Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Want to Simplify Your Life? Try a Uniform

My high school hallways were like a fashion show catwalk. With my classmates carefully scrutinizing my outfits, I made sure my clothes were up to date, that I had the right sneakers, the right cuffs on my stonewashed jeans, the right collar shape on my Gap button-downs and so forth. I carefully rotated my wardrobe to make sure there were no repeated outfits in a given week. I didn’t want anyone to think I didn’t care.

While no one ever accused me of not caring, no one cared that much either. All the anxiety, time spent assembling the right styles, laundry–all of it was for naught. I hovered through high school enjoying low-to-medium popularity, no portion of which was attributable to my clothing.

Most people just don’t care that much about what we’re wearing. In my experience, people will notice if our clothes aren’t clean, if they’re falling apart or if they are majorly out-of-date. They’ll notice if what we’re wearing is well made or fits us well. But people won’t care if the nice, clean, stylish thing we wore on Monday is the same nice, clean, stylish thing we wore on Friday.

The world is filled with a profound number of choices, but studies show that having fewer–not more–choices may be the path to greater happiness. Few places provide a greater opportunity for strategically eliminating choice than our clothing.

Rather than boring and imposed fashion, a uniform can be a great way to simplify your life and even express your style–there’s a reason Steve Jobs, one of the foremost design gurus of the last 100 years, wore the same outfit day in, day out.

With a uniform, dressing and life become much simpler and speedier, and with the right uniform, no one will accuse you of not caring.

If you are interested in creating your own uniform, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • If you don’t have a uniform, or don’t know what it would be, start with your favorite clothes as the basis of your uniform. This should be stuff that that fits you well and you feel comfortable wearing. The idea is to have a wardrobe of only your favorite clothes. If you don’t have favorite clothes or don’t don’t care about fashion, ask someone you trust to help select your uniform.
  • Try to find versatile clothing that will work for several different settings. For example my Outlier pants, a staple in my uniform,ย work for casual and dress occasions.
  • If you can’t make one thing work for several occasions, create separate uniforms, e.g. a work uniform and a casual uniform.
  • When you find something you like, buy multiples. Get a few colors of the same item if you’re worried about looking the same all the time (but remember no one cares).
  • Even if you don’t wear the exact same thing every day, choose high quality clothing staples like a particular skirt, pant or shirt. Choose classic cuts in muted and complementary colors that you’ll be less likely to tire of and that work well together. Ideally, every item in your wardrobe should look good together.
  • Add variety and style to your uniform by wearing accents like colorful undershirts, shoes or jewelry.

Do you have a uniform? Let us know your suggestions in our comments section below.

[This post originally appeared on this site on April 12, 2013]

  • Great idea. My uniform: jeans or cords with a classic (usually vintage) blazer. I wear that uniform in all areas of my life. And I limit my clothes to a few colors: black, red and ivory. Makes like easier!

  • DianaBGKY

    I had a uniform even before realizing I did! In an effort to simplify, I wear black pants and most of the time a black jacket/cardigan. I then wear a colorful top, usually a simple, non-logo, dressier t-shirt. I also have a couple of colorful jackets/cardigans that I wear over a black top. I also wear black shoes most of the time. If I want to dress down I do by adding sneakers and maybe taking off the jacket. I wear jewelry, necklaces and bracelets, etc, to dress up the look. There have been times in the past when I experimented with other colors. I had a brown outfit for a while. I have had navy pants and jackets. I have thought I might someday build around navy, grey, and black. But for now, while I am working full time and also earning my MFA, I am keeping things simple and that means black with colorful tops.

    P. S. Another way this helps: laundry. Everything: pants, jackets, tops (since they are colorful but not pastels) can go into the same wash. And as long as I have enough for a week, I do not have to worry about what is clean and what is in the laundry basket because everything is mix and match.

  • billmoore

    I’ve been doing this for years.

    Same type and color shirt, same color casual blazer, jeans and black shoes.

