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Wardrobe Building Philosophy Discussion (Optimization, Variety, Versatility, Uniform)

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by archibaldleach, Mar 13, 2015.

  1. archibaldleach

    archibaldleach Well-Known Member

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    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.

    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.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2015
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  2. archibaldleach

    archibaldleach Well-Known Member

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    Also, please feel free to tag / mention anyone you think would find this discussion of interest.
     
  3. Claghorn

    Claghorn Well-Known Member

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    Blue.
     
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  4. NewYawker

    NewYawker Well-Known Member

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    OP - thanks for starting this thread. I follow the usual threads: Noodles, HOF, etc in hopes of learning to build a better wardrobe myself. I find I have a lot of the right pieces but have not put it all together yet. Hopefully some good discussion develops here.
     
  5. Murlsquirl

    Murlsquirl Well-Known Member

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    Versatility.
     
  6. heldentenor

    heldentenor Well-Known Member

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    I aim for maximum versatility in shirts, pants, and shoes--to the point that I can go for a complete workweek wearing the same shade of blue shirt, trousers somewhere in the gray spectrum, and brown shoes of essentially the same shade and never repeat an item.

    I get my variety in jackets. I have (by accident rather than design) the same number of blue/navy and non-blue/navy jackets, and about the same number of patterns as solids.

    Same deal to a lesser extent with ties: in any given week, three ties out of five will be either solid wool or solid grenadine, and the rest will have a pattern of some sort.

    This was by no means the guiding philosophy when I started building my wardrobe, but it's become my guiding principle for maintaining, improving, and expanding it.

    I don't think I have a uniform, though perhaps I wear more tweed and patterned flannel than most.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2015
  7. sugarbutch

    sugarbutch Well-Known Member

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    Some weeks I feel like suits and sober ties. Other weeks I look at the suits and then head for the odd jackets. I would be bored to tears with an optimized wardrobe.
     
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  8. EliodA

    EliodA Well-Known Member

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    Clearly your wardrobe is optimized to allow for different moods and situations. The only sensible approach,IMO.
    People who fear wardrobe optimization leads to monotony leave too many variables out of the equation. Just ask @patrickBOOTH ;)
     
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  9. kulata

    kulata Well-Known Member

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    My wardrobe is large enough to accommodate all the wardrobe building philosophies. Personally, I go for variety coz it's what I enjoy doing and it's fun.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2015
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  10. DapperDan15

    DapperDan15 Active Member

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    I like versatility in my wardrobe, though I often like to wear a lot of tweeds, woolens, and patterns.

    Simply swapping out a tie or hat can make quite a difference in what you wear for the day.
     
  11. Bowball

    Bowball Well-Known Member

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    Currently trying to build myself a wardrobe and this is probably the direction I am heading in. Seems like a pretty versatile base to me and great for those of us with limited space/budget.
     
  12. Isolation

    Isolation Well-Known Member

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    Most of my suits now work to some degree as blazersuits, with varying appropriateness. Think it helps for someone who doesn't wear suits mostly,
     
  13. archibaldleach

    archibaldleach Well-Known Member

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    ^ Upside of a BlazerSuit is versatility. Downside is that they aren't quite as optimal as say a navy suit with flapped pockets on one extreme and an actual navy blazer with more distinctive buttons on the other. Very useful if you have limited closet space or budget, though. At least this is true with respect to navy BlazerSuits. I actual prefer things like linen and seersucker with patch pockets even as a suit (a tan or tobacco linen suit is just never going to be truly formal so I'm not sure you lose anything with the patch pockets). I suppose Donegal tweed is another example, though I just can't think of any instance where I'd wear a tweed suit instead of odd jacket / trousers or a suit in say a flannel. It's not that Donegal suits don't look awesome. They do. I just can't think of when I'd wear one.
     
  14. Claghorn

    Claghorn Well-Known Member

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    I like a blazersuit as a suit more than a suit suit as a suit. But I'm weird like that.

    Agree for the most part about a blazer blazer being more optimal than a blazersuit blazer.
     
  15. sugarbutch

    sugarbutch Well-Known Member

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    I am unpersuaded by the charm of metal buttons, so a BlazerSuit[​IMG] blazer is better IMO.
     
  16. Monkeyface

    Monkeyface Well-Known Member

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    Indeed, how would a blazer be more optimal than a blazer suit blazer if you don't use metal buttons?

    You can get a navy blazer suit and a navy blazer with exactly the same cut, fabric and buttons. Hence, the blazer suit blazer and the regular blazer would be exactly the same, meaning they're equally as optimal.

    For example, let's compare a SB airforce blue flannel suit with brown horn buttons and patch pockets and a SB airforce blue flannel sport coat with brown horn buttons and 2 patch pockets. Sounds exactly the same to me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2015
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  17. Marco85

    Marco85 Member

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    @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.
     
  18. archibaldleach

    archibaldleach Well-Known Member

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    ^ One can certainly consider things like budget, closet space, expected life of clothes too, but I mostly see those as practical constraints that might steer you one way or another. Less space to store clothes would usually push one towards more versatile garments, and I imagine a lower budget would be reflected in fewer pieces purchased and thus favor versatility.

    With respect to variety, some of what I posted was in response to a school of thought that one should never wear anything that isn't optimal, meaning that if one tie looks best with a particular shirt and jacket, you should always wear that tie, even if you have a few other ties that still work well, just not as well. I think that goes too far. You probably have a few favorite suit / shirt / tie combinations that you like a bit more than anything else, but you'd never only wear one tie with a particular suit.

    Versatility becomes more important with bigger ticket purchases. It's fine to have a tie that only works well in a couple contexts, but unless you have a very large wardrobe, that loud sport coat that you might only wear once or twice and usually with similar trousers / shirt / tie, no matter how awesome it is in that moment, gets in the way of you looking your best a majority of the time.
     

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