The Ultimate Capsule Wardrobe

I have wanted to write an article on my “desert island outfit” for many years now, but I was always saving it until I had more experience. However, I recently read a fantastic article by Ethan from Brycelands about his choice of capsule wardrobe. If you haven’t already read it, check it out immediately. Ethan knows more about menswear than I ever will. Inspired by that article, I have decided to finally write my version of this article with a couple of differences. 

This article will actually be two articles. I’m going to include the capsule wardrobe as Ethan did in his article and will then follow it up with my next article on my desert island/cartoon character outfit. In addition, that article will also include the desert island outfits of some of my friends and most stylish denim/Amekaji nerds on Instagram. I’m quite interested to hear what some of these other stylish friends will choose for their one single outfit and how they all compare to each other. 

I also recently listened to the Stitchdown Podcast episode in which they picked their top 5 boots they would want if they could only have 5 for the rest of their lives so I have been in the mindset of limiting my wardrobe so I think I am ready to reduce my closet into a capsule wardrobe and then down to a single outfit, at least in theory. 

The categories I will discuss are: Boots/shoes, trousers/pants, shirts, jackets, hats, and accessories. Belts, wallets, keys, and wedding rings are obviously not part of this as they are assumed to be included in the outfit. We will start from the bottom up. I will choose 3 items in each category. I will choose a specific type of item and then give suggestions and my specific top choice for that item. In addition, all of the items that I will choose are ones that I already own. 

A capsule wardrobe is meant to be limited in order to not just be minimalistic, but also encourage creativity in a way. I think this exercise will really make me think about which pieces I value most as well as their versatility. What will be most interesting is the fact that the capsule wardrobe is meant to be in a vacuum. The pieces must therefore all go well together because in theory, you cannot add any other items to the collection. This means that I cannot just pick my favorite items. I have to pick clothing that will go well together with all of the other pieces. This also makes choosing the items more fun, but also more difficult than if I were just picking my favorite from each category. 

This shirt is one of my three favorites, but it doesn’t work in my capsule wardrobe

For those of you that have been wearing this type of clothing for some time, hopefully this will give you some food for thought and inspire you to consider what your most valued items are as well as what you would choose for a capsule wardrobe. Those of you who are newer to this style of clothing will likely get more out of this article because it can really help you see what you would use for the building blocks of your wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe isn’t technically that as it is not meant to expand, but I think it would still work to see what the most important basics of a wardrobe are. With that said of course, my basics will likely be quite different than most other peoples’.

For the record, this is my personal ultimate capsule wardrobe at this moment. This was quite hard to do and I changed several of the items multiple times. To be perfectly honest, I am still too inexperienced to say confidently that I would stick to all of these choices forever. I just think that this will be an interesting exercise. Also, do keep in mind that the capsule wardrobe is built with the idea that it would be the only clothing that I would be wearing for the foreseeable future. Therefore, a lot of these choices are made with versatility in mind. These are not all necessarily my absolute favorite items in each category, but they are what I think will work best for my style. 

Boots/shoes:

  1. Dark Brown Engineer Boots

My love of engineers is well documented. Therefore it should not be a surprise that the most important boot in my reduced capsule wardrobe would be an engineer boot. Engineer boots go well with all of my outfits and fit my style perfectly. In fact, I would say they are part of what defines my style. They are not as bulbous and casual as some boots, but they are also not overly sleek either and therefore go well with my wider fit trousers. Getting them on and off is also a piece of cake for me which makes them my go-to options in the morning before work. In my opinion, nothing looks as cool as a pair of engineer boots and a well fitting leather jacket. Some will say that they both look cooler in black and I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but I personally prefer brown. I think it’s a little more versatile and I personally just prefer brown to black for clothing. 

In terms of which boots would work for this application, there are quite a few options that I like. On the lower end of the pricing spectrum, I like Wesco’s collaborations with Standard and Strange, though my Wescos fit me poorly. I also like Benzein’s new engineers, but the last still needs work to fit properly and I should have a second pair of them soon. The Mister Freedom Road Champs look great, but are still yet to be re-released and Attractions and John Lofgren have great options as well. For me, however, the two best engineers on the planet are from Clinch by Brass Tokyo and Role Club by Brian the Bootmaker. I have a pair from each of them in dark brown and they are my two favorite engineer boot makers. If I had to just have one pair of dark brown engineers, it would have to be one of these two. 

