Can you be a minimalist and stylish at the same time? Actually, the two concepts go hand in hand. This is because you don’t need a lot of clothing to build a great wardrobe – you just need the right pieces to make it all work well together. This is a quick guide to some of the best things you can buy to pull off classic, yet minimalist men’s style. Let’s get started.
Summary: limiting yourself to just a few items will force you to keep only the best. Start thinking in terms of outfits, not individual pieces.
There are many great styles and designs out there, but some kinds of clothing are more versatile than others. They can be worn in many different settings and are invaluable if you want to build a great wardrobe with as few items as possible.
These are my eight clothing choices for minimalist men’s style (along with a bonus item at the end):
1.) Grey v-neck tee
The grey tee is a must have in any man’s wardrobe. A well fitted tee can be worn as an undershirt or underneath a dress shirt (the grey makes it barely visible when used as a layer). It also works great by itself, paired with a jeans, trousers or shorts. No harm in keeping 2-3 of these in rotation.
Some fitted tees that last:
- American Apparel Fine Jersey Short Sleeve
- Fruit of the Loom Stay-tucked V-Neck
- Canvas Men’s Triblend V-Neck
2.) Dark blue jeans
Slim fit, straight leg, unwashed. A good pair of jeans goes with just about anything. Keep it classic with simple designs – no fancy washes, rips or ridiculous stitching. Wash every two weeks, hang dry.
Many companies produce great denim. You can’t go wrong with Uniqlo (low end) or RRL (higher end). If you want to get a great pair without breaking the bank, I recommend one of these two:
Tip: always read user reviews before purchasing, as the fit and sizing may be different from other denim brands.
3.) Brown cap toe oxfords (lace-ups)
Often overlooked, shoes are arguably most important – they can make or break an outfit. A quality pair of brown lace-ups is indispensable. Pair them with jeans or khakis for a smart casual look, or combine with a custom suit (see below) to turn up the class. If you are serious about quality, aim to spend at least $250 on a good pair. Don’t skimp here.
Manufacturers of great leather shoes include: Allen Edmonds, Alden, Edward Green, Crockett & Jones. Invest in shoe trees to absorb moisture. Clean and shine shoes regularly.
If you’re looking for great value for money, I’d recommend the Allen Edmonds Park Avenue Cap-Toe Oxford (in dark brown).
4.) Casual leather belt
No more flimsy belts with buckles that fall off. Get a solid leather belt (1.25” – 2” wide) and wear the hell out of it. The leather will age well, and it will only look better with time. A good belt will last five years or more. For best results (this counts double for formal dress), match the colour of the belt as close as possible to the shoes.
- One casual belt to wear with jeans: get something substantial, like the Saddleback Leather Men’s Old Bull Belt (in chestnut).
- One formal belt (to wear with your dress shoes): ideally, get a belt made by the shoe manufacturer – this way, the leather matches perfectly. In other words, a dark brown Allen Edmonds dress belt to go with the cap-toe oxfords mentioned above.
5.) White OCBD
Whether you are on a safari or at the office, the white oxford cloth button down (OCBD) gets the job done. Make sure it fits perfectly and the rest will take care of itself.
Just make sure there are no visible logos on it (that includes horses and crocodiles).
Stores with decent shirts: Brooks Brothers (Extra Slim Fit), Club Monaco, J Crew. Alterations highly recommended.
6.) Gingham shirt (blue or purple)
Instant smart casual look. Making appearances in popular culture since the 60s, the gingham shirt is always a good choice. Works in the office, during lunch with the parents and for keeping it stylish on a first date.
You can find these at any reputable clothing store. A couple recommendations that you can’t go wrong with:
7.) Charcoal suit (two-button)
A tailored two-button charcoal suit is truly versatile. Sharp enough for a fancy dinner party, serious enough for a job interview, formal enough for a wedding and serious (dark) enough for a funeral.
Don’t skimp here. Make sure you look for good materials (e.g. super 120s wool), length (sleeves should reveal half an inch of shirt cuffs), and fit. Fit is so important that it’s worth it to get a suit custom made (tailored). Failing that, go with good off the rack suit and bring it to your local tailor for finishing touches.
Solid brands include: Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren. Higher end: Zegna, Armani, Kiton and Brioni. Don’t buy a suit online: go into a store and get measured.
8.) Wool v-neck sweater
When the temperature drops, throw on a nice merino sweater. V-necks work great for wearing over a dress shirt. This is a chance to introduce some variety – experiment with color and material. Start by trying out darker shades of purple, burgundy, navy and orange.
Most good shirt brands will also carry decent sweaters (e.g. Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers). A couple easy recommendations:
BONUS: Plain white pocket square
Fold a pocket square into four, tuck into your front suit pocket and voila! Class. Works with suits, blazers and sport coats alike. A timeless accessory.
Here’s a $10 option that will get the job done in style: Fine White Silk Pocket Square. Kent Wang and Howard Yount (both online) also carry a good selection.
Tip: if you don’t want to shell out the $10 or so for a pocket square, go to your local fabric store. They should be able to cut you a square piece of cloth for a couple bucks.
When put together, these items alone are enough to build a solid wardrobe. Get quality pieces that last, make sure they fit you, and begin your own journey of dressing well with less.
Less clothing, more outfits.
You may be thinking that I’m going to keep recommending products to buy. This is not the case, nor am I affiliated with any of the brands mentioned. My mission is to promote quality over quantity.
What about watches? If you’re going to get only one accessory for your wardrobe, a stylish watch is the way to go. Read on to discover three great watches that won’t break the bank.