In 2012, I decided to try an interesting, albeit somewhat extreme, experiment: to wear the same thing every day, all year.
Like many people, I make New Year’s resolutions. But rather than make a list containing many things I’d like to change or accomplish, I usually come up with just one and it’s generally along the lines of, “This is going to be The Year of X.” It keeps it simple and straightforward and definitely increases the chances that I will follow through. In 2012, I decided to try an interesting, albeit somewhat extreme, experiment: to wear the same thing every day, all year long. Yes, 2012 became The Year of Wearing One Thing.
I always become a pretty voracious reader during the fall and early winter months. I’m not usually much of a reader during the rest of the year, but something about chilly weather makes me want to curl up with a good book. And in December of 2011, I found myself reading the just-published biography of Steve Jobs. Among the many quirks Jobs had and/or developed during his lifetime was his uniform: black Issey Miyake turtleneck, washed Levi’s denim jeans, and New Balance sneakers. It became a style as singular as that of the products he helped create at Apple.
But the rationale was what really intrigued me. By not having to select what he was going to wear on a daily basis, Jobs basically took one decision out of his very busy life and freed his mind up just that much more. Granted, I am not as busy as Steve Jobs, but I was extremely attracted to the idea of simplifying. What more could I accomplish (or what new things might I accomplish) if I removed a daily style decision from my life? I wanted to know.
This Look: Navy chinos by J.Crew, Black gingham shirt by Express, Washed denim jacket by Levi’s, Brown corduroy pocket square by The Tie Bar, Brown desert boots by Clarks, Brown leather plaque belt by J.Crew, watch with brown leather strap by Timex.
Choosing my outfit required a little bit of thought as it had to meet certain standards for both my personal and professional life. Actually, the professional life part of the equation played the biggest role in the decisions I made. For my job, I am sometimes required to wear what has been termed Smart Casual. (No word on what Dumb Casual might be…) Smart Casual basically means No Sneakers, No Jeans, and a Collared Shirt. Other than that, everything else is fair game.
I opted for something extremely versatile that walked the line between dressed up and casual without leaning too far in either direction: a black gingham shirt with navy chinos. That was my foundation. From there I chose a few accessories—brown belt, brown loafers, and a watch with a brown leather strap—to complete the look. Simple. Stylish. And I definitely felt like I had all my bases covered no matter what the situation.
This Look: Navy shorts by Gap, Black gingham shirt by Express, White boat shoes by Sperry Top-Sider, sunglasses by Persol, Brown leather plaque belt by J.Crew, watch by Timex, striped NATO G10 watch strap by J.Crew.
Challenges and Compromises
As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, 2012 wasn’t exactly The Year of Wearing the Same Exact Thing. There were challenges that arose that prevented me from a completely pure Jobs-ian realization of the initial idea. First among them was environmental.
Baltimore gets really hot in the summer and really cold in the winter. It dawned on me that walking out the door in January without a coat or in July wearing long pants definitely wasn’t practical (or healthy, for that matter). I compromised by creating four separate looks—one for each season—but all based on the same gingham shirt/navy chinos foundation. Different shoes, different accessories, but still the same basic look. I also created one with a blazer and tie that would be suitable for more formal occasions.
Did I have to do laundry more often? Yes, I did. Especially in the summer. One way I tried to combat that was to wear a V-neck undershirt, thinking that having an extra layer between my armpit and my shirt could help increase my button down’s wearability by at least another day or two. It generally worked. And don’t even ask: I changed my underwear every day.
This Look: Navy chinos by J.Crew, Black gingham shirt by Express, Grey tweed blazer by Brooks Brothers (part of suit), cotton pocket square and burgundy wool knit tie by The Tie Bar, Black leather belt by Perry Ellis, Black penny loafers by Bass Weejuns, watch with black leather strap by Timex, vintage silver tie bar.
The most interesting thing about wearing the same thing every day for an entire year was this: nobody noticed! Yes, that’s right. I’ll say it again: NOBODY. NOTICED. Maybe some people did notice and were trying to be polite by not mentioning it, but I don’t think so.
The most telling interaction I had was with a close friend and colleague. For my job, I travel with a large group of people for roughly 35 days at a time. These folks see me up close and personal on a daily basis. About 30 days into one of our trips, I asked my closest buddy if he had noticed that I’d been wearing the same exact thing for the entire trip. He said he had not. Neither had his roommate and we, the three of us, typically hang out together every single night. Huh.
This Look: Navy chinos by J.Crew, Black gingham shirt by Express, boots by Timberland Earthkeepers, Navy wool upland jacket by Woolrich John Rich & Bros., black and grey herringbone ivy cap by Cappello, houndstooth scarf by Scotch & Soda, watch with brown leather strap by Timex.
Beyond the somewhat fascinating realization that people seemed largely oblivious to the fact that my outfit or look never changed, the real takeaway for me was what this journey taught me about versatility. Style-wise, I was able to do a lot with very little. That was refreshing and empowering.
In many ways, The Year of Wearing One Thing paved the way for He Spoke Style. Though I’m obviously focusing on a larger range of menswear than one shirt and one pair of pants, it’s still all about defining what is essential and experimenting with the possibilities. Yes, I admit that my year of style discipline was definitely extreme. Go big or go home! But I would definitely not have the same perspective on style had I not done it. Which is to say, it was totally worth it.
Thanks for reading.
He Spoke Style
Photography by Rob McIver Photo.