    I own a dozen of each (other than shoes just 1 pair of those), and nothing else other than season specific coats. It’s worked well for me. Just for the record, I’ve been doing this far longer than Steve Jobs did it.

    • shakti muse

      Oh! nobody told me it was a competition………

      • billmoore

        Yea… Everyone attributes every human idea to Steve Jobs, who was at his core, a fucking dick. His skill: He stole many good ideas and sold them as his own. Jobs was one thing: the worlds greatest salesman. Nothing more. Sounds like you’ve been sold as well.

        • Tony W

          Dick? Interesting ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • RB

          At the very least, he made Those ideas happen for the rest of us. ๐Ÿ˜‰ As for whiners like you, it seems that’s pretty much what you’ll be doing for the rest of your life, so enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚ oh yeah… and staying bitter. good luck with that… ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • landshark123

            When you refuse to acknowledge your own daughter (even after a paternity test has proven she is yours) out of ego. You are by definition a dick.

          • Bill Moore

            Really? I KNEW the fuckwad. Personally. He was and always will be the embodiment of all that is wrong with Silicon Valley specifically and the high tech world in general. Greed, narcissism, jealousy, elitism and a righteous, but wrong, belief that they matter more than others. His “dent in the universe” was pitifully small and only available to the tiny percentage of rich asshats fanboys, like you I presume, who can afford his lock em in and suck em dry ecosystem. Bitter? No. Realistic about assholes being deified because they got rich stealing and lying? Yes.

        • landshark123

          IIRC his jeans and black turtleneck almost became a cliched joke. After he died, there were numerous comments about Tim Cook ‘assuming the turtleneck of power.

  • Kirstjen Lorenz

    I did the challenge here a couple years ago and loved it. I loved how it simplified my life. Instead of doing it for a month, I did it the entire winter.
    http://thesixitemschallenge.wordpress.com/

  • Dave

    High end jeans and cheap plain t shirt every day.

  • I started doing this about a year ago. I alternate a neutral (gray, black, white) button down shirt or a cardigan sweater layered with a cami (usually black but I have a few colors like berry and green too) on casual days. On meetings days I trade the button down for either a tan or black blazer. Always jeans or black slacks and flats or tennies (I have pink Converse to offset all the black and gray. and because I love them).
    I literally keep 3 shirts, 3 sweaters, 2 blazers, 2 jeans, 1 black slacks and 1 black shift dress in rotation. When they get too worn, I donate or re-purpose and replace.
    Like Dianna, I try to keep things in the same color family. I pretty much do a load of colors every week and a load of whites once a month. Talk about simple ๐Ÿ™‚ I might get away from black and go toward navy and tan in the future though. Black fades and looks bad too quick, even though it’s very slimming and elegant.

  • Prepster

    I’ve been also been doing this for years. Button down oxford cloth shirts, Navy Blue blazer, khaki pants and black shoes – 4 ties worn reluctantly.

    I own a about 20 of each & 10 pairs of 3 styles of shoes and nothing else other than season specific coats. It’s worked well for me. Just for the record, I’ve also been doing this far longer than Steve Jobs. It make deciding what to wear and packing for trips much simpler.

  • Mrs. Haga

    Like many of the people who have commented, my uniform consists of basic pants, shirts and jackets in neutral colors along with basic black and white (and sometimes a brightly colored piece to add interest). The colors all work together. Black pants with a white shirt and a beige jacket. Gray pants with a beige top and a black jacket. Black pants with a gray shirt and a bright pink jacket. Mixing and matching is simple with this uniform system. I often will wear a patterned scarf that has two or three of these colors. Makes getting out the door much easier.

  • So a guy wrote this, obviously. In my job (Marketing) and offline world (fashion blogger) – people do notice. I need at least a few options more than just the same skirt/pants/top. Plus it’s fun to have variety and I need different clothes for Spring/Summer vs Fall/Winter.

