Wardrobe Experiments

Mindful Wardrobe Challenge Recap

Committing to the year-long minimalist challenge taught me plenty, but not having the flexibility to add an item or two to my core wardrobe was, as you can assume, quite limiting and frustrating at times. The Mindful Wardrobe was created as a more accessible year-long challenge with the following goals:

  • Mindful and intentional purchasing
  • Shift spending to used good (eBay, Craigslist, Grailed)
  • Shift spending to smaller brands with aligned values
  • Better discipline donating/selling items

I created this Google spreadsheet to track everything in my wardrobe, all physical object purchases, and sales/donations. Food, gas, services, business purchases, and digital purchases such as eBooks were excluded from the tally. 

Coming off a year wearing as few items as possible, I filled the gaps in my closet with some pieces I had in storage and a couple Wool&Prince samples.

What I learned:

  • It’s nearly impossible to put together a year of perfect purchases. On the same day, I bought a pair of shorts that were too short and bought a pair of pants that had a deal-breaker design detail. It took me a few wears to realize their respective flaws and by that point, I couldn’t, in good conscience, return them. I chalked these lousy purchases up to impatience and noted to, in the future, bail on shopping trips that turn into "get me out of this store asap".
  • My system of highlighting areas in my wardrobe “looking to buy”, “sell or donate”, and “interested in” was the most impactful tactic to improve visibility of wardrobe needs and improve the process for thoughtful purchasing. Prior to this process, I procrastinated on purchasing decisions without giving them proper thought and would end up making a hasty purchase.
  • Maintaining discipline with a wardrobe challenge can be difficult. Visual reminders like keeping certain drawers empty or a simple “do I need this?” note in the wallet or on the computer monitor can be helpful. Getting friends and the OWM community involved was helpful.
  • Wearing a quality garment until it fails is quite satisfying. At this point, you can objectively measure the garment's "body of work". Also, when you're trying to minimize the stuff in your life, determining when to or when not to buy something can be an arduous task. In the case of a well-worn, failed garment, the should I buy calculation is simple: wore for x years, costs x dollars, was it worth it?
  • Wardrobe creep. It’s real. Even when I don’t buy anything, my wardrobe will grow to a cluttered within a year. Maybe it’s because I own an apparel business or I have a mother who loves shopping at costco and gifting.
  • Prioritize garments that work together. My Pendleton jacket fits on the small side and my Wilson&Willy jacket fits on the large side. For temps under 45 degrees, I’ll layer them. They work so well together that people ask if the Pendleton is a jacket liner. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts with these two items.
  • Develop your uniform. I had two go-to outfits that I wore five out of seven days during the colder months. 1) Burgundy button-down with jeans 2) Heavy crew with khaki chinos.

What’s next:

During the Mindful Wardrobe challenge, I had moderate success with the goal of shifting more purchases to second-hand goods and small brands. Frankly, I could have done a better job here. The convenience and price of large generic brands is a powerful advantage. Going forward, I'll continue recording my purchases, sales, and donations, but I'll be taking a closer look at why I bought each item. I want to do a better job supporting brands that align with my values:

  • Does the brand have great customer service and a quality guarantee?
  • Is the brand growing sustainably? Self-funded or aligned capital? Non-gimmicky marketing tactics?
  • Is it a place where employees are passionate about their work and care about their impact?

What I Learned From My Year-Long Minimalist Wardrobe Challenge

I was looking to follow up the 100 day challenge with another minimalist clothing experiment and wanted to try something that encompassed the full wardrobe. And something that was a bit more realistic for others to attempt.

The year long minimalist challenge started with the selection of 26 core items that I would wear for the entire year. (I had some event specific items such as basketball gear, cycling bib/jersey, snowboard pants, and a wedding suit that I did not count in the core item total.) And unlike the 100 day challenge, washing my clothing was allowed.


If you are looking at this and thinking, either this guy is lying or has a completely different lifestyle than most people, let me explain. I don't have the typical office job. I work from home, but I'm generally not lounging around in sweats and a t-shirt. I have in-person meetings throughout the week that require a professional look, so I normally dress for the entire day depending on my schedule. I like to do at least one active thing each day which normally involves playing basketball, biking, or jogging. Aside from not seeing the same people each day in the office, I imagine my lifestyle isn't too dissimilar from many of you. 

Here are the things I learned over the year:

