The Genius Wardrobe
Mark Zuckerberg is known for his gray t-shirt and hoodie. Steve Jobs was known for black turtlenecks and dad jeans bought from the Gap. Even former President Obama only wore blue or gray suits. What these well known rich and powerful men, and other millionaires and geniuses, have in common is the simplicity of their wardrobe. Now obviously they can afford any clothing they choose, but they decided to focus less time on fashion so that they could dedicate all of their mental energy to productivity and their businesses. And in my opinion, that is a brilliant move. Not only that, the simplicity of their style choices oozes with Big Dick Energy: it's as if they are saying to the world "I don't follow trends, trends follow me".
Think about how much time you spend trying to be fashionable, attempting to impress those around you. It’s even worse for women. They spend countless hours of their lifetime shopping, online and in person, and reading magazines to stay current on the latest fashion trends. Then there is $$$MONEY$$$ of it all. The fashion industry is consumerism at its pinnacle – designed to convince you to replace your clothing as often as possible. Trends today last as little as a few weeks. So it’s a revolving door of clothes in and out of your closet and the significant time that’s wasted on chasing those trends.
ridiculous men's fashion
That’s why I am going to argue that you should adopt this “genius wardrobe” philosophy and tell you a little about how I build my wardrobe. Now I am far from genius, but when I heard about the concept of a minimalist wardrobe that gives you more time for important things - a light bulb went off and I began to adopt this attitude when I buy clothes - or anything for that matter. But building a simple wardrobe doesn't mean you can't be fashionable. It's about buying clothes that last long and fit well, and don't go out of style based on the whims of the fashion industry. A simple wardrobe is a classy wardrobe that gives an air of sophistication - and trust me women will notice.
I've always been a person that if I like something then I will buy 3-5 of it in multiple colors. One reason is that I find very few clothes that I like or that fit me well, or that I think offer value. You see I'm a conscientious shopper. I will spend money – actually I love to buy new things. But I hate to waste my money. That’s why I don’t go for clothes with big logos and branding. I find that more often than not they are no better quality than simpler styles. Often, they are lower quality aimed at maximum profit. So in my experience the Ralph Lauren polo or t-shirt tends to be no better than a shirt half the price. You are basically paying the maker to advertise for them.
But that does not mean there isn't a difference in clothing quality. So the key to building a quality minimalist wardrobe is not to be cheap – but always get value for your money. The truth is there is a difference in manufacturing quality, fit, and dyes used in (slightly) more expensive clothing. Better made, more expensive clothes will usually last longer. They look better because they fit properly, and they don’t fade out as quickly. So what this means is that a little extra cost now gives you a long term savings as you are buying less replacement’s t-shirts and wardrobe basics.
For example, a few years back I would buy those Polo and Ralph Lauren branded plain white and black t-shirts to wear under my other clothes. I found that I was constantly replacing them. I would buy a three pack and within a few washings I needed to buy more. They would develop small pin holes or stretch out, etc. so it was like a monthly cost I had to budget for and that’s just stupid. Then I discovered the Lands End “super tee”. Now I don’t get paid a single dime to endorse them – but the super tee is freaking fantastic. They cost me about $18 each but sometimes they will go on sale for around $13 each. Recently when they did I ordered 5 more in various colors to keep in my closet. I have a black one from about 5 years ago that is still wearable with not a single pin hole to be found.
Right now, I have 18 of these "super" t-shirts in my closet: 5 black, 5 white, 3 blue, and 5 in various other colors. On any given day, I know that the shirt I am grabbing is in presentable shape, fits well, and matches whatever I choose to wear with it. That is a major time savings in the morning, as well as later since I am not at the mall shopping every couple of weeks. It's also a long term cost savings - I would say that buying these slightly more expensive t-shirts has saved me several hundred dollars over the last few years since I have not needed to replace them.
So how can you apply the concept of the genius wardrobe to your own closet and life? Pick a few items of clothing that you like which are in good shape and build around them. Anything that doesn't fit, hangs very loose, is faded or has holes should be donated or trashed. You should also get rid of everything that you have not worn at least once in the past six months. There has to be a reason you avoid wearing it, so it's time to let it go.
You don't have to be an Art major to know what works: a simple palette of blues, greys, and black means that any combination of clothing you pick in the morning will match. When shopping to replace those clothes you donated, choose simple basic colors within your palette rather than bright ones like pink which draw attention and call out if you are wearing a shirt a second time this week. If you find a shirt or sweater you like - buy several.
The classic men's Henley is a great choice as a wardrobe builder: it's dressier than a t-shirt but it can be casual, or sexy as well by unbuttoning it and pushing up the sleeves. It works with jeans or khakis. If you purchase several colors in a good fit you can handle just about any office environment or casual date. That makes it a perfect daily wardrobe essential. I have 8 Henley's right now in various shades of blues, greys, and black. It's a good bet that on most day's I will be wearing a Henley.
In an more professional office environment, the kind that does not allow a t-shirt and jeans, the classic v-neck sweater is really versatile, classy, and works with dress pants or khakis equally well. The v-neck sweater is my go to clothing choice when I want to look a little neater. It also looks just dressy enough for a first date. If you want to dress it up even more you can wear it over a collard shirt. If you want to keep it casual, pair it with jeans and a t-shirt underneath for casual Friday's. The great thing with v-neck sweaters is that they never go out of style and always match the occasion. Buy a few basic colors like a black and navy blue, and for the third one you can express your style with a bolder color like purple.
When it comes to pants, I like them slim but never skinny. Your pants shouldn't be hanging down over your shoes, but they shouldn't be squeezing your crotch so tight that everyone knows the size of your Johnson either. Trimmer cut pants look cleaner, match everything, and can help you look leaner if your a bigger guy, or more athletic as well if you're skinny. If you're hitting the gym, you quads will be accentuated and your butt will grab the attention of the ladies.
I was a fan of Lucky Brand Jeans for a long time because they fit well and felt great, but stopped buying them because they wore out quickly. I switched to American Eagle Brand jeans which can be bought on sale for around $30 a pair. I find they last about as long as Lucky ones for a quarter of the cost. American Eagle also offers plenty of fits and sizes (all the way up to size 44 in many styles) to suit all body types. Another thing I like about their jeans is that they now offer many flex fabrics that help the pants maintain their shape. I buy around 3 new pair of jeans per year and move the old ones to the "work on the yard" pile or donate them.
Last winter when it was time for new shoes, I bought two pair in black and brown. With two pair of quality shoes I can match any outfit and don't spend much time in the morning deciding what to wear. The shoes last longer since I can rotate wearing them. They look good with any outfit, and save me decision making time. Shoes can make or break an outfit - and yes, women do notice your shoes. Buy ones that are timeless rather than the latest fashion statement and you can get many seasons of wear out of them. I buy socks 10 pairs at a time. Underwear is something that I purchase 10-12 pair of at a time. When it's time for new ones, I go buy the exact same ones again.
this guy pretty much looks like me on any given day
All said and done, I think it's totally possible to look good while still keeping your wardrobe simple: building a genius wardrobe is all about finding what works for you and sticking to it. That means finding a few retailers that offer good fitting clothes that will last. You are going to save a lot of time in the morning knowing that what ever you grab from the closet will match and look right on your body, but you will also save all those hours of shopping and free up more time for things like hobbies or that new business idea. Freeing yourself from the consumerist fashion industry will also give you more money to use towards something else you have a passion for. A genius wardrobe gives you more time and money to invest in yourself, so start evaluating your closet and making the move towards a genius wardrobe.
Jeremy Wright is a self-described opinionated bastard. Follow him on Facebook.