I’M GOOD friends with a man who only wears red. Top to bottom: red t-shirts, red jeans, red hoodies, red undies, and red trainers – you get the picture. His name, funnily enough, is ‘Red’. He supports Manchester United and lives in Washington DC with a guy called 'Green' and another guy called 'Gold'. They all follow the same colour rules and have a successful band called RDGLDGRN. I promise you this is a true story. Although it would make a great Dr Seuss tale.
...nobody in the office, the barista at my favourite coffee shop, nor the commuters on the tram care about what I'm wearing
After spending a leisurely 48 hours with these guys in Berlin I enquired more about why they lived this colour strict lifestyle. Was this just a gimmick, an obsessive compulsion or unresolved childhood issues with Crayola?
“We are colours,” they told me (but not in unison, that’d be weird).
"In a time when people wear so many different clothes to communicate different aspects of their identity, I find myself feeling like a superhero in costume. You wouldn't see Spiderman wearing Superman's suit, for example. Now that I've found 'me', I wear my 'me costume' every day," said Red.
Thing is, this life choice isn’t as strange or extreme as it first appears. Unlike me, these guys did not have minor breakdowns every day at 7.45am, stood in front of the mirror half-dressed, with the entire contents of their wardrobe chucked around their feet.
Minimalism, capsule wardrobes and uniformed dressing is said to be proven to increase productivity, and is also a shared characteristic of some the world’s most successful people: Barack Obama, Simon Cowell (and his low necked t-shirts) and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg swear by a life of uniformity.
The reason? Preventing ‘decision fatique’. By cutting out less important decisions you apparently make space for better decision making.
But – and this is the important bit - neither of the three are what you'd consider fashionable. Still, if we take Vogue editor Anna Wintour, with her trademark shades, haircut and Miu Miu shoes, as an example, it's clear uniforminity doesn't have to stifle creativity.
So, like my colourful friends in the US, I’ve picked my own colour combo: a muted white and black - it's hasn't failed the likes of Karl Lagerfeld or, er, mimes yet.
Here's my five day account:
MONDAY: 'MY EASY-BREEZY MORNING ROUTINE'
I woke up this morning with a sense of ease. You see, ahead of this challenge I had planned my outfit on Sunday night - something I never do. I even ironed it all. Today my morning routine was a breeze. With my outfit laid out I didn’t even have to open my wardrobe doors. I flittered around my room carefree. I looked in the mirror at my new look for the next week - white top, black on bottom - and liked what I saw. With much more order, I left the house fifteen minutes before I usually leave. As style challenges go, this was going to be easy…
TUESDAY: 'WILL ANYONE NOTICE?'
Today I have new concerns: will people notice that I'm wearing a similar outfit every day?
It becomes quickly apparent that the biggest lesson I'd learn from this uniform challenge is this: nobody in the office, the barista at my favourite coffee shop, nor the commuters on the tram care about what I'm wearing. The uniform challenge is solely for my benefit. Again this morning there was no hectic rumbling around my wardrobe, no clothes chaos, no pant panic. I could get used to this level of order...
WEDNESDAY: 'HERE I AM, HUMAN ZEBRA...'
I dress according to how I feel. If somedays I feel like a flower headband and a tutu, then that's what I'll wear. Today I wanted to wear something cool, a bit funky, something that was neither white or black. But alas, here I am, a human zebra. I haven't noticed my productivity levels shoot up, or my clothing anxieties completely subside. Today I felt unsatisfied with my outfit choice and dipped back into my wardrobe for alternatives. Safe to say when it comes to my uniform, I'm having commitment issues.
THURSDAY: 'LIGHTBULB MOMENT'
I didn't think about my outfit at all today. My head was in my work, my to-do lists, the pending bank holiday weekend. Thursday was a simple case of throwing on the nearest and cleanest white and black outfit and heading to the office. Lightbulb moment: caring less about my clothes frees up a great deal of mental space.
FRIDAY: 'ALL BLACK EVERYTHING...'
It's a Friday morning after a night out with my colleagues, which usually means I come to the office looking worse for wear. Casual Fridays? More like, 'rolled-out-of-bed hair, beaten up trainers, no-make-up' Fridays. But again, it's becoming achingly clear that nobody notices whether my outfits are fashionable or thrown together. So why do I try when nobody's watching? Of course, the right answer is that I dress for myself. And I do. But there's always an argument for 'dressing to impress', but perhaps we all need to relax a little when it comes to our wardobes. As a lover of clothes it pains me to admit this but, in the grand scheme of things, they're just clothes.
I can’t say the uniform challenge has completely revolutionised my working week, but with less time spent deliberating my outfit I realised how much smoother my daily routine is. Most importantly, it has forced me to re-evaluate how much emphasis I, and indeed other people, put on daily outfits, self-image and personal appearance. There's absolutely no shame in a repeated look. What's more, I do not need as many clothes as I have, I do not need to stress about my outfit choices, and it most certainly shouldn't interfere with my time-keeping.
It's been more than ten years since I graduated high-school and chucked out that hated royal blue uniform. But now, looking back, I'm glad I hadn't spent my most awkward and insecure years with the added pressure of finding a cute outfit every morning.
Still, overall uniformity isn't for me. Clothes, in all the various colours, textures and shapes, are a way for me to express myself. I'll never abide by a self imposed uniform - I'll leave that for cartoon characters and my colourful friends in the US. My 'me costume' will always be subject to change.
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