We often poke fun at the endless lists of “essentials” that are a cliche of men’s style magazines and websites. They’re usually just catalogs of nice things someone thinks you should buy, and deeming them essential is a good argument. It works because the chance to know what we really need, vs. what we simply want is tantalizing. (We also write actual, in-depth articles on real, basic building blocks of a men’s wardrobe.)
Once you’ve built a basic wardrobe that suits you, though, it’s useful to think about the gaps in your closet and how you might fill them. If you buy on-the-fly, and shop a lot of sales (I’m OK with both — I like the serendipity of finding something awesome you didn’t plan for), there’s a risk you continue to add season over season and end up with… a lot of stuff. Maybe even a lot of the same stuff.
And if you find yourself in a cycle of compromising on the wardrobe you want because of cost, it may be in part because you’re spreading your clothing budget out on nice-to-have items or half measures.
So it’s worth taking a step back once in awhile and considering where you want to be with your clothes in a year or two, or at least next summer, and mapping how to get there. I’d call it a “wardrobe needs assessment” but I don’t want you to fall asleep in the middle of this sentence. Knowing where you are now and where you want to be can help you better target your spending, whether you’re buying tailoring or artisan leather jackets.
Set Your Goals
Start off with some questions.
- Where do you see yourself in a year?
- In the same job you have now?
- In the same city?
- How will your work/life situation dictate the kinds of clothes you need to wear?
- Business formal?
- Business casual?
- Informal but office-appropriate wear? E.g., jeans but look neat?
- No external dress codes, wear whatever feels right
- Is your current wardrobe balanced to support that work/life situation?
- Does your current wardrobe work for your climate?
- What about the style of clothing you intend to wear?
- What’s been inspiring you, but also who’s been your style North Star/conscience?
- Who would you like to dress like, ideally?
- If that person had your life, what might change about what they wear and how they wear it?
Assess What You Have
You don’t need pull everything out, Marie Kondo style, or make a spreadsheet of everything you own (yes, I have tried; it was daunting) but take stock of your closet. Try to fit items into slots by season and occasions you wear it–e.g., winter coat, work; spring jacket, weekends; hot weather shirt, for going out; etc.
Define Your Wardrobe Gaps
Ok, now that you know where you want to be, and where you are, work to figure out the gaps. These are less likely to be items than categories of items: more denim, a casual summer suit, more boots. You may also be confronted by the fact you’ve seriously overbought on some categories (obvious ones being ties, sneakers, and graphic tees).
Some gaps may be fairly obvious — when you need a winter coat you need a winter coat. Others may be more subtle — maybe you want to order some fall / winter sport coats but never get around to it until it’s too late to wear it until next fall. Guys who regularly buy bespoke and MTM think a season or two ahead already (that doesn’t stop them from buying frivolously, of course).
Thinking of your seasonal wardrobes that way, though, can help you plan and target your resources better. You can determine your own essentials, rather than believing us when we dictate them to you.
(photo via Voxsartoria)