I want you to consider the following story, about a very interesting young fellow called Barron Cuadro.
Barron, when he was in his early twenties, was a guy that used to pay a lot of attention to his personal style. He was extremely interested in communicating a very powerful message with his appearance, he always tried to evolve his attire and he also constantly followed fads and trends. Needless to say, Barron had a lot of clothes.
He used to own more than ten pairs of shoes, numerous jackets, countless t-shirts, and a huge amount of trousers and other various wardrobe items. Finding himself in this self-exploring stage of his life, he obviously felt the need to be a voracious consumer. He wanted everything even if he didn’t really need it.
When he saw a particular item he liked, he bought it in almost every color. He often filled his closet with great deals from clearance racks, which just pleased the budget-conscious side of him. Items that rarely helped him level up his sartorial game and usually proved to be a burden as he slowly ran out of closet space.
As he grew older, Barron became fixated on the idea that he didn’t want to waste any more money in wardrobe items that didn’t provide any significant value to him and his personal style. After considering the problem for a long time, he figured that what he needed to do was find a way to live only with essential pieces of attire without however losing out on his style.
This process however proved out to be way more difficult than he thought. Even though he really wanted get rid of most of the items, he had no idea where to start from and also how to prioritize essentialism over future consumer-driven impulses.
The difficulty of this process however helped him discover his creative edge and develop a very interesting model around it. He called it the lean wardrobe model, which is based upon the following five pillars:
- Pare down aggressively
- Prioritize quality over quantity
- Understand that versatility is king
- Wear what you really enjoy
- Dress with intent and purpose
Barron, after realizing the importance of the model and internalizing its core principles, managed to redesign effectively his whole wardrobe. He focused on the things that were absolutely essential without ruining his style and survived just fine on the little amount of clothing he had.
As his tastes changed, he learned to refine and curate the selection he kept with him. He found creative ways to get rid of the items he didn’t like anymore and also repurpose them so they could fit his new mindset.
Even if he felt that his selection was growing, his lean wardrobe mentality helped him relax, evolve and do well without the excess.
Barron today is a style coach and a very famous style blogger.
Yeap that’s Barron.
Inspired by his story and driven by my undaunted desire to meet young and exciting people, I contacted him to see if he would like to meet up so he can explain me his model more thoroughly.
His answer was positive. My enthusiasm was immense.
The five principles
I met Barron a couple of months ago in a cool little coffee shop in East Village. He was dressed in a well-fit navy suit that was empowered by some really elegant accessories like a polka dot pocket square, some beaded bracelets and a pair of brown snare boots. The whole attire was suggesting a person that wasn’t at any point limited by the lean wardrobe mentality.
After ordering an Americano, he started explaining me his story and dig into more detail about the principles of the lean wardrobe model.
Principle 1: Pare Down Aggressively
The idea of losing something we own is one of the most limiting factors when it comes to unleashing our true potential. It is an idea deep routed in our primitive mind and is obviously associated with the idea of exposure and scarcity.
“When I was younger, I had the hardest time getting rid of clothing, even if I didn’t wear it. I was like a clothes hoarder instead of a clotheshorse.” Barron told me.
He soon realized that his closet situation was getting a bit ridiculous and that if he kept it up, it wouldn’t be able to sustain itself.
“The ironic thing is, I hate clutter. I’m a guy who believes everything has its place, and an overstuffed closet is difficult to keep neat. As I got older and wiser, I started to realize I only wear a handful of things I own. I began forming opinions about owning less but better things, and only keeping what I put to use,” Barron added.
That’s why the process of curation is paramount when it comes to paring down your personal items. You will realize that you will constantly find yourself curating your closet in order to refine your wardrobe and understand what is truly essential and what is just taking up space.
You need to be asking yourself every 3-6 months “When is the last time I actually wore this?” and weed out the items that are not part of your sartorial game anymore.
Weed out doesn’t necessarily mean throw away. By being creative and responsible, you can either sell some items, or donate them, or even exchange them.
It is important to understand that keeping a closet neat and clean from unused items is the only way to reach what Barron likes to call “closet homeostasis.”
Principle 2: Quality over Quantity
A great analogy to have in mind when deciding to start working on your lean wardrobe is the following:
As we have stated in the past, fit is and always will be king. An ill fit never looks good. Oversized, slouching, crotch-by-your-knees looks are not a get up that any self-respecting man will want to be seen in.
Neither do you want to veer into the uncomfortably skin-tight territory. Remember that a good outfit is all about confidence – and the key to achieving that is finding clothes that fit like a glove.
Next, you need to understand the true meaning of the phrase quality over quantity. As Barron very accurately explained to me, “We need to realize that this phrase is relative. If you’re on a tight budget, I’m not suggesting you buy $2000+ Isaia suits. What I am saying is that instead of buying five ill-fitting $10 sport shirts, buy one that fits well for $50. You’re going to end up discarding those five cheap sport shirts anyway. Why not save up and buy the one that fits perfectly?”
