Today’s question comes from Robert:

“I know it sounds counterintuitive, but I want to be able to have variety while also having minimal clothes. I don’t want to look like I’m wearing the same thing all the time. How can I do this?”

Ah, the wardrobe holy grail: one that fits on a carry on bag that’ll take you from Monday office meetings to weekend dates.

It’s not a pipe dream, it’s possible!

It comes down to stocking your closet with pieces that are designed with versatility in mind.

Here are a few rules to help you spot these versatile pieces when building your wardrobe.

HOW TO CHOOSE EXTREMELY VERSATILE CLOTHES FOR YOUR WARDROBE

  1. CHOOSE CLASSIC DESIGNS THAT FALL RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FORMALITY SCALE For versatility, we want to avoid super trendy pieces and stick to the classics that aren’t too casual or dressy. That means ripped jeans are a double no, as they’re trendy and too casual. Same goes a cropped designer dress pant. For tips on figuring out where a piece falls on the formality scale, check out the formality scale guide in “The Ultimate Guide to Business Casual Style For Men”
  2. STICK TO NEUTRAL COLORS Neutral colors (white, black, grey, olive, navy, camel/beige) aren’t overpowering as, say, neon colors. This means you can mix and match these colors with ease, making them much more versatile

Think of it like a perfectly made baguette.

Classic. Delicious on its own. And can be paired with anything from olive oil, meat, cheese, hell even peanut butter. (Don’t judge me.)

You wouldn’t want to try some of the above combinations if the baguette was a “trendy” chocolate baguette, right? That’s why we’re going to stick to the classics.

Classic in design. Neutral colors.

Let me show you one of my favorite examples of an extremely versatile piece that hits these rules: The Olive Chino.

1 OLIVE CHINO, 3 WAYS TO WEAR IT

Chinos are the perfect example of a versatile wardrobe staple. Chinos fall right in the middle of the formality scale – works equally well with a henley and leather jacket as it does a button-up and sports coat.

I’m a big fan of olive because it gives off a strong, manly, military vibe.

It’s also a nice break from the usual navy/grey chino without getting too colorful. Remember, the goal is versatility, so we don’t want to go for a color that’s too overpowering!

WHERE TO PICK UP A PAIR OF OLIVE CHINOS?

My go-to chinos for myself and my clients are by Bonobos. For the past 3 years, Bonobos has been the first place I take my private clients when I start working with them.

What I love most about them is the HUGE variety of cuts and fits they offer (over 200 different combinations).

It’s been a lifesaver for my clients that have trouble shopping off the rack normally, like a recent client of mine that stands at a nice 6’6″.

And as a 5’7″ guy who squats, the 28″ inseam in the athletic cut has been a gift from the style gods.

Their new organic, broken-in cotton chino hits all the requirements for a versatile piece: classic design in a perfect muted shade of olive, a neutral color.

Let me show you how you can take these chinos from your Monday office meeting to weekend date.

OUTFIT IDEA #1: BEAUTIFUL DAY AT THE OFFICE

There’s nothing more classic than pairing a sportscoat and chinos. I’m a huge fan of ditching the tie and leaving your collar unbuttoned for an effortless, yet still professional look.

In the warmer months, go for an unstructured, unlined blazer so you don’t feel like you’re in a sauna.

If you want some bonus office style points by baring some ankle, make sure you wear invisible socks instead of actually going sock-less to avoid blisters.

OUTFIT IDEA #2: WEEKEND ERRANDS

When the weekend rolls around and you need to run around to handle some errands, the last thing you want is a stuffy button-up.

Swap in a t-shirt and try out one of my favorite styles of casual outerwear: the chore jacket. The big patch pockets are the perfect size for your keys and cellphone, helping you avoid those ugly pant tumors.

OUTFIT IDEA #3: SUMMER DAY DATE

Sunny weekend weather is the perfect reason to break the cliché dim lit bar date. Take her outside for some fancy ice cream and a walk around the city.

Break the monotony of a basic t-shirt and try pairing the chinos with a polo, like this retro-inspired pique polo in a soft Pima cotton. Keep it fun and casual with some classic Converse and don’t forget the shades.

I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

Let me know if you end up picking up a pair in the comments. And if you already own a pair, what’s your favorite way to wear them?

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

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