Men’s Year-Round Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe - The Ultimate Guide
A minimalist, capsule wardrobe saves you time, money, and stress of effortlessly dressing better than you ever have before, without looking like you're trying too hard.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a small, tightly edited collection of men’s foundational pieces of clothing that works for every occasion you’ll encounter throughout the year. It gives you the most bang for your buck that centers around classic, minimal, and neutral colors that never go out of style so you can save time, money, and the stress of shopping and not knowing what to wear on any given day.
Think of it as setting an amazing foundation for your personal style that will get you through every situation from casual, smart casual all the way up to business casual and even professional.
Should you want to spice it up even more, you’ll be able to easily add in more key pieces or trendy items, as you see fit, to really showcase your personality.
What's the difference between a capsule wardrobe and minimalist wardrobe?
They're the same thing - a wardrobe that cuts out the fat and gives you the ability to create great-looking outfits with the minimum number of clothes possible, without leaving large gaps in your wardrobe.
Why are capsule wardrobes important?
They're designed to save you time, energy, and money, and from experiencing decision fatigue, on top of being environmentally friendly since you will be using everything you purchase.
What are the pros or benefits of a capsule wardrobe?
- Less Clutter
Since you now have items that all work together, you'll probably have fewer items of clothing than you thought necessary, which removes clutter and junk from accumulating in your closet since everything will be used frequently.
A men’s capsule wardrobe is like a lean steak - there's very little fat, which in turn means everything has to pull double or triple duty. Having fewer clothes mean that you will be using items that will work in multiple scenarios, which will create a wardrobe that is both simple and versatile. That means the same jacket that works well at work, will also be appropriate for a date or night out with friends.
There is a time and a place for trendy items, but not in an essential capsule wardrobe. The backbone of a successful capsule wardrobe are neutrals – navy, gray, brown, white, and black. These colors all go together and are timeless, age and season agnostic.
The beauty of a minimal wardrobe is how little it contains. However, that means the clothes you do buy should be built to last. Partly, that’s practicality – you’ll be wearing the same things a lot, and replacing them frequently is both wasteful and boring. But also, simple clothes have no bedazzling to mask how they’re made. If they’re crappy, you’ll look it.
After putting together your capsule wardrobe, you will have clothing that covers you for every occasion under the sun. No more will you be left wondering what to wear to an event or what is appropriate for various occasions. By default, you will be wearing things that are age, body type, and occasion appropriate.
- Removes stress, anxiety & decision fatigue
A capsule wardrobe makes getting dressed simple, stylish, and efficient.
What are the cons or downsides of a capsule wardrobe?
- Can Feel Limiting
I've heard from users that in the beginning, they didn't understand that a capsule wardrobe is designed to be limiting, but this is only the beginning and will set a solid foundation on which to build - either by adding seasonal or fashion-forward pieces into your wardrobe.
- You Will Have To Buy Things
You may have to buy more or less clothing than you think to fulfill the needs of a capsule wardrobe.
- People Will Comment
Everyone will 100% notice that you're dressing differently and you may hear negative comments from friends and family because they (and humans in general) don't like change. The best way to determine if things are working is to listen to feedback from strangers since they don't know how you dressed previously.
Do I have to buy all new clothes?
You likely already own quite a few of the items in a capsule wardrobe, but the only way to know is by going through the process of creating the wardrobe to determine what can and can't be used in your current wardrobe.
Will this make me look like everyone else?
Go to a busy public place and you'll see a handful of men, at most, dressing in simple, understated, and sophisticated ways. These men are likely following the minimalist capsule wardrobe mindset. The rest of the men will look like some form of disheveled, sloppy, or just... loud and weird.
You will look nothing like the average guy and, in fact, will stand out from everyone else. You'll come to understand this when the compliments start rolling in from random strangers.
Do capsule wardrobes work?
Like diets and exercise regimens, they work extremely well if you stick to the advice and try not to deviate too much from it in the beginning, until you truly understand what you're doing.
They absolutely don't work if you're not willing to set your ego and assumptions aside and listen to someone who dresses men of all ages, shapes, and sizes for a living for going over a decade.
How many items are in a men's capsule wardrobe?
Typical capsule wardrobes have between 25 to 50 pieces which include clothing, shoes, and accessories. It heavily depends on your geographic location and needs - if you live in a location with 4 seasons, you'll need more items than someone who lives in a Mediterranean or tropical location since you need to account for weather variations.
How many t-shirts, jeans or jackets should a man own in a capsule wardrobe?
It depends. The minimum should be 5-ish shirts, 2-ish jeans, and 2-4 jackets. See the Capsule Wardrobe Items Checklist for details.
How do I start or make a capsule wardrobe?
This is covered extensively on this page, but briefly:
- Trust the process.
- See what you currently own that works.
- Get the missing pieces.
- Put together outfits with little thought.
Is a capsule wardrobe worth it?
It depends on how much you value your time, energy, and money. Make no mistake, it's going to take some work on your part in the beginning. But this will save you time, money, and headaches in the long run. I personally think it's well worth it, but that's up to you to determine.
