I originally founded Bluffworks because I felt like my journey was more important than my clothes. I needed everything I wore to be easy, and support my dreams instead of detract from them.
The funny thing is this: 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 I founded Bluffworks and launched our collection of easy care travel clothing, I was never willing to spend time, hassle, or excessive treasure on my apparel. So what do you do, when looking good is a big part of feeling good? It’s all about building a capsule closet.
Put simply, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of interchangeable items that can be combined to maximize the number of outfits you can wear. The exact capsule wardrobe men will seek depends on their lifestyle, habits, and individual taste, however they will typically consist of quality items in neutral tones that can be worn in versatile settings.
The idea is to own less, and reduce the complexity of managing what you wear. You never have to take time out of your day to wonder how to dress for a given scenario, and you’ll cut down on last minute shopping trips while always looking put together.
Benefits of a capsule wardrobe?
The benefits of a capsule wardrobe is that they are a collection of pieces that are:
Timeless, so they can be worn for a long time and won’t go out of style.
Versatile, so you can wear them in many settings by mixing and matching items into seamless combinations.
Limited, so you don’t own too many things, and achieve better closet space and organization.
Less effort, so you can spend more time and mental space on things that matter. We recommend opting for performance clothing that combines the best of fashion and function.
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
The first step when starting a men’s capsule wardrobe is to take note of your lifestyle and how your clothing supports the activities in your day. Let’s say you bike to your office job and are a busy parent, you might live in layers and a few pairs of technical performance pants. Or, if you’re the type who requires a few nice suits for business travel, you’ll want a few more formal pieces. Whatever your lifestyle is, make sure you accommodate the realistic activities of your day.
Next, take a look at your existing wardrobe. What are the pieces that you truly reach for, day in and day out? Isolate those and simplify your belongings by building up the timeless basics in core colors and leaving room for seasonal extras and special pieces only when absolutely necessary.
Third, consider one of the two leading options to simplify your closet:
#1 - Establish a uniform. Most people are familiar with the most famous example of a uniform — Steve Jobs and his trademark jeans and black mock-turtleneck. 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.
#2 - Build a capsule wardrobe. For most guys, this is more doable — to establish a minimalist closet 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 all your pieces so they go together, and acquiring easy care items that you can wear multiple days in a row. The result limits both how much clothing you own, and how often you have to do laundry. Amazing.
Now you’re ready to add a few key pieces. Here’s what one version of a simplified men’s capsule wardrobe looks like:
In basic colors, this is all you need day in and day out.
2 two pairs of pants - one light and one dark. Maybe a khaki or light grey color, plus charcoal or navy. If you like, add a third pair of jeans.
1 pair of suit pants - (that turn your Gramercy blazer into a full suit).
2 pairs of shorts - I currently own one pair of athletic summer shorts (our Revs), and the more versatile Ascender shorts for everything else.
Depending on your preference and lifestyle, this can look basic or colorful. The good news is that any top goes with basic pants.
3 dress shirts - with a multi day wear shirt, you could get by owning just a few shirts. But how many? Owning just 2 solid shirts would be extreme, 3-5 is conventional, and 6+ is a little excessive (maybe for the laundry phobic). The funny thing is, most of us probably own 6 or more right now. My vote - 1 solid white, 1 simple pattern, and 1 additional option that matches who you are.
3 t-shirts - talk about an item that can pile up in your drawer. I don’t think we need more than three. Ideally, the same t-shirt should be equally as good at performing in the gym as it is wearing in a casual office setting. Hence, only 3 (and the reason we built our Threshold collection which also happens to have UPF 50+ protection, if a spring capsule wardrobe is what you’re most interested in).
3-5 other shirts - this is subjective to lifestyle and climate. For example, a lightweight hoodie or a polo (that you can also sweat in) and layering pieces for cooler months can be handy extras to add in. But this is a danger zone, where you can easily go overboard. 3 total here is likely just fine.
You only need one that pairs with a set of dress pants to moonlight as a full suit.
1 blazer - in grey or navy. It should pair well with all of your pants above, and one pair of matching pants to make it a suit.
If a summer or spring capsule wardrobe is your goal, pay attention to weight. I’d swap a 3 season suit separate set for something lighter weight - like our Presidio.
Accessories & Underpinnings
Super personal, but necessary.
Underwear and socks - quantity is subjective, but quality keeps you from replacing them often.
Belts - I like one dressy belt, and one more casual webbing and ring style belt.
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 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 outerwear, shoes, 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 minimalist wardrobe. To get started choosing the pieces, consider the following:
Choose quality pieces that last, and won’t show wear.
Go for washable, easy-care performance clothing so you don’t waste time or money at the dry cleaner. The plus is, these pieces are outfitted to support your lifestyle, not the other way around.
Stick with a core color palette, starting with a base color story ie: gray, navy, or brown, that pairs back to everything (see above for how just a few pieces make many outfits).
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 its really necessary. Get to the point where you think damn, I really need that — and then ask yourself if it’s filling a gap that you’re truly missing on most days.
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? 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.
The result: 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. But lasting change is best achieved in small steps, so take it slow.
Let me offer two perspectives on this endeavor:
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
The latter can make this 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.
Just try it. Be the guy whose clothes look great, but aren’t complicated. Who is more interesting than what he wears.