Men don’t often think of wardrobe building as a strategic endeavor. Those of us who hate shopping will simply buy things quickly to get out of a store, and those of us who like shopping will just buy things we’re drawn to without thinking of whether it truly suits our needs.
Classic men’s style has changed very little in the past century or so. If you plan and purchase with versatility and quality in mind, you can make your dollars stretch without worrying that the clothes you buy will ever go out of style.
A capsule wardrobe is an excellent starting point for recent graduates or men looking to rectify questionable clothing purchases. In this guide, you’ll learn about capsule wardrobes and how to build yours:
Use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read it all.
What Is A Capsule Wardrobe?
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Why Build A Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a set of various garments in which all the individual pieces can coordinate with any other piece. The above infographic is a helpful tool and we encourage you to download it. Later in this article, we use photos of actual garments to illustrate the capsule “IRL,” if you will.
The term “capsule wardrobe” is used by image consultants and others in the clothing industry to help their clients build wardrobes that are versatile, high-quality, and long-lasting.
Again, all the items in the capsule can work together in some way. There are no colors or styles that clash, so it takes all the guesswork out of getting dressed.
Because you’re buying relatively fewer items than you would if you were building a wardrobe in a non-strategic way, you can buy higher-than-average-quality garments. This can mean half-canvassed suits instead of fused ones, shirts with high thread counts, or Goodyear-welted shoes as opposed to cheap glued ones.
In addition to looking better and feeling more comfortable, high-quality clothes last longer than cheaply made garments. This is especially true when you care for them properly. This means that you don’t need to repair or replace clothing as often as the disposable stuff, which provides convenience and reduces ongoing expense.
How Do You Build A Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe as we define it is based around tailored clothing. It’s best for men who wear jackets and ties at least three days a week.
The suit component of the capsule wardrobe consists of two colors: navy blue and medium-to-charcoal grey. The suits can obviously be worn as, well, suits, but the idea is to have the option to mix and match the jackets and trousers. Wear the grey pants with navy jacket and voila, you have a classic odd jacket and trouser combination. Navy trousers with the grey jacket will produce a similar result.
Many men think that a black suit will be their go-to suit. This thinking is as common as it is misguided. Black is appropriate for evening events and mourning, but not for daytime professional wear unless you’re in the hospitality industry.
Always hang your suit up properly after wearing it so it can air out and lose wrinkles. Try not to dry clean your suit more than twice a year if you can avoid it.
All you need is a mix of white and blue dress shirts. That’s it! A total of six will work as a start: three blue, three white.
You can vary the collar and cuff styles to your liking, and if you’re just starting to build a wardrobe, we recommend experimenting with different styles. This is so you can learn what you truly like versus what’s just caught your eye, enabling you to make even smarter purchases in the future.
Any white or blue shirt can be worn with any jacket and trouser combination mentioned above. Versatility continues to be a priority.
Shirt collars and cuffs tend to get dirty faster than the rest of the shirt (unless you’re a messy eater, of course). This becomes more manageable, however, if you avoid wearing the same shirt two days in a row.
Shoes & Belts
Though we truly believe a man can never own too many shoes, he only needs two to get him through the week: black and brown dress shoes with belts to match. We suggest nickel hardware on the belts as opposed to brass.
For a capsule wardrobe, we suggest a black oxford brogue or cap-toe and a medium-to-dark brown blucher. These options will go with any clothing combination in the capsule, and if you buy high-quality shoes that you don’t wear two days in a row, they will be comfortable and last you years.
The value of using shoe trees cannot be understated; it is the single most effective thing you can do to increase your shoes’ lifespans. They can be made of cedar or alder, but avoid plastic ones.
You should buy solid ties in the primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) to start. If you purchase two different shades per color, you’ll be well-positioned to last through the work week and keep the ties in good condition.
As you can see above, the same red, blue, and yellow ties work equally well with a white or blue shirt.
Always untie your tie by retracing the steps you took to tie it, but in reverse. This will help it maintain its shape and last longer, whereas pulling the narrow end out stresses the silk and decreases lifespan.
Note On Socks & Pocket Squares
White pocket squares go with any and every tie imaginable. To start a collection, just pick up a pack of white cotton or linen pocket squares. They’re inexpensive, super versatile, and will add a handsome finishing touch to your jackets.
For socks, the rule of thumb (or rule of toe, more accurately in this case) is that they match your trousers. Get a few pairs of navy socks and a few pairs of grey socks and you’ll be all set around your ankles.
In the picture below, you’ll notice that the shades of sock are a bit different than that of the trouser. This is totally acceptable. So long as you’re in the same ball park color-wise, you’re fine.
Beyond The Capsule
As we move on to more advanced dressing, we obviously need to move out of the capsule. Thankfully, the capsule provides an excellent foundation on which to build the rest of your wardrobe. Patterned shirts mate wonderfully with solid ties and jackets, striped suits pair well with solid ties and shirts, and so on.
Socks and pocket squares are a great way to start branching out of the basics, too. They’re available at relatively low cost and require zero alterations. If you’ve got a few extra bucks laying around, white pocket squares with colored trim that coordinate with your ties are perfect. Socks in different shades of your tie color are smart if you can get away with it at the office.
It’s worth repeating that we should approach wardrobe building as training for a marathon, not a running a sprint. Fans of HBO’s The Wire may remember Senator Clay Davis’ advice to Stringer Bell regarding getting into business with the government: “Crawl, walk, and then run.”
When done correctly, the process may feel slow, and you might be anxious to purchase items that are outside of the capsule. This is normal, but to ensure long-term success, you should resist that urge.
For more information on suits, we invite you to check out our suits home page.
Now that you have read our primer on dress codes, consider reading some of our related content:
- How To Wear A Suit For A Job Interview
- What Is Black Tie Optional?
- What To Wear At Weddings?
- Best Online Made-to-Measure Suits
- Suit Homepage
"An excellent guide and a lot of help. I'm scrapping a lot of old clothes and wanted to start again from scratch but do it properly. This guide has been invaluable and I printed off the infographic at the top. Thanks!"Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★