Minimalism as a home aesthetic has had something of a boom thanks to Marie Kondo and the Instagrammable appeal of sparse, clean spaces in muted colors. But the good news is, you don’t have to throw out everything in your wardrobe to adopt a minimal men’s style.
Minimalism as a fashion style isn’t about owning less (although it can be, if you want it to be). Rather, it’s about paring back the pieces that you do wear: removing any unnecessary extras and focusing on timeless staple pieces to create an intentional, cohesive look.
What is minimal style?
The idea behind minimal dressing, beyond looking great, is that everything in your wardrobe should work interchangeably. Coco Chanel famously said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” So she obviously wasn’t a minimalist as they would tell you to remove about five.
That’s not to say there’s no room for fun or accessorizing in minimal dressing – there certainly is. But at the core of everything you put on there should be one idea: simplicity. The great thing about minimal style is that it truly is effortlessly cool. When everything you own is stripped back and curated to be worn together, you really can’t go wrong.
Inspiration for minimal style
Of course, not everyone wants to overhaul their entire wardrobe to adhere to a minimal look. And that’s fair enough… Sometimes you just want to layer up your patterns and make a big statement. After all, nobody said you have to be a true minimalist to pull off this look. So when it comes to seeking minimal inspiration there are a few other trends you can look to for ideas.
The Scandinavians are kings of minimal style. From their homes to their wardrobes, minimalism rules. And that’s because they know the value of good quality staples that are designed to last a lifetime. Of course, not everyone can afford top of the range pieces all of the time. But a lesson to take from Scandi style is that, when you do invest in a staple piece in a classic color it will last a lifetime so you won’t end up with a wardrobe cluttered with old pieces you don’t love anymore.
Okay so some Japanese style is so extra that it’s pretty much maximalist. But when it comes to cuts, shapes, and structures a lot of Japanese menswear embodies the minimalist perspective. It’s the way it’s styled that makes all the difference. Japanese workwear is known for its high quality, structured shapes that often come in simple tones like white, gray, navy, or black. Chore jackets, oversized white shirts, and loose fitting trousers make perfect starting points for building a minimal look.
Again, bear with us here: streetwear isn’t always over the top shapes and statement prints. Recently, the trend has moved into a far simpler version of itself. It takes utility pieces like vests and cargo pants, and pairs them with hoodies and sweatpants in muted tones to create its own take on minimalism with its trademark edge. So if you love comfy, casual dressing this could be the minimal route for you.
The minimalist aesthetic isn’t owned by one specific style, it’s an approach that can be incorporated into whatever your fashion preferences are – regardless of a tailored or drapey fit, geographic considerations, or cultural expectations.
How to incorporate minimal style into your outfits
From subtle hints to all-out minimalism, there are different ways to incorporate this style into your everyday wardrobe. You might want to adopt the mindset of getting dressed then stripping back to just the essentials. Or you might be starting out on a holistic minimalism journey and want to build your new wardrobe from the ground up. Here are our top tips for getting started.
Invest in basics
Plain white trainers, a good quality white T-shirt, straight legged trousers, a chore jacket, an overcoat. Do you have these pieces in your wardrobe? Then you’ve already taken your first step towards minimalism.
Imagine these pieces all worn together on a winter’s day (or the sake of including the coat). They’d look great in classic colors like black, white and gray or even in earthy tones like khaki, beige, and navy. Introduce some color, whether you’re into subtle burgundys or eye-catching pastels, and the look still maintains its simplicity. And that’s how you create a minimal look that fits in with your personal color palette, without straying into pieces that you’re not sure you’ll ever wear.
Keep the palette neutral
A happy effect of minimal dressing is that it’s so inoffensive in its simplicity that it’s basically appropriate to wear anywhere. The effect of that simplicity is that it’s neutral and laid-back, but never basic or boring. When paired well with other muted tones, neutral colors can actually have as striking an effect as bolder shades. Use white as a color in its own right, and it can help your other muted pieces to stand out. It’s for this reason that minimalism is a perfect add-on to a smart casual wardrobe.
