When I wrote my series of articles on the gear I use to travel light, I ended it with an even stronger affinity towards the gear I use when I travel. In almost every case this clothing was better than the clothing I wear on a normal day.
Let’s just take the most basic of all wardrobe items: jeans. For many of you reading this post, jeans are probably right up there with with a t-shirt as a core thing you wear almost everyday (if not everyday), and something you also feel exceedingly comfortable in.
This was true for me as well, and I work from home, so pants optional. Yet I still chose jeans, in my case Seven for all Mankind was my choice. Very comfortable, durable, and they look good.
And yet, after testing all the pants I came across: the Outlier Futureworks, the DU/ER AC Pants, and Outlier Strongworks each is a substantially better pant than my standard jeans. For starters, where I might wash jeans every 7-10 days, I wash these pants every 6-8 weeks, at most.1 They are also supremely comfortable as they have gusseted crotches and stretch built in. The Outlier pants each repel water and stains like magic and dry insanely fast. The DU/ER pants feel like cheating because they are so soft and comfortable, and so light and breathable that it doesn’t feel fair.
In every way those three pairs of pants are better than my jeans. So don’t even get me started on things like chinos.
Since I wrote my last Travel Light post, I have been thinking hard about my wardrobe and how I might adjust it based on all my research into this other type of clothing. I’ve gone over a ton of brands here on this site, and I’ve finally settled on some recommendations about how you might craft a solid, if minimal, but still insanely versatile wardrobe with this clothing — all while being more comfortable than people would ever imagine.
Here’s the list:
- 2 Wool & Prince Button Downs
- 2 Wool & Prince t-shirts
- 1 Icebreaker Anatomica Merino Wool v-neck
- 1 Oliver’s Porter Hoodie
- 4-7 ExOfficio Give-n-Go Boxers
- 3 pair Darn Tough Light dress socks
- 1 Clark’s Desert Boots
- 1 Nike Internationlists
- 1 Outlier Futureworks
- 1 Outlier Strongworks
- 1 DU/ER AC 5 Pocket Pant (optional)
- 1 Cubed Jacket
- 1 NVSBL Undershirt
- 1 Outlier New Ways Shorts
- 2 Ministry Apollo Polo Shirt
- 1 Merino Wool Sweater, v-neck
- 1 Down Jacket
With that list, I could handle anything I need to do, which wouldn’t require a suit. Any climate, any activity. I want to focus on a few of the items on this list and go over why I am basically getting rid of my “normal” clothes and going with this particular type of clothing.
Button Down Shirts
I own buttons downs from Ministry, Outlier, Wool & Prince, and Mizzen & Main and while I like all of the shirts I own, they are all very different. At the end of the day I think Wool & Prince strikes the right balance.
They offer 100% merino wool shirts at really affordable prices, with stylish patterns. The knit is not too heavy and not too light, while holding up very well to travel and kids. The shirt holds a nice structure to look less casual, but not too formal. The brand also offers a ready variety of sizes and cuts.
If I didn’t care about patterns and money was no object then the Outlier S120 No-Pocket Pivot shirt is awesome. It is noticeably heavier than Wool & Prince and significantly harder to buy if you wear XL — and only comes in solid colors, but it’s a great shirt. (The Pivot sleeve is really awesome, which is part of what makes the shirt so great. With this sleeve, you don’t need a shirt with stretch and it is the biggest reason to opt for Outlier.)
I have been torn for months over these two shirts and ultimately just bought another Wool & Prince button down to round out my wardrobe because I don’t think the Outlier is worth the added cost and wait in trying to get one in your size. I really love Outlier, but they need to get a handle on inventory and production if they want to keep me buying from them. The waiting is frustrating. And so as I thought about it more, the Wool & Prince became more obvious as I think I was ultimately leaning towards Outlier more for the brand than anything else.
The Wool & Prince shirts are just fantastic, and I think many would be hard pressed to tell it’s not a cotton shirt at first glance.
Of all the pants I have tried, I will tell you right here and now that if money was no object I would buy all the Outlier pants. They are amazing and check all the boxes. While Outlier talks up it’s 60/30 Chino and the Slim Dungarees, I think the better pants are the Futureworks if it is warmer than 60° outside, and the Strongworks for outside work, or cooler weather. They are without a doubt my day to day pants. (I do plan on testing through the Slim Dungarees as well, but have not yet.)
I tossed the DU/ER’s on the list above, because they feel like heaven, but they are also mostly cotton so they don’t tick every box. If you just want something other than sweats to wear around the house, check these out. But for me the Outlier pants are phenomenal. On my list next is another pair of Futureworks in an alternative color. I can’t wait (but ffs I hope they start stocking more of my sizes).
The pants are comfortable, durable, and all around awesome. They can go hiking, work in the yard, and then go out to dinner. They stand up to sticky kid hands and plane flights which are long and boring. Rock solid, and honestly I have no fucking clue why you would buy anything else. I mean I get the argument for a nice cotton button down, but not for any pants over these.
