No man should be without his wardrobe essentials, so to help you along your way we’ve established five of the best things every man should own to create a unique and simple wardrobe.
Regardless of your budget, style or shape these classic pieces will transport you from day to evening, summer to winter and bedroom to boardroom with the smallest of efforts. It’s all about embodying a transitional style aesthetic through investing in clothes that will withstand the test of time and keep you looking sharp all year round. We’ve broken it down into five straightforward categories: jackets, suits, shirts, trousers, shoes and accessories. Read on to learn the wardrobe basics.
- 1 1. Jacket
- 2 2. Suit
- 3 3. Shirt
- 4 4. Trousers
- 5 5. Shoes
- 6 Men’s Wardrobe Basics
- 7 The Best Men’s Wardrobe Essentials
- 8 On That Note
The key to a simple wardrobe is to begin with the foundation, and in most cases that starts with a jacket. The type of occasion you wear a jacket to is detrimental to the style, fit and colour of its design. Above all else jackets are key in elevating a man’s outfit.
Leather Jackets for Men
If you want James Dean vibes or to simply inject some rock ‘n’ roll attitude in your capsule wardrobe for men then a leather jacket is the way to go. Choose between biker, rocker and aviator styles in leather treatments that range from classic black to brown, blue and tan.
A leather jacket is ideal for attending music gigs, and is a perfect accompaniment to the basic white T-shirt and jeans combination. To change up the style status quo during the summer months the alternative is to dress a leather jacket up with tailored pieces.
If you invest wisely then a leather jacket will last you a lifetime, especially if the design you’ve opted for is a classic cut like the Schott Perfecto double rider jacket, crafted from full grain leather. Also worth considering is the racer design – a minimal centre front zipper jacket, and the aviator which usually has a shearling lining and collar.
Bomber Jackets for Men
Bomber jackets have been big news all year thanks to design houses like Gucci and Louis Vuitton repping the sports-meet-fashion vibe these closet staples give off. The bomber jacket is a men’s clothing staple for the summer and/or a winter wardrobe essential as a layered look, and an ideal piece for those fashion forward guys looking to stand out from the crowd.
The classic bomber jacket shape has a cropped crew neck collar, centre-button enclosure, ribbed cuffs and is usually made from cotton, but this season it has been reworked in silk, suede and leather. If you’re not in the mood to throw on a formal blazer, or if the occasion just doesn’t call for it, then the bomber jacket should be your go-to outerwear option whether to dress down an evening outfit or sport up a piece of tailoring.
Bomber jackets, like shoes, are a signature wardrobe piece and are essential in elevating an outfit, so think wisely about the finish and colour you choose.
Denim Jackets for Men
The denim jacket is a quintessential summertime staple that every guy should own in his wardrobe. Benefiting from a light and breathable cotton finish, the denim jacket is casual enough to don during the day and incredibly durable just in case the British weather decides to turn.
Save yourself from the dreaded denim-on-denim faux pas by mixing up the denim washes you decide to pair together. Black or dark indigo jeans work best on the bottom, but that doesn’t mean you’re constricted to wearing a bleached denim jacket up top. It’s all about balance. Denim jackets are fairly inexpensive which is ideal when transitioning your wardrobe from spring to summer.
Wear it with a slouchy knit jumper and chinos, go for a sportier look with a pair of track pants and high-tops, or dress with summer festivals in mind with a vest and cargo shorts.
Blazers for Men
Single-breasted, double-breasted, no lapel or a full satin collar, a man’s blazer is the definitive piece in his wardrobe a definite classic wardrobe essential. The main reason for a man to opt for a blazer over a full two or three-piece suit is versatility. A blazer can be paired with jeans for a casual everyday look, or like a suit, paired with tailored trousers to don during the evening.
The important thing to consider when buying a blazer as a staple for your wardrobe is the fit. Investing in a tailored blazer that aligns with your measurements, and is made from a decent fabric, will ensure it will last longer than anything bought off the rack.
However, we all know how expensive a ‘Saville-Row-like’ jacket can set you back, so if you do wind up looking for a more affordable option then consider when and where you’ll be wearing it. The best scenario would be to pick up a jacket in three classic colourways – black, blue and tan. However with weather permitting you can also experiment with material, such as donning a linen blazer with a crisp white shirt in the summer, and a wool blazer beneath a coat in the winter.
A suit is perhaps the biggest investment for a man’s essential wardrobe. You can opt for either a two-piece or three-piece design in a variety of materials, colours and silhouettes suited to any specific occasion. And you can get it tailored to your exact body measurements, ensuring a design that is unique and bespoke to only you.
Today suits have been reworked from the classic shape to include longline blazer designs, cropped trouser lengths, rolled cuffs and brocade suit jackets. But as we’re talking about only the closet essentials there should be two suit designs you should most definitely own that will carry you from work to play.
