Last week a received a vintage M43 jacket in the mail, washed it, wore it the next few days, then hung it in my closet between two other olive, cotton, vaguely military jackets. On another rack in the closet hung a number of blue oxford cloth button down shirts–these are different shirts! Some have unlined collars and vintage style overlapping hems. Some have stiffer, lined collars. Some are slim. Some are boxy. But let’s face it, they’re all blue buttondown shirts. Stacked in a dresser drawer are my jeans. They’re not all beat up and blue, but the ones I wear the most are. My oldest pair of jeans and my newest are blue, both in the general style of Levis 501s.
I share the closet space with my wife and she will assure you I fill it with a rainbow of shirts, trousers of varied make and cut, suits that are far too interesting to wear to a job interview, and also that I’m slowly encroaching on her closet space. I’m not a superhero. But I return again and again to the same basic staples:
- Baseball caps–preferably soft and unlined (some of these are “dad hats”);
- Olive jackets–military surplus, reproduction, interpretation;
- OCBDs–primarily blue;
- Indigo denim–straight leg or tapered cuts, often cuffed;
- Basic sneakers–no frills designs from big brands like Vans, Adidas, or Nike, or more refined but still basic stuff from companies like Shoes Like Pottery.
I’ve written before about having a personal uniform, and I still like to have a go-to outfit each season, especially for work; the above combination has been the essential template on which I build my everyday wear for years. With casual, off-hours style, I’m far less prescriptive in my adherence to any sort of rules, and I’m always intrigued and often inspired by up and coming makers/designers doing new things. But I’ve stopped trying to fight it. It’s not laziness–I’ve found what works for me, and on many days figuring out what to wear is just a matter of tweaking this formula, or swapping out an item: a leather jacket instead, or Wallabee styled shoes, or a tshirt.
And when I’m shopping for new clothes, figuring out what to buy is just a matter of deciding what details I want to refine on the same essential pieces. Finding closet space for it is another matter.