10 Fundamentals of a Man’s Wardrobe

Lloyd Hughes

Build A Wardrobe For Life

Build­ing a wardrobe that won’t go out of style is a long term invest­ment, help­ing to keep your cloth­ing bud­get in line while look­ing your best. The first step, how­ev­er, is under­stand­ing the basics, the fun­da­men­tals in which to build from. You need to rely on a few stock items that can be used for any sit­u­a­tion. Fol­low­ing are the 10 must have, absolute, fun­da­men­tal items that every man should keep on hand — and on the rest of his body.

Spoiled for choice in a man's wardrobe

1 — Dark Gray Suit — A staple in a man’s wardrobe

Every man needs at least one suit, so make it gray, though, navy is a good sec­ond choice. Gray works in the office, an inter­view or an emer­gency when you need to look your best. Ask Cary Grant. If you can afford one suit, make sure it’s qual­i­ty and con­ser­v­a­tive. Two or three but­ton, sin­gle breast­ed suits look good on near­ly every body type. Avoid pleats and go for flat front pants. Before mak­ing your pur­chase, know your mea­sure­ments. Make sure every­thing fits com­fort­ably because you will own it for a long time. Here’s more infor­ma­tion on get­ting the right suit.

gregory peck building a man's wardrobe
gre­go­ry peck

2 — White Dress Shirt

We’ve already talked about the impor­tance of a white dress shirt. Like a good sports coat or blaz­er, it match­es well with any­thing but also gives you a dressed up appear­ance, even if you for­got to shave or comb your hair. Don’t skim on the qual­i­ty because this shirt will get a lot of miles and needs to last. Make sure the fab­ric is strong, such as 100% cot­ton Oxford with a two ply, 80 thread count fin­ish, such as this. Avoid but­toned col­lars because this will lim­it its ver­sa­til­i­ty, look­ing too casu­al.

3 — Navy Blue Sport Coat or Blazer

Noth­ing is more ver­sa­tile and good look­ing than a well cut, well made sports coat or blaz­er. It can be worn in a vari­ety of sit­u­a­tions, such as work, hang­ing out with your friends at a bar or a for­mal get togeth­er. It’s great for the fall and spring and slim enough to fit under a top coat dur­ing win­ter.  Navy blue works well with any­thing, eas­i­ly going with jeans, a polo or but­ton down. There are many styles to choose from, but avoid a blaz­er with gold or brass but­tons. Look for some­thing made of medi­um weight, worsted wool so you can wear it all year.  As for the cut, keep it sim­ple: no dou­ble breast­ed or four but­ton styles. Select a clas­sic two but­ton with a sin­gle vent in back and medi­um width lapels. Final­ly, here’s some help­ful infor­ma­tion on the dif­fer­ent styles of jack­ets.

George clooney building a man's wardrobe
George Clooney

4 — Dark Jeans 

Ten years ago, this wouldn’t have made anyone’s list but times have changed. Dark jeans are now a sta­ple for a man’s wardrobe. They can be worn at a nice restau­rant, most work places that don’t day trade and that night club she just has to be at. Go for some­thing with com­fort, qual­i­ty and no rips. Avoid bag­gy and skin­ny, but just right. Stay away from design­er labels that vis­i­bly pro­claim their sta­tus on your bum. It might be cool now, but it won’t be in a few years. Here’s how to avoid fad­ing your dark jeans too quick­ly, retain­ing their pre­cious indi­go.

5 — Black Dress Shoes

A good pair will match most suits (except brown) and you can’t go wrong with a lace up look. They’ll be used a lot, such as work or any occa­sion that calls for some for­mal­i­ty. There­fore, take the plunge for qual­i­ty with fine leather and stitch­ing from a rep­utable brand. Keep in mind, women will also take an inter­est with what’s on your feet. Avoid square toe and look for some­thing round­ed. If you’re on your feet most of the day, I’d rec­om­mend pur­chas­ing Ecco’s with their gen­er­ous shoe sole design. To main­tain your pricey pair, make sure to get a qual­i­ty set of cedar shoes and shoe pol­ish.

6 — Khaki / Chino pants 

These do well in the sum­mer, run­ning errands any day of the week or beat­ing that dead­line at work. You can even sleep in them. There are always debates as to the dif­fer­ences and ori­gins of these type of pants, but that’s for anoth­er day. Point is, you need to own at least one or the oth­er. Typ­i­cal­ly, khaki’s are the more casu­al style of the two, fuller in the seat and thighs. Chino’s are usu­al­ly a lighter shade and with a straight through fit. So it depends on what you’re look­ing for. Both should be 100% cot­ton twill and a flat front. If they’re long, you can roll them up or get them hemmed.

Chinos that are suitable for a man's wardrobe

7 — Sneakers 

It’s nice to relax in a clas­sic pair of sneak­ers after work, hang­ing out with friends at a bar or walk­ing around town with the lady. It’s impor­tant to get a sub­tle col­or that can match well with jeans, chi­nos or any type of casu­al pants. They’re not expen­sive so you can get a pair of white for the sum­mer and some­thing dark­er for spring and fall. Avoid any­thing with loud col­ors or flashy labels as these will become use­less after the fad fades. Per­son­al­ly, I stick with Con­verse Chuck Taylor’s or their high­er end John Var­vatos Jack Purcell’s.

8 — V-Neck Sweater 

The V neck’s shape gives space for your col­lar, let­ting it open up nat­u­ral­ly. This looks great over any dress shirt but also works well with a polo or T shirt. Choose a sweater with ribbed cuffs, col­lar and bot­tom, fit­ting your build, so it’s not loose or flop­py in appear­ance. The V needs to be large enough to fit over a col­lared shirt but also small enough to fit over a T shirt. If you plan to have one or two, select dark­er col­ors so it match­es with every­thing, such as gray, navy blue or choco­late brown.

V-neck sweaters as part of a man's wardrobe
john­ston of elgin cash­mere v neck

9 — Watch 

This is the only acces­so­ry that made our list because it’s the most impor­tant. These days, guys use their cell phones to tell time, but when you have a clas­sic rock on your wrist, noth­ing bet­ter reflects your per­son­al­i­ty along with a per­son­al state­ment on your style. It’s a wor­thy invest­ment, some­thing that should last, but tread care­ful­ly because there are many options. The watch should be qual­i­ty, mas­cu­line, but most impor­tant­ly, some­thing you feel com­fort­able wear­ing. Met­al and leather bands are clas­sic, but gros­grain is great for a casu­al look. Keep your sports watch in the gym.

10 — Polo Shirt 

Anoth­er item that works well in many sit­u­a­tions. Polo’s are a great sum­mer shirt but also suit­able for work, hap­py hour and wher­ev­er else your night may lead you. They come in a vari­ety of col­ors but for a basic col­lec­tion, start with navy blue, gray and dark green. Again, this is going to last a long time, so look for qual­i­ty and com­fort. Ralph Lau­ren is some­what cliche, so look around for some­thing unique. I’d rec­om­mend a slim­mer fit polo with a soft fin­ish, but ulti­mate­ly, there are so many options it’s up to you. As tempt­ing as it maybe, don’t pop your col­lar or but­ton the top but­ton.

Polo knits are a man's wardrobe favorite
FB_Purple Popped Col­lar

Where to stock a man’s wardrobe

Most of these items can be found at J. Crew and Banana Repub­lic. They typ­i­cal­ly design clas­sic men’s clothes with qual­i­ty. J Crew offers a nice, final sales selec­tion. Also check out Blue­fly.

Hav­ing these few reli­able items in your clos­et will make you look your best for a long time. After build­ing your foun­da­tion, make sure to com­pli­ment every­thing with your own per­son­al touch and style, reflect­ing who you are.  Enhance your appear­ance so you don’t blend in, falling in line like every­one else. There’s noth­ing wrong with being orig­i­nal, since you now have a good foun­da­tion to stand on.

*None of the above con­sti­tutes an endorse­ment of any of the web­sites men­tioned or the con­tent there­in.

Return to our home­page to learn more about cus­tom dress shirts.