Before anyone thinks that I am going to promote minimalism as a principle rather than a mere statement of fashion, they are mistaken. I certainly do not think that you should only have a couple of pairs of trousers and shirts in your wardrobe: washing clothes is not that difficult and turning underwear inside out is inexcusable – even at your girlfriends.
However, I am trying to make you aware of this current trend and thus suggest a different way from standing out from the crowd. Then again, to call minimalism a trend I believe is not giving its essence enough thought. One can easily incorporate classic pieces into a minimalistic look; for at the heart of the eternally elegant appearance is understated style that surpasses any seasonal fad. In this way, minimalism is as much a timeless approach as it is a trend.
In the face of new designers eager to stamp their mark on the fashion world with novel design cuts in all shapes and lengths, there is certainly something enticing (and arguably more current), about a man who appears simply but thoughtfully put together. Minimalism transcends those brash colour combinations seen on the catwalk, or those ill-advised graphic tees that plague the high street. It is far easier for you to stand out as someone who looks as cool as they do comfortable – after all, you won’t be wearing anything outlandish.
Many renowned designers have pushed their ideas and feelings onto the catwalk with the resounding message being that less is more; and with that, fewer colours and patterns create an overall more subdued yet elegant aesthetic. It would be confused to infer designers have not put as much effort into creating garments with all sorts of elaborate detailing and textures, with those that have crafted a less cluttered and seemingly more simple design.
Surfing the internet I came across a rather elaborate parallel making clear the importance of detail and concentration when dressing minimally: “To cook a great asparagus or roast a leg of lamb and to present it simply doesn’t mean that the process behind it doesn’t have a tremendous amount of thought and complexity. It also doesn’t mean that it will taste any less amazing.” Hopefully, even for us men, we can appreciate that minimal dressing does not mean minimal effort.
For some of you to get an accurate picture of what well-dressed minimalism looks like, not only should you look at the look book pictures, but one might advise you to think of your typical stylish Scandinavian too! Over the years they have been proponents of a staple tailored wardrobe, including un-fussy suits with clean lines in dark colours, slim-fitting shirts in basic colours such as white, black and blues, as well as an array of ties in different sizes and inevitably a plethora of watches – some modern, some classic.
In a sentence, this is almost your definitive check-list for a minimal approach to dressing. However, I will break the assembly of an ideal outfit into small paragraphs to inform you of possible ways to pull off a stylish minimalism.
In order for you to get a feel of what minimalism should look like, I have created the look book below that provides a mix of outfits which keep to the basic principles of minimalistic dressing, but with enough variety that they can appeal to old or young, as well as modern or classic taste:
In this article, I will be advocating the three colour rule just as Gregory did in his recent article on the Modern Gentleman. This helps restrain choosing any garment or accessory too lavish, and retains a quintessential element of minimalism. Again, just as Gregory referred to before me, one of the best ways of going about maintaining just three colours in your outfit, is to merely vary the hue of a particular colour. In this way, you are most likely to successfully execute a minimalistic approach, as there is a seamless transition of shades, none of which individually grab the most attention. On the same topic, I would not advise contrasting colours as that would move away from the hallmarks of minimalistic dressing.
Concerning suits, neutral colours are the most obvious candidates both to anchor the entire outfit, and simultaneously blend into the rest of your attire as if each garment was designed to be worn with the other. Any pattern like check or bold pinstripe should be left alone, as should colours mostly seen on your archetypal rainbow. Nevertheless, double breasted jackets add a toned down flair necessary to provide some individuality as well as keeping to the principles of minimalism.
Of course, setting ourselves apart from the crowd is why we meticulously calculate our outfits to see what works best together. By the same premise, lapels are an obvious way to add a subtle difference to your appearance. Notch lapels tend to be the standard choice for off-the-rack suits, so why not opt for a jacket with peak or shawl lapels? Similarly, choosing a jacket with thick lapels and a short collar would enable you to ‘pop’ it up, thus creating a preppy and certainly confident look. Finally, textures such as tweed and wool enable further individuality, which also allows versatility with regards to utilising different accessories.
