Why a Casual Capsule Wardrobe Works For Me

By, Robert Leonardo, THAC

Around two months ago I removed a pile of shirts from my closet.  Not just a purge of shirts I no longer wore, but those I frequently wore. I replaced the majority of my shirts with one brand, one style, one colour T-shirts, my favourite type of shirt.  I am writing here to share that experience and the benefits for me.

For a few years now, many of us have heard the term “capsule wardrobe”, “minimalist wardrobe” or “one shirt closet”. Born of a minimalist lifestyle approach to simplifying a person’s wardrobe and bolstered by entertainment celebrities and proclamations from prominent business folk to the notion that decisions about clothing and style are not a value to be taking up their time.
I liked the idea for months before becoming brave enough to do something about it.  I say brave because fashion, style and all the glitter we are sold about them, while became more of a burden to me, I still felt displaced in a society that celebrates copious choice and over-consumption.  The latter is like a badge of honour for several classes of people!
Rotating seasonally, searching for used unstained and untattered at thrift stores, buying new from a forever limited selection, donating or demoting the old. The cycle became more frequent for me as the quality of clothing in my budget (or even those beyond) has become worse, making longevity and comfort an issue. And then there was the perceived need of the cycle for ‘fresh’ and ‘fashion’– I did not want to look like a static cartoon character.

The greatest issue for me was the irritation it is to decide what to wear in the morning or the evening before! It sounds so trivial when I write it.  But, I have found that it is more so the collection of many small things of our daily decision making tasks that can be so tiresome.  My mind and energy focused on other items of higher calling and importance.  The irritation and daily choice dilemma I came to realise was a years-long issue for me.  I grew weary of choosing.  I started to accept that it would be OK not to have to; that fashion and style are more about me, not the clothing.  The clothing does not make this man.

Grey Shirts

All grey T-shirts replaced most my shirts.  They now make up over 80% of my clothing choices.  A few favourite black concert T-shirts and a few long sleeve shirts of variety remain.  I’ll see how often I wear the latter this fall and winter.  They may (probably will) find their way to donation too.

Grey.  Not an entirely stolen idea from Facebook CEO, Zuckerberg; I like greyscale tones. The walls of my office, home and workshop are a collection of different greys.  Much of our home feature furniture is grey, silver or chrome.  We don’t live monochrome by any measure, but grey for me is a comfort colour, my neutral. It also hides lint well and the fur from my three cats all a different colour!
I don’t have to spend too much time for decor and now clothing to pair up items. It is a non-issue.  When the decision came to purge most of my shirts and narrow down to ten T-shirts, grey was a natural choice.
The brand was easy for me too.  A few old work shirts that I have were the choice.  They have been some of the most durable clothing I have owned.  And of the most comfortable cut, fabric weight and blend; all the more critical when one shirt is the standard in a person’s clothing!
Low cost/affordability another huge factor. I purchased the ten shirts locally for just over $60 after taxes.  That is the price of 1-2 of the many shirts I had been cycling through for years!  My annual clothing budget just dropped significantly with this decision!
My time loss is also gone! Procurement of clothing and the time dedicated to it all is not an investment for me. It was often an experiment in testing my patience, dealing with sub-par quality while travel and shop time was a sacrifice to other things I would prefer to be doing.

This sort of idea is not for everyone. It is one that I wish suggest that if you are one to struggle with any of the following.  Indecision, anxiety, long shopping excursions, shopping for gratification, money constraints, fashion upkeep, an oversize wardrobe (most people only wear around 30% of what they have), or anything else that seems to be routine but unchallenged, I encourage you to rethink. Rethink your clothes and your relationship with them.

For me, I have to think less on all of it.  It is a freedom to open the closet in the dark of the early morning and just grab the one shirt choice.
Over the last two years, I have done this for my footwear and outerwear. Just a couple of choices each has simplified getting out the door.  Now, if I could only find one pair of blue jeans to rule them all…