- Sep 26, 2007
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@coldsalmon @smittyclAs a New Yorker with limited closet space, I try to get by with a very small selection. I have four worsted business suits: charcoal, navy pinstripe, mid grey, and solid navy. Then I have two glen-check linen suits which can also be worn with odd trousers. Finally, I have three sport coats: brown houndstooth, plain navy, and "fun" dark grey check. So that's six suits and three sport coats for 9 jackets in all. In the hottest days of summer, I am restricted to four of these, but that is not much of a limitation. I basically have to wear solid navy twice a week, which is fine. I feel that I don't need any more, and I'm actually stumped as to what to get next (I mean, green herringbone obviously but I can't find the perfect one).
And if I can pontificate for a moment, I feel that a small wardrobe fits better with my personal ethic of classic menswear. For me, it is less about having the perfect pairings, and more about having quality clothing that I will care for and use until it wears out. If I were to have enough clothing so that I would always have the perfect item to pair, I would need to own vastly more clothes than I could ever wear through in my lifetime. And at that point, buying durable, well-constructed clothing and shoes loses much of its practical purpose. I want my wardrobe to be grounded in practically and value, and to achieve that aim, I need to use every item I have to its fullest extent.
Every item also has its own story as it ages - shoes moreso than other items. I think the hobby of fine leather shoes is similar to having a fishtank. It looks very boring to the visitor who only sees a snapshot of the finished product, but the owner sees a deeper story of how it has changed over time. Developing a shoe's patina is an obvious example, but developing one's sense of how to wear a particular jacket or trouser can be just as deep. The different alterations that I have done to my jackets make them "old friends" that have a history with me over my lifetime. On Saturday, I just sent in the jacket that I wore to my wedding for alterations. When I wear it, I think back to my wedding vows, a family vacation, etc. I think about how I wear it differently now than I did when I first purchased it, because I myself have changed.
I like classic menswear because the items of clothing are not disposable - they are meant to be chosen carefully, worn hard, cared for, and repaired. For me, personally, I find it more rewarding to work with a small wardrobe. This is a personal preference, and I don't think it's better in any objective way compared to someone else like Alan Bee who has a large wardrobe - these are just different ways to enjoy the hobby.
No question in my book about the economy and utility of a well curated capsule wardrobe. Particularly if one were constrained as you are, to the living quarters in NYC. I lived in NYC many years.
Like many, I began my journey into CM buying high end RTW like Kiton, Borrelli, etc at very deep discounts online and at outlets. Then graduated onto Oxxford MTM and the occasional odd Bespoke piece. Due to my figure (12-14 inch coat drop, athletic thighs & glutes), nothing ever quite fit including the Oxxford MTM. I arrived the point of frustration where a I grabbed everything in my wardrobe, a made a big pile, and gave it away to a younger protege of mine.
I sat down and asked myself, what would an ideal wardrobe look like? And I began a hypothetical journey of creating one on paper just as something "to do". Well, like many on here afflicted with OCD, that something "to do" became a project which has taken me around the world, taught me things I could never even imagine, and introduced me into a world far removed from my world of high finance.
Overall I am a better person for it and like you said, when I look at my wardrobe, I don't see just clothes. I see a story of my many trips to Europe, the faces I met, the nights out in Chaia, Napoli, the various Pitti Uomo attendances, fittings at Maison Bonnet in Paris amongst many others in Florence, Milano, Roma and Napoli.
So in conclusion, you are very correct about the story behind what is merely visible to the casual onlooker. I can not imagine that buying a large wardrobe off the rack at say, Saks 5th Avenue or Bergedorf Goodman in NY, or even Harrods in London, will give the same satisfaction and create indelible memories. I consider myself indeed very fortunate to have had the benefit of this experience and every item in that wardrobe I know intimately. I can recall even the smallest moments where I was negotiating with the vintage dealer for a 2.5 meter piece of cloth for a Tweed jacket - out of the trunk of his car in the middle of a park in Napoli. Or arguing with my old Neapolitan tailor for hours over the most minute detail during a fitting, then stepping out to the balcony to share a cigar with him like we hadn't just fought inside (I always bring him a cigar).
Above all, this is the joy of building a broad and comprehensive wardrobe. Utility and variety are simply an added benefit and merely incidental.