Why You Should Try Wearing the Same Clothes Every Day
A long time ago, I had a job that required a uniform, and I have to say it did make life easier. I had three copies of my work outfit, and there was never a question about what to wear. I never worried whether my clothes were stylish or "right," because everyone else wore the same thing.
The same argument has been used in public and private schools in favor of student uniforms. Rather than constant worries about fashion and comparisons and dress codes, a uniform makes everything simple. It's one less thing to think about in the complex life of a student.
Many people argue that clothes make a statement about who you are. "I express myself through my clothes" is a comment I've often heard, usually from women. The idea of a uniform scares them, because how will they make themselves noticeable or unique?
I think we might be imagining some sort of Handmaid's Tale society, where wearing the same outfit flattens you into a mold and a role that you don't want. That's not at all what I'm talking about.
I'm suggesting that you choose the uniform that works for you, whether that means suits, a dress, or jeans and a black turtleneck. This isn't something that's imposed on you.
Where fashion started
In the beginning, clothes weren't about rank or self-expression. They were a purely practical way to protect yourself from the elements, more like an extension of the concept of "shelter" than any sort of adornment.
At some point, clothing became more than utilitarian, especially among those with money and leisure.
Fast forward to today's situation, when clothing is mass-produced relatively cheaply and shipped all over the world. The apparel and textile sector is the fourth largest industry in the world, worth about 3 trillion dollars annually.
Think about meeting someone for the first time. Consciously or unconsciously, what they wear influences what you think about them, and the role you assign them.
That's exactly how we use fashion. We indicate our wealth and style savvy with our clothes, and whether we're a working, productive person (and possibly what our work is) or a more privileged "ornament" and object of envy.
But fashion takes attention and money from other things, and can potentially lead to a huge amount of competition and dissatisfaction. It's a nasty polluter in multiple ways, and forces hundreds of thousands (including children) to work in inhumane conditions.
What started as a practical aid to survival has turned into one of the biggest spurs to consumerism in history.
What is a uniform?
A uniform represents unity within an organization. It indicates belonging and a shared code of conduct. It doesn't have to squash individuality, but it tends to let a person's ideas and abilities speak for them, rather than their clothes.
Instead of letting your clothes speak for you, why not let your words and actions be what you're known for? You be interesting, and let your clothes be clothes. Your outfit shouldn't be the most significant thing about you, should it?
Become an icon.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama credits his choice of uniform with his increased productivity.
As he told Vanity Fair in a 2012 interview:
I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing, because I have
too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy.
You need to routinize yourself. You can't be going through the day distracted by trivia.
Steve Jobs, known for his uniform of a black turtleneck and Levi's jeans, also claimed convenience and increased attention for more important things as the reasons behind his choice. But according to his biographer Walter Isaacson, he also intentionally cultivated a personal brand with his iconic outfit. His uniform made him distinctly himself.
The writer Alice Gregory describes it this way:
This is the reason why characters in picture books never change their clothes....
We recognize Babar in his green suit and crown... and Madeline in her little yellow raincoat.
So a personally chosen uniform can be powerful. Blogger Michael Ofei describes it as "your superhero outfit that you can rely on."
I challenge you to look at it this way: Having endlessly varied outfits and the constant addition of new clothes could be used to conceal boringness. You could be an uninteresting person relying on what you put on your body to make yourself remarkable.
Or you could be completely noteworthy yet wear the same thing every day.
The point is, you shouldn't let what you wear mask who you are. The more you bring your authentic self to the world, the more valuable you will be, regardless of your wardrobe.
When I first started performing as a classical singer, I imagined I needed a closet full of formal gowns. The reality was that one elegant black gown allowed me to be appropriately dressed for any solo performances. Sparkly earrings or a silk wrap of any color could be added for variety.
After all, was it my gown people came to see, or my voice they came to hear? It wasn't hard to decide I wanted to be known for my voice! I wasn't going to perform a Mozart aria in jeans and a tee shirt, but elegance and professionalism never required a closet full of one-time-use formals. And if my voice wasn't top-notch, the extensive wardrobe wasn't going to fool anyone.
A uniform doesn't have to be limited to black, white, and gray clothing. My personal uniform is black or dark wash jeans plus a v-neck, 3/4 sleeve top. I usually have a black shirt in rotation, but I also wear teal, purple, burgundy, sapphire blue, and sometimes other colors. In winter I add a denim jacket or a black unconstructed cardigan. If I need to be a bit dressier, I wear black trousers.
Check your closet and see what you tend to wear most often for comfort and confidence. Can you put together five or six bottoms (skirts or pants), maybe in two colors, and ten to twelve tops? With two or three blazers or cardigans and two or three pairs of shoes, you'd have plenty of clothes to rotate and combine, preserving the life and quality of each piece and allowing yourself to be fresh and put-together every day. (You might need one uniform "set" for work and one for leisure, or one for spring/summer and one for fall/winter.)
Are you ready to make a statement?
Some people think minimalism is the choice of people with little ambition or imagination. But they're wrong.
It takes courage to be different. You have to be brave to be counter-cultural.
A personal uniform is the result of independent thinking. I would argue that intentionally wearing the same clothes every day, despite having the means not to, shows a confidence that is very attractive.
Try a uniform. You might discover the real you.
The Minimalist Wardrobe: Buy Less, Choose Well, and Dress with Confidence Every Day.*
- how to build a simpler wardrobe
- how to make decluttering decisions
- how to let your closet inspire you
- how less is more when it comes to creating your personal style
- how a signature outfit can increase your peace, poise, and productivity
- how to travel light