For a while now I’ve flirted with the idea of finding a uniform and sticking to it. I think I first got the idea from Terry Richardson, who has been wearing a variation of the same five things for as long as I’ve known about him.
And why shouldn’t he? If you’re famous and you allow stylists and PR people to use you as some sort of real-life Ken doll then you’re failing at fame, and will inevitably open yourself up to some sort of fashion disaster. (Think Justin Timberlake’s denim suit circa The Britney years.) Instead you need to find out what works for you and then stick to it. Because it’s one thing speaking about one’s “personal brand”, and something else entirely when you actually commit your closet to a corporate identity like Terry Richardson does.
And you don’t even have to be a scuzzy shutterbug to pull off a uniform, either, nerds can do it, too. When Steve Jobs wanted to take the hassle out of having to decide on what to wear every morning, so that he could instead focus on putting “i” in front of shiny new tech products, he asked Issey Miyake to come up with something and the iconic Steve Jobs polo-neck was born.
Now I don’t think I’m ready for a uniform just yet. There’s still some way for me to walk on my particular fashion path. However, I have made enough mistakes to know what works and what doesn’t. In the meantime, to make life simpler and myself look better, I want a bulletproof cupboard filled with only the things that I actually wear.
And this is how I did it…
First I had to dejunk my closet. I waited for my wife and kids to leave the house, so that I could tackle the job without interruption or the opinions of outsiders. Then I put some ice in the en-suite bathroom’s sink, threw in some beers, plugged my iPod into the hi-fi and hit shuffle.
After pulling everything out onto the bedroom floor I not only discovered pieces that I’d long forgotten about, but found the spare-key for my car and my fold-up Ray Ban Wayfarers. Using the floordrobe I then began to create my bulletproof cupboard.
The next couple of hours I used to pack away everything that I hadn’t worn in a while. Stuff that I would maybe one day revisit. Earlier I’d bought transparent plastic bins from the Builder’s Warehouse to store this stuff in. This is so that come six months later, and I’m in the mood for the ratty Kurt Cobain cardigan, I’ll be able to find it at a glance.
As a hoarder I find it difficult to throw things away. However, filling these boxes was easy as I knew that they’d be safe at the top of my cupboard. The unworn clothing items aren’t eating or drinking; it costs nothing in storage fees to keep them. So if you’ve got the space then you should do it, too. I don’t know what my son will want to wear one day? I don’t know what will come back? In fact, it’s a Muhlenberg trait to keep stuff for the next generation. My dad gave me a pair of mint Puma Clyde sneakers when I was a lad, and they were the best thing ever. Today I still wear his SADF belt and v-neck jersey. Likewise I wore my grandfather’s bomber jacket for years, until I gave it to a cold girl on New Years eve who then gave me a cold-shoulder and I never saw her or my sentimental bomber jacket ever again.
But I digress. Building your bulletproof cupboard is also a good opportunity to give to those less fortunate. Which you should do. I had a big box for discards and did away with the oversized Hawaiian shirts, the overly branded surf wear, competitors T-shirts, the deadman’s suits that I bought from a vintage store, the skinny jeans with the split crotches, the wine-stained wedding shirt and a bunch of other stuff that would be better suited to keeping someone warm this winter than keeping me stylish. Is the man with the big bushy beard, the one wearing that three-piece suit with the hibiscus print shirt, a hipster or a hobo? I’m blurring the lines even more…
After the purge I limited myself to a denim jacket, a leather jacket and an olive green parka. Two jerseys, one hoody and a crew neck melange jumper. I kept the slim black suit and skinny black tie that weren’t second-hand. I kept just ten shirts, ranging from chambray to denim to stripes to check to a garish bird motif. Likewise I kept ten t-shirts, mostly plain. Then there were two pairs of jeans, a pair of khakis and a pair of grey wool trousers. Two pairs of walk shorts and two pair of board shorts for summer. One set of pajamas. And then football and running kit.
The problem arose when it came to footwear. Although I’ve committed to wearing these Caterpillar Bruiser boots for the duration of winter, I just couldn’t bring myself to delegate my sneakers to storage, even if that meant just temporarily.
This is still too much, but it’s a step in the right direction and I’ll keep whittling away until I’ve found the five things that I want to wear as my uniform. In the meantime I’m just happy how everything is on its own hanger and can be easily accessed. How everything is so neat and tidy. Both on the shelf and when I’m wearing it.
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