In defence of dressing basic – the nerdiest article you’ll read about clothes



When I was in advertising, many (not all) of my peers spent hundreds per a month on clothes, bags and sneakers. I can’t name the exact brands here per se, because this is a sponsored article, but yes, a lot of it was streetwear and luxury leather goods. 

In retrospect, I kinda get it. 

Not only is fashion a form of creative expression, it’s also a way of taking back control in an environment where you feel like you have few choices. The Koreans call it shibal biyong.

From that perspective, choosing what you wear can feel empowering because you focus your individualism, not your perceived powerlessness. I empathise.

But let’s be real for a minute. We can’t keep throwing money at expensive clothes and expecting our financial situation to improve. Life (and math) just doesn’t work that way. 

In an era where individualism is somewhat glorified, we’ve decided that it doesn’t hurt to conform a little, especially when it comes to your wardrobe. That’s why we gravitate towards comfortable, high quality staples – yes, some of them by UNIQLO.

We just want to be clear though, we’re not telling you how to lead your life. More like, “this has worked for us”, perhaps it’s worth your consideration.

For your consideration, please: 

Dress simply


There was a pretty good article making its round a while back about how successful people wear the same thing every day

The argument there was that making decisions, no matter how small, chips away at your brain power. By wearing the same ‘uniforms of success’, successful people theoretically cut down on the expended brain power – or decision fatigue.  

What I’d like to add though, is that basics are also supremely timeless and versatile. As long as they are fitted right, it’s hard to go wrong with say, a navy sweater or logo-less button-down shirt. #1 Simple to choose.

And suppose in the event you do need to spruce up your outfit a little, you can always wear it like a conversation-starting accessory or something. So you don’t necessarily need to be boring. #2 Simple to match. 

When you find something that works, buy more of  it

Another somewhat related point is how every clothing purchase is a risk. Experimenting with clothes can be a costly and wasteful affair – which is why everyone ends up with clothes in their closet they don’t really wear. 

Our suggestion to counter this risk is that once you find something that you look flattering in, purchase multiple of those same outfits varying in colour. That way, you get both variety and consistency. #3 Simple to buy.

And while you’re at it, perhaps you can consider applying the same principle to everything else in life. The power of habit is quite remarkable. 

  • Eating the same thing everyday helps you keep to your diet. 
  • Waking up to run the same path helps you stick to your fitness goals. 
  • Investing regularly reduces the mental fatigue of whether to invest or not. 
  • Wearing the same clothes allow you to focus on other things in life 

Sure, variety is the spice of life. But consistency is the key to success. 

Match simple stuff with more expensive stuff 

UNIQLO_TWS1_004Dressing simply doesn’t mean you can’t dress to impress.

For example, you can invest in one (we bolded one, so don’t buy too many) eye-catching accessories –  like a nice $500 leather shoes – and wear that instead. Chances are, you will make an impression with the shoes, not your $20 basics.

If you don’t like shoes you can always go with jewellery, watches, belts, glasses, bags etc. 

Anyway, from my experience, the successful people I’d like to emulate don’t run around head-to-toe dressed in expensive brands desperately wanting to flaunt their wealth. 

That’s just seriously insecure and gaudy af.

Focus on clothes spending per year instead of per piece

UNIQLO_TWS1_005Let’s not be naive. 

We live in a society that judges people by their appearances. First impressions matter.

The costs for dressing badly – whether socially, professionally or romantically – can be pretty high.  At the same time, buying nice clothes too often can quickly add up and cripple your ability to build wealth. 

So what’s a decent amount to spend on clothes, then? We don’t really have hard and fast rules for you to follow, but we do have a suggestion: 

Instead of calculating how much you spend on each specific piece of clothing, calculate how much you spend on clothes per year instead.

If you splurged on a $500 wardrobe but it sticks with you for 3 years, that’s $166 per year. This is roughly what I spend, if you are into comparing.

Alternatively, if you spend $50 per month buying flimsy fast fashion that falls apart after a few washes, that’s $600 a year. (Fast fashion is also incredibly damaging to the environment – we do not recommend) 

Of course, if you’re a big spender, you can easily spend like $5000 a year on clothes. There’s technically nothing wrong with that, though I hope you earn enough to fund your lifestyle. 

IMO, the sweet spot to spend on a piece of mass-produced clothing is something in the $30 – $150 range. 

If nothing fits you at a retailer, then get it tailored. Fit is the single most important factor when it comes to clothes. Not how much you spent. 

Which brings us to the next point.

Working on your body is a better investment 


People generally spend a lot on clothes with the final goal of becoming attractive human beings.

But eventually, we get to the point of diminishing returns. A $50 dress might make you say, five times more attractive than a $10 one, but a $500 dress won’t necessarily scale the same way. 

Clothes are just one stat of human attractiveness. It’s an important weapon in the arsenal of being attractive, but just one nonetheless. And we’re not even talking about inner beauty here. 

To make this geeky analogy, what you can do is to max out your other attractiveness stats before deciding to pay more money for clothes.  

For instance, another underrated tried-and-tested way to look good is to just be physically and emotionally healthy. There is just no replacement for being in the best shape of your life. 

Doing regular cardio, HIIT workouts and lifting weights will do more for your appearance than say, a $1,000 jacket. They’ll also keep your medical costs low, if you’re into that kind of thing. (We are.)

You could also work on the way you carry and present yourself – body language, speaking skills and other behavioural cues. After the first impressions made by your clothes wear off, these factors kinda matter more in the long term in almost every relationship. 

To end off, here’s some food for thought:

For most of our lives, millennials have been taught by society repeatedly that ‘standing out is good, blending in is worthless’. I think the trauma shows and we tend to overcompensate a little. 

We view the term ‘normie’ as somewhat derogatory. You can even be labeled as ‘undiscerning’ if you have a modicum of mainstream tastes. 

Maybe that’s why we’re so easily susceptible to the idea of spending more to validate the concept of our individuality and uniqueness. More $$$ spent  = more individuality, amirite? 

Maybe that’s why there are ‘bespoke’ or ‘artisanal’ brands popping out everywhere, preying on our insecurities of being bland, uninteresting people.

Maybe that explains the numerous boutique blogshops promising hidden gems and rare finds, yet selling just about the same few items imported from Chatuchak with huge markups.

Our take is simple. If you love fashion and splurging on it, go ahead. Just make sure you can afford it.  If it isn’t, there are about one hundred other ways to be your own unique human being, without spending heaps of money on clothes. 

Speaking from experience, you can afford to be basic in your dressing – just don’t be basic in your thinking. 

Stay woke, Salaryman. 

A message from our sponsor

Hard times call for wise spending. 

Our sponsor UNIQLO sells value-for-money essentials that are comfortable, durable and don’t go out of style even after spending years in your wardrobe. There are cheaper clothes out there for sure, but they don’t last very long so TWS isn’t a fan of those for environmental reasons.

UNIQLO will be running National Day promotions to thank Singaporeans from 30 July to 10 August, on pieces that you can work out (invest in your body!) or relax in. They’ve also teamed up with foodpanda on cash voucher giveaways. So, if your wardrobe is in need of updating, this would be your best chance to get a good deal.

(Of course, if you’re happy with your clothes, there’s no need to do anything. Keep wearing what you’re wearing – impulse buying generally leads to regret.) 

PS: If you enjoyed this, why not join our Telegram Group? 


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