  1. Mid Brown Engineer boots

Only a few months ago, I would have put mid brown above dark brown in terms of my choices. I like it more as a color and as a leather, but for overall outfits and color combos, I like dark brown a little bit more. Still, mid brown is something that I love and cannot have this list without that color. I talked enough about why I love engineers above, but it does say a lot that two of my three pairs of boots are engineers. That’s how much I love them. For this option, I would go with my custom Clinch engineer boots. These are still my all time favorite engineer boots. The last is perfectly designed, the leather is gorgeous, and the upper stitching contrasts just enough to look great without being gaudy. 

  1. Burgundy semi-dress/packer-style boots

These are my third boot on the list for 2 reasons. Firstly, I adore the color burgundy and have acquired a lot of burgundy items in my wardrobe. Secondly, they are made by the best bootmaker in the world, Show Goto of White Kloud boots. There is no way that I could have a capsule collection of boots without a pair of his masterpieces. Made out of a Leder Ogawa shell cordovan that is burgundy in some lights and fire truck red in others, these are not subtle boots. If I were doing the building blocks of a new wardrobe, these would not be this high on the list.

However, because this is a capsule wardrobe and all items are being used only with the other items in the capsule wardrobe, these boots actually work quite well. As you will see later on, I have chosen other items to match these boots and the other boots that I purchased. Additionally, these being burgundy means they are actually wearable with some of the non-burgundy items in this capsule wardrobe. 

Trousers/bottoms:

  1. Indigo denim

Blue jeans are just a classic. They’re probably not actually my favorite pants to wear, but they’re incredibly versatile, generally comfortable, and have a timeless coolness to them as well. Once faded, they become infinitely more alluring and special. If I were picking my favorite trousers, jeans would not be at number 1, but for the capsule wardrobe that I have here, they are at the top. Part of this is because I love leather jackets so much and nothing works as well with a leather jacket as well as a well faded pair of indigo jeans. I don’t really wear denim jackets, so denim jeans work really well against all of the leather jackets that I own. 

My easy top pick for this category are my current main jeans: my Ooe Yofukuten 03 cut jeans from Barnstormer in Japan. Ooe makes what are most likely the best jeans in the world today. The construction is incredibly neat and the patterns are ridiculously well designed. That is a big reason why these are my go to jeans right now. I did have to size up slightly on them, but they fit extremely well and have a wide enough leg opening for me which has been difficult to find for me lately. Other top picks would be my well worn CSF 1937 jeans or my Mister Freedom Lot 44 jeans. For me, the rise has to be high, the thighs need enough room, and the leg cannot taper too much. I like a nice wide leg with my jeans. Skinny jeans don’t look good on anyone who isn’t on a stage so straight fit denim is just the right way to go. It’s more comfortable, more practical, and it looks better. 

  1. Tan chinos

My cheapest pair of trousers might be my favorite. My Buzz Rickson WWII chino trousers fit me better than any other pair of trousers that I have ever owned. The rise is extra high, the waist is slim, the thighs have room, and the leg remains wide throughout. After having them tapered on recommendation from my good friend @johnbbrooklyn, they look better than ever and I just adore how these fit me and how they look with the vast majority of my wardrobe. 

For some people, tan chinos are a rather boring choice, but I don’t agree with that. Nobody is going to mistake me in these for a dad in baggy dockers. The wide leg works because these are properly hemmed and have the right vintage fit that I am going for that show a slim waist rather than looking overly loose and sloppy. They pair perfectly with anything blue, burgundy, mid or dark brown, and of course white and ecru. 

  1. Ecru jeans/trousers

The fact that I don’t have anything olive in this capsule wardrobe surprised me, but I just don’t think that it’s as versatile as other colors. As a result, I went with ecru trousers here. Despite being relatively uncommon, they are extremely versatile because no color is as versatile as white/ecru. This color will just go with every single other item in my wardrobe without any issue. Even other ecru items will look decent with it as long as there are other colors in the outfit overall. The only real issue is the fact that these can get dirty, but that isn’t much of an issue and overall, is part of the charm.

My pick for these would of course be my Ooe Yofukuten ecru mechanic overalls that I received this year. They fit extremely well with a nice high rise and slightly slim, but still fairly straight fit. Like the tan chinos, they are nice and light in weight and color which will also be quite helpful during the summer time. There are of course other good options for ecru trousers from makers such as Grease Point Workwear, Orslow, Warehouse, and more. These are just my favorites.