Will this make me dress a certain way?
Yes, it will make you dress better than you ever have before.
Is a capsule wardrobe boring?
No, you will be dressing in what's called an "understated" way, which means the details that the average guy doesn't understand or see will be considered and utilized to make you look amazing. If wearing loud flashy clothing is how you dress now, then in comparison to that, it may seem "boring" to someone who doesn't understand. But in my experience, people who are clueless throw this out like it's a bad thing. Read on to see why it's the opposite.
Also, having a capsule wardrobe doesn’t mean you have to stop building out your wardrobe completely. It is designed to be the foundation of your style and your outfits, and over time you can add printed or more colorful options to your wardrobe. As mentioned previously, your style will always be evolving, but any additions to your wardrobe should be considered and not impulse purchases. You'll learn what works and doesn't work best for you during the process of creating your new wardrobe - so don't jump the gun just yet!
How am I supposed to show my personality?
Having dressed men of all ages and from walks of life for over a decade, let me be honest with you - if you think your clothing is how you showcase your personality, you're wrong.
Your personality is expressed by the way you interact with the world. You give your clothing personality, not the other way around.
A 70-year-old man in a white t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers and a teenager in the exact same outfit will look very different because their personality is not tied to their clothing. Using your clothing as a billboard to the world shows a lack of true understanding of how to showcase your personality. It's easy and infantile.
Capsule Wardrobe Mistakes Most Men Make
Here are the most common mistakes I see guys making when trying to build a capsule wardrobe:
Thinking you can do it without any guidance.
So many guys hear the term 'Capsule Wardrobe' and think "Gee, how hard could it be?!" before building a collection of ill-fitting, overly-trendy, and poorly-made items that look bad and aren't built to last. That is why I created this guide!
As I mentioned in the FAQs above, you shouldn't be pinching pennies when it comes to creating a capsule wardrobe. Now, I'm not talking about splurging on designer threads here, but more so investing in high-quality pieces that will last you for years to come.
Not taking your location into account.
If you live somewhere with four seasons, then you need to build your wardrobe to suit that climate. Likewise, if you live somewhere with a tropical climate for 11 months of the year, then you should probably avoid those lace-up boots and heavy wool overcoat.
Not being open to getting your clothing altered.
Believe it or not, a large percentage of your clothes were not designed to fit you, specifically. This is where a good tailor comes in. Having your clothing altered will not only make you look so much better but feel so much better too!
Want to learn about the most common mistakes guys make for the individual items discussed in this guide? Check out my Essential Capsule Wardrobe App.
Features of a Capsule Wardorobe
Capsule wardrobes are best when they have foundational neutral colors in them like:
However, that does not mean you can’t or shouldn’t add a pop of color or integrate some color into your wardrobe.
A common mistake my clients and readers/viewers make is going out and buying a bunch of statement pieces like neon green pants or mustard-colored sweaters. The problem is that they don't understand how this fits into their existing wardrobe and then it just sits in the closet collecting dust. So let’s start off with the basics in the capsule wardrobe to add as a foundation on which to build later.
Due to the color choices and foundational element of a capsule wardrobe, it will be simple, elegant, understated, and perfect - this is on purpose.
And, while on the hanger or in the drawer, it may look "boring" to the uninitiated, it will be the complete opposite to that in real-world usage.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication...
A minimalist wardrobe is age, body, height, and skin tone agnostic - on purpose.
Yes, you will need to find things that fit properly and there are some options that are better suited toward specific ages and body types, but in this article, I'm going to give you everything that will look great on every guy, regardless of these attributes.
So let's get cracking!
How To Build a Men's Capsule Wardrobe
1. Trust the Process
You're here because you want help. Admitting that is not always easy.
Maybe you don't realize it, but you're bringing preconceived notions about how things are or should be with your wardrobe. Your perception has been shaped by experience, your age, and what has been popular at different times of your life.
It's time to drop all that and let yourself be open to the process.
Every time I start working with a new client, they're adamant they just need a little help - 99.9% of the time, they need a lot of help. So before you rush to judgment, sit back, relax, and let me show you the way to dressing and looking better than you ever have before. Take it in, don't judge (because you're actually the worst judge in this scenario - more on that in Step 7), and look at the whole picture.
You're going to learn a lot during this process without realizing it - I promise.
2. Go Slowly (if you want to)
If you're nervous or uncomfortable about going "all in" right off the bat, try incorporating some of my suggested items a little at a time and see how you and others react before digging deeper.
3. Determine Your Needs
Before jumping in, you should determine your wardrobe needs. The guy who works as a tradesman and the one who works in a law firm have very different clothing requirements. Obviously, I can't account for every industry and location in an article like this, so I'm going to need you to figure that part out.
Buy more of what you use the most, less or none of the things you don't need or wear less often.
Or maybe you typically need to wear dress shirts, blazers, chinos, and some type of dress shoe on a weekly basis but hardly ever t-shirts or jogger pants. You'd then grab one or two of those options and omit the rest.
