Why You Should Think About Finding a Personal Uniform
Maybe you’ve always wanted a personal uniform, or perhaps you’ve only come around to the idea more recently. The uniform can confer an air of deliberate practicality, make a statement about maturity or simplicity of style, or communicate that you have more important decisions to make than which clothes you’re going to put on each morning.
But more significant than what a personal uniform can communicate to the world is what the repeated configuration of a favorite style of shirt and pant means to the man who wears it day in and day out. Men who adopt personal uniforms do so to avoid making unnecessary decisions, to easily bow out of the influence of trends, to shift priority from fashion to style, to crystalize their image, and perhaps to feel a little bit like the tech giants and menswear icons who opt for the same silhouette, public appearance after public appearance. And on all counts, the personal uniform is a proven success.
Some men enjoy expressing their aesthetic sensibilities and their opinions about the world with their clothing. For them, a uniform would likely prove restrictive. But others find the pressure to make a statement with their clothing inconvenient, inefficient, impossible to live up to, or even an embarrassing case for using the superficial to attract attention. For those men who want to opt out of self-definition through an endless rotation of outfits and ensembles, a personal uniform can be a welcome simplification of the process of getting dressed each morning.
But opting out of the drama of dressing in a different outfit everyday doesn’t mean you have to eschew developing a deliberate sense of style. Instead, the choice of a uniform — which informs not only what you wear everyday but what you buy when you shop — is an excellent way to distill what you consider the best of classic, versatile style into an ensemble that’s easy to wear and easy to repeat without looking dated or out of place. Depending on the stage of your life, a uniform can help you look mature or ageless. It can help you stand out or blend in. It can say something about you and your priorities, or invite others to think what they will of you.
The protagonists of picture books and children’s TV shows are rendered instantly recognizable by their uniforms. (For slightly more sophisticated examples, look to Wes Anderson’s uniform-clad cast of characters: Richie Tennenbaum in his tan blazer; Francis, Peter, and Jack Whitman in their gray suits and Louis Vuitton luggage; or Steve Zissou and the blue, literal uniforms worn by captain and crew.)
You don’t have to look like you’re living out of a suitcase, or stock your closet with a dozen of the same exact outfits — though you can, if you choose to prioritize complete consistency over a limited form of variety. Uniforms run the gamut from a closet stocked with multiples of a specific ensemble to a capsule wardrobe that emphasizes specific cuts and colors and offers a little room for mixing and matching on a day-to-day basis. Regardless of the approach you choose, adopting your own uniform will provide you with the ability to look always and consistently like yourself, in a way previously attainable only by chipper picture book adventurers or melancholy Wes Anderson protagonists.
If you’re convinced a uniform is for you, realize that it will be a process to find that uniform. You can get a jump on it with the process of elimination. Evaluate the present state of your closet and edit out what you don’t like wearing, pieces in which you don’t feel like yourself, and clothes that are overly casual or conspicuously formal. Conveniently enough, you can simultaneously pare down your closet and find your signature look.
Another benefit of choosing a uniform is that the new way of dressing enables you to shop more consciously and sparingly. You won’t feel pressured by sales or find it unusual to leave a store empty-handed. You’ll be less likely to buy regrettable shoes or impractical sweaters, choose styles that will look outdated after a season or a year, or choose clothes that will only look good without signs of wear. You’ll save time and money by eliminating trial and error as you transition between seasons, and once you find the uniform that flatters your shape and expresses your aesthetic sensibilities most efficiently, you’ll never again struggle to find what you need, whether at mall stores advertising sales or high-end boutiques filled with negative space and pricy basics.
A personal uniform is both a philosophical and practical ideal. Paradoxically, it marries depth of thought with brevity of deliberation, concision of style with an ample statement on priorities. It brings both practicality and whimsy to your morning routine, and balances limit-induced creativity with a simplicity of process that frees your imagination to wander beyond the boundaries of your closet.