    That said, I know what looks good on me shape and style-wise – knit tops and pencil skirts. I have them in a ton of variations but the format is sort of a uniform.

    (PS ex-private school, uniform-wearer-for-9-years person here)

    • yes, a guy wrote this, but not without approval and serious revisions from his designer wife ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • RoseJB

    I almost always wear a dress to work and special occasions. Separates require extra effort.

  • Mine is blue jeans, T shirts with pockets and black loafers. When it’s cold out I wear a leather jacket. I have a blazer, white shirt, black slacks and a tie for weddings and funerals. I used to be a real clothes horse though. I found people DID notice. At least the women did. I got complements on my outfits often.

  • Tor

    Black T-shirt, black Levis, black shoes, red sox. Every day. Easy to dress.

    • shakti muse

      I remember a film with Peter Cook wearing red socks and I always have a little frisson of something when a man wears red socks………..

      • Ellie Golden

        He was the devil – the film was Bedazzled. Do you remember the Leaping Berylians? Brilliant!

  • kris

    My everyday uniform: Spring and summer, navy v-neck button-front cardigan, periwinkle blue short-sleeve t shirt, khaki pants. Fall and winter, heavier navy v-neck button-front cardigan, short-sleeve t shirt in the same shade of navy, gray pants. For weddings and funerals or dinner in a nice restaurant, three matching pieces that comprise my version of the little black dress: open-front cardigan, short-sleeve top, knee-length skirt.

  • shakti muse

    I make a point of using ‘out of date’ clothing – love it and in some circles it is considered to be collectable or vintage – i don’t care!
    I love my old sixties stuff and MY STYLE (bit muddled is the look sometimes) comfortable and ME is the tenet I follow mostly – ALWAYS clean and not always totally unfaded but I feel so natural and real, more friendly, cheerful and real somehow – shades of Jethro Tull – living in the past – I don’t care.
    I just cannot and will not wear the clothes I think I AM SUPPOSED TO wear – leave us all alone – just let us be who we are – no harm to anyone – sometimes real talking point and interesting and cheerful conversations ensues..
    I still wear so many of my originals and my sister has donated (gritting her teeth) so many too – more is not less it is just great!

    • Katherine

      Often when a garment looks faded it’s actually from detergent buildup, I put in about 1/4 of detergent in the detergent cap/cup & top it up with white vinegar. My clothes look just as colourful as when I first bought them & the vinegar absolutely kills any perspiration smells.

      • RoseJB

        Thanks for the tip. I will try this!

  • aokimoonchild

    It’s not true that people don’t notice. They definitely do. There was a guy at my office who wore white button downs every single day and everyone made jokes about it behind his back. If you’re going to wear a uniform, buy the same style in different colors at the minimum.
    That being said, I also have a uniform. I wear shift dresses topped with cashmere cardigans at work, and skinny jeans with tunic tops off-hours. I always get compliments on my style and deciding what to wear becomes a non-issue. I spent years at private school wearing a uniform and it was the best thing ever…

    • HairyGuy

      people will make fun of you regardless. be it your hair, your height, etc. as long as you are clean and do not stink, that’s all that matters. coworkers come and go. makes no sense to dress up to please others outside of cleanliness.

      • Michele Cook

        Exactly! Really as long as you are neat and clean, who cares if you wear the same outfit everyday? If you are not married to me or signing my paycheck I really don’t care what you think.

    • Bill Moore

      As a guy who wears his own uniform, I can assure you, those of us who do this couldn’t give two shits about what others say “behind our backs”.

