I don’t own a lot of clothes. As a content inhabitant of a 450 square foot studio in Manhattan, I’m a big believer in exercising restraint in a culture (and a city) that celebrates unbridled overabundance. I come across many beautiful things I think I’d like to have, but under the comfortable constraints of my own design for living, “need” typically trumps “want.”
Consequently, my wardrobe is a carefully considered edit of few but well-made and versatile classics. My suits, jackets, shirts, jeans, ties, shoes, socks, skivvies… Everything I wear (and own) fits well within the confines of my humble atelier without any supplementary space in the basement or at Manhattan Mini Storage.
Interestingly, many of the designers who create the clothes that inspire a closet-busting circle-jerk frenzy among menswear fashionistas and bro-hemians often stick to a very basic uniform themselves. Tom Ford and his black suit and white shirt, Giorgio Armani and his dark t-shirt, Michael Kors and his t-shirt and jacket (and aviators)… The personal wardrobes of Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana, Billy Reid, Todd Snyder and others don’t seem nearly as tricked out as the entire lifestyle catalogs suggested for their customers. These are not men who look like they exert hedge fund money and Olympic energy into their own look. Sartorially, they seem to opt for dramatically simpler and more streamlined personal uniforms. Their almost utilitarian wardrobes seem to be the antithesis of the overwrought wardrobes that get pushed on us.
The inspiration for this post was a photo I saw of the closet belonging to designer Bill Blass. I was blown away by how simple and stripped down it was. I would almost expect this design legend’s closet to look and feel like the entire second floor of Bergdorf Goodman. And this was a guy who would have professional excuses and the financial ability to go nuts in this department, but he chose not to. True, it was a virtual dressing room, but it was a remarkably edited wardrobe for a man of his position and wealth. The clothes may have been expensive, but there wasn’t a small store’s worth of them. Just a carefully curated collection of classic and simple items. Impressive and inspiring.
Michael Kors’s New York closet is another one. Not a lot of stuff at all. Since I’ve only ever seen him wearing basically the same thing, I guess I’m not totally surprised. But one expects a billionaire to exhibit a Ph.D. in Excess. But again… that’s not really happening here.
So I look at my own stuff. As it is now, it’s not an overabundance at all, but it still begs for further editing in my opinion. I have five sweaters, but really only need three. I have three pairs of jeans, and I can easily live with two. Shirts? I feel like I have way too many, since I normally only rotate about half of what I have altogether. And suits? Shoes? I really don’t need to go shopping for a very long time.
I have always said: There is looking like you care about your clothes, and there is looking like clothes are all you care about. I’d rather be the former. And the key to a smart closet seems to be an exercise in restraint, taste and editing, regardless of spending power.