And when you do choose to add in a pop of color or a subtle print, make sure it’s the center of your outfit. Minimalism is really more flexible than it sounds, and if you’re someone who falls back on black clothing anyway then it’s likely to come naturally to you.
Make friends with your wardrobe
If you were to empty out your closet, remove all those statement pieces you bought in a moment of confidence but have never really worn, lose the bright or patterned pieces you wear because they have a ‘look’ but you’re not really sure if it’s you, and just keep the basic pieces that you know will never go out of style (and yes, we’ll let you include your plaid shirt in that), you might find that you’re well on your way to already owning a minimalist wardrobe.
Over the years we accumulate so much, but when we strip it down to the pieces we really love, adapting at least a touch of minimalism to our wardrobes is much easier than it sounds. Then, take that same mentality out with you when you’re shopping. Before each purchase think, “what do I already own that I can wear this with?” If the answer is less than two items, put it back.
Start to accessorize
Remember we said accessorizing had its place in minimalism? Well here’s how. If you’re into jewelry – or even if you’re not yet but want to be – keeping your collection to simple pieces like chains and clean band rings makes it easy to add your own twist to a minimal look without veering out of the trend.
Similarly, baseball caps, tote bags, and even sleek backpacks work perfectly with minimal outfits. Just keep simplicity in mind, avoid overly bulky shapes and bold patterns and colors, and you’re good to go. Remember that the point of a minimal piece is that it should go with everything, So although there’s plenty of place for color in the rest of your wardrobe, your accessories will work best if they’re plain.
Examples Of The Minimal Menswear Aesthetic
Make your smart look minimal with a matching, loose fitting suit, plain tee, and minimal trainers or Derbies depending on the dress code.
Casual looks are easy to keep minimal: just stick to muted tones and staples pieces like a Henley tee. Notice how you can alter the feel of the look, either for seasonal reasons or formality, by inverting the color order.
A bomber jacket is ideal as minimal outwear as the collarless neckline keeps the cut sleek.
An all-white palette is the epitome of minimalism, and makes room for some interesting pops of color if you’re feeling confident enough to make a statement.
Black or navy and white might not sound like an interesting color palette, but playing with dark and light pieces in different cuts and shapes is what minimalism is all about.
While black and white are common examples of a minimalist look, swapping black for olives, navies, and others can still provide a sharp minimal style that is less high-contrast.
The best minimal menswear brands to have on your radar
Technically, you can find minimal clothing at almost any store. High quality pieces that fit you well really aren’t that hard to come by. But if you’re looking at building a specifically ‘minimalist’ look it can be easier to head straight for stores that incorporate minimalism into all of their collections. Here are some of our favorites.
- American Apparel is one of the OGs of minimalism. Focusing on a broad collection of basic styles in a wide range of colors, the brand is designed to become the foundation of your wardrobe.
- Arket takes a step into the sophisticated, bringing quality cuts, simple fits, and perfectly minimal color palettes into collections of on-trend seasonal pieces that feel slightly more elevated than your average.
- Buck Mason bills itself as modern American classics, but with an emphasis on on subtly-colored staples and attention to textural detail, it’s a rugged minimalist’s candy store.
- GAP, like American Apparel, GAP has been nailing minimalism since before it was even a ‘thing’. Look no further for staples like T-shirts, jeans, and other casualwear.
- J.Crew is known for its pared-back styles with minimal branding and classic cuts. From knitwear through to shirts, it’s a go-to for timeless wardrobe classics.
- Madewell positions itself as the antithesis to trendy fashion, so its pieces are timeless and made to last – perfect for minimal wardrobes.
- Muji brings minimalism to your interiors and your wardrobe. It’s the embodiment of minimal Japanese style in one (very pleasing) store.
- Uniqlo is another example of Japanese minimalism, showing how simple design can work just as well for smart evening clothes as it can for casualwear.
- Weekday is a go-to spot for minimal clothing with a street-inspired twist. You’ll find full collections in interchangeable colors that make for great wardrobe basics.