  • Jeremiah

    I wear tees and boardshorts almost everyday. Sometimes, just boardshorts. It’s too hot for too much clothing around here, sometimes it’s even too hot for any clothing at all. Cheers from sunny Bali! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Lauren

      I always get resentful of men who can walk around bare-chested when it’s hot….I wear board shorts a lot too, long ones, but am stuck wearing a soggy bikini top to hide the apparently shameful fact that i was born with two x chromosomes

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  • Lydia

    I really love the uniform idea! In fact, !think you can wear the same thing day after day and people won’t notice, let alone care – after all, thery’re too busy worrying about how themselves and how they look! I am sure many people on here from the US remember the Little Brown Dress project that was done a few years back by a performance artist in NY (I think!). She handmade and wore the same dress for a year. A whole year. Same dress. Day after day. She just washed it and wore it until it literally fell apart. No one noticed (well, one person…!). She had no comments. No one cared. It’s amazing. It was a protest against consumerism. Google Liitle Brown Dress or look here for an interview with the artist: http://www.meetthegreens.org/episode2/little-brown-dress.html

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  • Rabdak

    Pink and yellow overalls, here, with cute turtles etched into the front flaps. I usually wear a long sleeved jersey shirt underneath it, with high end red shoes at least two inches bigger than my size. My hair is pasted back with dapper dan and due to my incessant smoker’s cough, I usually wear a face mask, much like Michael Jackson wore during the Jacksonian era of the late 20th century. It’s no secret that I don’t get much dates, nor have serious thought provoking conversations with the next guy, but don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been made fun of for being too shy.

  • 7e235

    love the uniform…i’ve read mark zuckerberg has a whole wardrobe of the same t-shirt/jeans he must have bought them batches. i have a lot of clothes and worked in an online fashion retail company where it was a constant fashion show. If they weren’t changing their outfit, it was the nail colour etc. It bored me endlessly. Hence I am no longer there.

    not sure i could wear the same outfit, but i do like the idea of wearing black…i have bought 4 pairs of the same black jeggings.

    simplifying just makes life so much easier. you can still be chic…just change the style a little. black linen tunic for summer, black cashmere winter etc.

    less clothes, better quality, buy fewer things, but things you love.

  • for those of us that would just feel to BORING to wear a uniform, here is another take from a recent issue of Oprah – a 33 item wardrobe, INCLUDING shoes and accessories like jewelry and belts. http://www.oprah.com/home/Declutter-Tips-Organizing-Strategies/3

  • Yey for this and it is so true. For more than 4 months now, I am wearing the same Printed Bow Blouse at the office, Black/Pink/Green/Black/Pink. I love it! I put them in a quick 30 minutes cycle at the end of the week, put them in their hangers to air dry and put them back in the closet in the same order ready for next week’s use.
    I wished I had bought more of these and kept them on stock.

  • RoseJB

    My husband got rid of all of his coloured shirts and only wore white shirts (changing his tie each day) to work. He wore three or four suits on rotation.

    I have a varied work wardrobe in terms of colours and prints, but the elements are quite uniform: sheath dresses, pencil skirts, and cream coloured blouses. As long as everything’s ironed I can just grab anything and look appropriate. I keep two pairs of heels at my desk (black and tan). People in the office think I’m quite fashionable, but in truth I just want to look nice while putting in minimal effort.

  • Amy

    Jeans, a good quality t-shirt, cardigan or casual jacket, a scarf, black shoes. I recently lost 30 pounds so I’m starting over from scratch with my fall/winter clothes and making a capsule wardrobe. I use scarves to add colour or a print and create more outfits. I can add my nice cardigan and a scarf to my t-shirt before going out the door so I look more dressed up.

    • HairyGuy

      keep your old clothes. you will need them when you gain those 30 pounds back. most people gain the lost weight back and then some. just fyi so you don’t get disappointed when the hammer falls.

      • Amy

        HairyGuy…such a fitting name for a troll. LOL!

      • lesliep

        awww, you’re such a sad sack. go crawl back under whichever rock you live beneath.

    • rustysmom

      How fun! Congrats on the weight loss. My goal is to lose 40 and I’m halfway there. Can’t wait to put my capsule together.

  • Tim Domenico

    I am retired and leave home only a few times a week, so basically I’m only dressing to please myself. I find the weather as the determining factor in what I wear. I have about 10 pieces of clothing I pick from.which covers me from 100 degree days in the summer to below freezing days in the winter.

