The 20 Essential Men’s Wardrobe Items (plus a few more)

03 Feb The 20 Essential Men’s Wardrobe Items (plus a few more)

My wife and I recently came to the realization that despite how we feel, we are actually adults and no longer in high school. We then realized we probably should stop dressing like we are in high school. This meant ditching some clothes and doing some research. We both searched the essential items every man/woman must own. I searched numerous articles and websites and have compiled a list of the items most frequently listed as “necessities” or “basics”. If you are like me and do not have the disposable income to justify purchasing new fashions every year, than the smart thing to do is buy the old classics. These are the basic building blocks to a man’s wardrobe and with these things you can look nice anywhere you go. This is especially important for those of us in the professional world  or looking to get a job. Regardless of how you feel about it you are being judged by your appearance in your interviews and at the workplace, so look the part. Also, there is an argument for looking nice wherever you go, you never know who you will run into or meet that could lead to new opportunities. Here are a few general tips before we get started:
Gabriel is breaking so many fashion rules here.

Gabriel is breaking so many fashion rules here.

  • Pay attention to clothes care and wash instructions and follow them, especially for your nicer items.
  • Compare prices, it takes 10 seconds to copy and paste your item into google search, amazon, or ebay. Play it safe and check all three. No reason to pay more if you don’t have to. Always check for coupon codes as well.
  • As always, stick within your budget, you do not have to buy the super expensive brands to get a quality product. That being said you do usually get what you pay for, so for these essential items be willing to spend a bit more than usual and get something that will last. In the end you will spend less because it will last much longer than it’s cheaper counterpart.
  • Hit the Sales! Stores like Banana Republic and Express have items on clearance in store and online at a fraction of the original price. Great time to get deals. My wife and I recently went to Banana Republic and found very nice shirts and sweaters for $10-$20 a piece after the discount.
So here is my list of the essential items every man should have in his wardrobe.
Purchase many of these from my store here.
1. Blue Jeans
Every man should have one go-to pair of nice jeans. The pair you can wear with a t-shirt, polo, or even a dress shirt and still look great. Stick to a solid dark blue and straight cut, no skinny jeans here. I like Hugo Boss (on sale of course). Other recommended brands: Lucky, Express, Diesel, Levi’s,  True Religion, AG Adriano Goldschmied Protege.
2. Tailored Suit
gray suit
If you’re going to have one suit, make it a good one. Even a cheap suit can look good if it fits you perfect. Most places recommend a charcoal gray as your first suit, some say Navy. Make it 2 or 3 button, single breasted. I personally went with a gray suit from express, and opted for the vest as well. I have also heard Topman is good (pictured). Wait for pinstripes once you have a few solids.
Honorable Mention:
Briefcase (stealth, no big logos), Pocket Handkerchief (not the same as pocket square), Hat (Go to someone who knows hats and get the right type for your face)
3. White Dress Shirt

Think Jason Statham in Transporter. It’s the most versatile shirt you will own. From casual with jeans to formal at a wedding. Or in Jason Statham’s case, beating humans to a pulp. Banana Republic has a wrinkle free cotton version. I have never gone wrong with Express dress shirts, however I hear good things about shirts made in Italy.

white button up

4. Tie

Start with solid colors, blue, black, etc.

This is an obvious one, but a lot guys think they can get away with the no tie look. Man up and get some ties. I personally like the silk ties from Express.  Wherever you get them, get a few silk, and make sure the rest are good quality. Avoid clip-ons, your’e not five. Some high quality recommended brands are Dolce and Gabbana, and Ermenegildo Zegna. I have found some nice higher end ties on eBay for much lower prices.


5. Dress Pants/Slacks/Trousers

Grey and Black for sure

Get a well-made pair, in a fabric that is not too thin.  Black dress pants with a white dress shirt is still a sharp look that will never go out of style. Grey is more versatile. I recently picked up a tailored slim fit black wool dress pant at Banana Republic, they were 30% off plus I got another 10% by using their tote bag. Express has also been good for me. By the way, I mention Express a lot because they are actually quite affordable compared to other designer brands. Plus, they send out coupons every other Tuesday, so you can always get them at a discount.



6. Khakis/Chinos

General advice on all pants, avoid pleats and tapered cut. Just stick to what you know. Khakis are a staple in the mens wardrobe. Safe for casual office attire, and nice enough to dress up a little bit. H and M has an affordable pair of cotton chinos for $29.99. Or you could always go with Dockers.

khaki chinos


7. Watch

A man should wear a watch. It’s not cool to reach into your pocket and grab your phone every time you need to check the clock. Unless your over 50, calm down on the gold.  Stick with round shapes, subtle numbers and colors, and black leather or steel straps. You can even go Timex on this.

watchHonorable Mention:

Cologne/Aftershave- A man should smell like a man, but not in a natural way. Sorry, Matthew McConaughey. And no, Axe doesn’t count, save that for the gym bag.

Cuff Links-Sometimes you got to do it big.

cuff links

Autobot and Decepticon cuff links! Can I get a Psych style “What?”

8. Belt

You need brown and black, and your best bet is to just get a reversible one. Leather is nice.  If you want to go top notch go with Farragamo, otherwise just go with a quality leather.



9. Overcoat

Every man needs a real coat. One designed to actually keep you warm but not look like you’re planning to be in the wilderness for a few nights. Most recommend the classic “car coat” or ¾ length. You could go with a trench coat as well.



Honorable Mention:

Pea Coat-I picked one up on sale from Express. If you’re still wearing your big ass NFL team coat its time to give it a rest.

