I originally founded Bluffworks because I felt my journey was more important than my clothes. I needed everything I wore to be easy, and support my dreams, not detract from them.
The funny thing is, even those of us who profess to not care about fashion, still want to look good. What we wear is a deep expression of our identity. I can prove it to you by asking you to wear something you find ridiculous, but which might look smashing on someone else. You wouldn’t do it, because you wouldn’t feel right.
Before founding a collection of easy care travel clothing in Bluffworks, I was never willing to spend time, hassle, or excessive treasure on my apparel. So what to do, when looking good is a big part of feeling good?
What is a capsule wardrobe?
Our guide to creating the capsule wardrobe men have been looking for began with this post showing how to style a casual or business formal look with our clothing. However, beyond owning the right wardrobe, the next step is to own less of it, and reduce the complexity of managing what you wear.
The definition of a capsule wardrobe is a collection of pieces that are:
- Timeless, so they be worn for a long time and won’t go out of style.
- Versatile, so you can wear them in a many settings by mixing and matching into seamless combinations.
- Limited, so you don’t own too many things, and your decision making and maintenance are minor as possible.
Imagine it’s early morning, and you’re getting ready to take on the day. Of all the things you have to arrange, your clothing should be CHECK…DONE…READY TO GO…without hassle. That’s the goal.
How to build a men's capsule wardrobe?
There are two leading ways to simplify your wardrobe:
Option #1 - Establish a uniform. Most people are familiar with the most famous example of someone adopting a uniform — Steve Jobs and his trademark black mock-turtleneck and jeans. The idea is to limit the energy or any excess investment in the daily routine of choosing what to wear. It takes courage to wear the same thing everyday, but WOW… can you imagine? I’m sometimes surprised we don’t all do it.
Option #2 - Build a capsule wardrobe. For most guys, this is more doable — to establish a simplified wardrobe that effortlessly outfits you for all aspects of your life, whether it’s a work capsule wardrobe or something more casual. The solution hinges on coordinating everything to go together, and acquiring easy care pieces that you can wear multiple days in a row. The result will be limiting both how much clothing you own, and how often you have to do laundry. Amazing.
Here’s what one version of what a simplified men's wardrobe looks like:
Here’s my thinking behind each piece:
Pants and Shorts
- 2 pairs of pants: light and a dark. Maybe khaki or light grey, plus charcoal or navy.
- 1 pair of travel jeans.
- 1 pair of suit pants (that turn your Gramercy blazer into a full suit).
- 1+1 shorts. Not counting my workout gear, I currently own one pair of active summer shorts, and one swimsuit. Plus the more classic Auckland shorts we used to make (look for new shorts next summer).
- 3 dress shirts. With a multi day wear shirt, you could get by owning just a few solids and a few patterns. How many? Owing just 2 shirts would be extreme, 3-5 is conventional, and 6+ is a little excessive (maybe for the laundry phobic). Funny thing is, most of us probably own 6 or more right now.
- 3 casual t-shirts. Talk about a item that can pile up in your drawer. I don’t think we need more than three. But, the potential for damage here is small. Wool is fantastic, but it makes me hot. We’ve been working on an elegant yet technical T-shirt that performs for years but we’re not there yet.
- 2 other shirts. For example, a short sleeve button down or a polo that is a little more polished than a t-shirt. But this is a danger zone, where you can easily go overboard, as the shirts above can do the job just fine.
- 1 blazer in grey or navy. It should pair well with all of your pants above, and one pair of Gramercy Pants to make it a suit.
- belts - I like one dressy belt, and one more casual webbing and ring style belt. Look for belts from us later this year.
- hats - 1 cap and 2 warm hats. Because I’m always cold, I allow myself a luxury here. I have one warm hat for outdoor activities, and another made of cashmere that keeps me extra toasty in the city.
Pause for effect… think about how far you can go with the above. Casual, semi-formal, dressed up with a blazer. Winter, spring, summer, fall. If someone handed you only the above men’s wardrobe essentials, you would do just fine, and move on to what really makes your blood pump.
Other things we didn’t cover, which we know you’ll own are workout gear, outerwear, additional cold weather stuff — particularly for things like skiing. Our goal here was to tackle the everyday, and I am far from minimalist when it comes to gear that needs to support my adventures.
What deserves a place in your capsule wardrobe?
The above selections are a guide to support the design of your own remixable wardrobe. To get started choosing the pieces, consider the following:
- Choose quality pieces that last, and won’t show wear.
- Go washable so you don’t waste time/money at the dry cleaner.
- Stick with one color palette, starting with a base color ie: gray, navy, or brown, that everything goes with.
- Choose a versatile suit of matched separates (dress slacks and travel blazer), that look good when worn alone.
- Start with the minimum number of pieces and add more only when. Get to the point where you experience pain — like damn, I really need that — and then think twice about it before adding.
- Change things up with accessories — if you tend to get bored, it’s easy to mix things up with cool shoes, a funky tie, etc. You can get many more outfit combinations by mixing it up with accessories, and in fact they are the pieces that add real style. Think about this, how much more incredible does a guy look with a pocket square in his blazer pocket? I think, amazing.
I’ve tried to make my stuff fit my life, not the other way around, and I think that’s what a quality travel capsule wardrobe can do for you, too.
It can be amazing. You’ll save time and energy in the morning, one of the most pressured times of the day. Everything you wear will look great and make you feel good. You’ll save money by owning fewer things. The greatest waste comes from things that sit in your closet which you never wear. And lastly, there is the potential for a feeling of lightness. Like wow, that aspect of my life is solved. You might even stop reading our emails.
Once in college, before I took a year off to go around the world, I carefully packed a trunk of things that were to sit in the basement of my dorm until I returned. When I returned, I had completely forgotten about the items that were inside. Upon opening the trunk, I was like “Wow, I love that shirt.” But then I also realized that my life was becoming so much more than what was packed in storage.
What it really takes to build a capsule wardrobe
I know it takes real courage to take this on. Like signing up for 100 pushups a day, or eating better for a month. It ain’t easy.
There are two ways to think about this. First, you can rely on the comfort of being able to always go back, by increasing your wardrobe.
Second, you can double down on courage. Imagine you are setting off on the most exciting journey of your life. How much clothing would you need? If you simplify now, you may bring yourself one step closer to that dream
Just try it. Be the guy whose clothes look great, but aren’t complicated. Who is more interesting than what he wears.