A Personal Uniform Makes Travel (and Life) Easier

I made the intentional move to a wear a “personal uniform” and have found it to be advantageous for life and for full-time travel. I had a few goals in mind for a personal uniform:

Fewer Decisions

I was tired of the daily “what’s clean and what goes with it” decision in the morning. I wanted to get out of bed and be able to grab pants and shirts with my eyes closed and know they would work together color-wise.

I didn’t care if that meant I wore the same thing every day - I wanted to save that brain power for more important work.

Did you know there is such a thing as decision fatigue?

Fewer Clothes

Moving to an RV-based lifestyle means becoming a minimalist. While there is always more to purge we necessarily have to own fewer things to live this way.

Our clothing storage is limited, so having a smaller wardrobe makes sense.

Easier (and less) Shopping

With a “designed” wardrobe approach I’d know exactly what I needed and in what color.

When something wore out I could buy its exact replacement online.

I have made a few spontaneous purchases but overall I have been less subject to the whims and fancies of the fashion industry.

Higher Quality

My goal was to own less but have higher quality versions of what I do own. I haven’t minded paying premium prices for key components of my wardrobe. I prefer brands that have lifetime warranties and have been able to exchange clothes under those warranties.

Social Settings?

Everyone has different social settings they need to dress for.  In the vague order of casual - to - formal I needed to be appropriately dressed in:

  • The driver’s seat
  • Project mode, working with tools
  • Campgrounds and parks
  • The outdoors - kayaking, hiking, fishing, etc
  • Retail stores, libraries and museums
  • Church
  • Professional conferences
  • Business meetings with clients
  • Classrooms where I am teaching

My life is made easier by the fact that the profession I am in usually dresses casual.

For meetings and conferences no one wears shirt and tie anymore. If I have a button up shirt on I’m often dressier than the average.

I am not a sports fan so feel no need to have clothes with team logos on them.

Temperature Range

Ditching Suburbia Logo Shirt

Ditching Suburbia Logo Shirt Proclaim your intentions to the world with a shirt or hoodie featuring our well-loved rocket logo.

Styles available: t-Shirts, tank tops, and hoodies.
Colors available: black, navy, gray.

Being full-time RVers we have it easier with regard to temperature ranges. We aren’t going to be somewhere with snow on the ground nor (usually) in triple-digit heat.

Our range is from roughly 30 degrees to 90 degrees. If it’s colder or hotter we probably aren’t going to be there long.

The Colors

I set out with a plan to choose a color scheme, purge what I had that didn’t work within that, and purchase the necessary items to round it out. 

I started with t-shirts. But what color?

  • I ruled out white (too hard to keep white in ever-changing laundromats).
  • I ruled out black (too hot in the upper temperature ranges).
  • I settled on gray and wore gray shirts for ~3 years (what you see in these photos). Turns out on hot days I’d trade out for my quick-dry lightweight running t-shirt anyway. So when the gray wore out it was back to…
  • Black. It just looks dressier.

I decided to upgrade from simple t-shirts to a henley style with a button-up neck. They were a few dollars more but I liked looking just a tad dressier when just in the single layer.

From there I choose olive-colored pants. With just about every style it seems olive is a color option and can be easily dressed up as needed.

So my base layer is black and olive, from there I can build up with other gray, black or navy items.

The Complete Wardrobe

Here’s what I currently own for a wardrobe:

Shoes (3pr)

  • Keen full-toed sandals. I practically live in these - worn with a pair of black socks they look like hikers. They can get wet so work for kayak shoes.
  • Hikers. I’ve used these on longer hikes where I want full-foot protection. I haven’t worn them much lately and have considered getting rid of them.
  • Sketchers. I wear these when I need to be more dressed up. Their casual-but-dressy style works well for me.

Pants (4 pr)

  • I have two pair of olive-colored dress pants that I wear day-to-day. I can get these at Goodwill for <$10.
  • I find that dress pants are actually more comfortable than jeans - especially in warmer temps.
  • I have one pair of second-hand jeans that I wear if we are WWOOFing or workcamping which puts me outdoors and around animals.
  • I have one pair of lightweight nylon outdoor pants that zip off into shorts. I found these at a 2nd hand store for $3.
  • I have one high quality black leather belt to wear with my pants.

