Fashion is a word that we try and steer clear of. Fads and trends come and go, but true style is timeless. And, better yet, by having just a few men’s wardrobe essentials and a little know-how, every guy can walk out of the house confidently knowing they look their best. Unfortunately, some of us still have been misinformed when it comes to style etiquette leaving us vulnerable to looking poorly dressed in professional environments.
Seriously, why did no one teach us this? Better yet, why do many styles look great on some but not others? Luckily, there are a few dress necessities that will make every man look debonair. Here’s what your closet should contain at a minimum.
1. Navy Suit
While there are plenty of things you should own as an adult, a navy suit is likely the most important men’s wardrobe essential. It’s perfect for maintaining a professional appearance in the office, but you’ll also find that it can work in just about any occasion. From formal weddings to more casual networking events, a navy suit will have you covered.
It all comes down to what you pair your suit with. When heading to the office, a pair of oxfords, a classic white dress shirt, and a solid or patterned tie and pocket square will do perfectly. Going to a more relaxed occasion? Toss on a patterned shirt and skip the tie.
2. White Dress Shirts
You’re going to need several white dress shirts when building a collection of men’s wardrobe essentials. After all, they’ll get used and washed far more often than your suit. Make sure every shirt is new and crisp – keeping them in a consistent rotation is a sure-fire way to keep them looking new for quite some time. You can also feel free to experiment with different color types to both elevate your style and tell them apart.
The perfect thing about white dress shirts is that they go with absolutely everything – especially when it comes to a navy suit. Paired with a suit, silk necktie and Oxford shoes, you’re prepped for even the most formal of occasions. While most brands won’t need to be dry cleaned, you should still ensure that your shirt is pressed before wearing. We recommend having your dress shirts professionally laundered and pressed, as it typically costs a few bucks a shirt and makes a world of difference. Of course, you can save some money by doing this yourself the old fashioned way!
3. Five Pairs of Slacks
Even if they’ll be hidden under your desk most of the day, owning at least one pair of nice slacks for each day of the week you spend in the office is important. While your navy suit is an obvious men’s wardrobe essential, you still need a bit of variety in your attire for your day-to-day work-wear.
In most cases, purchasing from a brick-and-mortar store is ideal so that you're able to try them on, or you can go a step above and have your trousers custom made. This may sound like an expensive alternative, but the truth is custom clothing more than pays for itself in terms of fit and quality. It can be quite difficult to get the right fit when browsing online and even in-store off the rack items tend to require the extra expense of a tailor.
If you work in a more casual business environment where chinos and a button up are sufficient, checkout the new online service Stately. All you have to do is create a style profile based on your work and weekend attire and they'll curate items accordingly to fit your needs. This is perfect for guys who hate sifting through racks and are short on time as they also provide free sizing exchanges. However, the need for a quality tailor may still exist for small adjustments and we still recommend owning at least a few pairs of slacks for more professional events.
4. Two Blazers
If you work in a business casual environment, you can get away with a good pair of slacks and a pressed dress shirt. To keep your boss and coworkers guessing, though, you should also invest in a couple of high-quality blazers. With five pairs of slacks and a couple of blazers, you’ll have a nearly a limitless selection of outfits within your reach. Keep in mind, however, you should NEVER wear your suit jacket as a blazer or your suit trousers as slacks. Beyond other reasons, doing so will cause uneven wear in each garment that can become noticeable when worn together again.
It’s acceptable to purchase off the rack when selecting your blazers so long as the ends of your shoulders line up with the seams. You can have most other attributes tailored to be a perfect fit, though we still recommend going custom here to really add some quality pieces to the men’s wardrobe essentials in your closet.
5. Dress Shoes in Different Styles
When we were younger, most of us thought a single pair of dress shoes would cover any occasion. Weddings, funerals, graduations, nice dinners – you name it – that "fancy" pair of dress shoes made an appearance. When building your men’s wardrobe essentials, though, you have to drop this way of thinking.
You’re going to need several pairs of dress shoes, and make sure they’re different in style and in color. Your shoes need to pair with your socks, slacks, belt and every other part of your attire. By having a wide selection of styles and colors to choose from, you can nail the perfect gentlemanly look for every occasion.