As a rule of thumb, when it comes to the lean wardrobe model, the following items are considered essentials:
- oxford-cloth button downs
- crisp dress shirt (one white, one blue)
- dark, slim denim
- dark brown brogue lace-ups
- single-breasted navy blazer
- one charcoal gray suit
- white T-shirts, pairs of underwear, socks, and ties as necessary
Principle 3: Capitalize on Versatility
One of the core ideas underlined in the lean wardrobe model is that a lean wardrobe can support the combination of every item in it.
Although this is not an easy task in the beginning, it will become an automated process once you are done with paring down and eventually getting rid of unnecessary items you haven’t used for years.
“One good way to ensure versatility in your wardrobe is to invest in clothes that are relatively neutral, earthy, or basic in color. These clothes will serve as your base. Think dark denim, chinos in olive, charcoal, brown, and navy. Think oxford cloth button down shirts in white and blue. Think T-shirts in white and gray. Think navy blazer, charcoal suit,” Barron suggests.
Using these clothes as main elements of your model, can help you expand easier to more colorful picks. Moreover, you can always play around with various accessories that can elevate your ensemble dramatically.
Socks, gloves, bracelets, hats, watches and necklaces are only some of the numerous items you can use to capitalize on versatility.
Always have in mind that simplicity is gold. The lean wardrobe mentality can help you identify the right pieces that can be part of your clothing arsenal for years.
Principle 4: Wear What You Enjoy
As very elegantly Barron puts it:
“It’s a simple idea, but when you put your money down for an item of clothing, you’re committing to it. Make sure you enjoy everything you buy and wear. It’s important to feel good when you wear the clothing you own. You want to feel confident, empowered, put together, dapper, self-assured. You do not want to feel self-conscious, uncomfortable, unsure.”
That said, every major change in our lives takes time until it is manifested congruently in our whole personality and life. In the beginning we always feel unsure of the choices we make because our old self will still be there trying to sabotage the emergence of the new one.
Your new clothing is like your ally in your quest to redefine yourself and your perception. The more effort you put in it, the more it will support you and help you elevate your persona.
Additionally, “The best part about forming your own personal style and learning how to dress well is the liberation you get from knowing the rules and being able to break them at will. Breaking the rules is fun, and I encourage you to do so. But, in order to break the rules effectively and with a hint of panache, you have to know them inside and out. So learn them first,” as Barron says.
Principle 5: Dress with Intent and Purpose
When it comes to picking the perfect items for your lean wardrobe you always need to make sure that you make the quintessential choices.
This idea will become clearer if you ask the following questions whenever you decide on a new piece:
- What am I looking for?
- The reason I am looking for it.
As suggested above, you are in a quest to redefine yourself. So when you go shopping you should see it as a part of this quest. Knowing and understanding your intent can help you win hours of browsing without a purpose and wasting money on unneeded items.
Barron also gave me a very good example to illustrate exactly his point when it comes to dressing with intent and purpose.
“A corporate office worker’s closet will be much different than a graphic designer’s. Understand your situation (where you spend the majority of your time, for example) and your preferences. Knowing your situation will help you understand what’s expected and accepted, as far as dress code is concerned. Knowing your preferences will help you dress accordingly (the intersection point between what’s expected and what you like.) Corporate office workers usually have a more formal dress code than people in the creative field, but that doesn’t mean casual office workplaces don’t exist, or that designers don’t like to put on suits once in a while. Situation and preferences.”
Ultimately, people who get immersed in the lean wardrobe model have conceptualized all those ideas to the point where they understand that it is a huge part of who they really are.
They understand that how you project yourself is a reflection of your self-respect and how you expect others to regard you.
Hopefully by dressing better, you’ll start to feel better and project the most important benefit a great personal style can provide, which is true and unquestionable confidence.
Now, theory is good and all but when it comes to applying all these concepts in real life, too much analysis usually paralyzes action.
As I have stated in “Your life is a game. This is your strategy guide.” article, the best way to find solutions to complex problems and achieve your goals, is to develop mental models around them and eventually create powerful systems that can support them.
Barron’s lean wardrobe idea is a great mental model that can help you put an end to the frustration that is associated with a complex and messy closet filled with unnecessary items.
I decided to try the model myself and see if it actually works. I am already in week five and the results are great.
- I got rid of items I only kept because of “emotional attachment.”
- I focused on taking advantage of items that really make me feel and look good.
- I finally managed to reduce my luggage to 13 pounds for a 4-day trip and be flexible during my travel.
Any questions you might have from my own personal experience or from Barron’s view, you can ask in the comments section below.
Let the quest to closet mastery begin.
In the meantime, if you are interested in making the Lean Wardrobe idea a practice, you should definitely try our 30-day challenge. For 30 days you will focus on activities that aim to increase your self-discipline, boost your confidence and reinvent your whole image.
Check out our 30 Challenges here:
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