Originally Posted by archibaldleach
Recent discussions on a few threads here on SF have prompted me to spend a fair amount of time thinking about how the concept of optimization applies to our wardrobes and how it intersects with variety and versatility. These considerations also tend to apply to how we decide what to wear / how to pair things in addition to how we decide what to buy. I know we have some smart people out there with different opinions on the matter and think a more detailed place to discuss this philosophically could be fun. I understand that these words will mean different things to different people, but I think they capture a fair amount of considerations when wardrobe building. I think that optimization is generally an opposing consideration to variety and versatility (maybe) and goes in the same direction as the uniform.
I find myself valuing optimization and versatility to a larger extent, variety less so than the first two and the idea of having a uniform last. I doubt anyone here goes to the extreme of having one set combination they wear with each suit / odd jacket or to the other extreme of changing things up even if it objectively looks way worse, but surely there’s a fair amount of space in the middle and we have different primary motivations. I get into my thoughts a bit more in detail below but am definitely interested in hearing what others have to say.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With respect to optimization, I generally won’t buy something or choose to wear it if there’s a better looking option in my closet such that the item I am considering would look materially less ideal than something else. I realize that taken to its logical extreme, this would mean I’d probably have one favorite tie (or maybe two depending on season / context) for each suit or odd jacket. I don’t take it that far. I find that for a given suit / odd jacket and shirt, there are a few ties that I like and I happily alternate even if I happen to have a favorite. I guess you could say that I am happy to have a diverse array of A- combinations rather than a limited number of A+ pairings that would get stale and tiresome if worn too frequently. I get a lot of utility getting an outfit to the A- level from lower grades but I quickly hit diminishing marginal returns at that point. Conversely, I get a lot of utility when I acquire a bit of variety but hit diminishing marginal returns early on and find that variety for the sake of variety is not appealing.
With respect to versatility, I like to focus on acquiring things that can be used effectively in a number of different ways. Again, I’d rather have an odd jacket that I can get a lot of A- looks out of than one that I can maybe only get one or two A+ looks out of. Part of this is due to the fact that I do not have unlimited funds and another part of the it is probably due to the fact that I actually really like a lot of things that are super versatile (e.g. navy blazer, brown herringbone tweed jacket, solid worsted wool and woolen flannel suits, etc.). I do have a couple of things that look awesome in a couple of settings but maybe get worn 2-3 times a year because they just don’t go with a lot and I am not willing to buy clothes just to go with them.
I’m not big on uniforms for myself and tend to like wearing a variety of different looks in different contexts. I probably could become a tweed uniform wearer or blue jacket uniform wearer but right now I like the variety too much. I suppose that a tailored jacket and tie is a uniform in a sense, but within the classic menswear realm I consider a uniform a really strong tendency (not necessarily worn daily) towards a particular look (e.g. worsted wool suit and tie, tweed and flannel, blue jacket and grey trouser) that one strongly prefers. I know there are some people on here that like to wear a uniform quite often.
@archibaldleach interesting topic, I see where the variety/versatility framework come from, though maybe we could elaborate more. E.g. variety in which sense: colors/fabric; situation in which you wear. I will keep variety/versatility. I d add other dimensions that one would consider are annual budget, average item life (ie. wardrobe rotation), how much space you have (especially when you have to optimize for travel purpose - say leaving for few months).
I never thought about it in a systematic way so I will start on variety/versatility and quickly look at my work wardrobe and draw conclusion from there on what is my (underlying) guiding principle.
Suits: shades of dark gray and dark blue. Mainly birds-eye, fresco lana, lana moer.
Shirt: white or light-blue. Some variations in stripe (though tend to be light, thin and close to one another).
Shoes: cap-toe oxford black - not a lot of variety
Socks: dark grey/dark blue
Ties and cufflinks (when used) is where i get more variety and I think I tend to dress starting matching from here and maybe from shirt(i.e. today I want to wear this tie therefore..).
So all in all, I would say versatility as it is probably not that need in this case - still it’s formal attire.
Therefore I would say I follow more “variety” than “versatility”.
Learning for me: I could play a bit more on variety especially on suits and shoes I guess.