I’m a sucker for business style. Growing up with a father who went to a corporate job every day, watching Mad Men and Suits in high school and college, it’s no wonder that I ended up in a role in which I had an opportunity to dress business professional or business casual every day. Now here’s a disclaimer: I am not a fashion expert. However, I do understand the importance of knowing how to build a minimalist professional wardrobe early in your career that suits both your fashion needs and your budget.
In this article, you will learn what a minimalist professional wardrobe consists of, why it is so important to build one, and what specific items should be included when you build your own. Let’s get started!
What is a Minimalist Professional Wardrobe?
When I received the job offer for my first internship, one of the first things I did was take a look at my closet to see what business casual and business professional clothes I had available. Yikes, there wasn’t much. On a college student’s budget, there was a very limited buying power at hand to upgrade my style. Yet with a bit of research I understood that it was possible to build a professional wardrobe with this tight budget.
This concept of a minimalist professional wardrobe is an integral part of every young professional’s style. It consists of the essential elements of business professional and business casual style and identifies the minimum number of each elements required to complete a wardrobe. Let’s take a look at why this is so important.
Why is a Minimalist Professional Wardrobe Important?
Maybe we’ve already alluded to this answer, but the truth behind the need for a minimalist professional wardrobe is simple: Young professionals on a limited budget need to maximize their business style without breaking the bank. Plain and simple, a minimalist wardrobe is the tool that allows us to develop our professional image and boost our confidence.
In the following sections, we will begin reviewing each element of our professional wardrobe in detail. Keep reading below!
The Essential Elements of a Minimalist Professional Wardrobe
Now that we’ve reviewed what a minimalist professional wardrobe is and why having one is so important, it is time to dive into the core of this article’s content: What elements should you include when you begin building your own budget closet?
Below, you will find the key contents of every minimalist wardrobe:
- Dress Pants
- Dress Shirts
- Dress Shoes
- Dress Socks
As we explore each element, you will find insight on what qualities to look for, how many of each product you should include, and what specific products and brands I use daily that I would recommend you consider when building your wardrobe. Let’s check it out below!
Item 1: The Suit
The first item in our wardrobe: A suit! The suit is every businessman’s coat of armor, and in any professional setting it is essential to have at least one quality, well-fitting suit you can pull out of your closet when needed. You’ve probably heard or read that a truly good suit must be tailored and custom-fitted, and that buying off-the-rack is a cardinal sin of business fashion. While a custom tailored suit should be a style milestone for every young professional, our minimalist closet will focus on what to look for in a suit you can find at your local department store.
What qualities should you look for in a suit?
- Wool Material – Avoid polyester and polyester-blend suits at ALL costs! 100% wool suits are flexible, breathable, and feel much more natural
- Size – Just because you aren’t getting a suit custom-made doesn’t mean it shouldn’t fit well! Be sure to have your measurements taken for your jacket and pants
- Fit – Avoid the baggy appearance and embody a modern look by opting for a slim or tailored fit instead of a regular or classic fit (almost every brand will offer these options)
- Two-Button Jacket – I am no fashion expert but even I know this faux-pas: Leave the three-button suit jackets in the decades past where they belong
- Black or Charcoal Gray Color – For the sake of our minimalist closet, it is important to pick a “classic” color that is limited by neither season nor occasion (sorry blue and tan suits)
How many suits should be in your minimalist closet?
Just one! Feel free to add more as your career progresses, but for most roles you will not need more than one reliable and well-fitting suit in their wardrobe.
What suit do we recommend?
The first suit I ever bought for work still holds a special place in my heart (and my closet). It may have been off-the-rack from Macy’s, but it was a fair price, it was quality material, and it was mine. I’ve worn it to first days, final presentations, interviews, lunches with mentors, and meetings with executives. You can check it out for yourself by clicking the Amazon link below and deciding if it is the right fit for your professional wardrobe!
Item 2: The Dress Pants
Our second wardrobe item are dress pants! Sure, you’ve added a suit, but most days you will likely be wearing a simple dress shirt and dress pants. You’ll therefore want to make sure that your minimalist professional wardrobe has a few pairs hanging in the closet. Let’s take a look at what qualities your dress pants should have!
What qualities should you look for in dress pants?
- Cotton Material – You will find this material to be both flexible and breathable
- Size – Much like a suit, you don’t need a tailor to make your pants fit great, but be sure to take your waist and height measurement to ensure you have the correct size
- Fit – Look for a straight or slim fit in order to avoid the dated baggy appearance you’ll find in a classic or relaxed fit
- Classic Colors – Okay, you bought a black or charcoal suit – great! Now add some variety to your wardrobe with other classic colors such as blue or khaki
How many dress pants should be in your minimalist closet?
Two pairs should be a great start. If you bought a charcoal or black suit, add a pair of navy blue and khaki dress pants to round out our style.
