It started about three years ago when my boyfriend would laugh at me as I would stand in front of the wardrobe in the morning crippled by indecision in deciding what to wear.
Even when I had decided and dressed, I was never confident in my choice. With all the options in my wardrobe surely I could have chosen better? This was an almost constant daily ritual until one day I decided to only wear black. This would become my uniform.
I went to boarding school where we had a strict uniform of bottle green blazer, grey skirt, white blouse with a rounded collar, striped tie, green tights in winter and socks in summer, etc.
You know the drill. Days were from 8am till 8pm with PE twice, sometimes three times a day, so by the time you were finished you were so tired you ended up hanging out in your school issued tracksuit.
I must have enjoyed the freedom this gave me as I remember feeling stressed out by having to choose what to wear on one of the few mufty days. This was pressure. I had one opportunity to wear whatever I liked and had to look cool. Cut to me back in front of the wardrobe.
I have since read The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz and his principles shed some light on these issues. The first is the more options you consider, the more buyer’s regret you’ll have and secondly the more options you encounter, the less fulfilling your ultimate outcome will be.
For example, would you rather deliberate for months and get the 1 of 20 houses that’s the best investment but second-guess yourself until you sell it five years later, or would you rather get a house that is 80% of the investment potential of the former (still to be sold at a profit) but never second-guess it?
By limiting my choice I am able to ultimately feel better about my decisions. With only black to choose from I’m pretty sure there weren’t five different outfits in my wardrobe that are better.
This also has upsides when shopping. Firstly there are few stores that stock black all year round so I can keep up to date with their stock, seasons and sizes easily.
What would have been hours and hours of traipsing about Oxford Street is now fast and efficient. I can waste as little time as possible and keep my peace of mind to concentrate on the fun, creative stuff I want to be doing.
I am a designer. I make a living being creative, visual, colourful, so why the black? Each day I make hundreds of tiny decisions. Which typeface do we use, is the logo big or small, red or blue, more blue?
These don’t seem like much but they build up to what Tim Ferriss calls "decision fatigue". Much like muscle fatigue, if we use our "decision" muscle too much it will tire and fail you. He suspects we have a limited amount of decision making ability each day and it’s important to use it for the important things.
This is part of the reason that automating minutiae, adopting rituals, and applying creativity only where it’s most valuable (eg not deciding what to eat for breakfast) is so important to me.
When my working life is filled with decisions of colour, size, shape, the multitude of lunch options in London or what to do with my commute to have my black uniform already decided upon is a happy respite in what will be a decision filled day.
Black is timeless, ageless and appropriate for almost every occasion. Fashion designers are famous for wearing a certain clothes irrespective of season or the designs they send down the runway.
Karl Largerfeld, Alexander Wang, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs and Vera Wang all wear similar clothes everyday, most of them black or monochrome. Is it that creative people put so much effort into their work that they have nothing left or are they detached from it completely?
My black backdrop helps everything else stand out. I can focus on what’s on my screen, in my head or on the page with no confusion, unwanted influences or things clashing with what I’m wearing and because I don’t follow trends or feel the need to wear what’s in this season it gives me confidence, a constant and control over my personal "branding".
There is always the worry that if you restrict yourself too much you’ll eventually crack under pressure as with diets and fitness regimes.
Most people assume one day I’ll eventually get bored and come into work looking like the Notting Hill Carnival. But if anything, the past three years have only spurred me on to limit my choices even more.
The lure of the capsule wardrobe and returning to the freedom or monotony of a uniform is looking more and more attractive.