Today marks the end of my 1 Year 1 Outfit endeavour. 365 days ago I set out to wear the most minimal wardrobe I could conceive of, while still being relatively comfortable in all four seasons, and now here we are a full year later and I’ve survived to tell my tale.
My wardrobe consisted of ten core items:
- one pair of pants: Outlier 60/30 Chinos
- one t-shirt: Outlier Merino Crew Neck
- one button-down collared shirt: Outlier Merino/Co Pivot Shirt
- one pair of boots: Viberg Service Boots
along with my workout gear:
- a second t-shirt: Outlier Merino V-Neck
- one pair shorts that doubled as swim trunks: Outlier New Way Shorts
- one pair of running shoes: Strike Mvmt Interval Runners
and my outerwear:
- a sweatshirt: Strike Gold Loopwheeled Sweatshirt
- a light jacket: Apolis Chore Jacket
- and a raincoat: American Trench Jacket
I also had a small cadre of extras that consisted of my 7 pairs of Outlier socks and pullWool underwear, a Hollows Leather belt, an Archival Clothing hat, a toque, gloves, sleeping pants, and slippers. Save for some extraordinary circumstances, namely being part of a wedding party and dressing up for halloween, these were the only clothes I wore. (Minor disclaimer part here: I spent over nine months of the year on parental leave, but once I returned to work I was required to wear specific clothes for safety during work hours)
Throughout the year I lived my life and conducted myself as I normally do, not letting my tiny wardrobe dictate what I did or how I did it. Instead, I carefully chose versatile clothing that would work well for my various surroundings and all the activities and events that I was likely to encounter.
Challenge 1: keep it together, man
I had a few concerns going into this challenge, namely what would I do in the event of a catastrophic garment failure such as a destroyed gaping hole seam or some devastating stainage, especially on one of my trips outside the country. Also, I expected some wear and tear, but I was a little weary that I might end up in tatters by the end of the challenge with patched up pants and holey shirts.
Other than a torn seam from my sunglasses and a couple popped buttons early on, all of my clothes far surpassed my expectations. My Outlier chinos and merino t-shirt specifically got pretty close to daily wear; it would take 3+ years for the average person to put this kind of wear on their clothes so it blows my mind that they held up so well.
Challenge 2: being that weird guy
I was also worried about the social implications of wearing the exact same thing everyday. You might think that friend of yours that wears grey pants and a black shirt everyday is just a little strange (though billionaires do it), but what about that guy that always wears the same green shirt and navy shorts to the gym, ew? I’m sure people wondered and whispered behind my back, hopefully once they realized I was washing my clothes regularly they calmed down.
I was never confronted directly by anyone asking about me wearing the same clothes. I think it helped immensely that I chose fairly muted colors. I also varied my look through different layers as dictated by the weather.
Sometimes I would stack my pants, sometimes I would cuff, roll/unroll my sleeves, or wear my shirt unbuttoned just to vary my look ever so slightly, even doing those minor things helped change the feel and projection of my clothes.
Challenge 3: the weather
The biggest reason that we humans wear clothes, aside from basic humility, is to comfortably live in the various climates we face. There are certainly places here on earth where having 10 items of clothing would be easier and I’m sure there are also locations where only having 10 items would be near impossible.
Living in Canada, spending time on both coasts, and travelling down south gave me a pretty wide range of weather to deal with. I built my wardrobe specifically to deal with the warmer, wetter climate of the west coast, once I was facing sub -20°C (-4°F) and even below -30°C (-22°F) temperatures my clothes were clearly inadequate. I spent a few uncomfortable days in Manitoba in the middle of winter wearing almost every piece of clothing I had along with a couple layers of socks.
I also faced some challenging weather when travelling in the Caribbean and on my trip to Costa Rica. Hot weather means you need less clothing, true, but it also means you sweat a lot more. I had to alternate between my two shirts and wash them at night in the sink in order to stay fresh.
On the bright side, my Outlier shorts and Strike Movement runners performed admirably. I never felt like I was missing flip-flops as the Interval runners were so light and breathable and the shorts dried so quickly that doing double-duty as my swim trunks was never an issue.
Life with Less
I learned a lot over the past year through having a tiny wardrobe. I learned about the versatility of clothes, the durability of well-made items, travelling light, and getting by just fine without spares.
I used to frequently use the term need when referring to material things that I thought were missing in my closet or my life in general. I need brown shoes to go with my navy suit, I need more white t-shirts, I need a casual blazer; there were holes in my wardrobe and those holes needed to be filled.
Now, obviously these things aren’t needs and that was clear to me before as well, but in changing the way I refer to things that I want or would like to have it has changed my entire mindset on purchasing. Rather than having an urgent necessity to buy something now I’ve learned to sit on it, think about it, consider it, maybe wait for it to come on sale, or just decide not to buy it after all.
I still bought plenty of stuff over the past year and I’m looking forward to getting a chance to finally wear it all, but I also got rid of even more stuff. I threw out, gave away, and sold (thanks Grailed!) a truck load worth of stuff that either wasn’t worth keeping or just wasn’t my style any more.
It feels so gratifying to get rid of all the extra clutter and it makes you think twice about buying in excess as you realize that some day you’ll need to go through the work of getting rid of it.
What am I going to do going forward from this? No, I’m not going to choose another tiny wardrobe and live with the clothes on my back; I’m looking forward to wearing some new clothes and having some diversity in my life. My style has evolved over the year, even without ever changing my outfit, the looks that I liked last year are substantially different from the ones I like now and it will be fun to get a chance to experiment with fashion again.
I’m not going to enact any strict rules on what I can wear or the number of clothes I can own. However, the way I approach material goods has likely changed forever, I’m no longer interested in hoarding fast fashion or filling my drawers and cupboards with cheap trinkets. I’m going to continue downsizing my stuff, carefully considering my purchases, and ideally buying nothing at all.
Over the next while I’ll be writing up detailed reviews of each of the pieces I used throughout the year and how they fared with my accelerated wear. If there’s something you’d like to hear about sooner than later then let me know below and I’ll try to move it up the queue. Also, I’m happy to answer any questions you might have and I’d love to hear your thoughts on my little experiment.
I need to give a huge thank you to all of the brands that pitched in to make this a success. I truly would not have attempted this without the overwhelming support that each of these small brands provided. If you take away anything from my year-long challenge it is that each of these companies make some seriously great products and if you do actually need a new pair of pants or a jacket I’d highly recommend checking them out:
Thank You: Outlier, American Trench, Apolis, Strike Movement, Hollows Leather, Archival Clothing, pullWool, Viberg Boot, and Strike Gold.
Finally, as a thanks to you – my readers and to celebrate finishing up my year I’ll be giving away a brand new Apolis Indigo Dyed Chore Coat. Please follow the link for details on how to enter the contest and get a chance to win this beautiful jacket.