiking boots anymore, even if they were expensive. Likewise, if you now work in a more casual environment than you used to, you really have no need for multiple Oxford’s and 15 neckties. Keep what you need for the life you have now, not the one you might have one day in the future.
Do I have multiples pieces just like this one? Zuckerberg might wear the exact same grey t-shirt every single day, but we are going for different pieces that can all be paired together. If you have two or more items that are quite similar, keep the newest one, nicest one, or one that you like the best and get rid of the others.
Set limits on the number of items you can keep from each category so that you can better pare down your current wardrobe. Remember, we are building a 33-item minimalist wardrobe, so if the clothing under consideration fails any part of the test mentioned above, get rid of it.
Once you have determined what to keep, sort out your discards according to which pieces you can donate, giveaway, or sell, and which ones need to be thrown out. Take care of unwanted clothing as soon as possible. Discarded pieces of clothing stuffed into an unused closet or left in bags by the door tend to make their way right back into your wardrobe.
Tip 3: Buy Your Size
When shopping for clothing for your new wardrobe, it is important to know your exact measurements, not just your size. Sizes can vary between brands and knowing your measurements can help you better determine what size you need. Even if you tend to stick with the same stores or clothing brands, it is still vital that you try on every piece before you purchase it.
Take three different sizes of each item with you into the dressing room, the size you think you wear, one size larger, and one size smaller. Compare the fit of all three sizes and choose the one that looks and feels best. If one size seems slightly loose, and the other just a bit tight, opt for the smaller size. Clothing tends to stretch out as you wear it, and it will stretch out permanently over time. The smaller size will likely fit perfectly after wearing it for a few hours.
Remember too, that a good fit hides flaws better than an oversized fit. Many people try to hide extra weight by wearing larger sizes than they need but wearing clothes that are too big will make you look even larger than you actually are, whereas good fitting pieces will streamline your figure and hide a bit of a pudge. If you aren’t quite as toned as you would like, properly fitting clothing can also help accentuate the muscles that you do have. If you are not sure whether or not something looks good on you or fits well, ask someone else for their opinion. Take a friend shopping with you if needed and have them critique your new pieces before purchasing them.
Before you hit the stores make sure to check out our Fit Guides for the pieces you’ll be looking at so you know exactly how a good fit should look.
Tip 4: Choose Neutral Colors
Your goal is to create a completely matching wardrobe. To do this, every color needs to look good with every other color. Even if you are not sure which colors go well together, this is easily accomplished by just sticking with neutral colors, such as white, black, olive, grey, beige or khaki, and blue/navy.
You should be able to select nearly any shirt and pants combination from your wardrobe and have them pair well together color-wise. In the beginning stay away from patterns, prints, and colorful graphics, as these are harder to match.
When you develop a better understanding of how your new wardrobe works and become more comfortable choosing new pieces, you can try adding in some basic patterns and see how they pair with your current items. For now, though, stick with solid, neutral-colored pieces.
Tip 5: Stick with Classic Styles
You want a wardrobe that will serve you for years to come, not a closet full of trendy items that will be out of style in just a few years. The classics have become so for a reason because they offer a polished look that will never go out of style. So, they need to make up the majority of your wardrobe.
The goal is to keep your wardrobe the pretty much the same over time, replacing only worn out items and switching them out with new pieces of the same style. Not only will buying only classic styles allow you to wear the same pieces for years to come, but classic cuts also look great on a wide variety of body types and sizes. Your clothes will fit better, look better, and last longer if you go for classic styles and cuts that have stood the test of time. There’s a reason why after many decades we’re still wearing jeans, chinos, oxfords, and white sneakers.
Tip 6: Quality Over Quantity
In our consumer-driven society, we are encouraged and praised for buying more for less. Minimalism says the opposite: buy less and spend more. The reason is that with clothing, as with most things really, you usually get what you pay for.