Shirts:

  1. Ecru henley t shirt

Ecru henleys define my style more than any other item of clothing that I own. As much as I love engineer boots, fedoras, leather jackets, and White Kloud boots, my ecru Henley shirts are what tie everything together. The color of course looks good with literally everything and I just personally prefer the aesthetic of the henley to the standard t-shirt.  I  also prefer ecru to plain white. Ecru is not as stark or bright as a white t-shirt can be, looks a little classier in my opinion, and also covers up minor marks, stains, and sweat easier. 

Ever since I started this website, I have wanted to write an article about ecru Henley shirts because of how much I love them and how often I wear them, but I never have because there isn’t all that much to say about them. I wear them so much that they may as well be my uniform, but I guess I just see them as my standard so much that I can’t think of all that much to write about in regard to them. The  biggest endorsement I can give in regard to them is that if I really wanted to pare down this capsule wardrobe, I could honestly be happy with just the ecru henley as my only shirt. That’s how much I love them.

In terms of brands, I have two that I like the most. Stevenson Overall Co. and Merz B. Schwanen. They are both nice ecru colors, are loopwheeled, and have high quality fabrics. The Merz ones are longer in the body and slimmer as well as more even in texture and the Stevenson ones are shorter, boxier, and have more texture than any t-shirt I have aside from my Warehouse ones. Both are excellent and if you’re a big henley fan like I am, you should grab both. 

  1. Light blue Chambray shirt

This one is an interesting choice because I don’t wear this type of shirt as often as many other people do. However, this is a capsule wardrobe and I have to go for versatility and for the Amekaji-heritage wardrobe, the only thing that could be considered close to as versatile as a white t-shirt is the classic light blue chambray shirt. Chambray is great because in a light weight, it is wearable in warmer weather while also pairing perfectly with a leather jacket in fall, winter, and spring. The light blue color is fantastic because it works with almost every color and even can be worn with indigo denim because it is such a different shade. Chambray shirts also age and develop over time to a degree if worn enough which is pretty cool.

It is also a great casual shirt that can be as dressed up as most situations would ever called for simply because of the fact that it is a standard button up shirt, but the texture makes it great for the Amekaji wardrobe and keeps it from looking too stiff and wannabe formal like the majority of shirts that men wear today. The fact that formality levels have dropped so much have elevated the chambray shirt to the point that I have seen salesmen wear them with ties to sales calls and get compliments on them. In my life, the only time I would need anything more formal than this is when wearing a suit maybe once a year. Simply by tucking my shirt in and caring about what I wear, I look dressed up to people so a chambray shirt is the ultimate in versatility.

This isn’t the same light blue chambray, but I basically use it interchangeably

My choice for this would be my Freewheelers Neal light blue chambray shirt, but there are so many other great ones out there. The Rite Stuff would be my other top choice, but almost every brand makes a version of this so you are spoilt for choice with this shirt. 

  1. Burgundy t shirt

Part of the reason for this choice is the simple fact that I love burgundy. This will work well with basically everything I have chosen for this wardrobe. It would work well with the burgundy boots during the summer and I think I could even get away with wearing it with the burgundy leather jacket if I had to. My burgundy Warehouse t-shirt is probably my second most worn t-shirt after my ecru henleys. Burgundy is an incredibly versatile color and is fairly underrated still in my opinion. There aren’t too many available, but I wear the one I do have quite often with blues, browns, blacks, and even greens.

  1. Sage green chambray shirt

This is actually my favorite chambray shirt. While not as versatile as a light blue chambray, I think one like this stands out more and looks cooler. Plus, I just personally like the color more. This shirt would look good with everything I have chosen. I don’t care how “Christmas” people think red and green are together, they look awesome together to me. The other combinations available with this shirt are unquestionably good. 

My choice for this shirt is of course my Rite Stuff Atlas shirt. There really are not a lot of options for this type of shirt which is why I am so glad that Bryan from The Rite Stuff chose this as one of his colors. 

  1. Yellow and blue jacquard shirt

This one is a bit of a wild card because it really isn’t a type of shirt. Like with the White Kloud boot choice, this entry was chosen because of one specific item- my Freewheelers Conductor 1910 jacquard shirt in yarn dyed gold, cream, and blue. It’s a special shirt that adds some nice pattern to my wardrobe, but is still is quite versatile. The texture and fabric is gorgeous and the gold color is surprisingly versatile, helped by the blue and cream in the fabric. It simply suits the clothing that I wear in general and especially for this capsule wardrobe extremely well. 

