There is beauty in subtraction. While I own an embarrassing amount of shoes, a recent round of exams forced me to confront an inconvenient truth: I really only wear a few pairs. In fact, when the going really got rough (library til 2am, 8am project, repeat), my rotation slipped to a mere 3 pairs.

As a perpetually-overscheduled college student, this newfound embrace of the straight and efficient spelled one thing: a better, simpler life. Knowing that I would throw on one of a mere handful meant certainty, versatility, and more time to focus on what really matters. In other words: it made me feel just a little bit happier.

Not like this is a new thesis. Marie Kondo’s seminal book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” preached the benefits of paring down to remove clutter from one’s life, both physically and mentally. The book, published in October 2014, has since become so popular that it even inspired a TV pilot. It was impossible to miss. For a text about scaling down, “Tidying Up” punched well above its weight.

While I first read about the powers of a “de-clutter” over two years ago today, Kondo’s lessons only became meaningful for me once I experienced them. Realizing these benefits, especially within a context I care about, has motivated me to pass them along to you.

In an era of fast fashion and “always-on” shopping, a return to minimalism – not just in style, but in the way we consume – may just be the path to a happier life. Here’s the simple 3-shoe rotation that made it happen for me.

1. The Minimal Low-Top

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It’s only fitting that an article about paring down your wardrobe should start with a pared-down shoe. Five days out of seven, a minimal low-top sneaker (in my case, the Greats Royale) wouldn’t just augment my outfit – it would honestly improve it. Everything from a cotton button-up to ripped jeans and t-shirts works with minimal low-tops. Simply put, they’re the cornerstone of a simpler shoe rotation.

Sure, they’re not the most expressive (or even modern) shoes in the world, but minimal low-tops do more than splash color across your feet. They state your values. By choosing simpler sneakers, you’re taking the emphasis off what’s often the flashiest part of an outfit in favor of understatement and details done right - and that’s before you even choose a color/material.

Personally, I think the world’s best minimal low tops come in stark white leather, but if your personal style leans away from “all neutral everything,” consider something like that colored suede or even a heavily-textured canvas. For example, Vans makes some awesome if unconventional (but really cool) denim sneakers that retain their simplicity, even with a flair.

 

2. The High-Tech Trainer

The ideal 3-shoe rotation covers all your bases in style. Therefore, our next choice boldly goes where simple, minimal low-tops just simply can’t venture. For street style, athleisure outfits, or even simply long walks, high-tech trainers bridge athletic innovation and aesthetic grace to create truly versatile sneakers.

In addition, shoes with advanced materials and design features applied to simple, causal outfits breathe new life into basic pieces. Styling a white tee and black jeans with Nike Flyknit Racers signals a complete 180 from the vibe created by the minimal low-tops from before. In most cases, the cure to “I-have-nothing-to-wear syndrome” is a small tweak with a big effect.

As for recommendations: go big or go home. In 2016, the adidas Ultra Boost and the Nike Flyknit Racer represent the pinnacle of the tech/style crossover. While most mass market running shoes (ex. Nike Free Flyknitadidas Boston) will “check the box” for looks, these niche models punch well above their price tag and are well worth the extra effort to find.   

 

3. The Personal Statement

After two rational picks, our third and final shoe is less about reason and more about you. Throughout “Tidying-Up,” Marie Kondo repeatedly recommends evaluating your possessions on one simple criteria: whether or not they bring you joy. The things you own should make you objectively happy, Kondo argues – otherwise, they’re likely just rationalized clutter. With Kondo’s advice and my Business Law midterm fresh in mind, my third and final recommendation is to impulse buy: your 3-shoe rotation needs one sneaker makes you childishly excited.

Don’t think too hard choosing this. In fact, don’t think at all. Scan your closet for the pair you look forward to wearing, then seize the day.

Does that pair only go with a few outfits? Great. Wear them on days you couldn't otherwise. Shoes #1 and #2 will handle the other 364.

Does that pair seem silly? Awesome. Embrace silliness. Don’t wear it to your Goldman interview, but off the clock, the world needs more good people with silly on their minds.

Does that pair bring you joy? If you answered “no” to the two questions above but “yes” to this one, there’s your pair. We’re all unique individuals defined by our differences. While a minimal 3-shoe rotation can add happiness into each of our lives with the right wardrobe staples as foundations, never forget to leave room for self-expression.

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My personal statement pair is the Nike x ACRONYM Air Presto. Or, in English, neon yellow ninja shoes that I wear as good luck for midterms. They’re a radical departure from my white leather minimal low-tops and monochrome high-tech trainers, but I think they’re 0 degrees Kelvin (ice cold), and so, I look forward to wearing them every chance I can.

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Dr. Seuss said it best: “There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” This simple 3-shoe rotation will help you realize your best self, both through the clutter you remove from your life and the joyous objects that remain a part of it.

Thanks for reading.

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