These are the Secrets to a Subtle Style


I typically find myself attracted to the aesthetic of individuals who are "subtly stylish."

You ever notice a person who, at first glance, seems understated and unassuming but something about their appearance keeps your gaze fixated?

Upon closer inspection you realize that they seem effortlessly pulled together: maybe it's the quality of the fabrics, the intention in the fit, or the carefully selected silhouette that fits their shape so well. Or perhaps, most of all, it's the confidence they exude.

This person doesn't need to wear the "it" bag, showcase a range of luxury logos, or be a walking billboard for the latest trends. They've thoughtfully crafted their own style and that understated elegance is so much more effective than running after seasonal fashion trends.  

This is a style I'm eager to embrace and as I reflected on those I know who embody it I noticed they share seven common characteristics. 

1. They know what works best for them 

The key trait of the subtly stylish is self-awareness. They've put the effort into understanding what styles are best suited for their body type, lifestyle, and aesthetic preferences. Once they know what's best for them getting ready each day is a complete breeze.

In my capsule wardrobe resources I stress the importance of taking the time to assess your personal taste and where you are in life. You want your closet to be a reflection of you and not someone else's concept of style. 

2. They keep a go-to set of brands 

They spend time identifying the brands that work best and are loyal to them.  Although they are open-minded about exploring new designers they only make exceptions for the truly exceptional.

I write profiles about some of the brands that I believe are well-suited for someone looking to adopt a minimalist style. Moreover, you can download my checklist of 30 minimalist brands after becoming a member and accessing my repository of free minimalist style and living resources.   

3. They have a keen eye for quality

For the subtly stylish, it's not necessarily about luxury labels or even expensive price points but the ability to discern when an item is well-made. They have no problem shopping high or low so long as they deem the fit, fabrication, and overall silhouette of the item in question to be worth adding into their closet. In my back to basics series I discuss the best fabrics to choose for your wardrobe. 

4. They take care of their possessions

Visit them at home unexpectedly and you won’t find their items strewn about here or there or tossed on the floor.  They take pride in their wardrobe and put effort into proper upkeep. It’s why they can keep a five year old blazer looking brand new.  

If you opt to wear a daily uniform, like some subtly stylish folks I know, then proper care  will be even more critical. You will be surprised how long you can extend the life of an item by being more mindful of its upkeep. 

5. They hardly ever follow trends  

Not one subtly stylist person I know follows fads. They tend to gravitate to items that will have longevity – in their closet. This is an important distinction as not all subtly stylish people necessarily adopt a classic look.  It doesn’t matter if your aesthetic is boho chic or tomboyish, try to be guided by your personal sense of style.

Of course, it's ok to check out new trends and occasionally incorporate them into your look. However, if you only follow what the fashion blogs and magazines tell you is hot you'll end up spending a lot of money every season on items that aren't a best reflection of you and that end up going out of style within a matter of months. 

Moreover, one of the biggest issues with following trends is that you end up with a bunch of "needy objects". Needy objects are items that unexpectedly bust your budget and take up an awful amount of time and energy because they require several more add-ons to make it work in context. 

Subtly stylish people understand these traps and opt to establish their own perspective on style so they aren't so easily lured into the seasonal doctrine that so-called fashion experts preach. 

6. They tend to be minimalistic

Again, this doesn't mean they only wear black and white or sleek silhouettes. It means they are tightly edited. They are thoughtful about what they introduce into their wardrobe and adopt a less is more mentality. 

Did you know that you can practice principles of minimalism within your wardrobe without adopting a stereotypically minimalist look? That's right, you can be a flower child or even a lover of grunge and still benefit from building a capsule wardrobe

7. They don't need external validation 

The subtly stylish dress to impress – themselves. Amongst those I know they tend to shop alone and hardly ever ask input. Sure, they may follow a handful of style influencers or publications for the occasional dose of inspiration, but they remain the ultimate decision maker. 

You want to get to the point where you glance in the mirror in the morning and break out in a smile because you feel so confident in your outfit. It won't matter if your spouse, your colleagues, or your friends complement your look because you already started the day validated by your own strong sense of self! 


As you can see from the images I'm working on my own subtle style which typically consists of comfortable and casual well-made basics. Here I am wearing: Wool fedora by Janessa Leone, 501 Selvedge Skinny Jeans by Levi's, Ribbed sweater by COS, White tee by COS, Gray silk/cotton shirt by COS, 996 sneakers by New Balance (similar here), Tan briefcase by Hieleven. 

Be subtly stylish

I help thinkers, creators, and entrepreneurs achieve their ambitions by streamlining their life, changing their mindset, and focusing on what matters most.

The quintessential tool for creating a subtle personal style is the Capsule Wardrobe. Learn why and how so many smart and successful use this strategy to:

  • increase confidence
  • save time
  • spend wisely