The focus of this article is to outline the key pieces needed to create a sustainable wardrobe for men.
A curated and well thought out wardrobe is called a ‘capsule collection’ and whilst everyone can benefit from them, it is particularly useful for men who:
- Are short on time
- Want a consistent look
- Have little interest in regular shopping sprees
- Don’t have a lot of clothing storage space
- Limited budget.
- Focus on what matters most
- Forget worrying about what to wear
- Save time getting ready each morning
- Always look good no matter what you put on
- Everything goes together – no risk of getting it wrong
- Lots of outfit variations without lots of clothing
The first thing I do when I work with a client is to ask them about their lifestyle. Building a great capsule collection means knowing what pieces will be the ‘hero’ items that are worn the most frequently, and ensuring that they go with everything else. I always ask my clients what clothes they’ve worn over 100 times, they often reply with 1000 times or more for:
- Shoes /Trainers
It is with that knowledge and understanding of men’s shopping and dressing habits, it is actually much easier to create a long-lasting sustainable wardrobe. Men wear more of what they have. Unlike women who tend to buy more than they wear, spending less money on individual pieces – but more in total. Men, however, tend to spend more money on single items and keep them much longer.
Cost per wear
Cost per wear is a basic metric for working out the value of your investment.
In men’s wardrobes, cost per item is usually much higher due to the fact garments are higher quality and made to last (although this is not always the case).
Cost per wear, however, tends to be very low due to the number of times an item will be worn. But that doesn’t stop people gasping at the upfront cost. It’s a bit of a mindset shift to think about clothes as an ‘Investment’ rather than an upfront cost.
£190 jacket – worn approximately 180 days of the year = £1.05 cost per wear
Lasting 5-years, the cost per wear reduces to = 0.21p
Mending service = up to £100
Extending the life of the jacket by a further 2-3 year
Total investment £290 lasting 7+ years
A capsule collection will focus on a basic colour palette that is most complementary to your skin’s undertones.
Men and women are divided into two skin undertone categories, warm or cool. It’s impossible to tell which one you are unless you have a professional colour analysis done. Once you know if you’re warm or cool it makes it a lot easier to know what colours to go for and what ones to avoid.
Knowing what colours make you look more handsome, less tired and more powerful is an often-underestimated benefit, it is particularly useful for men who are the public eye, on stage or the TV and find themselves being photographed or captured on video a lot.
Men fall into around 5 different body shapes, knowing how to dress your shape is important if you want to step out the door looking good every day. Based on your body shape, your capsule collection will be designed to complement every angle of your body so you feel at your best.
It is particularly useful for those impromptu shopping scenarios – you’ll know just by looking at the shape whether it will fit, without having to try it on.
The Size of Your Capsule
The size of your wardrobe doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts! You can have the biggest wardrobe in the world and still never know what to wear. A capsule collection can range from 15 pieces for the minimalist, up to 50 pieces + for the more extravagant. It really is lifestyle dependant. What you do day-to-day will affect what you need and how much you need.
Of course, if you are open to ‘renting’ items such as suits and tuxes for special occasions you won’t necessarily need to invest in lots of options. Every man should have one exceptionally fitted suit, which is the equivalent of a woman’s little black dress. These are simply must-have items.
The Smart Mans Capsule Must-Haves
Note that this list excludes: gym clothes & nightwear
Let’s assume you are working on a minimalist wardrobe, you’ll need at least 7 pairs of high-quality underpants/boxer briefs that will last at least 1000wears – when it comes to your undies, it pays to invest.
You’ll also need at least 7 pairs of high-quality socks that will last 1000wears – again when it comes to the basics like pants and socks, you need to think long term as these items get used daily.
The classic white shirt is a wardrobe staple. Finding one that fits is often the hardest part. Depending on your skin’s undertones you’ll be looking at a white or cream one first. The number of shirts will be based on your lifestyle, you’d need a minimum of 3 shirts, with a variation of sleeve lengths if you live/work in warmer climates.
Just like a suit, it’s important that your shirt fits. If you require one that is made to measure, it’s definitely worth the investment. White shirts go with everything from suits, jeans, and shorts. A white shirt can be dressed up smart or worn as smart casual too.
Once you’ve figured out the best fit, you can start to add other key colours, like navy, grey, and burgundy into the mix.
Classic Plain T-Shirts
The T-shirt is by far one of the most versatile pieces in a man’s wardrobe, worn with jeans, a blazer, shorts, to the gym, beach and everywhere in between. You can have from 3-10 T-shirts in a minimalist capsule collection.
T-shirts should be of high quality, you shouldn’t be able to see through them. Investing in organic cotton is best, its kinder to your skin and the environment.
Chose simple colours and patterns like black, white or cream, navy, grey, olive, burgundy, baby blue, salmon pink, and let’s not forget the classic breton stripe.
