Men's Capsule Wardrobe

This is an opinionated capsule wardrobe that I’ve designed that’s versatile and allows me to grab any combination of these items and look good going out the door. It reduces decisions I would have to otherwise make in the morning about what I should wear.

This is the canvas from which you can start the rest of your wardrobe from. If you’re a programmer, you may be able to think of this as your standard library.

From this foundation, I’ve been able to expand out to biz casual, summer, and winter styles.

Requirements

  • Interchangeable: each item should be able to be worn with other items
  • Versatile: each item should have use in all seasons and a wide range of formalities
  • Timeless/Classic: no item should go out of fashion or be just a trendy item to have at the moment; you should expect to own an item for multiple years

Items

  • Cotton crew neck t-shirts
    • Essential colors:
      • White
      • Charcoal
      • Black
      • Light grey
    • How to fit:
      • Check the shoulders first: does the seam between the body of the shirt and the sleeve meet the far edge of your shoulder? Ideally, this is where it should be.
      • Sleeves should not have extra fabric but should not be squeezing your bicep; it should be relaxed but not sloppy
      • Do your nipples show? Do you care?
      • The shirt length should cover your belt line and no more than an inch further down
      • The width around your waist should leave an unbroken line on your silhouette so the shirt seamlessly transitions to your pants
  • Straight cut denim jeans
    • Essential colors:
      • Dark indigo
      • Black
    • How to fit:
      • If they’re too long then you must get them hemmed
      • For the capsule, I do not recommend keeping them longer and cuffing your jeans; you’ll likely see people doing this, and if you’re too lazy or cheap to get them hemmed then you’ll think, “Hey, I see folks just cuffing their jeans, so why don’t I save money and just do that instead?” Cuffing your jeans will limit the versatility of them. If you’d like to play with that style, you should buy another pair for use with cuffing.
    • I like getting mine from Uniqlo, since they fit me well and also hem them for free
    • Don’t bother with raw denim right now, that’s some advanced denim geekery
    • It’s important that they’re dark colored. The dark indigo means that: dark. Don’t get light blue or faded or distressed. You might think it’s too plain: it’s not. The texture on it looks good and will develop character as you wear it more, like a leather jacket.
  • White leather sneakers

Where to invest

If you’re just getting started, and you’ve never thought much about your clothes or your style before, I’d recommend not spending too much on any of these items.

You can get some expensive versions of any of these, but you likely aren’t sure what your preferences are just yet. I wouldn’t necessarily say go to H&M or Old Navy, but getting a pair of Common Projects may be a bit of a waste for you right now.

Later, as you develop your tastes, you can invest in some fancier jeans or sneakers.

I wouldn’t waste money on expensive fancy t-shirts just for the sake of fanciness, as they’ll probably get beaten up by wear and tear and laundry. If you find one that you just can’t live without and it’s a great cut that makes you look good, by all means, go for it.