From Maximalist To Minimalist

In New York, I had so much fun decorating myself every morning before hopping off to work. (In hindsight, maybe I had too much fun.) The pomp and circumstance of tying a tie, picking out a slick winter coat, and braving several unbelievable changes in climate as I plodded along the streets of Greenwich Village was intoxicating. In Manhattan, the day was about the outfit; identity was tied to style. Unfortunately, that mindset does not age (or travel) well. I’m not in Manhattan anymore. 

Without my notch lapels and Norfolk coats to cover me, I found myself staring into a mirror and huffily asking, “So, who are we now?”

One year ago, I traded in my Upper West Side duplex for a first floor pad in Los Angeles. In West Hollywood, just off of Melrose Place, I found myself staring at an empty walk-in closet with no idea how to fill it. Clothing’s exchange rate didn’t favor my move West. There isn’t much need for coats or wool suits here, no matter how marvelous they might be. I found myself sweating profusely through my white oxfords, and my wingtip boots weren’t made for sandy beaches. About three months into my new beginning, an identity crisis set in. Without my notch lapels and Norfolk coats to cover me, I found myself naked, staring into a mirror and huffily asking, “So, who are we now?”

I’m not a maximalist, but I’d say that I enjoy embellished refinement—think Dries Van Noten, Thom Browne, or Stella McCartney’s women’s collection. While I loved wearing those labels out East (where I was gifted many pieces through work and by friends), they’re neither accessible nor practical in LA. It’s too dang hot!

Athleisure is king and queen on the streets of WeHo. At first, shirts with a “swish” and mesh shorts seemed like a great and easy fix. But, I fancy myself more of a Kennedy than a Kith, so trading in trousers for tanks didn’t feel right. Instead, I decided I’d take advantage of my new situation, and take the chance to reinvent myself sans logos or capital F fashions. It was time to strip it down, get back to basics, and go minimal.

I was a little lost on how to make casual work for me, so I took to Instagram, naturally, in search of some role models. I believe that inspiration is imperative to transformation. Here are some of the men I have since followed and learned from on my journey to minimize my wardrobe and reclaim my grandeur. 


1. Brock DeHaven | @brockdehaven

Brock On Dressing Minimally | “Minimalism to me comes in many different forms. In terms of clothing, it means that I am always looking to make sure that I am not taking in more than I really need. This mindset for clothing in terms of minimalism applies to all other aspects in my life, whether it be the number of people in my life, the quantity of ‘stuff’ in my home, or the way I approach design. I tend to approach every facet of my life with this ‘quality over quantity’ ethos. I pretty much always have an idea of what I am going to wear. Though the palette of my closet does range in shades of neutrals and light blues/greys, the majority of my clothes go well with each other and that is my favorite part of minimal dressing.”


2. Jordan Bunker | @jordanbunker

Jordan On Dressing Minimally | “It removes any kind of indecisiveness. To be able to get dressed rather straightforwardly and feel comfortable and confident in what I choose to wear—well, that's a good start to any day. Inspiration comes from everywhere. That is not me trying to be cliché, it honestly does come in all forms. From the podcast I listen to while working at my desk, to the Instagram posts I have saved in collections. I think if I'm actively looking for inspiration for an upcoming project, I often fall into the rabbit hole of Pinterest, old magazines, and trying to avoid what's already been done.” Follow more of Jordan’s work here.


3. Mads Keilberg | @scandinaviancloset

Mads On Dressing Minimally | “I think minimal fashion is best interpreted by Scandinavian [brands], and some Japanese brands. I’m finding more and more inspiration from countries like Holland or USA and from premium labels in France. This is also where I find inspiration. But the best inspiration is on the streets of Copenhagen or in the minimal lifestyle community on Instagram.”


4. Val Lin | @theaestheticminimalist

Val On Dressing Minimally | “Minimalism is paying attention to quality, making deliberate choices, and knowing what is not needed. Buying things of high quality has a lot to do with sustainability—I try to find things that will last and then take good care of them to maximize their functional life. It might be more expensive up front, but you’ll end up with a better cost per wear and create a lot less waste. That’s also why you have to research your choices—learn how things are made and really think about the value they can bring to your personal life. It’s easy to know what you want; minimalism is about knowing what you don’t actually need, and I’m still learning. It’s not easy. Because I only get certain items, I think more about how each individual piece fits into my wardrobe system. The clothes and accessories that I buy have to be both foundational and versatile, fitting in multiple combinations. Only then can I achieve maximum possibilities from a minimal amount of clothing.”


5. Naufal Z | @Falzuh

Naufal On Dressing Minimally | “For me, minimalism is about prioritizing quality over quantity, purchasing things we’ll wear with pride and that will last forever. You can see me styling Scandinavian, Japanese, or Parisian looks, but overall my style is who I truly am, rocking things that follow my own sense of aesthetics, rocking things that work really well on me.”


6. Sams Goods | @sams.goods

Sams On Dressing Minimally | “I love the phrase "less is more". What I’ve learned is, it’s not what you wear but how you wear it.  For me minimalism is about versatility. How do you find a versatile item, versatile color, and versatile fabrics? Every item you purchase has to work with everything in your wardrobe. So you have a minimal item that can work with a hundred matches. When I started this Instagram, I got so much inspiration from @jeromeguerzon and @thepacman82. Learning how to make a grid, lay the clothes, the editing, the consistency. I learned from them so much. And, I’m still learning.”


7. Kevin Iman | @kvnimn

Kevin On Dressing Minimally | “My favorite part of minimal dressing is my wardrobe only consists of items that I truly love, because I am more selective and thoughtful with my clothing purchases. Also, since most items are an investment, I take better care of my clothing. I would describe my personal style as simple, clean, and I tend to stick with mostly neutral colors. I like to play with proportions and different shapes to keep things interesting. I’ve also really been into the 70s in the past year, so I’ve been incorporating vintage or vintage-inspired pieces. Minimalism to me means being conscious about what you purchase. Paying attention to where the items are made, and investing in quality pieces that will last you longer.”


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James Francis Kelley is a writer and stylist based in Los Angeles. While he has many interests, he’s most passionate about creating an eco-conscience culture and preparing for a globalized future. If he’s not working, he can be found on Duolingo, biking to electronica music, or browsing Mr. Porter. Find his work on his website, and his musings on Instagram.