What dress pants do we recommend?
They may have a reputation of being a “dad” brand, but I cannot say enough positive things about a classic pair of Dockers dress pants, Affordable, durable, and with plenty of straight and slim fit options, they absolutely deserve a place in a young professional’s wardrobe. You can see them for yourself with our Amazon link below:
Item 3: The Dress Shirts
I can tell you that there isn’t a much better feeling in your professional life than rolling up your shirt sleeves and diving into a project. You may as well make sure that you are embracing this experience in style! Below we will review just what to look for when you’re picking out dress shirts of your own.
What qualities should you look for in dress shirts?
- 100% Cotton Material – There is truly no substitute for the comfort and flexibility
- Size – Be sure to have your full measurements taken in order to find the perfect fit, and do not stick to the simple Small, Medium, Large scale!
- Fit – Anything classic is synonymous with baggy, so seek out slim or modern fits as a rule of thumb
- Wrinkle-Resistant – There are plenty of options that are designed to require minimal ironing and that are designed to acquire fewer wrinkles
- Classic Colors and Muted Patterns – White, light blue, subtle checkered patterns, etc are a great place to start
How many dress shirts should be in your minimalist closet?
My recommendation is to start with five. Two white shirts, one light blue shirt, and two subtly patterned shirts will ensure that you have a variable rotation for each day of the work week. You can always add more to your collection over time!
What dress shirts do we recommend?
For the duration of my professional career, I have only bought one brand of dress shirt. These shirts fit well, are extremely wrinkle-resistant, and are always available for a fair price. Check out the Amazon link below to see if they are the right fit for your professional wardrobe:
Item 4: The Dress Shoes
I will be honest: I am not particularly well-versed in the ins and outs of dress shoe style. However, I do know that when it comes to building your own minimalist professional wardrobe dress shoes are one of the easier items to add to your collection. Let’s take a look at just what makes a great starter dress shoe below!
What qualities should you look for in a dress shoe?
- Real Leather Material – This is really a non-negotiable, and there are plenty of options available across all price ranges for real leather dress shoes
- Fit – A bit simpler than measuring yourself for a dress shirt or suit but just as important
- Rounded Toes – You should avoid a blocky toe at all costs, but it should not be pointy either
- Brown and Black Color – That’s all you need to have a shoe for every outfit, regardless of pant or shirt color!
How many dress shoes should be in your minimalist closet?
Two pairs are all you need – One black and one brown pair of dress shoes will cover your style bases
What dress shoes do we recommend?
If you’re looking for a mid-range pair of dress shoes that embody all of the key qualities above, Dockers once again steps up to the plate with a timelessly classic option. Be sure to check out the Amazon link below and decide if they would make a good fit for your professional wardrobe:
Item 5: The Belts
Belts are the fifth item in our wardrobe, and while they may be considered an accessory rather than clothing they are still a non-negotiable element! Below we will take a look at what you should look for in a belt.
What qualities should you look for in a belt?
- Leather Material – As with dress shoes, there is no excuse for settling for any material besides true leather
- Silver Buckle – It may be a subtle point, but it is best to avoid a gold-buckle belt unless you are prepared to pair it with a gold-colored watch or other accessory
- Black and Brown Color – A black belt to match your black shoes; a brown belt to match your brown shoes
How many belts should be in your minimalist closet?
Buy yourself a brown belt and a black belt and you’re all set!
What belts do we recommend?
When I was building my minimalist wardrobe for my first role after graduation, I went online and ordered two Perry Ellis belts (one brown and one black). They’ve proven themselves to be durable in quality and versatile in style. You can check them out for yourself through the Amazon link below:
Item 6: The Tie
Okay, unless you’re in a sales or finance field you most likely won’t be wearing a tie every day. At my own company, even the formal dress code is unofficially the suit and dress shirt with no necktie. However, this does not mean that you do not need to have at least one necktie in your professional wardrobe for special occasions!
What qualities should you look for in a necktie?
- Anything But Polyester Material – You can find many great tie options with cotton, wool, or silk material
- Minimalist Style – If you are committed to picking a patterned tie, be sure to stick with a classic design such as stripes or dots (you can always add “fun” ties in the future)
- Blue Colors – Personally, a solid or patterned tie with primarily blue colors means you are able to wear it with a number of different suits, pants, and shirts
How many ties should be in your minimalist closet?
Use your judgement here, but if you know that you’re in a role where you will be wearing a tie once a quarter or less you should not need more than one tie to start your wardrobe.
What ties do we recommend?
For the sake of transparency, you could probably find a less expensive tie than this. However, I would argue that if you’re serious about building a minimalist wardrobe you should not hesitate to select a product that checks off the key boxes of quality and style. Below, you can find the Amazon link to my personal favorite tie (and one that has accompanied me through job interviews and big presentations):
Item 7: The Undershirts
Undershirts are a key part of your minimalist wardrobe, and this is not an area where you want to sacrifice quality or comfort. Come take a look at what is important to consider when buying undershirts!