Cheap, low-quality clothing will not last long or retain its shape, and it often fits poorly as compared to higher-quality items made with superior fabrics and better manufacturing methods. You want your new wardrobe to last you for years, fit well, and look good. This can only be accomplished by purchasing just a few carefully selected, high-quality pieces, rather than a stockpile of cheaper, inferior items. Since you will be buying less clothing overall, it makes more sense and is not as costly as you might think to spend more on each piece.
One thing to remember, however, is that a high price does not always equal high quality. Make sure that you are paying for genuine quality, not just a name and a logo.
Tip 7: Get Fit
Most people don’t want to talk about weight and fitness, but the undeniable truth is that when you look better, your clothes look better on you. It also becomes much easier to find items that fit when your body is more streamlined. The confidence boost that comes with getting in shape and losing weight will do wonders for your appearance as well.
The First 33 Clothing Items You Should Buy for a Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe
Remember to stick with neutral colors that all go with one another, as this allows for easy mixing and matching of different articles of clothing. Also, choose items that can be layered, as this eliminates the need for separate, seasonal wardrobes. Underwear and socks are not considered a part of your 33-piece wardrobe, and you should ideally have 10 days’ worth of each. We’ve also not included accessories, as these are unique for each person. You should have at least one of each of the items listed below, and more of the types of pieces that you wear on a daily basis.
In our Men’s Essential Wardrobe section we will have in-depth articles on each of the clothing items in this capsule. We will also have Fit Guides to make sure you’re absolutely looking your best and not dated or frumpy. Fit and Tailoring cannot be underestimated.
Tops – 12 Clothing Items
Oxford Button Down Dress Shirt (White, Light Blue, Navy) – The Oxford is the workhorse of your wardrobe. It provides you with a polished option that can be dressed up or dressed down, and the thicker material makes it an ideal shirt for cooler weather. Check out our Oxford Dress Shirt Men’s Essentials Wardrobe Guide.
Broadcloth Dress Shirt (White, Light Blue) – The Broadcloth Dress shirt is the formal go-to shirt in our wardrobe. This is the shirt you’re going most likely wear with suits and the occasional blazer.
Polo Shirt (White, Black) – The Polo Shirt is a lot more versatile than most people think. Of course, it’s a great casual option with Jeans and shorts, but it will also look great to dress down a navy or grey suit during the hotter months. Check out our Men’s Wardrobe Essentials – The Polo Guide.
Plain T-Shirts (White, Black) – Plain T-shirts are a must to any essential wardrobe. They’re comfortable and look great if fit properly and matched with the right items. Just stay away from big Logos. Heck, stay away from logos period.
Denim Shirt – The Men’s Denim Shirt is a great option for the cooler fall and winter months. It goes great with either chinos or jeans and gives you a comfortable, casual option that can be worn alone or layered.
Charcoal Grey Hoodie – I live in my hoodie in the cooler months. Along with my track pants, this is the outfit I wear when I’m chillin’ at home. A great pick for cooler weather and a zippered one will give you a more put-together, layered look. Check out my Best Men’s Hoodie Buying Guide for great hoodie options for any budget.
Navy V-Neck Sweater – A v-neck sweater is a versatile option that can be dressed up or down and worn alone or layered for a stylish look. A great look with your favorite button-down with or without a tie. Also looks great under a blazer.
Bottoms – 9 Clothing Items
Chinos (Light Beige/Khaki, Navy, and Olive) – I love chinos. They can be dressed up or down as needed and worn with nearly any style of shirt. Adding a blazer is tricky, but can be done with are. Check out my Chino’s Men’s Essentials Wardrobe Guide.
Jeans (Selvage/Dark Wash, and Light Blue) – I love my jeans. But they must fit correctly or they’ll look terrible. If done right they’ll be flattering on almost everyone and perfect for casual or even business casual environments. Check out my Men’s Jean Essential Wardrobe Guide.
Joggers/Track/Soccer Pants (Black) – Along with my hoodie my Adidas Tiro 17 Soccer Pants and my Adidas SST Track Pants are my go to’s for relaxed weekends or the gym.