Work Suits for Men
We get that being confined to wearing a suit everyday in the office can become a little mundane, but if you choose a design that fits your body perfectly in a colour way that can easily compliment shirt and accessory changes, styling a suit can become less of a chore and more of an experiment.
The majority of boardroom-approved designs include a suit jacket with either a one button or two button single-breasted enclosure with a slight lapel and a space for a pocket square. As for trousers it’s either a no break or half break design that will sit just above your shoe heel. Choosing a suit that is snug to the body without being too tight, or even worse, too loose, is paramount.
Instead of black opt for a grey or blue suit that can layer over white, light blue, pink and pinstripe shirts. Elsewhere you can experiment even further with a Prince of Wales check design, or with herringbone in thicker wool and cotton material depending on the season.
Black Tie/Formal Suits for Men
When the time comes to get your glad rags on choosing a dinner suit, or something equivalent, is your best bet. Of course when summer hits and you start to see invites to weddings, outdoor events and international business trips, the option to dress down per say is a viable option. In that case you can choose a suit design in a light and breathable linen in summery shades of tan and white.
Otherwise a black dinner jacket and trousers are two of the best essentials in a man’s wardrobe. Journey away from your business suit and choose a design with a double-breasted enclosure, perhaps with a satin or velvet trim and a bespoke shawl collar. Remember to add a pair of silver sterling cufflinks, a cravat and a deliciously expensive watch for good measure. When it comes to dressing for evening events it’s all about the little details.
A well-cut shirt can absolutely make an outfit shine. You’ll most likely see a shirt paired beneath a blazer or two-piece suit, but when the summer hits it’s a likely accompaniment tucked into jeans or chinos with a leather belt. Today’s classic shirt is just like that of a century ago, a traditional button down in crisp white cotton. Of course modern iterations of the shirt such as the grandad collar shirt, crewneck and longline shirt (bang on trend this summer) are also viable options.
Consider the fit when you buy a shirt. There’s nothing worse than a design that is too snug on the chest, or too short on the arms. If you’re broad shouldered opt for a design that has a central vent in the back to allow for more wingspan movement, and if you want or need to wear a tie always go for the classic collar shape.
Button Down Shirts for Men
The button down shirt is something that every man should own in his wardrobe. Known as the ‘Oxford Shirt’ and for its breathable cotton design, the button down is an essential foundation before you throw on a jacket or a pair of tailored trousers.
Sure, choosing to purchase a white cotton version of the button down shirt is a no brainer, but if you want to elevate your outfits that little bit further then it’s worth considering a design in shades of pink, light and dark blue, grey and black. Then you have the print to take into account. Do you want to inject some graphic lines with a pinstripe shirt? Perhaps experiment with a plaid design for a more casual affair. Regardless of your preference just know that the button down shirt is a wardrobe essential.
Grandad Collar Shirts for Men
Becoming more and more popular each season is the old school grandad collar shirt. It’s a design that has fallen into favour with the urban street style scene. You’ll most likely see it buttoned at the top and left open from the collar, layered above a classic slouchy T-shirt and jeans.
It’s a design that can transition from day to night depending on the print and colour. A minimal grandad collar shirt in a monochrome colour can be styled with summer shorts in the day and chinos at night, and it’s also an ideal alternative to those of you who don’t like to wear ties when dressing for events.
Mao Collar Shorts for Men
Thanks to designers drawing inspiration from the East, shirt silhouettes like the Mao collar shirt have experienced a significant shift in popularity over the seasons. Favoured by minimalist dressers, the Mao collar shirt is usually simple in its design featuring a centre button enclosure with buttons that are sometimes hidden with an additional panel.
What makes the shirt unique is its ‘Mao collar’ design that sits higher on the neck (almost like a roll neck), fastening with a single button. Pair it with some slick tailored trousers for a modern, elevated evening look, or try on with a pair of washed denim jeans and trainers in the day.
There are two important elements to consider when purchasing a pair of trousers – the waist and the leg length; everything else is just personal preference. Perfect them both and you’ll never have to worry about shopping for trousers again.
Trousers have been the single most important garment to have differentiated men from their female counterparts over the course of history. And while attitudes may have changed to dressing to specific gender roles the reason why we all wear trousers has remained the same – for utility and practicality.
Ideally you should always own two types of trousers in your capsule wardrobe, one that is ideal for evening and one for day. With that in mind the classic tailored trouser and the casual chino are wardrobe essentials.
Tailored Trousers for Men
There’s perhaps nothing worse than an ill-fitting pair of tailored trousers. The proof is in the name – ‘tailored’ to your body. That means taking the time to visit a professional tailor to measure your waist and leg length, particularly if you’re dressing to attend a fancy event. If you’re more inclined to buy off the rack then always try them on prior to purchase.