    I have set my home up to minimize energy use. I use about $8 a month in the summer for cooling and about $40 a month for heating in the coldest winter months. I have a state of the art furnace (no pilot light, and the only vent is a 2 inch diameter PVC pipe), and half the rooms in my house are closed off from the heating system.

  • Cedric Reuter

    I think, whether or not people notice (some will, some wont) shouldn’t really matter in that superficial sense. But the idea of choosing what you wear is not insignificant. On a different level, people will notice what you wear in that it serves to identify who/what you choose to associate with.

    For the sake of simplification I love the idea because its just another point of unnecessary added worry (as evidenced by your HS story) to eliminate. I’ve found that worrying less about those types of choices (toothpaste etc) is rather liberating.

  • basicbizdev

    I have been working on this for a few years and using jewelry to change the look and feel of the outfits that I repeat! LOVE IT!

  • Deborah Nash

    As I live in the UK I grew up wearing uniforms at school- from age 4-18. The dominant colour of mine being Navy. I have never been able to wear Navy since!. Whilst I love school uniforms (and the way that every kid tries to add their own little rebellious edge) and find they help ease peer pressure, as well as costing far less for parents (there is a roaring trade of hand me down blazers/shirts/sweatshirts/dresses etc to siblings and friends) once you’ve lived like this in your youth the last thing you want is to do so at an older age. Wondered if you think this makes a difference? here’s an article from the Guardian written by a student http://www.theguardian.com/education/mortarboard/2013/oct/03/why-wear-school-uniform

  • GingeBot

    I’ve been doing this for a long time, too. I like to buy clothes online, so I’ve located a few companies I like, with good return policies and good sales. When I lived in NY state I had to have a winter and summer wardrobe, but now I live in Tucson and can use most things year round. I have black pants (Capri length and full length), plus a couple pairs of jeans. I may add a pair of khakis. I have t-shirts in black, white, royal blue and a couple others in color. I almost always wear black pants with black or white shirt. Then I have a few colorful jackets, and lots of scarves. I have black and white flip flops, and black shoes. Sometimes I get colorful shoes to add pops of color to my wardrobe. Tucson summer is black capris, white or black t, white or black flip flops, maybe a colorful scarf or jewelry. In the cooler months, I add a colorful jacket and wear black sneakers or maybe a pair of colorful Keen shoes. If I have to be more formal, black pants, black shirt, black or neutral jacket, black clogs. One good tip is to buy better quality clothes that last longer. I get a lot of my stuff at online retailer Travelsmith.com. Their stuff is always no-iron stuff and holds up well.

  • barbarainwyoming

    I’ve always had a limited wardrobe but since March I’ve worn the same thing every day: black trousers, grey cotton v-neck T-shirt, grey suede blazer, and red shoes. After the first month and a half, my boss still hadn’t noticed and I had to show her pictures before she believed that I’d been wearing the same thing.

    I need a higher quality shirt, though. Any suggestions? All of the nicer merino t-shirts I’ve come across have patterns and I hate them.

    • David Friedlander

      Check out outlier.cc or icebreaker. Both have great merino t’s. A little spendy but great quality.

  • eoz

    Banana Republic button downs and a pair of Gap khakis in different colors and fits w flats …sometimes I add a sweater or a cardigan

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  • Andrea

    great idea

  • Vendeline Venus

    Uniforms is the best for some reason..
    http://www.pusatkonveksiseragam.com/

  • sanjaya89

    I often will wear a patterned scarf that has two or three of these colors. Makes getting out the door much easier.
    http://www.panselnasmenpancpns.com/

  • I never really thought of myself as wearing a uniform, but I guess I do. Utilikilt, sleeveless tee, bare feet. I vary the fabrics and colors depending on my mood and/or the occasion, but otherwise requires minimal thought, minimal maintenance, and minimal storage space.