Chino Shorts (Navy and Light Beige/Khaki) – Chino shorts go with anything in our minimal capsule wardrobe. Chino shorts are perfect for maintaining a polished look while still remaining cool during hot weather. One word of advice, when night comes, switch over to dark wash jeans, or a pair of long chinos for a grown-up look. If you’re looking for chino shorts for any budget check out my Best Men’s Chino Shorts guide.
Sweat Shorts (Charcoal Grey) – I’m a new fan of sweat shorts. Perfect for relaxing after a day at the beach or the pool. Also great for workouts or relaxed weekends during hotter months.
Outer Wear – 6 Clothing Items
Navy Suit – I chose the navy suit instead of a charcoal grey suit for this capsule because I believe it gives you a little more versatility. There are so many ways to wear a navy suit. Of course, it’ll look great with your Oxford and broadcloth dress shirts, but you can also dress it down with a white or black polo and white sneakers.
Navy Blazer – The men’s navy blazer, is perfect for business casual events or a weekend cocktail party. It’s another item which can be paired with almost anything in our minimal wardrobe. The Navy Blazer gives you a way to dress up your outfits and achieve a more polished look without going fully formal. Please don’t get a navy blazer confused with a navy suit jacket. A blazer should be made from heavier fabric (8-10 ounces) to look right with heavier pants like jeans and chinos.
Jean jacket – The Jean Jack is my fall go-to jacket. It goes great with chinos, sweaters, wool pants, and yes even jeans. Check out our Denim Jean Jacket Men’s Essentials Wardrobe Guide.
Quilted Vest – Since I live near Philadelphia I rarely wear a full winter jacket. It’s simply not necessary in our climate zone. A quilted vest is perfect for any temperatures above freezing. Check out our Winter Vest Men’s Essentials Wardrobe Guide.
Winter Coat – I solid winter coat is a must for any year-round wardrobe. Make sure to choose a warm, high-quality coat that looks great with your other wardrobe items. Check out our Winter Coat Men’s Essentials Wardrobe Guide.
Trench coat – The Men’s Trench coat is a must for cooler or rainy conditions or when you need to dress up an outfit. Pairs well with a variety of outfits from casual to formal. Can even work with a pair of track pants, if done right. One of our favorite brands is American Trench. I own their Black Trench and it’s one of my favorite pieces.
Footwear – 6 Clothing Items
I’ve ordered the shoes below from most worn to least.
Grey or Blue Casual Sneakers – These are your everyday sneakers. The ones you throw on as soon as your feet hit the floor. Because I like to run at least a couple of times a week my favorite casual sneakers are my Brooks. They are a grey and blue shoe that go great with any of the neutral colors in capsule wardrobe. Plus they’re functional as an actual running shoe and not just a lifestyle sneaker.
White Sneakers – If you don’t already know. I LOVE WHITE SNEAKERS!. It’s kind of an addiction. A good pair of clean white sneakers will improve any outfit. Check out our White Sneaker Men’s Essentials Wardrobe Guide.
Suede Chukkas – Chukkas are a casual boot. I will normally pair these guys with jeans or chinos. If you’re going to wear a suit, I’d go with a leather dress boot or a pair of wingtips.
Leather Boots – If you get a good pair of leather boots they will last for years. Get ones that can be re-soled if needed, and for this capsule opt for brown/tobacco colors over black.
Derby Shoes (Black/Tobacco) – These are going to be the dress shoe that you can dress up or down. You can wear them with any of your pants to kick a casual outfit up a notch. For this minimal capsule, I chose wingtips over Bluchers, and Loafers because of their versatility. You should also opt for quality because these shoes can also be re-soled and if taken care of last for years.
If you’ve already purchased most of these items or are looking for a more complete wardrobe, check out my #muted75 75-piece men’s essential capsule wardrobe.
Black Oxford Dress Shoes – These are going to be your formal dress shoes. Oxfords are the shoes you can wear with either a navy suit or a charcoal grey suit. Some will wear these with a dark wash jean as well.
If you’re looking for a great seasonal wardrobe check out my Men’s Wardrobe Essentials Buying Guide for Fall & Winter.