In my last post I blogged about ‘minimalism‘: its pitfalls, its virtues, its politics, its historical debts. In my first long post, I emphasised that this year my plan is to wear a stormier, more muted palette, and my selection of watches was based on an aesthetic of utilitarianism and practicality over flash (but with a bit of fun in the case of the ASOS polka dot watch). These are both ‘minimalist’ things, whether I realised at the time or not. So I’m going a step forward, adding another rule to my 2015 Plan.
This post is about a ‘decluttering’ strategy that I am adopting, taken from several minimalist blogs, like the excellent miss minimalist.
This year I am tightening my coffers, and focussing on wearing things that fit really well and are good enough quality. I am sick of having things hanging up that others could wear, or are slightly too big. In the last 6 months or so I’ve lost a little excess weight, and gone from a Medium/Small to a Small/Extra-Small (more usually the latter). Because I favour slim/skinny-fitting clothes this has created a serious task: a clearout (except in the case of items like check shirts, which IMO look pretty decent in a slightly looser, more regular/oversized fit). I’ve found myself justifying keeping things with spurious reasoning, such as:
- I may wear it in the future. ‘May’? It’s silly planning and keeping a wardrobe for myself in case I gain loads of weight. If I do, I will either cut down (and save money that way) or wear one or two items I am keeping for that eventuality (like a pair of jeans in the next size up, my now oversized check shirts).
- I’ll wear it around the house. Because I work from home, I find myself thinking this a lot. And it’s just not true. Except for a few items like basic t-shirts by Uniqlo and American Apparel, I wear joggers or jeans/chinos I have worn outside the house but aren’t ready for the wash yet. I am keeping a couple of items to keep myself warm – an oversized jumper and a cardigan that are cosy and have had little wear, but that’s all that’s needed.
I only need two tools for this task, but they are absolutely key to shrinking my wardrobe. Firstly I need to adopt a rule to make use of these properly. Forget ideas of a capsule wardrobe, this is about wardrobe management, son. Growing up I never had a wardrobe and made do with a cheerful chest of drawers in a lovely shade of blue. Now I share a wardrobe with my girlfriend in the bedroom, and another is filled with our ‘best’ clothes.
‘One in, one out’
When trying to lead a minimalist lifestyle, it’s important to monitor the “stuff level” in your home…To keep your stuff level from rising, live by the following rule: every time a new item comes into your home, a similar item must leave. For every drip into the bucket, there must be one drip out; this ensures that your household won’t flood, and threaten the progress you’re making. – miss minimalist, 10/07/2009
So how do I stop my wardrobe filling back up again? The ‘one in one out’ rule. Once I have cleared my wardrobes of all my ill-fitting items, this will guide all my future purchases. If I buy a new jacket, I get rid of an old one. There really is only so much we can wear on a day to day basis. So rather than have this descend into a consumerist merry-go-round, I’m going to adopt a mantra of quality and price-point as well as fit. There are a lot of revered brands out there producing serious quality menswear – like the Italian group Slowear – at a high price-point. These are flagged as alternatives to brands like ASOS and Topman, which operate at a totally different price-point and quality-level. The only problem with many of these heritage brands? Their clothes are just that bit too big for me. I don’t mind if my Barbour wax jacket is a bit loose, but when it comes to something like a smart/smart-casual item like an Oxford button-down collar shirt? That’s a deal-breaker. The #menswear solution to this quandary is to get the clothes altered to fit. Unfortunately, I don’t know of a tailor near me, and I’m pretty sure that it’s a rabbit-hole dictated by advertising: you begin getting things altered, and soon it becomes the norm. I’d rather buy a true-to-size, perfectly reasonable quality Oxford shirt by ASOS or Selected Homme.
1. Tape measure.
If someone was to ask me what the first thing I would buy if I started my wardrobe again, it would be one of these. It is just so simple. Measure yourself, measure the actual clothes or make use of sites that give exact clothing measurements like Mr Porter, Matches and END clothing to give an idea of brands’ real sizing. With a tape I am not at the mercy of manufacturers’ descriptions (one make’s ‘skinny’ is more like another’s ‘slim’, for instance) or size guides. If I get bigger or smaller, the tape-measure can tell me. I’m lucky enough to have ‘regular’ proportions, like a waist 6 inches smaller than my chest, so I’m not in the need of a tailor. All I need is a tailor/seamstresses’ tool. They have other more arcane uses, too: I can use them to determine what width of tie I require for different jacket lapels, or how big a bag is. They’re also one of the cheapest items you will ever buy, to boot. Get this one off Amazon for 60p!
2. A mirror.
If I didn’t have one on my wardrobe, I’d have got hold of something like this KNAPPER Standing Mirror from IKEA, which has a handy clothes rail on the back. It also has a very simple minimalist design. It sounds obvious, but really sometimes a 360-turn in front of a mirror is the best thing you can do. This has been key for seeing what excess material there is at the back of many of my shirts, which fitted adequately in the collar and reasonably from the front, but were obviously too big from the back. A mirror is also useful for everyday sartorial mishaps: I can’t find it using googling and advanced searches, but an opinion piece in The Guardian also made a point not that long ago: men are unusually reticent to check out their arses/ass/bottoms/bums/tushy/behind/whatever-you-call-it in the mirror. Check that those jeans/chinos/smart trousers really fit properly all the way round. Check out 24PSt. very soon for my Spring Wish List.