A good belt
Before we move onto trousers, it’s fair to say every man should invest in a long-lasting comfortable belt that will work well on suit trousers, jeans and shorts. Belts tend to be worn and kept for years – so think about the cost per wear and look at the most durable options.
Keep it simple. Classic indigo jeans in a slim fit are timeless. If you work in an office and denim is not permitted you may only need 1-2 pairs.
Slim fit jeans go with pretty much everything.
Make sure you get the right length in the leg, not too short and not too long. Have them professionally adjusted and make sure they are a perfect fit.
Avoid any patchwork, tears, embellishments, fringing or crazy pockets or studs. Of course, feel free to patch up your jeans over time when you’ve worn them for a few years and signs of wear have appeared – I would then suggest these are downgraded to ‘casual’.
You may not be a ‘jeans’ person or your work requires you to wear smarter options. This is where the chino trousers rein superior. You may need between 1-3 pairs.
The fit of chinos has changed a lot over the years, a slimmer fitting style has become more popular. Depending on your body shape you may prefer the classic style or the slimmer fit.
Opt for neutral colours like navy, cream or olive.
A 2 piece suit
You should have at least one great fitting suit that is well-tailored and fits your body perfectly.
This includes the shoulder width, the arm length, the length of the trousers and how the fall around the shoes. If you can’t afford to have a bespoke suit made (and these start at around £1,800 depending on materials) then buy a suit with the closet fit and get it altered by a tailor.
Suits shouldnt be baggy, we aren’t in the 1920s anymore. Very slim fitting suits work best on those with very slender builds (your body shape analysis session will determine your exact body shape) tailoring is very specific, tracing the contours of your body is the best way to ensure you get the most flattering fit.
Opt for a classic colour like black, blue or grey, depending on your skin’s undertones.
If its summer, then you need to think about shorts. The classic options are denim or chinos. Again between 1-3 pairs would be ideal.
Go for a similar neutral colour, much like your jeans and other trousers, introducing baby blue and light grey will work too. Opt for a slim fit, just above the knee for a timeless look that can be dressed up or down.
If you want a timeless style stick to plain white trainers. Avoid one that look too sporty so that you can easily switch between smart trousers and jeans. If you rarely wear smart trousers and spend most of your time in jeans you may want to choose a classic style in plain black.
For most men, 1 pair of trainers is usually enough.
But please, promise me one thing. You won’t wear your gym trainers unless you’re wearing your gym outfit. Nothing pains me more than seeing men, with by all accounts a great fitting outfit, ruined by wearing functional sports trainers.
There are two types of men when it comes to dress shoes, the style connoisseur that sees them as part of his daily commute, and the practical man that shines his one pair when there is an occasion that requires them.
If you are the former, then you’ll likely need 2 pairs one in black and one pair in brown/tan. If you’re the latter, just stick to one pair in black.
The level of investment should be measured by the number of wears.
High-quality shoes will last longer, yes they cost more, but that price means the structure of the shoe can be repaired, the soles replaced, meaning they can essentially last for life with the right care.
Cheap shoes on the market today don’t last long and unfortunately, they are hard to recycle and end up in landfill – so it best to invest in a pair that will go the distance.
Brogues or slip-on styles have the most versatility and will go nicely with jeans, chinos, and shorts.
Chunky cable knit sweaters are great in theory but impractical when it comes to a capsule wardrobe. High-quality merino wool or cashmere jumpers that are thin enough to layer over a shirt, but not too bulky to wear under your coat work best.
Jumpers can be worn alone, under T-shirts or over the top of collared button-up shirts. Round neck jumpers work best for layering.
Aim for 1-3 for a minimalist wardrobe, depending on how much you feel the cold.
Every man needs at least one blazer in their wardrobe. Something that you can wear with jeans or chinos, with a shirt or T-shirt. It may be that you own a suit and the suit jacket works as a blazer on its own.
Your blazer can be a more of a statement piece, opt for interesting textured material to add some variety into your look. Blazers come in so many options, such as tweed, cotton, linen, velvet and more.
A coat is such an important part of your look. I recommend 3 types of coats that transcend all trends and will remain stylish regardless.
Depending on your style preferences, the trench coat, pea coat or the classic wool overcoat will remain a wardrobe hero for many years to come.
Make sure you have enough room to wear layers underneath. You should be able to wear a suit jacket or a thick jumper underneath. Black, Navy, Camel and Grey coloured ones tend to be the most versatile options.
Off Duty Jacket
The spring/summer/autumn jacket needs to work hard for you – it’s one that will be worn regularly throughout the weather changing.
Again, depending on the overall look you decide on per your ‘signature style, go for a leather jacket, a denim jacket, a bomber jacket, a Barbour or a parka style one – as these will remain stylish regardless of the fashion trends.
Depending on the season and when you create your capsule collection, you will want to add and remove certain items. If it’s summer you may want to focus more on cooler comfortable shoes, and for winter extra warmth so winter boots, jumpers, scarfs, and hats.
[More blogs coming soon with recommended men’s ethical fashion brands]