Minimalists like things clean, neat and uncluttered. There’s usually a lot of white, open space and room to move for, well, nothing. Basically, it’s a style with little or no variation on the colour palette and even less rules pertaining to a strict shape or silhouette.
Offering a less-is-more approach to style, minimalism does get criticised for a lack of creativity, sterility and everything-looks-the-same-ness. But, even haters have to admit more men are by default big fans of minimalism (black was the most popular colour choice for men in 2018). Made up of neutral style basics, you probably already own a majority of the pieces needed to dress like a minimalist.
Minimalists like to appear impossibly effortless. But, getting the look does involve some groundwork. Here are some style points to consider when taking on a clean slate.
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While minimalists aren’t ones for print and patterns (and neon rainbow hues), there is room to experiment with colour. The minimalist’s palette is primarily made up black, brown, navy, grey, and white. Think plain, it is minimalism, after all.
“One of the newest approaches to the minimalist style is opting for items that match with only a very subtle variation in tonality,” explains Laura Wassermann, fashion consultant and trend forecaster. “It could be a head-to-toe look incorporating 3 different shades of khaki.”
Minimalists make their biggest splash by experimenting with the shape, silhouette or cut of their outfit. That means the major sartorial rules are minimised, and proportions get to be played with. This looks like cropped lengths, boxy shapes and oversized or longline silhouettes.
“There are also floaty, drape-y forms, as well as sharp, asymmetric cuts. Basically, shape is a free-for-all, with a balancing of proportions. It adds to the whole this-just-happened look,” continues Wassermann.
Texture refers to the aesthetic finish and ‘feel’ of garments, seen visually in an outfit. In minimalism, contrasting fabric types, densities and washes is the best way to inject some interest into a one or two colour look. Denim is a great way to add textural density (and colour), while wool knits (waffle, cable) and leather jackets add textural depth to an outfit.
But cotton is king, and unlike the other fabrics, it can be worn all-over. Just vary the weight between pieces. “In the end, think clean cut pieces, quality fabrics and items void of too much detail,” adds Wassermann.
A crisp, white cotton shirt is a minimalist staple when it comes to tailoring. For summer separates, white and off-white pair perfectly. Alternatively for a tonal look up top, opt for a basic white t-shirt or polo and cream blazer, teamed with a navy wool-cotton trouser. Finish it off with brown loafers or lace-ups instead of black and leave the belt behind.
Tonality is key. “Take a mid-toned khaki blazer, slightly darker khaki chinos and a lighter khaki basic tee to buffer in the middle,” says Wassermann. “And, take it a notch further and incorporate matching accessories in similar tones.”
When the temperature drops, lose the shirt completely, rocking the roll neck in a darker shade than the suit, for some openness across the front. Two piece suits look great with a notch lapel and slim jacket, affording a roomier trouser with a cropped hem for something more contemporary. Not into leather lace-ups come the weekend? Just add white sneakers (the minimalist’s go-to shoe).
One of the simplest ways to dress like a minimalist involves just two items (that you’re bound to own): a t-shirt and tailored trouser. Voila! That’s it. Monochrome — black and white — is a neat way to rock this James Dean look, opting for a a white tee over dark coloured trousers.
All-over light neutrals are a huge trend this season too. “Fashion aficionados are also taking it a step further by incorporating their footwear and headwear to match in the same shades,” says Wassermann. “This style update is especially emerging in the streetwear arena, thanks to Kanye’s Yeezy line, but this easily translates to a smart casual look.
Minimalist Leather Jackets
Traditional rock looks are a touch more refined in minimalism. For a clean finish, jackets are less embellished – void of patches and logos – with only minimal metallic hardware like zips and press studs visible. The humble t-shirt comes fitted and fresh, white lightening up all that black.
Wearing jeans? Let the shirt hang naturally. But if you’re the more rakish rocker, a tee-turns-dapper tucked into cotton trousers, foregoing the leather boots for (yes, you guessed it) white low cut sneakers.
“Purists should follow the 1+3 rule: starting with a layer of one base colour such as black — black jeans, black t-shirt and some black boots,” says Wassermann. Then, mix in another neutral colour piece over the top, like a denim overshirt or leather.
Minimalists also walk the line between functional sportswear and luxury. One take is the health goth aesthetic: mostly white and black with nylon-y parkas and neoprene sweaters, sat over cotton-poly blend jogger pants. Mesh and tech-y, monochrome runners are the key footwear for this look.
Then, there’s vintage sports-inspired: cuffed track pants in royal blue with a prep-ish grey marl sweater and subtle logo print – the luxury enhanced by quality fabrics such as loopback cotton and cashmere. Retro coloured and shaped sneakers work well with this look.
“Keep it contemporary with the cleanest of cuts and going for quality pieces which will ensures you’ll keep the refined aesthetic of minimalist dressing,” says Wassermann.
Minimalist Japanese Style
Japanophiles, rejoice. Minimalists embrace the Asian nation’s airy cottons, fine linens and trouser-esque denim silhouettes. “It’s about casual and cool fabrics in elegant silhouettes, dyed in the minimalist’s all-over tonality,” says Wassermann.
Cropped and boxy cotton trousers teamed with mandarin collared shirts or tunics with wide sleeves are summer-perfect, especially in whites, cream and beige. For winter, black Japanese selvedge denim in a louche fit, is a solid basing – with boots – teamed with an unstructured chore coat, and floaty linen tee.