    • This is obvious, but spend some time thinking about what you want to wear for a year.
      • A month in to the experiment, I wanted to take back some of my choices. I was stuck with two unattractive items:sweats and rain jacket.
    • Three pairs of socks for a year is limiting, but I had no trouble with three pairs of underwear
    • Jeans will become your go-to pant if they aren’t already
      • Prior to starting the minimalist challenge, my favorite pants were stretch khaki chinos. They look good paired with a t-shirt or a button down and they are light and comfortable. However, as winter rolled around (and the Portland rain, sigh), I found myself reaching for the denim seven times out of ten. Compared to the chinos, the jeans held their shape better, hid dirt better, and generally looked more presentable after multiple wears. If my jeans had stretch, they’d probably be more comfortable, but they would have required washing to tighten them back up after the elastic stretched out.
      • If you can’t wear jeans, look for a heavier weight chinos with mechanical stretch.
    • Some things in the closet just need to be given a chance
      • We all have a shirt or a pair of pants in our closet that we don’t wear for one reason or another. The denim that I referenced above is a perfect example. I was accustomed to a stretch denim but for some reason, I selected my selvage jeans (that I rarely wore) to be one of three pants for the following year. My rational at the time was, I only wear chinos, so I’ll rarely wear these jeans, but they could be nice to have. As noted above, they became my go-to pant. 
    • Mending/Fixing garments is easy
      • Why don’t more people do this? Sewing on a loose button or patching a hole is an easy at home DIY project. And if you can't figure it out, take the garment to a tailor for $15.
    • Wash on cold / hang dry (or even better, hand-wash) makes your clothing last longer
      • Most of the wear and tear on a garment is from cleaning. If you can reduce the heat and friction during cleaning that’s a start. If you can reduce the number of times you have to clean something, that’s even better.
    • Air out your garments before deciding to throw in hamper
      • Easiest thing to do is just toss a worn garment in the hamper after each wear. (Something that is even easier for guys who don’t do their own laundry.) But realistically, most garments can be worn multiple times. Washing garments after each wear is more of a habit instead of a need. Should we wash our bed sheets every day? (not exactly the same as clothing, but you get the point)
    • Sleep naked
      • You can get multiple days out of a pair of underwear a lot easier this way
    • Find shoes that don’t smell 
      • I’m still on the hunt, but I try to wear leather or wool over synthetics shoes
    • People won’t notice that you wear the same thing each week
      • If you rotate between three button-down shirts, people don’t notice or care.
      • And if they do notice, who cares! Chances are that they will ask for tips on cutting back on their wardrobe.
    • Choosing what to wear takes less than 15 seconds.
      • Even with a wide variety of events and activities, your options are just limited. It’s quite refreshing.
    • During the last few months, the novelty of the year-long minimalist wardrobe challenge wore off a bit. I missed the creative freedom of fashion. Going into the year-long challenge, I expected unforeseen functional shortcomings with my selected wardrobe, but the creative displeasure with limited wardrobe options surprised me.

    Well, if you’ve made it this far, I'm guessing you're interested in simplifying your wardrobe. Here are some recommendations:

    • Start with what you currently have in your closet. Don’t go run out there and buy all the “minimalist clothing” you can find.
    • Prioritize three things: versatility, durability, and natural fibers (yes, I'm biased when it comes to natural fibers and wool...but mother nature has the best odor resistance.)
    • Check out our private community. You'll get the support and accountability needed as you start your own minimalist challenge journey. 

    My 100 Day Challenge Revisited

    Back in 2012, I set out to prove the odor-resistant and wrinkle-resistant properties of wool with the 100 Day Challenge, which entailed me wearing a wool shirt for 100 days in a row with no cleaning. Prior to starting the 100 Day Challenge, I started wearing some vintage wool shirts —even though they weren’t entirely work appropriate—to the office and was amazed with the performance relative to the Brooks Brothers non-iron cotton shirts I had been wearing previously. With the wool shirts in the lineup, I stopped doing two things I hated: dry cleaning and ironing. So why don’t more people wear wool button-downs? Two thing I noticed: not a lot of options and a lack of awareness. That’s where the 100 day challenge came in. The story went viral with coverage from Jay Leno, David Letterman, the Today Show, CNN, Fast Company, and others as I launched Wool&Prince.

    This is what happens when your kickstarter goes viral and then you cut it off

    This is what happens when your kickstarter goes viral and then you cut it off

    The article that set our kickstarter on a viral trajectory

    The article that set our kickstarter on a viral trajectory

    100 days with the same shirt and pictures to prove it

    100 days with the same shirt and pictures to prove it

    Possibly my favorite image from the media frenzy thanks to fuji-tv out of Japan

    Possibly my favorite image from the media frenzy thanks to fuji-tv out of Japan

    Consumers started doing their own versions of the 100 day challenge. A fellow named Andrew Lombardi (pictured below) raised money from his coworkers to buy one of our wool button-downs and in exchange he wore the shirt for a month straight while sending out weekly progress reports to his colleagues (a sample provided below). We've heard similar stories with guys tallying up the number of wears prior to washing and having office competitions to see how many days they can wear the shirts.

    Not as wide3.JPG

    Regardless of whether these guys were consciously simplifying their wardrobe or not, we started to see a lot of value in their minimalist experiments. Aside from having fun, the common themes of a successful experiment were friendly peer pressure, accountability, and support from office colleagues, family, or friends.

    With a consecutive day challenge, you'll find yourself:

    • spending less time and money doing laundry and dry cleaning
    • thinking critically about what you need and don't need in your wardrobe
    • learning how to get more wears out of a garment (ie you'll spill less because the stakes are higher, but when you do spill, you'll immediately take action to prevent damage)
    • having a unique conversation starter (Why do we have so many shirts in our closet? Good question!)

    If you want to talk with other guys who are taking similar challenges, or you just need some support and built in accountability on your minimalist journey, apply to the Only What Matters community.