Jackets:

  1. Brown deerskin sports jacket

All of the jackets that I have chosen for this capsule wardrobe are leather jackets. If I am going to wear a jacket, they are always my first choice and I never wear a non-leather jacket if I can wear a leather jacket instead. That is exemplified by my ultimate leather jacket- the deerskin leather jacket. Horsehide was always my ultimate jacket leather until I bought my first deerskin piece. The comfort converted me and it is now my favorite jacket leather. It also stands out a bit and has a very different look that is more matte and textured which I love. 

The brown color is darker than average, but certainly not so dark that it would ever be confused with black. It goes with just about everything and the actual model of the jacket is also quite versatile. This one is basically a 1930s sports jacket, my personal favorite style of leather jacket whether it be straight zip as this one is or cross zip. By far this is my most worn leather jacket from 2021 and will almost certainly remain that way going forward. 

This pick is based on my Freewheelers Bodie jacket although there are other models that could substitute for this. Thedi Leathers offers something fairly similar and if you are not attached to deerskin, there is a myriad of makers that offer brown sports jackets that are similar enough to this one. One of my favorite aspects of this one in particular is how short it is, but that may not be something that everyone would want so you may want to look at Rainbow Country, Himel Bros, Thedi, Field Leathers, or other models from Freewheelers.

  1. Mid/red brown horsehide half belt jacket

Mid/red brown is my favorite leather color without question so I had to have it on my list. You will notice that my leather jackets are following the same pattern as my boot choices and that is because I am big on matching leathers. Each leather jacket I chose needed a corresponding pair of boots which is why my boots and jackets are classified by color and not only model/style. 

This is pretty much a standard half belt jacket in a beautiful red/brown horsehide color. It is versatile in terms of color and the style, going with just about everything and suiting my preference for 1930s-1940s jackets very well. This is unsurprisingly also from Freewheelers, but again, there are too many makers that offer a jacket like this to list. 

  1. Burgundy A2 horsehide leather jacket

This jacket was chosen more for the color than the style, though having an A2 in my wardrobe is pretty important to me. I have always thought that the style suited me fairly well and this one matches well with my White Kloud boots, which is why I chose it. It is made by Rainbow Country so it was produced in the same place that the Freewheelers jackets from this list were made. As loud as this jacket is in some ways, the color really is quite versatile and matches with a lot. It stands out from the crowd, but blends into my wardrobe nicely which is why I picked it. 

Hats:

  1. Rust Fedora

As you most likely have noticed by now, there are a lot of reddish colors in this wardrobe and there will actually be a burgundy scarf later on too. Being that I love hats and had to include them as a separate category from accessories, I feel that the most versatile hat that I could include in this capsule wardrobe is a rust fedora. Rust fur felt hats are a slightly muted, reddish-brown felts. As a result of this melding of tones, it works with just about anything that is not black. It contrasts beautifully with blues and it obviously blends well with browns and different red tones. 

For me, a nice mid height with a fairly wide and nearly flat brim at nearly 3” works quite well for me. Personally, I do not think that stingy brim hats work for this kind of style, regardless of your face shape. Some people might go wider which is fine as well and I may do that in the future, but I am comfortable with this one as it is. 

Specifically, it is a custom hat from Wellema Hat Co in 100% beaver fur felt. Cody actually specifically suggested rust as the color for the hat due to my skin tone and he was spot on with that suggestion. We also went with a dual band, something he is especially skilled at and I love how it came out. It is definitely my favorite hat that I own right now. There are quite a few excellent hat makers out there, but I would certainly put Cody Wellema up there with the best of them.

  1. Tan Fedora

To be honest, this isn’t quite a tan fedora. The color that Cody talked me out of was camel, which is pretty much a golden tan color. I just cannot quite think of a better name for what this color actually is, but I know I love it. The hat itself is from Optimo made out of 100% silverbelly beaver fur in a color that they call camelback. It is several shades darker than the traditional camel color and also has a bit of a green tinge to it that I really like. It works well with most of my clothing and is especially good with my darker browns despite not being dark itself. 

