Starting from Scratch – Base Wardrobe, Ben

When I mentioned to Steve we should do a post where we outline what we would buy if we had no clothes at all — keeping it minimal and performant for our day to day lives — I had no idea it would be so difficult to write. The challenge here for me is balancing a wardrobe of items that actually fit what I do on a regular basis. Items which fill the need first and foremost, are versatile, and which generally make sense.

There are a lot of things which I actually own, and love, which didn’t make the list simply because upon further reflection they lack versatility. For me, this list isn’t just about starting from scratch, but perhaps is the ideal wardrobe for me to own, but sadly one that I both do not own, and suspect I would find nearly impossible to slim down to.

Undergarments and Base Layers

This section is pretty easy to go through, as the below are all items I own, and basically all I wear for undergarments.

  • ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxers, 4 pairs. These are the only underwear I own and wear (aside from any I may be reviewing). I love how they fit, feel, and perform. These were actually the item which got me started on all of the rest of this clothing, because if underwear could be this good, imagine what possibilities lie for the rest of the clothing. These are expensive and I own about 10 pairs right now, but I know I could easily get away with 4 if I were more diligent about doing laundry.
  • Outlier Megafine Socks, 2 pairs. I was really torn about which socks to pick as my day to day socks, but the Megafine socks are too good not to pick. The style and colors are very basic, but they are a good weight, and comfortable. I think they also last the longest of any merino socks I have purchased. The amount was the big one for me, but 2 pairs should be able to last me 3-4 wears each, and that’s plenty.
  • Darn Tough Solid Crew Light (#1617), 1 pair. This is actually the type of sock I wear the most, and is a very nice if light weight sock. They wear out fast for me, so I am limiting it to just a single pair, which I would wear when I need something that looks more dressy.
  • Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion (#1466), 1 pair. I recently got a pair of these to wear when I am rucking, and they are really nice. I can certainly see why hikers love these, so one pair is necessary for my workouts and if the temperature drops and I want a heavier sock.
  • NVSBL Undershirt in nude, 1 shirt. The fabric on this undershirt is very different from anything we typically talk about here, however its also very good. It’s a one and done type of wear, as it does nothing to resist odors. This is my go to when I need to wear an undershirt, but do not want to look like I am wearing one. I own two now, but wear them so infrequently that I know a single shirt would be more than enough.
  • Icebreaker Anatomica Short Sleeve V-Neck, 1 shirt. I think I have had my Anatomica for 4 years now, and its still holding up. This is a great layer for putting under another button down, or general undershirt wear. It is passable as your only shirt in darker colors, but I would choose a lighter color to blend better as an undershirt. This would be what I travel with if I plan on wearing button downs on the trip.
  • Darn Tough Tactical No Show Light (#T4037), 2. For when I wear shorts.

Shoes

I’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride with my shoes, where I have gone from very minimal to quite a few right now. I need to slim down, and I actually only have worn one pair of these shoes so some alternatives will be listed.

  • GORUCK MACV-1, coyote. I currently have the black version and find them pretty ugly looking. The coyote in pictures looks better. These would be dedicated rucking boots for me, as that is my workout I do 4-5 times per week. They would also double for hiking, yard work, and any other wear that is hard use. There’s other options you could go with here, but I think these are a pretty well rounded pair of boots if you are not too worried about looks.
  • Red Wing Iron Rangers. I’ve wanted a pair of these for a while now, but I cannot seem to get my Clark’s Desert Boots to die, so I have yet to have reason to buy these. I would get them with the Vibram mini-lug sole, so that I can wear them year round. I think they are classic and would last a long while. As an alternative, the Clarks Desert Boots with the beeswax finish I have been wearing for four years now are beyond solid and versatile. Cheaper too.
  • Nike Flyknits. These would be if I need to pack a backup pair of shoes, travel with a workout shoe, or generally for shorts and leisure wear in the summer. I hated the Allbirds when I tried them, and love Nikes. The bonus here is that I rarely hear anyone complain about this shoe, and they weigh nothing.

Bottoms

This is one area I feel like I am doing pretty well in. The choice in pants here reflects my lifestyle, as well as the climate I live in (temperate, but often wet, Seattle area). I am also going to provide some options for slightly different climates.

