I’ve Worn the Same Three Shirts Every Day For Two Years
Here’s what I’ve learned.
I’ve never had much style.
In high school, my idea of ‘cool’ was baggy cargo shorts and knee-high socks. I desperately wanted to look like Tom Delonge from Blink 182. I even wore Sillybandz (remember those?) on my arm to mimic his tattoo sleeve.
As I entered my adult years, things got better. I joined a support group for fashionless dudes and stayed engaged in our meetings.
Jokes aside, I discovered that so long as my clothes weren’t super baggy and I smelled okay, I wouldn’t completely repulse the opposite sex.
But I was never totally satisfied with what I was wearing. It was like I had decent taste but no real idea of how to actually fulfill it.
- The hipster look
- The rockstar look
- The hippie look
- The business guy look
- The douche-bro look (i.e. lots of tank tops)
My lack of fashion sense never got in the way of my health, wealth, or relationships. But deciding what to wear every morning was a nagging puzzle I could never manage to put together.
That is, until I discovered filmmaker and minimalist Matt D’Avella.
Matt’s videos inspired me to take several steps to minimize my life down to the bare essentials. In this article I’m going to focus on one area: wardrobe.
The possibility of eliminating the throbbing stress of mixing and matching my outfits excited me. So, I decided to begin my “journey of less.”
Two summers ago, I went into Kohl’s and bought the three t-shirts in the photo above — two pairs each.
I wanted my closet to look like SpongeBob’s — a long row of the same exact shirt.
Since then, those shirts — along with three pairs of pants — have made up the entirety of my outfit selection. Now, after nearly 800 days, I want to talk about:
- What I’ve learned, and
- How you can reduce stress by trimming down your own wardrobe.
Okay, I haven’t worn them every day. There are a few exceptions:
- Athletic wear — when I’m working out or doing jiu jitsu.
- A couple sweaters/sweatshirts — when it’s cold or in the evenings.
- Tank tops — because how else am I supposed to look big after lifting?
- Dress shirts — for fancier occasions.
Aside from these, 90 to 95 percent of my days have been spent wearing the same three outfits.
What others think
“Are you wearing the same shirt?”
Do you know how many times I’ve been asked this question in the last two years?
And it happened a week ago.
In the documentary Minimalism, a woman pursues Project 333. In other words, she only wore 33 articles of clothing for three months: clothing, accessories, jewelry, and outerwear.
She was terrified.
At her office, she was known as the stylish one. She came in with unique and dashing outfits and received a ton of praise from her friends and coworkers.
The cost? A ridiculous amount of time and energy in fashion planning, as well as a chaotically cluttered closet.
Her fear was that one week in, people — especially those who knew her best — would start pointing out the items she was repeating.
To her astonishment, after three whole months…not a single person noticed.
After interviewing employees in her office and a few of her closest friends, we learn that not a single person even recognized that she had done anything different with her wardrobe.
The major lesson
Before I provide the crux of this article, I’d like to clarify that I have nothing against people who take time to invest heavily in what they wear. I find it impressive and cool.
Just like my friend who is passionate about makeup: If you love the intricacies of something that makes you look and feel good, I’m certainly not trying to discourage you.
Also, I’m not advocating that you dress like a slob. Being presentable is a wise and healthy thing to do.
But the lesson from Project 333 and from my last two years is this:
No one really cares about what you wear.
Don’t believe me? Try your own Project 333.
You will quickly realize that people are much more concerned with their own appearance than they are with anyone else’s.
“Seriously…How often do you really look at a man’s shoes?”
— Red, from The Shawshank Redemption
Another great example is if you’ve ever traveled to a foreign country.
When I studied abroad and lived in Germany for a year, it didn’t take long to realize that I only really chose to wear two or three outfits. You probably know where I’m going with this…
No one fucking cared.
Yes, most people knew I was studying in a foreign country and they might have unconsciously given me some leeway. But the big picture shows us that people tend to be much more concerned about who you are than what you wear.
Are you kind? Can you make people laugh? Do you tell good stories?
To most people, these are the things they’re considering when they’re sizing you up, not how well your belt matches your pants.
When I told my super stylish buddy my epiphany two years ago — that nobody really cares about what you wear — he scoffed.
This was understandable. I could’ve been more mindful about the fact that he was incredibly passionate about fashion and clothing.
But his objections all came from a place of emotional interest rather than actual evidence. He hadn’t ever actually tried wearing the same stuff consistently to test other people’s reactions.
Two years into my minimalist wardrobe, and I can confidently confirm that people genuinely don’t give a shit about my shirts.
I’ve actually had way more people tell me I dress nice than folks roasting me for my simple attire.
When I tell this to fashion gurus, most of them have surprisingly expressed envy, not frustration. They would say things like, “I wish I didn’t care about what I wore as much as I did.”
Taking away the burden of deciding what to wear can clear up a hefty amount of bandwidth. That’s brain space you can use in other areas of your life that require time and effort.
Apparently, big-time entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg stick to a minimal wardrobe so as to limit the decisions they have to make in a day.
As for me, I love showering, throwing on one of my three shirts at random, and getting to work. It’s become a mindless routine. I’ll often forget what I’m wearing until I look down from my computer screen.
Decluttering: How to actually scale down your wardrobe
Aside from Project 333, there are plenty of ways to reduce your closet down to the things that actually provide value to your life.
Here are some of my favorite methods.
1–30 Day Challenge
A 30-day challenge where on each day, you get rid of one more item in your home. And the number of items increases exponentially.
One item on the first day, two items on the second, three on the third, and so on.
After one month, you will have removed all of the nonessentials from your space. This includes clothes, collectables, movies, toys, books, everything.
Set aside three hours on a Saturday to go through your wardrobe. Put on your favorite playlist and go to town.
For each item you consider, ask yourself a few questions:
- On a scale of 1 to 100, how much value does this bring to my life? If the answer is less than 90, get rid of it.
- How much would I pay to keep this? If the answer is $0, get rid of it.
You can also go the Marie Kondo route:
- What purpose does this item fulfill? If the answer is anything like, “This would be perfect for when maybe I possibly need to go to a Bar Mitzvah and it rains,” get rid of it.
- Do I have a set home or space for this item? If the answer is no, get rid of it.
- Am I showing enough gratitude toward this item? If you’re not taking care of it, you clearly don’t value it…so get rid of it.
- Does this item bring joy to my life? Similar to the 1-to-100 question. If you have to force reasons and justifications for keeping it, get rid of it.
You may think those shoes hanging on your door bring you value. But if you haven’t worn them in two years, then, by definition, they are bringing you zero value.
The separate rack
My personal favorite.
If you have space, buy one of those portable clothing racks and put all your shirts on it. When you want to wear one, take it off, but when you’re done with it, just put it back in your closet or dresser.
After one or two months, whatever is left on the mobile rack is clearly not vital to you or your life.
In that case, my friend, get jiggy with it.
Wait, no. Sorry…
*Get rid of it.