Minimalism does not only pertain smart clothing. Casual minimalism is one just as easily achieved as a tailored approach, but is most likely aimed more at post-grads and older. Dressing for the weekend can be as simple as a good pair of shoes or ‘adult’ trainers (clean, obviously), coupled with good quality jeans and shirt underneath a V-neck or cardigan, one of which should be the same colour as your shoes or jeans.
Your key pieces for everyday minimalism would be good quality knitwear, jumpers and dark ‘unfussy’ jeans (minimal fading & distressing). Other timeless basics that will provide the ‘core’ to your casual looks would come in the form of your basic plain tees, pique polos and oxford shirts. Of course, plain slim trousers and chinos will also allow you to bring your looks up a notch and create a smart casual approach to your dressing.
You do not have to shy away from the current ‘trend pieces’, as polo-necks and sweatshirts are not only popular for this season but classic items that look great on their own paired with a simple pair of jeans or well cut trousers.
Likewise, your wardrobe doesn’t have to be totally absent of colour. Dark shades such as burgundy, camel and olive can add some punch without losing the overall refined and clean aesthetic we are aiming for. These deep hues are not over the top or garish, and can blend beautifully into an outfit that is anchored largely by neutrals such as black, navy, brown or grey.
Example Outfit 1:
This is an effortless look which is created using 3 colours and just 3 pieces. Dark jeans are paired with a simple on trend roll neck – which adds texture through its wool construction and ribbed cuffs/collar – and finished with some beautiful complimentary toned Chelsea boots. The oatmeal jumper and brown boots keep the colour tone within a similar family, and the jeans provide the anchor:
Example Outfit 2:
Of course for those males looking to incorporate the essence of minimalism into their current everyday approach to dressing, it can be done by picking the correct colours and surrounding pieces. Here we have kept the core of the outfit firmly cemented in black but added a punch with a simple dark burgundy polo shirt.
We would cuff the jeans if we utilised loafers, either going sockless or incorporating a burgundy pair of socks to match the polo. Alternatively, you could sub out the loafers for a pair of black/grey toned leather boots or hi-tops for the younger males.
Details are of the utmost importance when you are not wearing any bold statement pieces. Therefore acquiring or utilising accessories will add a touch of flavour to your outfit which can only make it more interesting. An idea might be for your clothes to be one of two colours, and to have one statement accessory to add a more obvious point of interest to your look. A true minimalist might worry that such a ploy could shade the minimalistic aspect of the rest of the look – as he might if you also had too many accessories – which is why sensibly picking one or two intriguing details is vital.
Strictly all of your accessories should be in one colour to prevent them from looking messy, and therefore drawing minimal attention (because it is the complete outfit which is meant to be appreciated). Yet an interpretation of that ‘rule’ if you will, would allow you to use the same three colours in your outfits for your accessories. Exuberance too far is actually using three accessories. Remember the whole message of the outfit is one of minimalism.
Adding a hat to your outfit, of which you have a large choice, will be a statement piece that will preserve a gentlemanly respectability. It will also act as an edge to a minimalistic style that puts it in the top drawer of your wardrobe.
At the bottom of your outfit, cuffing your trousers is another way of showing you have considered inconspicuous ways of showing panache and attention to detail, likely impressing the girl who also likes your well-earned Jimmy Choo’s. Likewise, having your trouser finish short of the ankle shows true flamboyance and affords you the opportunity to further coordinate your outfit by matching your socks and your shirt for example.
In an old issue of Esquire, a Hotelier highlighted the pitfalls of a lazy approach to minimalistic dressing: “To get minimalism right, you have to work very, very hard or the result can be unattractive, cold, or even impersonal.” Indeed, there will be people who have read this article, possibly not even finished it, and thought this is not for me.
Yet hopefully, minimalists and maybe even you crazy maximalists will now be able to realise the dedicated art of beautiful minimalism.
So what do you think?
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