You must consider what type of shoe you’ll be wearing with your tailored trousers, be it a classic brogue or an evening slipper, the best decision is to opt for a no break or half break design so as to ensure the trouser length will end exactly where the shoe begins.
A good pair of tailored trousers should have a crease line down the central leg panel and should fit snug on the waist and taper all the way down to the ankle. You can stray from traditional black with a pair of grey or perhaps even white tailored trousers, should the summer event call for it, but otherwise a classic black pair will carry you from season to season in your capsule wardrobe.
Chinos for Men
On the other hand chinos are an ideal solution to those of you who don’t attend many events, or at least don’t want to dress up in a rather formal pair of trousers. Chinos can in fact be worn during the evening or can be styled in the day whether paired with trainers or sandals and are a great summer wardrobe essential.
Cotton chinos come in a variety of colours. Keep it simple with classic beige, black and grey or venture into bright shades of red, blue, green and orange – which by the way, works best with a tan. Chinos are an essential item when outfit planning for the summer, they’re breathable and comfortable enough to pair with almost anything from your wardrobe be it a simple t-shirt, shirt or lightweight jumper.
Jeans for Men
Dark wash jeans for men are a perfect way to add that casual element to your wardrobe. If you’re going to invest in a pair of jeans, then always go for a darker pair as these will allow you to wear them with multiple styles and colours with ease.
In terms of fit, depending on your shape, go for a slimmer shape. These will offer a classic styling to your jeans, the perfect wardrobe essential for every man. Teamed with a simple white T-shirt and a formal shoes for a great summer look.
Shoes are pretty much the icing on the cake when it comes to styling any complete outfit from head to toe. Shoes can make or break what you’re wearing, and are an essential step to consider when you want to stand out from the crowd.
The great thing about a pair of shoes is that you can experiment with colour if you’re more prone to wearing monochrome shades, it’s a design trick picked up on by street style stars across the globe. As part of your essential wardrobe the key is to own at least two different types of shoes that are ideal for mixing and matching depending on the occasion. Formal options include a classic pair of leather Derbies or brogues, while high or low top trainers should be your go to for casual everyday wear – it’s your style agenda.
Dress Shoes for Men
When you’re dressing for formal events such as a wedding or dinner party the best way to compliment a dapper suit or tuxedo is to don a pair of leather dress shoes. The most popular choice is the classic Derby shoe that incorporates the brogue shape with a classic sheen finish. The Derby shoe has a slight heel and wooden sole for durability, meanwhile most styles feature an exposed laced upper that is sometimes perforated with a leather design.
You can pick up a pair of Derby shoes in tan or black leather, which are the two most popular shades. What’s also worth considering is the finish of the leather itself, be it either matte or shine. Some designs have gone as far as to incorporate materials like tweed into the shoe’s upper design, providing a unique twist on this modern classic.
As a guide to your simple wardrobe pair these classics with a sharply tailored suit. The best practice is to don a pair of brightly coloured socks, but it is possible to go sock free if you’re feeling truly daring…
Trainers for Men
The great thing about trainers is that you can experiment with style, colour and shape without having to overwhelm your entire body. They’re an ideal accompaniment to an everyday outfit, are incredibly practical and can pretty much withstand all weather conditions.
Whether your preference is for high or low tops, the key to buying trainers is to consider the purpose of wearing them. Do you want a pair to go to the gym in? If so opt for a trainer design that has a durable and sturdy sole, but is also breathable for intensive workout sessions. Are they just for show? Choose a style that stands out from the rest with a bright colourway and mixed media upper. Or are you just looking for a classic? Consider an all-white design, but be wary of the upkeep!
Men’s Wardrobe Basics
To create a men’s capsule wardrobe, you need a few basics that will see you through all seasons. These should be you wardrobe staples, and you should have many variations of them.
- A simple navy or black crew neck jumper
- A good quality white T-shirt
- A pair of perfectly fitting jeans
- A sturdy pair of Chelsea boots
- A trenchcoat
The Best Men’s Wardrobe Essentials
- Jackets – Always stick to classic styles as these will see you through season after season.
- Suits – Go for a nice, tailored fit in either black, navy or grey.
- Shirts – A crisp white button down shirt will see you through a plethora of situations.
- Trousers – Trousers of chinos are perfect for any wardrobe, again, classic colours such as black and navy for trousers and a staple beige or stone colour for chinos.
- Shoes – Always invest in your footwear as these can cary your through every occasion and season. Go for a brogue or derby in black or brown for more formal occasions and a pair of white trainer for your more casual days.
On That Note
What have you learnt from our guide on the 5 Men’s Wardrobe Essentials? To recap it’s about choosing pieces that can transition your style from season to season without compromising quality or design. Remember to experiment, but above all it’s about respecting the classics and working around them to create a truly unique style.