Shirts (17)

  • Tshirts (8)
    I have 8 black short sleeve Henley versions from LL Bean. They were initially a bit expensive but became less so when LL Bean exchanged them all for free after 3 years (the collars had worn, and LL Bean has a lifetime guarantee). I could get by with fewer shirts but sometimes we can’t get to the laundry any sooner.
  • Short Sleeve “Dress” Shirts (3)
    I like shirts that button up and have a collar but aren’t necessarily meant to be worn with a tie. All my short sleeve shirts are gray/black.
  • Long Sleeve Button Up Shirts (4)
    I wear these for dressier professional events or while teaching. They are black, gray, navy blue or other neutral tones.
  • Outdoor/Sun Shirt (1)
    This is a very lightweight, vented moisture-wicking style shirt perfect for kayaking or hiking (I hate putting sunscreen on).
  • Insulated Shirt (1)
    Lined with polarfleece, this is my ‘bathrobe’ that I wear inside the trailer in the morning when it’s chilly. I could also layer it for colder days outdoors.
  • Black Pullover (1)
    This has a zippered neck, and is useful for layering while still looking professional.

Coats (2)

  • For mild temperatures I have one of the classic The North Face outer layer jackets in black. The coat straddles the formal to casual look nicely. I can wear it to business meetings, on a hiking trail, and it serves well enough in a light rain.
  • For colder temperatures I have a Lands End Squall jacket in dark blue. It covers a wide range of temperatures and is also dressy enough for business meetings or church.

Hats (3)

  • My main hat is a Tilley full-brim with a paracord hatband. It floats, it has a pocket, and it’s a Tilley.
  • I have two fold-up cadet style hats. I keep one in the truck and one in the trailer. I have two because I misplaced the first one, ordered a replacement, then found the first one.

Various

I also have running shorts, a running shirt, sweatpants, long underwear, bathing suit, etc.

The essentials of my entire wardrobe

The essentials of my entire wardrobe

The basic t-shirt and pants. I've since switched to black shirts.

The basic t-shirt and pants. I've since switched to black shirts.

Add a quick button up shirt for summer graduation parties or dinner out

Add a quick button up shirt for summer graduation parties or dinner out

Hardcore outdoor gear with Tilley hat and Columbia moisture wicking shirt

Hardcore outdoor gear with Tilley hat and Columbia moisture wicking shirt

For a business meeting or professional meetup - Sketchers, Dickies Carpenter pants and a western shirt

For a business meeting or professional meetup - Sketchers, Dickies Carpenter pants and a western shirt

A North Face Jacket works in casual or business settings.

A North Face Jacket works in casual or business settings.

On the trail in Portland

On the trail in Portland

A colder day in Washington DC

A colder day in Washington DC

Hanging with friends in Texas

Hanging with friends in Texas

A quick family photo shoot

A quick family photo shoot

So, How Has This Worked Out?

I love it.

I barely think about clothes - I just get up and get dressed.

Packing for a business trip is a matter of counting days and throwing the matching number of shirts into a bag. I don’t have to plan it day by day. Everything matches.

Laundry is easier because it’s totally obvious what clothes are mine.

Updates are easy - if we are out and I happen to see a replacements I need I can try it on right then and immediately know if the color is going to work. Or I can re-order the same exact thing online without worrying about it not fitting and having to ship it back.

Any Downsides?

A few months ago I ran a 5K and my wife missed my dramatic finish because I was wearing a blue shirt rather than black.

What About the Rest of the Family?

MsBoyink is on a slow path to her own version of a personal uniform. She has settled on a color scheme and is slowly piecing things together from thrift shop purchases. The Capsule Wardrobe terminology and websites like Project 333 are helping shape her direction.

The kids..well they are still teens….

How About You?

Have you made any intentional clothing decisions that have eased your life?

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13 Comments A Personal Uniform Makes Travel (and Life) Easier

  1. Picture of angieangieJune 15, 2014

    Love it, want it.  Thanks for taking the time to write this up. If Ms. Boyink ever figures it out, I’d love to see her post.

