minimalist wardrobe

mens shirts

For the last year or so, I have changed my wardrobe, quite drastically.  But not in the way that you think.  To start, I’ve been losing weight, and I don’t like the idea of spending a lot of money on clothes that will be too big for me in a few months.  So my wardrobe has essentially become all black dresses.  Yes, they’re different in terms of their styles, but they are all the same color.  I get made fun of at work for always looking like I’m going to a funeral, or not wearing a lot of color.  I’ve even been called Wednesday Addams because of the dark and depressing vibe they think my wardrobe is giving off.  But here’s what’s great about this “choice” – it’s freeing up a lot of mental capacity for me to make other decisions. Or be creative elsewhere.

Think about it for a moment, how much time do you spend in your day trying to find something to wear?  I mean, we do this in all aspects of our lives.  What will I wear to work tomorrow?  What should I have for supper tonight?  Should I go for drinks with the girls on Friday?  You’re probably thinking that these are relatively simple decisions to make, but on average a person makes 35,000 decisions per day.  It can be something simple as – which door should I walk through at the train station? And, according to research, a simple way to save brainpower is to cut down on the number of decisions that you make in a day.

We see this in how some of the most successful people dress.  Meaning – they wear the same outfit every single day.  And when I say, the same outfit, I don’t mean they wear the same clothes, but Obama for example – he used to only wear gray or black suits.  Steve Jobs became famous for wearing a black turtleneck, jeans and new balance sneakers.  But my point is those outfits are the same – day in and day out. Why is this an incredibly powerful move to make?

  • You’ll waste less time when you know exactly what shirt to put on in the morning.
  • You’ll save brainpower because you won’t be focusing your decision making energy on picking out a shirt.
  • You’ll always feel good in what you’re wearing because you’ve given the style some advanced thought.

As I said, I already get made fun of for my variation of this, so yes – people do notice.  But after a certain amount of time, you’re going to stop caring what other people think.  But why?  There is an interesting psychological concept called the “looking glass self” which suggests how our entire identity and self-image is largely determined by how we believe society perceives us.  And that’s entirely possible, but this effect likely wears off with age.  Not only that, but the process of self-realization can be accelerated by occasionally experimenting with out of the box ways of thinking and living.  Which means, by the time someone notices that you are wearing the same outfits every single day, you likely don’t care about what other people think.

Here’s the great thing about this – once you start, you won’t be able to stop.  You’ll think of it as your own personal uniform and it will be difficult for you to go back to the way that you used to dress.  Why?  Positive reinforcement, my friends.  The favorable consequences of simplifying your style will become addictive, so it’s worth taking this little experiment to the next level.

Before I finish off, let’s bust some myths:

  • Wearing the same outfits every single day actually isn’t boring at all.  This exercise is about bringing your authentic self to the world.
  • Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t dress up for special occasions.  You can, because those don’t happen every day.  You’ll only have to make that decision once a month or once a year, and then you’ll forget about it for the rest of the time.
  • You’ll have to adjust your personal uniform to the weather.  This isn’t a one-size-fits-all type solution.  But it also doesn’t mean that you have to go crazy with your choices.

This is all about figuring out what works for you.  If you don’t like Steve Jobs’ choice in wardrobes, then pick something else.  If you’re required to wear a suit to work every single day, then take a page from Obama’s book and make it simple. Tell us if you have a personal uniform and how it’s transformed your life.