What qualities should you look for in undershirts?
- 100% Cotton Material – There is nothing worse than low quality fabric rubbing up against your skin all day, so don’t let that happen
- Size – You don’t need to be swimming in your undershirt, but it shouldn’t be constricting you either – look for a size that drapes comfortably over your figure and that is long enough to be tucked in
- Style and Cut of Your Preference – I opt for crew-cut tee-shirts, but feel free to go with sleeveless and v-neck variants
How many undershirts should be in your minimalist closet?
6 shirts should be plenty, as this gives you one fresh shirt for each day of the week plus an additional shirt in case you have a formal event during the weekend.
What undershirts do we recommend?
For the past year and a half I have been loyal to one brand of undershirt in particular: Calvin Klein. Their premium undershirts are amazingly soft, fit true to size, and are long enough to tuck in and remain tucked in throughout the day. You can take a look at them for yourself with the Amazon link below:
Item 8: The Dress Socks
Dress socks are another accessory in our professional wardrobe that are easy to downplay or forget outright. Don’t forget to pick up a few quality pairs of dress socks before you consider your closet complete. Below we will explore what to look for before you buy!
What qualities should you look for in dress socks?
- Cotton Material – Not necessarily 100% (your socks should stretch and suspend on your legs after all), but a majority cotton material is important for comfort
- Color Variety – Blacks, blues, reds, and grays are going to be the primary colors you want to include with your wardrobe (as the color of your socks should go with both your pants and your shirt)
How many dress socks should be in your minimalist wardrobe?
Just like with dress shirts, 6 pairs will give you one pair for each day of the work week along with an additional pair at your disposal for any occasion during the weekend when you might need them.
What dress socks do we recommend?
Gold Toe is such a timeless brand, chances are you’ve seen your father or grandfather wear them. Yet in this case timeless does not mean out of style! They continue to offer quality, comfort, and a variety of style choices. See some of Gold Toe’s excellent options for yourself by clicking the Amazon link below:
Item 9: The Watches
In the realm of accessories, watches may be one of the few that we are actually excited to add to our wardrobe. They represent a timeless accent piece, from the minimal to the extravagant. Let’s take a look at what elements you should look for in a watch that you’re thinking of adding to your own wardrobe!
What qualities should you look for in a watch?
- Price – For your first few watches, I would personally avoid making any purchases greater than $60 – you will find plenty of great options below this price point
- Quality – If you feel or wear a watch that just feels cheap, it is probably neither reliable nor durable
- Brown and Stainless Steel Band – These are my two recommendations for your first watches, as this will allow you to pair them with black and brown shoes and belts
How many watches should be in your minimalist wardrobe?
I started my own professional wardrobe with two watches; one brown leather band and one stainless steel band. You could also opt for one brown leather band and one black leather band if you so wish.
What watches do we recommend?
Right now, the two favorite watches in my collection both cost less than $50, both are consistently durable, and both allow me to pair a watch with any outfit I put together. Don’t hesitate to follow both Amazon links below and decide if you want to add them to your collection today:
Building your first professional wardrobe is an exciting experience, but I know firsthand how daunting it can be. From the complexity of styles, to the numerous items you need to include, to the prices you are faced with paying on a limited budget, filling your closet is not easy! This article should serve as a continuous source of information and inspiration to help you perfect your minimalist professional wardrobe.
In case you’d like to see all of our product recommendations in one simple list, check it out below:
- The Suit – Calvin Klein Men’s X-fit Slim Stretch Suit Separate (Blazer and Pant)
- The Dress Pants – Dockers Men’s Slim Fit Signature Khaki Lux Cotton Stretch Pants
- The Dress Shirts – Calvin Klein Men’s Dress Shirt Slim Fit Non Iron Herringbone
- The Dress Shoes – Dockers Mens Garfield Dress Cap Toe Oxford Shoe
- The Belts – Perry Ellis Men’s Timothy Belt
- The Tie – Brooks Brothers Makers and Merchants Navy Purple Striped Tie
- The Undershirts – Calvin Klein Men’s Undershirts Cotton Classics Crew Neck T-Shirts
- The Dress Socks – Gold Toe Men’s Argyle Assorted Crew Socks
- The Watches – Timex Unisex TW2R29100 Southview 41 Multifunction Tan/Blue Leather Strap Watch – SKMEI Stainless Steel Analog Men’s Watch (Black)
I hope you feel confident and inspired to go forward and begin the first step in building your professional style! Would you like to look at our recommendations on upgrading your business travel style? Check out the article below!
Do you have your own business style tips to share? Have you found ways to build your own budget wardrobe? Please share in the comments below!