Fedora hats are quite important to me for style purposes. I will be the first to admit that I don’t technically need a hat right now, but they are no longer bought for purely practical purposes. If you are going to wear a fedora, you are putting at least some effort into your appearance. Nothing makes you stand out more than a true fedora or western fur felt hat for better or worse and in my opinion, most of my best and most complete outfits include one. That is why I had to have a hat list in the first place and why I had to have two fedoras on that hat list.

  1. Straw cap

As much as I would prefer to have fedoras for all of my hats on this list, the weather unfortunately does get too warm for them at times. Given the fact that I am not into Panama hats, my best option for summer is a lightweight and breathable classic cap. Vintage style 1910s-1930s style vintage caps are still quite unique today and help finish off an outfit, but are not quite as bold as a fedora in the minds of most modern people. Light, breathable straw in a natural color gives me sun protection and style in the heat while also being versatile in terms of color.

My personal choice here is from The Well Dressed Head, a hatmaker from Australia who makes some seriously high quality caps. This one here is especially nice because it uses an extra light and breathable liner and a straw hat band instead of leather to make it even more wearable in the warm. There aren’t actually that many options for something this well suited to the heat. Monsivais Co. makes great hats as well and does have some good summer options as well so check him out too.

Accessories:

  1. Gold square aviators

I love sunglasses. They are probably the most important and practical items in my wardrobe. The sun is a deadly lazer and I am not a fan of it so I pretty much refuse to step outside without a pair of sunglasses on. They also just look cool as long as you aren’t wearing wraparounds. My favorite style of sunglasses for the longest time was the square aviator model. I feel that they fit my face well and are a little more unique than the more popular teardrop style. I pretty much always go for gold with my metal sunglasses because of how much brown I wear and because gold still works with black as well of course. With that said, I would choose a brown lens for this model over green because I like to blend browns and because as you may have noticed, I do not have any black items of clothing whatsoever in this capsule wardrobe. 

The specific glasses I have chosen here are my beloved Oliver Peoples Victory 55 model. It is made in Japan out of titanium and high quality polarized glass lenses. There are other great metal sunglasses out their and I love what Matsuda does especially in this category so if you cannot find the old version of the Victory that I have or don’t love how it looks, go look at Matsuda.

  1. Tortoiseshell acetate sunglasses

I used to only go for metal sunglasses, but this year I took the plunge into some high quality acetate frames and I am glad I did. As much as I love the more fun and unique models I have in army green and navy blue, this capsule wardrobe requires versatility so I will go with a beautiful brown tortoiseshell model that I have. These are a wonderful and versatile 1960s-esque frame that work style and color-wise with just about everything else in this wardrobe. I suppose they are not perfect with the straw cap, but I would still wear them together anyway despite the clashing decades present. 

This specific pair is from Jacques Marie Mage as are all of my acetate sunglasses. Nobody seems to be able to make acetate glasses like JMM does. They are bold, overbuilt in Japan, and gorgeous and I cannot recommend them enough. 

  1. Burgundy scarf

I could include my eyeglasses here, but I won’t count those or belts because those are just basic necessities just like a wallet and keys are. Therefore, my final accessory pick is a burgundy scarf. As much as I would prefer to have another pair of sunglasses, I cannot deny that I do actually need a scarf sometimes and especially given that I went with fairly thin and breathable shirts and no flannels or sweatshirts at all, the scarf is an absolute must-pick for me even if I only wear it 10-15 times a year. Plus, If I travel during winter, it will get worn a bit more most likely. 

As said before, I love burgundy and it works well with much of what I have in this wardrobe so that makes it a no-brainer choice. My specific choice here is from Marumasu which makes their high quality scarves in Japan. This one is made out of tencel and is super warm and soft. There are definitely other great scarf options out there if you need and I know that many people would go for a turtle neck over this, but for my needs and my weather, the scarf is the right choice. Also, for the record, my eyeglasses are a beautiful Clubmaster model in navy blue acetate and silver titanium made in Japan by Globe Specs and I adore them. 

Well, that’s it for my full capsule wardrobe. It was not easy at all to make, especially considering that I locked myself into only choosing items that I already own. That made it more fun, but more difficult. In no way is this a truly solid list an I will probably change my mind a week after I post this article if I don’t already change it before it is posted. Still, this was a fun exercise and I hope you learned something from it as well. Stay tuned for the next article in which I discuss my desert island/cartoon character outfit(s) as well as those from some of my friends on the internet!

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