Brown Leather Jacket-This is close to an essential item. There are different styles depending on what you like, and be sure to get one that fits.

leatherjacketpea coat






10. Wingtips/Oxfords

You always heard your dad talking about wingtips. Well there is a reason, they are awesome. Wear these to the office, with a suit, or with nice jeans.  Pictured are Steve Madden Cognac and Cole Haan Wingtips. Also recommended is Banana Republic Wingtips. No square toes. Match with belt. Black with everything but brown, brown with everything but black, burgandy (cordovan) with everything. Make sure you buy some Kiwi polish and keep them looking nice.








11. Dress Shoes

Same rules apply, no square toes. Sometimes the oxfords are nice enough to double as your dress shoe but it’s a good idea to have a pair just for formal occasions (weddings). Johnston and Murphy is a good brand. You can also go with patent leathers for the high class look.



Honorable Mention:

Dress Boot: For when it’s cold. Can go with the Chelsea style (pictured).



12. Casual/Slip-ons

Penny Loafers-Wear like dress shoes, with suits, khakis, denim, do not wear without socks or with shorts. Shine them with care.

Boat shoes- Wear without socks if with shorts. Take care of the leather or suede. Sperry’s are a solid choice.

boatshoepenny loafer






Honorable Mention:

Chelsea Boot-Hampton Element shown

Saddle Shoes-These just look cool. Wear them with nice clothes. Do not polish.










13. Sneakers

jackpurcellWe all need a casual sneaker to wear. Converse Chuck Taylors or Jack Purcells are a solid choice.

white sneakers, chuck taylors










14. Blue/Navy worsted wool Blazer

Is there anything better than a well cut, well made blazer? Wear it at work, with your friends at a bar, or at a wedding. Navy works well with anything; jeans, a polo or dress shirt. Avoid  gold or brass buttons.  Stick with a classic two button with a single vent in back and medium width lapels.

blue blazer


15. Polo

Spring for at least one nice pique cotton polo. Personally I like the alligator over the horse. There is also Penguin brand, which I hear good things about.



16. Dress Shirts

We already talked about the white dress shirt. Now lets add a few more. Blue, striped, black; get a variety to match different outfits and ties. If you’re man enough, spice it up with some purple and pink. I personally have a lot of Express dress shirts, but if you really want to get crazy try Turnbull and Asser.



17. V-Neck Sweater

I picked up a cashmere sweater at Banana Republic on sale.  Go with a darker color if you are only going to have one.



Honorable Mention:

Cotton crew neck-such as the J Crew cotton cashmere.

Alpaca Shawl Collar Sweater (Calvin Klein pictured)


18. Athletic Gear

Get athletic shoes for whatever you’re into. Basketball, Running, Tennis, etc. Even if you are not into sports have at least one pair. Get some athletic shorts and  at least one breathable athletic shirt. Make sure you have a gym bag as well. Again, even if you don’t go to the gym just have one because you’re a man. Just get one that can be used as luggage and  for professional use. Brown leather looks nice. For what goes inside the bag, check this out 10-gym-bag-essentials.


Honorable Mention:

Bathrobe-no more wrapping a towel around your midsection and trying to tuck it in like that’s some magic belt. Do your reviews on this one, a bad robe is worse than nothing at all, a good one is worth it. If you want to go for the home run check out Anichini.


19. Sunglasses

Personally I have a pair of Express Aviators ($20) and a pair of 100% UV protection  unbreakable sport sunglasses from Jimarti that I got for $28 on Amazon. The classic look is the brown aviators. Cant go wrong. Pictured are Ray Bans.



Honorable Mention:

Leather Wallet-some recommend black, I go brown leather. No velcro, leave that to armbands. Also cool it with the big slogans, nobody needs to know what brand you have.


20. T-Shirt

Get some quality T-shirts and be done with it. Start with White. It’s cool to keep a few of your favorites around but adults don’t wear shirts with a bunch of crap on them. You ever see Ryan Gosling or George Clooney with a “I’m with Stupid” Tee on? With the $15 off $30 coupons at Express I picked up a T-shirt and dress socks for $22. That’s a deal. They make good t shirts and they are cheap. I have about 5 or six. Get mostly solid then mix it up with some stripes. As of this writing 1/31/13 Express cotton tees (pictured) are $22 and buy one get one for $9.99. Boom Time.



Too obvious to mention
I feel like it is necessary to mention the things that may not make most people’s lists. Some of us guys really have no clue.

These things didn’t make most lists because it is assumed you would already have these things. But we all know what happens when you assume.


Boxer Briefs (7 pairs)- Get rid of the tighty whiteys Doug Funny.


Socks (7 pairs)- Only wear white socks at the gym. Otherwise match the color of the pants. Short socks only with shorts or very casual wear.


Undershirts-get some good quality v necks to wear under things. Remember the round necks might show.


Luggage-Time to get some big boy luggage. No more Jansport and plastic bags.


Umbrella-Men should be prepared to give their umbrella up to their woman friend. Go with a long sleek dark colored umbrella.


Steel Toe work boots-If you do work, get a pair. Stop wearing old tennis shoes, you’re gonna smash your toes.


Message to Claire:

I realize I just wrote a whole blog about clothes. For women, clothes can be like kryptonite, at least to your budget. I have talked about not getting hung up on materialistic things before. There is nothing wrong with liking nice things, and like I said at first, it can actually be smarter financially to buy the quality product that lasts longer and has better performance. But do not let material items define who you are, and certainly don’t treat anyone differently who cannot afford high quality items. I don’t know how many times I have and will say this to you, but just live by the golden rule, treat people how you expect to be treated. Kill them with kindness. 


Sources Used: