You may have heard of a capsule wardrobe for men or a minimalist wardrobe. The Real Men Real Style Interchangeable Wardrobe builds on these concepts.
This article explains how you can build your own Interchangeable Wardrobe and get 256 outfits from just 16 pieces of clothing.
In this article, you will find:
- The Foundation of an Interchangeable Wardrobe
- Get The Fit Right
- Invest In Quality
- How To Match Your Clothes
Advantages of building an Interchangeable Wardrobe:
- Less clothing and therefore less clutter in your wardrobe.
- More money to spend on quality clothes which fit better.
- More clothing combinations from fewer clothes.
- No worry dressing because everything matches.
The Foundation Of An Interchangeable Wardrobe
Before you head off to the store to start building your Interchangeable Wardrobe, there are a few things to take note of.
The first step is to understand why you want an interchangeable wardrobe.
See the image below – 16 items that work with each other can yield 256 outfits! Quality trumps quantity!
You want the most for your money. This means fewer clothes, more quality, more outfits.
You need to build the foundation first.
An interchangeable wardrobe is composed of foundation pieces.
You can use all the pieces involved with each other. Forget about glamour when building this part of your closet.
The three main characteristics of foundation pieces are:
1. Interchangeable Wardrobe – Get The Fit Right
To attain a perfect interchangeable wardrobe, the clothes have to fit. And fit well!
You must know your basic body measurements. Keep a note on your phone so you can access them at any time.
Once you know your personal sizes, this makes online shopping much less painful – you won't need to waste time feeling unsure about your purchases or returning items.
Find the brand that fits you best.
If you can find a brand where the clothes fit you right off the rack, this is a bonus.
If not, find the brand that fits the closest to your size and let the tailor correct the minor things. Click here for my full guide to men's suit tailoring.
2. Interchangeable Wardrobe – Invest In Quality
The beautiful benefit of owning a leaner wardrobe means you can focus on quality.
When you have fewer clothes to buy, the focus is now on more important things like fabric, durability, and stitching.
A common question I get asked is, “Which pieces should I start with?”
If I were to make an order of operations for buying quality clothes, it would look like this:
Jackets/Shoes + Trousers + Shirts + Accessories = Interchangeable Wardrobe
Jackets / Blazers & Quality Dress Shoes
These items are the first pieces people will notice when you walk into a room.
They are also the items that will probably be the highest investment decision to make.
Stick to basic colors when making your purchasing decisions.
Go with navy, gray, and olive green for jackets, and brown or black for shoes. Oxblood is a strong second choice.
You don't need to buy five jackets and five shoes at once either.
Start with two jackets and one pair of good-quality men's shoes, then move on to complete the outfit. You can revisit jackets and shoes later.
Once you have these items, building the rest of your wardrobe becomes much easier.
Durable Men's Trousers
You need to look for durable trousers made from a nice canvas, whether jeans or dress slacks.
This means looking for superior denim, flannel trousers, twill, and even soft wool for the wintertime.
This investment goes a long way because high-quality trousers will sustain the wear and tear from your everyday activity.
Men's Dress Shirts
Pause here for a second.
Your purchasing decisions should include several shirts. I recommend starting with a minimum of 4 dress shirts.
You will be looking for different variations of light blues and whites to begin with.
They are the most versatile colors. They match nearly every trouser and jacket you pair with them.
You can change men's shirts styles and patterns minimally, but solids of these colors are your best bet.
Men's accessories are the perfect finishing touches – these are the icing on the cake.
After you own complete outfits, you can start to incorporate the details.
Go for brown and black leather belts and dress socks. Include a gold or silver watch and a white cotton pocket square.
A navy grenadine necktie is a core accessory piece to incorporate into your wardrobe.
Interchangeable Wardrobe Rule: As your neckties get lighter in color, they become less interchangeable.
3. Interchangeable Wardrobe – How To Match Your Clothes
This is the part where your interchangeable wardrobe comes together.
Nothing else we've talked about up until now matters if your clothes don't match.
This part is integral.
There are four elements to matching your interchangeable wardrobe together.
First – Style
Before you begin putting together your wardrobe, you need to ask yourself, “What is my individual style?”
Are you a casual dresser? Or are you more formal?
If you don't know your personal style yet, ask yourself, “Who/what do you represent?”
Is it your family? Is it your business? Your employer? Is it yourself? Or is it a position you desire to be in?
Once you can answer these questions, you can formulate an image of how that person would look.
Then you can begin to build your wardrobe around that.
Second – Texture
This element of matching is the most ignored and the most underused.
Items that are the same color can be matched with each other if there is enough contrast in the texture. Keep this in mind when shopping.
Additionally, smooth textures like linen and cotton blend exceptionally well with coarser textures like flannel and wool.
Understanding this concept is key for an interchangeable wardrobe.
Third – Patterns
For your foundation pieces, patterns that are small or nonexistent are the goal. Solid colors are best, but if you want to incorporate some patterns, keep them minimal. Patterns like a pinstripe, herringbone, or small checks are fine.
For your core wardrobe, a good rule of thumb to follow is this: Are your patterns noticeable from a distance?
Yes? – Take it down a notch.
No, they are only seen up close – perfect.
As your patterns become louder, they become less interchangeable.
Fourth – Color
There are basic colors to stick with as you are building your core wardrobe.
Variations of white and blue will be the most interchangeable.
Find which colors work best for your skin type, hair color, and other interchangeable pieces.
You can refer to my Color Coordination for Men article, which details which colors work best for different skin types based on science.
Gray is considered a non-color, which means you can match it with just about anything.
I personally have dark hair and light-colored skin, so I stick to darker colors like gray, olive green, and navy.
I mix that with light-colored shirts to give my outfit a complementary contrast.
Men's Dress Shoes
- Oxfords – The Oxford is a men's classic and timeless dress shoe. It's a must-have for every man's wardrobe. It falls on the more professional side of dress shoes, usually accompanied with a cap toe.
- Chukka Boots – For more casual days with jeans and a sports jacket. Dark brown is the color of choice for shoes because of its versatility.
- Wingtips – A pair of brown wingtips adds a hint of playfulness to your outfit while ensuring a smart appearance. Wingtips are usually mixed together with decorative brogue perforations, making this shoe a little more on the casual side.
- Loafers – Leather slip-on shoes are a convenient and comfortable choice for frequent travelers. Wear them with jeans, chinos. If you're feeling bold enough to emulate the Italians, go sockless with a pair of dress pants.
- Double Monk-Strap – My go-to pair of shoes. In Oxblood, a pair of double monk strap leather shoes will match almost any outfit combination you can put together in your interchangeable wardrobe.
When you learn to shop for versatile clothing, you can have an expansive interchangeable wardrobe using a relatively small amount of clothing. Most of your outfits will complement each other.
You can pick any combination of clothes, and rest assured that the outfit will be stylish and comfortable.
The Interchangeable Wardrobe: Conclusion
Now that your wardrobe is coming together, you can incorporate some minor variations that will keep your wardrobe different while still interchangeable.
One example is the collar type. Different collars are a great way to spice up an outfit. Check out my Dress Shirt Collar Overview article to learn more about the different types.
If your style is a little more casual, start introducing small micro-patterns into your wardrobe.
Another option is to begin to add dark wash denim in place of chinos and dress slacks.
The darker denim is a great replacement and still holds the formality of business casual.
Different styles of shoes can add some flavor as well. Whether it's a wingtip, a cap toe oxford, or a loafer, each shoe can be interchangeable with every outfit.
The whole point here is to focus on quality and obtain the highest number of outfits for the least amount of money.
That is the power of the interchangeable wardrobe.