  • Outlier Slim Dungarees, Dark Indigo. I’ve owned pairs of these in Grey Space, Charcoal, and Dark Indigo — I think Dark Indigo is the most versatile of the lot, followed closely by Charcoal. I could easily see these being my only pants for everything, I think I could get by like that. If I could, I would have a closet full of these in every color they make, they’re the best. If you do find yourself in a warmer climate, the Oliver’s Passage pant is likely a better choice as it will wear cooler. A colder climate, and I would go with Strong Dungarees from Outlier, they too are fantastic, but heavier to wear.
  • Outlier Futureworks, Charcoal. These are a great stand in for a charcoal chino, which may be the most versatile pant out there. The Futureworks are great, handle heat well, and I actually wore a pair of Futureworks for nearly everyday for about a year. They are fantastic, and priced well too. This would be my business casual wear, as well as something to dress up the look a bit.
  • Bluffworks Gramercy Pants, Blue Hour. I really like the Grammercy pants as they offer a dressier look, while performing really well. Having these in blue give you a complete setup, and the variation of the coloring on these make them look less technical than the other options. These would be a great option for when I need to dress it up a bit, or for a second look as they work in almost any scenario where the Futureworks go.
  • Outlier New Ways. Everyone needs shorts, and New Ways are the best I have found for all around wear. These would also double as swim trunks — and I speak from experience there having worn mine swimming on many occasions. If you do swim a lot, you would want proper swim trunks, but for the occasional dip these work well. I’d stick with a dark color on these.
  • GORUCK Simple Pants. These come in two weights, but for this guide I think the original “light” weight is the best. They look passable, perform well, and pack down to nothing. If you packed a pair of Slim Dungarees and these, you could go and do anything you wanted. These pack so small and weigh nothing, so there’s no penalty for packing them. They typically travel with me anywhere I go as a backup. I’d buy the coyote color in these, as it looks the best. They would also be my workout pants, and yard work/ hiking pants. If you get the Olivers Passage Pants, you could likely forgo these, as they perform almost as well in warmer weather and workout situations.
  • Nike DriFit Joggers. Everyone needs a good pair of pants to lounge around the house in. This would be my choice.

Tops

This is a real struggle for me. As a society we are accustomed to seeing people wear the same, or similar pants day in and day out. Rarely do you every hear the comment “are those the same jeans you have been wearing all week”. But with shirts, people tend to notice. Thus this is probably the biggest section with the most variety for that very reason.

  • Wool & Prince Merino Blend T-shirt, 2. I wanted to pick Outlier Ultrafine here as I think they are killer. And I thought about the Outdoor Voices, but I think Wool and Prince offers the best color selection, price, comfort, and durability of any brand. I would go with the blend so the shirt lasts longer, and the performance hit is negligible. Pick on in a dark basic color, and another with a pop of color.
  • Y Athletics SilverAir Merino, 2. This would be my go to for workouts, or whenever I need a shirt to keep me cool. Love these shirts.
  • Wool & Prince Button-Down, 1. You could get away with just this button down, I see people who do. However, variety is the name of the game, so I would select one in a solid color like light gray. It’s a versatile shirt with classic looks and fantastic performance. I’d have more than one on this list if the next shirt didn’t exist.
  • Bluffworks Meridian Dress Shirt, 2. I love these shirts, and I think they look fantastic while performing really well. I don’t rely on them for odor resistance, but they dry fast enough that you could travel indefinitely with two, washing them between wears in a sink. They also hold up much better than a wool shirt, and with the GORUCK backpacks I tend to use, that’s important. The fit on them is stellar too — I do wish they would make some solid colors. Either way, everyone should own one of these shirts.
  • Wool & Prince Merino Polo, 1. I bought one for the summer and wore it a ton. I would get the next in the blend fabric, and it would cover me in any warm weather I encounter. I’d stick with something light in color.
  • Banana Republic Merino Wool V-neck Sweater, 1. Funny enough, my first encounter with merino wool was from Banana Republic’s sweaters, I have a closet full of them. They are great, and Banana Republic still sells them for about $90 each, which is a great deal. This is not only an insulating layer, but it will help to dress up your look if you pull it over a button down/up shirt. Classic, get one in dark gray or brown.
  • GORUCK Rucking Hoodie Full Zip (Heavy), 1. Everyone needs a good hoodie for lounging in, this would be my choice. It’s not the warmest, but it would double for actually rucking I do, and is and overall great layer and durable piece.

Outerwear

I have had closets full of jackets in the past, so this section is the hardest for me. And the one I am the most unsure of, this winter I have been working to revamp my closet on this end, so here’s where I think I would go on this, but there’s going to many alternates here.

  • Aether Dakota Jacket. Where I live you need a good, warm, and stylish layer. I originally thought Patagonia Nanopuff, but everyone has one. Perhaps a Filson Tin Cloth Down Cruiser, but that’s a PNW style only. Instead I think Aether makes some of the best outerwear on the market, so I would go with the Dakota Jacket. It ticks all the boxes with a great cut, a waxed outer fabric to give a great look, and heavy down filling to take you to the coldest temps.
  • Bluffworks Vest. Although I have not tested this, it would make for a fantastic layering piece and I think it looks great and sits at a really good price point. I still might pick one of these up this winter, as I love the looks of it.
  • Arc’teryx Zeta SL. I’m in Seattle and rain is a thing here. Also, you need a good layer to block wind. The hard part for me was deciding between something technical looking like this, or something with a little more style. End of the day, I think I would rather stay dry and have a jacket I know could perform out in the woods. This jacket is well made, light, packs down, and would work in almost every situation I would need it in. I actually have a precursor to this jacket which I have been wearing for about 8 years now, a great jacket.
  • Bluffworks Grammercy Blazer, Blue Hour. This is a nice sport coat/blazer for dressing up a look, performing well, or traveling with. Pair it with the Grammercy pants and you have a make shift suit, which won’t pass for a nice suit, but would get you buy in most situations if you need it.
  • PROOF Nova Jacket: I just got this jacket so no review yet, but it has a lot of promise for travel and as a mid-layer.

Comments

With this setup I could still do my worksouts, travel to almost anywhere, and have the clothing I need for work and life. It’s expensive, more so than I expected, but a robust setup for sure.

Starting from Scratch – Base Wardrobe, Ben