4. Go Through Your Closet
This is when you'll look at the list of items that make a year-round capsule wardrobe and determine what items you already own and which items you should toss out (or donate) and potentially replace to fill in your capsule wardrobe.
When performing a closet audit, you will be:
- Pulling out items in a specific category. Example: t-shirts and then...
- Ensuring they're free of stains, rips, etc.
- Seeing if the colors work well. This means leaning on neutrals - white, black, gray, blue.
- Making sure the items fit your body appropriately - are they too big, tight, long, or short?
5. Fill In The Gaps
Now that you've performed a closet audit and only have things that work for a Capsule Wardrobe, it's time to fill in the gaps of items to complete the whole wardrobe so you can put together great outfits with little thought.
5a. What pieces should I invest in and what pieces can I buy cheap?
There's an old saying:
Invest in the items that separate you from the ground: your shoes, bed, and car tires.
I subscribe to this mentality, and go even further: invest in the things that touch your skin or protect you from the elements. My experience with hundreds of men over the years has proven this to be accurate.
You want to invest in quality shoes (specifically leather options), underwear, as well as outerwear (jackets) because it is ultimately cheaper in the long run since quality pieces tend to last longer and they are typically more comfortable and easier to maintain.
With cheaper options listed below, they normally last just as long as expensive options and the difference in quality from budget-friendly to high-end options is measured in very small degrees. That's not to say you have to follow this advice to a T. If you value luxurious t-shirts, please buy what you prefer.
You have my full permission to cheap out on these items:
Spend some coin on these items (if you can):
6. Put Together Outfits
Based on the occasion, season and how you're feeling that day, you will be able to easily mix and match the items in your wardrobe to look great on a daily basis.
If you want a complete list of every type of outfit you can put together with your capsule wardrobe - based on your age, height, body type, and skin tone, then you should check out the Essential Capsule Wardrobe app.
7. Get Feedback and Take The Challenge
Here's where the fun (or horror) begins:
It's time to test out your new wardrobe.
But you're not going to ask family or friends. No, they already know you on a level that will color their impressions - some of them will be negative because certain people don't like change or are offended when people around them start bettering themselves because it highlights how they aren't doing anything like this.
Be very careful about getting feedback from people who know you. I always advise my clients to ask people who don't see them on a daily basis for quick feedback. The best feedback, however, is from impartial strangers because they're not used to seeing you one way or another like friends and family, my private community is very active with like-minded men who are always willing to provide unbiased feedback.
7a. The Challenge
If you're single, this is going to make meeting new people even easier. But even if you're taken, this is going to open up your world - I promise.
You're going to go up to a random stranger and say exactly this:
"Hi, you look like someone who knows how to dress well, would you mind telling me if you like this outfit? I'm trying to improve the way I dress and am looking for feedback."
Then just let them talk and take the advice at face value. The average person knows when something looks good or bad, but they likely won't know exactly why it looks good or bad, so don't ask for details.
Unless you've completely blown the advice, they're going to say you look fantastic because they have no notions of how the "old you" used to dress. They only see you as you are - which is now a well-dressed, stylish man who isn't trying too hard. If you're not getting compliments, you've missed something in my advice.
Capsule Wardrobe Items Checklist
The goal is to have a wardrobe that will easily get you through a week without having to do laundry while also accounting for various scenarios - weather, occasions, trips, formalities. Below are the base-level items that every guy should own.
- 2 Jackets (1 Dressy, 1 Casual)
- 8-12 Tops (a mixture of shirts and sweaters)
- 2-6 Pants (1-2 Casual, 1 Dressy)
- 4 Flat Front Chino Shorts
- 2 Navy
- 1 Sand or Khaki
- 1 Gray
- 2 Pairs of Shoes (1 Casual, 1 Dressy)
- Pair of Oxford Dress Shoes (Medium Brown or Black)
- 2 x Boots:
- Lace-Up Boots - Medium Brown Leather
- Chukka Boots/Chelsea Boots - Medium Brown Leather
- 8 Pairs of Underwear
- 8 Pairs of Socks
- 2 Pairs of Each Color
- Dark Gray
- 2 Pairs of Each Color
- Belts - Leather (1 Black, 1 Brown)
- Sunglasses or Opticals (1 Black, 1 Brown/ Tortoiseshell)
- Bags (1 Backpack/Briefcase)
- Luggage (1 Weekender, 1 Roller Bag)
- Watches (1 Casual, 1 Dressy)
- Casual: Metal Bracelet - Blue or Black Face
- Dressy: Black or Dark Brown Leather Strap, White face/dial
- Wallet (1 Leather or Leather Substitute) - Black or Brown
- Hats (2 Casual, 1 Dressy)
- Baseball Cap - Navy Blue small or no logo
- Beanie - Navy, Black, or Charcoal
Climate or Event-Specific
If you want to learn more about every item listed above, including options that are specific to your age, height, body type and skintone, check out my Essential Capsule Wardrobe App.