Clothes and the Man

by Frank Martin

“Know what the difference is between you and me? I make this look good.” – Agent J (Will Smith), Men in Black

As I’ve mentioned before, Steve Jobs was well known for (among other things) wearing a black turtleneck, jeans, and sneakers every day. Clothing can be a form of self expression, but having a basic outfit (or two) that you wear on a daily basis (your uniform) can be incredibly useful in terms of making getting dressed easier and knowing you look good regardless.

A uniform does three things: One it helps maintain a certain discipline about life. Most men’s wear, after all, evolved from military uniforms. The suit was based off the military dress uniform, the breast pockets on men’s shirts started as a place for Napoleonic era infantry to store ammunition. In one of the weirder developments in men’s wear, t-shirts are actually undershirts that became socially acceptable to wear on the outside. The second reason is, as I mentioned before, a matter of simplicity and style: knowing that you look good with a small wardrobe. Finally, third, it frees up mental energy to use for other things besides which shirt to wear.

So, what do I actually wear? My standard uniform is jeans with a leather belt, button-down collared shirt or long sleeve thermal t-shirt, brown leather boots. I also keep two or three solid color t-shirts and a pair of junker jeans that I mostly wear on weekends or when I’m doing yard or housework. Though it doesn’t happen often, there are still occasions when I need to dress up, so I have a couple pairs of light, medium, and dark khakis, a couple dress button down shirts and a french cuff shirt, as well as a pair of dark wash jeans, dress shoes and a dress belt. The only thing I feel I’m missing at this point for winter wear is a decent jacket that doesn’t look like I’m about to crest Everest, along with a sport coat, and a grey suit for formal wear. If you work in an office, you might want to weight things a bit more towards the dressy end of the spectrum. If you look at most mens’ magazines, you’ll probably come away thinking you need a ton of clothes, but the fact is its actually easier in some ways to look better without hundreds of clothing items. I wouldn’t be too worried about getting called out on wearing the same stuff constantly either. I’ve been dressing this way for about a month and no one has said anything.

I definitely recommend checking out this youtube video on maintaining a minimal wardrobe.

So, what should every guy have in their closet?