Five Black Shirts – An Experiment in Minimalist Attire

Why yes, that is me….why do you ask? (Apologies to Mr. Handsome.)  😉

Life Experiments

I’ve conducted several life experiments over the years and I enjoy the process of designing and carrying them out. I always learn more about myself in the process.

Like the time I decided to examine every belief I ever held in order to arrive at what I actually could believe in. 

In that experiment, that I chronicled in my book The Practical Buddhist, I determined that my old beliefs—ideas or traditions that relied on me to buy into another’s version of truth or reality—weren’t valid. Today, I live without any beliefs and feel I am much better off for having conducted the experiment.

When it comes to living with less, I’ve experimented with having only four cups, four bowls, and four plates. Although I have a little more than four of each now, I’m not sure why. (Note to self: minimize dishes again.)

I’ve experimented with traveling with only a backpack for a month at a time, as well as only having a motorcycle for transportation.

Life experiments are fun and they tend to reveal something about me and that’s always useful for future growth.

The Five Black Shirts Experiment

In this experiment, I’m replacing my wardrobe, as minimal as it is already, with five black dress shirts (for work, dates, etc.), five black pants, and five black t-shirts (for casual wear, weekends, workouts, etc.)

Why? The purpose of the experiment is to eliminate the amount of thinking required about what to wear each day and to further simplify my wardrobe. I don’t currently spend a tremendous amount of time deciding what to wear each day, but it represents a series of decisions that could be minimized so I’d not need to think about it at all.

It’s Monday, what should I wear? Black shirt, pants, shoes. #brilliant

How? Tomorrow I’m going to pack up all my non-black clothing so it is completely out of sight. Then I’ll pick up the five v-neck t-shirts I bought online tonight at Old Navy and begin wearing only black. I still need four additional black dress shirts for work; they are proving more difficult to locate in the middle of summer. I have three pairs of black pants already, so I’ll need to obtain three to four more pairs.

When? How long will I wear only black? I’m not certain but I’m thinking a month is a decent amount of time to test out the hypothesis that I’ll prefer it over my current manner of dress. If in a month, I feel the need to wear something else, I’ll still have my old clothes in a box. However, if after a month I’m cool with the #fiveblackshirts project, I’ll donate my old clothes to a thrift shop.

I did something similar a few years ago and really liked the black merino wool t-shirts I wore every day. But they wore out and I replaced them with more traditional attire. Conducting this experiment again will likely be the smartest decision I ever made.*

*On second thought, the smartest decision I ever made was asking Karen to dinner at Blufin in San Jose, California on March 21, 2017.  😎 

No one cares what you wear

You might respond in any of the following ways:

  • “I could never do that, after all, people might think I’m wearing the same thing I wore yesterday.”
    • Perhaps, but who cares? Likely you’d be wearing clean clothes every day, as I will be, and that might be the root concern you have. In reality, most people are so self-absorbed that they won’t give your clothing pattern a second thought.
  • “I’d get tired of wearing only black; I need color in my life.”
    • That’s a valid argument, but for me, I totally rock the black-on-black…or so I’ve been told recently. Considering I have nearly white hair and a white beard, it’s not a bad look. Did I mention the slimming factor of black? 
    • You could also choose another daily outfit based on what you like. Matt D’Avella wears a gray t-shirt and jeans each day and he rocks it. Joshua Becker wears a black t-shirt and khaki pants each day. Each of these guys chose the look they are most comfortable with.
  • “Baz, you’re just weird.”
    • You’re absolutely correct, but I’m cool with it. My weirdness is the stuff of legend. Just ask my big sister.

The bottom line with this experiment is that no one really cares what we wear but ourselves, so why not wear what brings us joy and happiness?

We spend more time looking at ourselves in the mirror than any else spends looking at us. OK, me looking at Karen might be an exception. 😆 

When I assemble my all black closet, I’ll post some photos.  😎 

I’d love to hear what you think about this experiment. Could you do something similar? Have you? Please tell me in the comments!

By Baz

writer | coach | practical buddhist


  1. When school starts I’m going to buy another pair of black leggings (i already have 2) I’m going to buy 2-3 brightly colored tunic tops (i have 1 i adore). I have comfy black shoes. I’m going to try it for a month. Well, I still have blue leggings and a jersey to wear on Blue Fridays (hey, it’s a seahawks thing!)

    This was the impetus i needed to actually try this.

  2. That’s cool, Kate! I think that your use of the word adore is key. We tend to choose and wear those pieces we adore and feel best in. It makes good sense to build our wardrobes around those pieces. 🙂

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