Let me start by saying: I have not tested very many casual t-shirts. I know many who have, and they all seem to agree that the Wool & Prince shirts are the way to go. So that’s why I picked them and bought them. I wasn’t even going to get any, but I’ve begun getting rid of a lot of my cotton shirts and I think replacing them with these shirts is the ideal route.
Wool & Prince offers both 100% merino and a merino blended with nylon. I purchased the latter so that I have a more durable shirt, as my intention is to wear this shirt as a shirt and not an undershirt in the summer months. That’s the reason for the pick, but I will say that the Outlier shirt calls to me, but $100? I think Macklemore would shit himself if he found out.
As you know, I’ve tested the shit out of undershirts. In my above list I have two: Icebreaker merino, and NVSBL the reigning undershirt champ. For causal situations and looks, I think the Icebreaker is better. It’s more comfortable and can go a 5 days of straight wear without needing to be washed. It’s amazing. It also offers another layer of warmth under your button down if you need it.
For formal looks, or when I don’t want to be seen with an undershirt on, the NVSBL is the best money can buy. It’s fantastic. With the Wool & Prince button downs, if the weather permits, I typically no longer wear an undershirt as the Merino is a fantastic material.
I made a big stink about sticking with Happy Socks, and yet I recommend Darn Tough, merino wool, socks here in bland colorways. Yeah. Well, here’s the thing: they may be boring as fuck, but they are amazing socks. Not only is the warranty insane, but they are truly more comfortable on your feet.
After wearing them for 3 days of travel for work — and I mean one pair without washing — and them being comfortable, dry, not stinky, and holding shape: SOLD. I still have a drawer of Happy Socks, but over the past four months I’ve been wearing them less and less. I prefer to wear the Darn Tough socks everyday.
I live in Washington State, we are known for rain, so rain jackets are something I know all to well. My favorite of the four I own is the Clothing Arts Cubed Jacket (provided to me for review purposes). I love the high collar, detachable hood, and massive amounts of pockets.
I don’t love that it doesn’t pack down into a tiny wad, but I put up with that because it excels in every other area. As I write this I just spent a rainy day at the spring fair here in Washington with my kids. This jacket was all I took to carry all the shit my kids made me carry and to stay dry and warm. I love it.
Superb jacket, and I tend to actually get compliments on it most of the times I wear it. That’s why it makes this list.
Where this is headed for me
Dig enough and you can find stories of people who decided on one look in their closet for some reason. Jobs famously had the mock turtle neck and jeans, Obama had one standard suit color, Zuckerberg has his thing, and I am sure a plethora of others less well publicized do this too. I am not trying to attain this, nor do I want this. (If that topic interests you, here’s a short primer on why people do it. Hint: decision fatigue.)
But the fact is that this clothing is better than what most people wear and part of that “better” is that you need fewer items. I wash my button downs when they look dirty, not when they smell dirty (they never smell dirty) — so that’s every 8 weeks? And I only cycle through two. Add a third and we extend that time quite a lot.
I wash the t-shirts and undershirts after a week of wear. The socks I wear for 3 days and then wash — one pair. The underwear though is a daily wash, just to be clear (which is why I list so many pairs: how often do you want to wash underwear?). The pants though, 6-8 weeks as mentioned above, mostly just depending on if there is visible dirt (they repel most of it).
So you need fewer items because you don’t need to do laundry as often with them. If you can wear the same three shirts everyday for a month, well then doing laundry once a month is pretty fucking neat. (Says the guy who does laundry daily for his kids.)
Next add on the comfort these items offer. Both the stretch in the pants, but also the temperature regulation, the fast drying nature, and you really have more comfortable clothing to wear. If I step out in these clothes to get the mail on a pouring rainy day, without a jacket, I come back in with dry pants (the water sheds off) and a shirt which will be dry in about 10 minutes, but doesn’t really feel wet to my body. That’s a bit of magic.
Then add in the fact that they hold up better to my kids, to my travel, and life in general. I mean it’s really hard to wear this type of clothing and then go out and buy something “normal” again.
It has been at least a year since I’ve bought something normal, and I have no regrets over that.
My goal isn’t to make a uniform for myself. Instead I just want to be more comfortable and have less worry about my clothing — and I think that’s the path I am heading down. It’s not about purposefully trying to pare things down, it’s about not needing more — and most of that is driven by the fact I have far less laundry I need to do. (I do laundry about once a month and run my underwear with the kids clothes about once a week.)
I did an experiment a few months ago: I wore the same shirt and pants every day for a week Sunday – Saturday. No one said a thing. So, I don’t think having a wide variety of shit to wear is really as big of a deal as I used to think it is. It seems most people have a ton of clothes to avoid the nuisance of doing laundry. I am just more comfortable with these clothes, so to that point I don’t really care if people think it’s weird I have fewer items of clothing.
If jeans look dirty, I wash them. If these new pants look dirty I wash them, but if it is just one spot it will often wipe off with a damp rag. ↩