  2. Picture of MsBoyinkMsBoyinkJune 15, 2014

    Angie, Mike and I looked through all of my clothing yesterday and came up with a “plan” for me to get started. I threw away a few things, created a pile to donate (I’m still grieving the loss of a particular blouse that just did not have enough flexibility), and made a short list of things I still need to round things out. Now comes the “shopping” part (not my favorite). I’ll be sure to post after I find and purchase the few completer pieces.

  3. Picture of Bill GriffinBill GriffinJune 17, 2014

    Mike,

    I simplified two parts of my wardrobe, even though I don’t live out of a camper.  I do have a minor limitation on space, because I live in a house built in 1948, when people craved less storage.

    So I have a total of 10 pair of pants, 10 short sleeved shirts, and 10 long sleeve shirts.

    My socks are the most minimalist.  For about 15 years, I have only purchased one brand, style, and color of socks (with the exception of white exercise socks).  I only have calf-length black ribbed mostly-cotton socks.  Why?

    Because I noticed that socks kind of blend in and are not (apparently) noticed by people as much as every other part of the wardrobe.
    And because it’s very practical to select any 2 socks in the dark when I wake up before my wife, and I know they will match.  : )

  4. Picture of BoyinkBoyinkJune 17, 2014

    All matching socks - good one!

    I have all black as well, some short and some long. Still enough variety in the long that they have to be “matched” though…so that’s one I could work on as well.

  5. Picture of Tom WilliamsTom WilliamsJune 27, 2014

    I have done basically the same thing.  I have two pair of carpenter jeans (I like the pocket for my phone) one pair of carpenter shorts.  And ten pocket t-shirts all solid color with no advertisements or cute sayings.  I have three green baseball style caps (again no advertisements or sayings), a straw gardening hat and an honest to God cowboy hat ... just like every Winter Texan, and a few of the locals, wear.

  6. Picture of StaceyStaceyJuly 08, 2014

    Hi folks,
      I found your site and this blog and love it. My goal is to be mobile in 5 years. So, I’ve begun my process of reducing and streamlining my life. I began the “personal uniform” process about 6 months ago and have found it very liberating. As you say, it’s one less think to consider at the start of my day.
      I’m looking forward to reading more of your blogs and learning from your inspirational adventures.  Given the financial resources, I’d hit the road today!
    Best,
    Stacey

  7. Picture of BoyinkBoyinkJuly 09, 2014

    Good luck on the prep work Stacey!

  8. Picture of Terri WTerri WJuly 19, 2014

    Ms. Boyink, I think you should keep clothes that you LOVE.  That’s hard to replace.

  9. Picture of MaryanneMaryanneSeptember 03, 2015

    Been working towards this for a year now. Sooo much easier for my husband. As of Oct.1st we are on the road full time in our 25 ft Airstream. Your words were helpful. I am down to the wire and weighing things like do the cute red sandals or the flippers go? Wet suit or leather jacket my son bought me. Wicked hard as they say in New Hampshire.

  10. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkSeptember 03, 2015

    One thing that may help us was realizing we could dye clothes - so if we can find light colored clothes for MsBoyink they could be dyed to create a color-coordinated wardrobe.

    I’m even thinking of dyeing my gray shirts navy just to change it up. It’s been a couple of years now.

  11. Picture of TraceyTraceyApril 23, 2016

    I’m still living stick & bricks & working full-time, but am doing a “uniform” about 80/20.  My job allows casual dress, so I own 2 pairs of jeans and a pair of khakis.  All of my tops are tees (ladies with v or scoop necks) typically in shades of blue but occasionally other colors.  Cardigans in navy, black, and aqua, so I just have to grab the one that goes best with the shade of tee for the day.  Like the above commenter I wear only black crew length socks (cotton athletic) and when they are showing wear, throw the whole lot away and start over (w/ a bag of 10 pairs), so they’re always easy to match.  Since I’m still working full-time, I have 4 scarves w/ prints that have multi-colors and 2 necklaces that are fashionable to mix up my look.  Hope that helps MsBoyink.  You have a great site here!

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