Today’s question comes from Joel:

“Hey Peter. My family and I are going to be traveling a lot in the next 3 months for my business. Would love some tips on keeping my packing minimal, especially when it comes to work. (Unfortunately I need to wear a suit). Any tips?”

Here’s the thing, packing light isn’t just about cutting down as much as you can. I mean, I could tell you to pack one suit, one shirt, one tie, and a weeks worth of underwear and socks. That’s ultra-minimal, but it’s not realistic. 

A well crafted minimal wardrobe allows you to live and dress for the lifestyle you want without having more clothes than you need. The name of the game here is versatility.

In today’s post, I’ll show you how versatility can help you lighten your travel load along with 3 other tricks of the trade I’ve gathered from my globetrotting styling clients.

#1: UNDERSTAND THE TRADE-OFFS OF GOING MINIMAL

Crafting a versatile wardrobe with the fewest clothes possible isn’t without its drawbacks.

It’s important that you understand what you’re giving up when you decide to go the minimalist style route.

As outlined in my “Guide to Building a minimalist wardrobe” post, here are some pros and cons of pairing down:

Takeaway: A well designed minimalist wardrobe exchanges variety for versatility. This means pieces will serve double or triple duty, saving you 2x-3x the space. The downside is you’ll be repeating items more often, which can sometimes feel “boring”.

You can alleviate some of this with some clever styling (more on this later), or adopt a “one in, one out” policy.

Bored of you one blue striped oxford? Pick up a new style and keep your item count in check by donating the old piece.

#2: GET SMALLER LUGGAGE

A simple yet underrated tip for packing lighter: invest in smaller luggage.

You fill the space you’re given. So limiting the space you give yourself is going to force you to make focused decisions on what to pack, as well as influence what you put in your closet to start with.

Takeaway: Put away that check-in only roller bag you can smuggle a body in and opt for a carry-on, a timeless weekender, or even a backpack.

For recommendations on bags, check out “100 Best (Most Stylish) Things Right Now) Part 2” post where I share a couple of my favorite travel bag picks.

#3: GET SOME HELP FROM TECHNOLOGY

One of the most common concerns I get from clients is how they can make their clothes last longer.

Guys often make the mistake of thinking paying more for an item means better durability. But even the highest quality denim can’t withstand constant back to back wear.

And here’s one of the biggest downsides of minimal wardrobes: you run the risk of wearing down your clothes faster with the constant wear and washing.

But luckily there’s a solution!

There have been amazing advances in fabric technology in the last decade, increasing things like durability, stain resistance, and odor control.

What does this mean for you? It means your clothes won’t get dirty, will require little upkeep, and last a hell of a lot longer.

Takeaway: Use the advice in my previous post about crafting a minimalist wardrobe to figure out how much clothes you need, then look for brands experimenting with new materials to increase the durability of your clothes. These items will often cost a bit more, but it beats constantly having to buy new pieces to replace the worn down ones.

One of my favorite recent examples of this comes from The Essential Man favorite shop Bonobos.

Bonobos teamed up with their Italian Suiting mill to develop a fabric with all the bells and whistles of something you’d find at Nike or Lululemon, while still maintaining the elegance and feel of a proper suit.

Their new Italian Performance suits feature 3% stretch (great to wear on a plane!) and are wrinkle, water, and stain resistant.

What does this mean?

No more stressing about your suit getting wrinkly, dirty, or funky between trips.

And like all Bonobos pieces, the suit is available in all their different fits so you’ll look sharp whether you’re tall and lean (go for the slim & tailored fit) or built like a linebacker (go for the athletic cut).

BUY: BONOBOS ITALIAN PERFORMANCE SUIT, $750

#4: GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR STYLING

The key to breaking away from the boredom minimalist wardrobes can bring is getting creative with how you put looks together.

Who says you need separate suits for work and date night? Or that you can’t break up a suit and pair it with some nice easy chinos?


(Hover over image to shop the clothes featured in this photo!)

Here’s an example of an ultra-minimalist travel wardrobe for Joel, and what his outfits might look like if he gets a little creative!


(Hover over image to shop the clothes featured in this photo!)

When it comes to versatile suits, go grey or navy. I personally lean towards grey for the option of wearing the suit pants by itself. (More on this later).

For this look I went with the classic pairing of Bonobos’ grey italian wool performance suit with their pale blue daily grind oxford.

Both suit and shirt are wrinkle resistant, so you’ll look fresh pressed for your meeting straight from the plane. 


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When it comes to business casual, the key is to break up the look by wearing a jacket and pants that don’t match. We do this by swapping in a pair of chinos in place of the suits dress pants.

Traditionally breaking up a suit is a no-no, but we’re going for versatility here so this is a case where the rules can suck it. The key to this look is making sure there’s a bit of contrast between your jacket and pants, so I went with a nice navy stretch chino from Bonobos. This look can work just as well with some nice dark denim.

And no need to worry about going denim on denim as the chambray shirt is a shade lighter. Pull it all together with a nice leather belt and sunglasses.


(Hover over image to shop the clothes featured in this photo!)

One of my favorite ways to wear dress pants is to mix it up with classic casual pieces. Chambray shirt, the dress pants from your suit, topped off with a clean pair of white sneakers. You can channel more of the inspiration image and pack a white or striped tee to wear underneath the button-up.


(Hover over image to shop the clothes featured in this photo!)

Slipping a black polo underneath your suit gives it a serious vibe. It’s the perfect uniform to wear to grab a drink at a moody hotel bar with a beautiful woman. Might I recommend a white negroni? 

GOT A STYLE QUESTION?

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Send me your info below and I’ll reach out!

This post was in partnership with our my friends over at Bonobos, who’ve been my go-to shop for my 1-on-1 client work. Thank you for working with me on this featured story!

peter@theessentialman.com'
Author

Hi, I'm Peter. I spent 11 years as a menswear designer here in NYC. Now, I help some of the most successful men look really good as a Private Personal Stylist and writer of The Essential Man. You can learn more about what I do by clicking here