The Style Movement Proving That “Basic” Isn’t Such a Bad Thing

Jessica Schiffer

A recent survey of Who What Wear editors regarding their favorite places to shop online resulted in the almost unanimous answer of Need Supply Co. Despite our varying styles, it's this website—with its curation of pared-back, logo-free goods—that many of us are drawn to. A few weeks later, a family friend gave me a nice watch emblazoned with the brand’s name across the front. I thanked the gifter and, as if covering up something truly sinful, immediately hid it in my jewelry box. I fully intend to never wear it. Amid these moments, a colleague of mine moved from Los Angeles to New York and recalled selling most of her clothes before coming. Even though she wants to fill in the gaps with a little shopping, I’m envious of her whittled-down wardrobe and the steady rotation of cool basics that she wears. The girls I see out and about in overly embellished or blatantly branded items? They don’t have the same effect.

Normally I’d chock these factors up to personal taste—even with a handful of editors drawn to the same minimalist website—but I’ve noticed it taking hold in various circles: namely, those that make up the creative, digital-friendly crowds found in droves in most urban cities today. Regardless of whether they consider fashion a personal interest or are totally ambivalent about it, their clothing choices trend heavily toward what you could legitimately call “basic.” But this is “basic” as cool factor, rather than the derogatory judgment it’s now commonly considered to be.

While we once may have reached for items with more obvious branding, we now pride ourselves on label-less pieces that require a little more digging for information. Questions about where we got something are more the norm than ever before, because, frankly, we don’t want you to know their origins right off the bat. Our luxury items, especially, have gone from brag to humblebrag.

And, on top of avoiding flashiness, we privilege comfort, a reality that inherently requires a simpler wardrobe. With the Internet, distractions are endless, and if you also work in the digital sphere (hey, what’s up, hello), it’s highly likely that you have to be “on” for work more often than ever before. Not only are we craving the calm of a blank slate amid the chaos of the technological landscape, but we also don’t have the time for a fussy wardrobe. I wake up in the morning, and very little time passes before work begins—after all, my computer (the most essential component of my job) is right there to greet me with fashion news to write about and unfinished tasks to complete. Even with the best of intentions (“I’ll mix prints today! Wear more color!”) I usually opt for what’s easiest: the versatile standbys (nameless black tote, unidentifiable denim, a soft gray T-shirt dress).

It would be easy to write this phenomenon off as a bummer—the watering down of fashion, perhaps, or a dismissal of the artistry that can go into it. But I prefer to see it as the much-deserved recognition of items that often get less attention and that, thankfully, free me up to really live my life. What's more, they force other people to inquire about things they once could have taken at face value, and in our age of too much information (about everything, at all times), that's undoubtedly refreshing.

Scroll down to shop a selection of our favorite blank-slate basics!

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