And remember, those square-toed laceless slip-on "loafers" you see in stores like Kohls and JC Penneys are absolutely not up to par.
6. Small Patterned Silk Ties
There are all types of ties on the racks of department stores, but few are as versatile as the small patterned silk variety. This is why every guy seeking out the best of men’s wardrobe essentials should invest in several of these. You'll want to stick to more subtle patterns and colors when it comes to your neck-wear, many men make the mistake of over-flashing with their ties, socks, and other accessories.
By pairing with the appropriate shirt and blazer, patterned ties can create new and distinct looks every day. If you don’t want to feel restricted on the number of potential outfits at your disposal, check out the ties offered by Southern Scholar which come with outfit pairings and suggestions.
7. A White Pocket Square
While perusing some photos of the debonair men of the past, it’s not uncommon to see them sporting a pocket square. Simply put, if you're wearing a jacket, it should have a pocket square in the pocket. The exception is if you're wearing a tie that is hard to pair with. The classic white cotton or linen pocket square is a versatile addition to your wardrobe essentials that go with just about anything.
You can also branch out into other patterns and colors but, just like with ties, don't overdo it with novelty prints or flashy colors. Take a look at our article regarding accessories to wear at a wedding to help you stand out amongst the crowd and remember, a pocket square in a room full of empty jackets will immediately place you in a higher class than your peers.
8. Solid Navy Knit Tie
Patterned ties are great for a variety of reasons, but sometimes you just can’t beat the appearance of a solid navy knit tie, especially in the fall and winter. They will go perfectly with your blazers due to their being lesser on the formal side. This is perfect when you want a relaxed yet professional look heading into the office.
One of the most often cited reasons for considering this a men’s wardrobe essential, though, is that it’s not going to ever look unkempt. You can literally toss it in your briefcase, have it jostled about during the day, and when the next morning comes, it will be wrinkle free and ready to go (though we don't recommend that).
9. A Good Collection of Dress Socks
Please don't be the guy who sports his white cotton athletic socks with anything other than sneakers. The fact is, it’s completely inappropriate, no matter which celebrity you've seen do it on the cover of whatever magazine. A large collection of dress socks is essential whether you’re going into work or heading out to a nice dinner.
When purchasing socks for your men’s wardrobe essentials, stay away from anything novelty, funky or otherwise over the top. You want to stick with solids and subtle patterns to bring your entire look together while maintaining a charming appearance.
10. Belts to Match Your Shoes
Many people view belts as simply something to hold up their pants. Those who want a proper collection of men’s wardrobe essentials, though, recognize that they’re an important accessory. Your belt needs to match your shoes. They should be matching in texture, finish, and color. If you're wearing custom trousers without belt loops, then it is obviously okay to skip the belt. The other exception would be if your trousers have buttons for braces or suspenders. Otherwise, if your pants have belt loops, it is required to wear a belt.
Don’t get overly worried about exact matches, though. After all, brown shoes come in many tones. It just needs to be close enough that the naked eye can't tell a difference. Your slacks will actually serve to diminish the minor differences in shades. BeltCraft has a wide selection of options to choose from, and they even provide tips on choosing the best belt.
11. Dress Watch
A stylish dress watch will round out any outfit you choose from your collection of men’s wardrobe essentials. In this case, stylish means elegant, simplistic and minimalist. Avoid gaudiness or other excessive adornments such as diamond bejeweling. You can score a beautiful watch, both in craftsmanship and style from companies like Vincero Watches. We recommend going with a brown leather band and a white face such as their Chrono S Class.
Start Your Men’s Wardrobe Essentials Collection Now
Stocking your closet with these basics is a necessity in today’s business world. While a t-shirt and pair of jeans might be just what the doctor ordered for a Saturday at the bar, they’re not going to fly at most offices. Start your collection of men’s wardrobe essentials today, and you could be catching your boss’s eye – and those of the ladies’ – by tomorrow.
Check out the awesome dress sock subscription boxes at Southern Scholar to start getting your wardrobe on track!