Form following function: we’ll keep this short.
After the Coogi sweater 90’s and Ed Hardy aughts, the fashion world was hungry for something new. Iconic designers like Helmut Lang and Raf Simons planted the seeds for change around the turn of the millennia, but it would take until 2004 for minimalism to grow into a global presence. That year, New York-based design duo Common Projects launched the Achilles Low sneaker – sleek, precise, luxurious, and completely unembellished. Compared to the neon Bapestas it competed with, the Achilles was lightyears ahead and a species apart.
Only a few months later, H&M would launch its first designer collaboration with none other than the master of monochrome, Karl Lagerfeld himself. The collection’s focus on basics – coupled with the Swedish chain’s global distribution – brought fashionable minimalism to the masses. And oh, was the world ready: well before the era of professional resellers, the entire collection sold out globally in mere hours. In November 2004, pared-back Scandinavian design earned the respect of millions of shoppers and fashion editors alike. The rest, as they say, is history.
The key to great minimalist outfits is the idea of implied lines. In photography, an implied line is any feature that draws the eye along a certain path of direction. Think of it like this: every stitch, hem, color change, and pattern on a piece of clothing is an implied line. More lines create more information, and therefore, more work your brain to process. If there are fewer distractions, there’s less thought between you and understanding what you see, creating the aesthetic experience (pure emotion and sensation) that much more effectively.
Minimalism, then, is beauty by subtraction.
The best minimalist outfits stick to solid colors, simple patterns, and sleek designs regardless of context. Whether you’re rocking penny loafers or white leather sneakers, your clothes should drip simplicity. Clean lines? Check. Minimal graphics? You bet. White tees, overcoats, and neutral-colored crewneck sweaters are the name of the game here. Brands like A.P.C., Norse Projects, and Uniqlo U do it best.
Applying these style tips to streetwear is as easy as relaxing the construction. In clothing, styling, and life: just don’t try too hard. Minimalism here often means tapered sweats, unadorned bomber jackets, and extended shirts that emphasize clean lines. Pair any of the above with retro-inspired sneakers and a solid color hat to nail the look.
While much of streetwear rests on flexing brand status, flashy text and graphics are the exact opposite of the understated minimalist style. Color-matching “tonal” logos (like the kind on Supreme’s FW15 Embroidered Hooded Sweatshirt) get an under-the-radar pass, but as a rule, minimize the distractions and let the piece speak for itself. Done right, minimalist streetwear is effortless fresh that doesn’t need a marketing budget to flex. If your commitment to minimalism extends to your budget, check out brands like H&M, Everlane, and Gildan for the best value. But, if you can reach for the nicer stuff: KITH, Wings + Horns, and John Elliot. The quality alone is worth every penny.
5 ESSENTIALS FOR A MINIMALIST WARDROBE
Ready to rock the simple, clean wardrobe? Here’s our 5 essential picks, covering both high and low budgets:
- Leather sneakers. The foundation to any minimalist wardrobe, these understated kicks set the tone for your outfit’s clean lines and tonal hues. $$$: Common Projects Achilles Low. $: Greats Royale.
4. Navy striped long-sleeve. This nautical-inspired print piece balances visual interest and a commitment to minimalist design principles. Anchors ahoy. $$$: Saint Laurent. $: Uniqlo.5. Tapered sweats. The new casual pants. Keep these solid-colored and let your outfit do the rest. $$$: KITH. $: H&M.
Looking for more outfits to get you inspired? We’ve got you covered.
Looking for Fall Fashion? Check out our Fall / Winter Men’s Fashion Essentials!