Men’s Q&A: 10 Staples of a Man’s Wardrobe

June 25th, 2008

Q: Because of environmental issues, I try to consume less and re-use as much as I can; however, I find that I buy too much clothing, over half of which I barely wear. I know that it’s not entirely possible to have a 10-item-only wardrobe, but what 10 items do you think could make a complete wardrobe that would last forever (i.e. wear well and not go out of style)?

Item 1: Navy Suit
Suit Jacket

A staple of every gentleman’s wardrobe, the navy suit is versatile not only because of its color, but also because you can also wear the jacket as a navy blazer, which is another must-have for men.  Get a wool blazer in a dark, inky-blue color and you’ll be set for life.

Item 2: Grey Suit
Charcoal Wool Suit
Charcoal Wool Modern Three Button Suit at Banana Republic

A trim gray suit in heather grey or charcoal grey never goes out of style.  You could also argue that there is nothing more in style right now, either.

Item 3: Jeans
Loomstate Jeans
Loomstate Jeans | $96 (sale) at Saks

You can’t go wrong with a pair of straight leg denim jeans in dark navy and a simple pocket design.  This pair by Loomstate is all these things and more: the company uses certified organic cotton and socially and environmentally responsible methods of production.

Style tip:
Keep your denim dark by infrequently washing them inside out with detergent specially formulated for dark items, like this one from The Laundress.

Item 4: T-Shirt

Make sure your shirts are trim and well-fitting, like these from Splendid Always.  The pima cotton used in these shirts are pesticide-free, making it as eco-friendly as it was stylish.

Item 5: White Oxford Buttondown Shirt

White Oxford Buttondown Shirt
Solid Vintage Oxford Shirt | $59.50 at J Crew

I can’t think of a single thing with which a crisp white buttondown doesn’t look good.  Enough said.

Item 6: Black or Brown Lace Ups
Black or Brown Lace Ups

You’ll need a good pair of dress shoes, either in brown or black. Brown suggets luxury, black suggests sleekness. Whichever you choose, spend a little more and get a pair in cordovan leather.  Also, if you really are practical, go with black; black shoes can go with colors that brown don’t (such as black pants).  

Style tip? Getting a toe tap for a dress shoe with a leather sole will greatly extend the life of the shoe.

Style tip 2?  Even the best dress shoes will get worn down with use, but that doesn’t mean you need to throw them away.  Instead, get them refurbished.  According to Esquire, Allen Edmonds will add new soles, heels, welting, foot beds and laces to the shoe, then condition and polish the leather, all for about $100.  Just be warned: if the leather is cracked, you will have to get a new sole.

Item 7: Tie
Ralph Lauren Purple Label Tie
Ralph Lauren Purple Label Tie | $90 (sale) at Ralph Lauren

Solid or stripes are always a safe bet, but if it’s practicality you want, go with a solid tie.  Solid ties can go with any kind of shirt (i.e. check, stripes, solid, etc.).  

Item 8: Khakis
Favorite Khaki Pants by Save Khaki
Favorite Khaki Pants | $105 at Neiman Marcus

You want to wear khakis that don’t make you look like you just came from a country club.  Get a pair that’s trim but not too-skinny–a pair of flat front khakis with no cuffs.  I love the fit and color of this pair by Save Khaki.  This pair isn’t meant to be worn with a navy blazer, but you know what? I’m tired of the navy blazer/khaki look, even though it is considered timeless.

Item 9: Wool Overcoat
Wool Overcoat

You don’t ever ever ever want to skimp on your overcoat (trust me, east coasters). Your overcoat should be as slim and tailored as your suit.  My style is a bit more modern, so I prefer overcoats that are bit shorter in length than traditional ones; look for one that falls no longer than the top of your kneecap.  Get your overcoat in a dark color like navy or charcoal.  Treat it well and you will never have to buy another one again.

Why an overcoat and not a peacoat, you ask?  Pure practicality.  Most peacoats hit at the waist or just below, and as such, you wouldn’t want to wear a suit or blazer underneath because the jacket would peek out from under the peacoat.

Item 10: Sneakers
Common Projects Leather Low Top Shoes
Common Projects Leather Low Top Shoes | $278 at South Willard

If you have to get only one pair of casual shoes, make them plain white sneakers in leather or canvas.  The only color shoes I buy (except for dress shoes and loafers) are white.  Look for Jack Purcells or Chuck Taylors–or shoes by Common Projects.

Entry Filed under: Men,Men's,Q&A

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kc  |  June 25th, 2008 at 6:44 am

    How about a rundown like this for women?

  • 2. Donna  |  June 25th, 2008 at 8:08 am

    All of your picks are right on the money! I wish more men would dress like this instead of in baggy pants and polo shirts or T-shirts that are 1-2 sizes too big! Buy the highest quality items you can afford and you won’t regret it…you’ll also look a lot classier!

  • 3. Felix  |  June 25th, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    This is brilliant! Thank you for doing this! I greatly appreciate how you took environmental issues to mind–and it’s great to know that shoes that bad can be restored (some of mine could use a refurbishing, even if it does cost $100). I actually have that same white shirt (J Crew), but straight-collared (I have a thing against button-downs). And the navy suit-blazer tip is great, I was wary to buy a navy suit, but I think I’ll invest in one so I can get a two-in-one wardrobe piece.

  • 4. jillian  |  June 25th, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Where is that overcoat from?

  • 5. Mat  |  June 25th, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Great list! I can see wearing these items whether I’m working or going to school.


    p.s. Loomstates Rule! They’re my favorite pair of jeans.

  • 6. Trisha  |  June 26th, 2008 at 4:46 am

    We’re working on a rundown like this for women :)

    Thanks for the love, all!

  • 7. John  |  June 26th, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Felix – I’m glad you enjoyed it. I also prefer a more formal collar, but a button down is considered more sporty, yet formal enough to wear to the office, so in the interest of practicality, it is a better fit for this list.

    And yes, the $100 for a refurbished pair is expensive, but consider how much it costs to buy a new pair of Allen Edmonds!

    Jillian – That cashmere overcoat is by Prada. I like it for its trimness, high armholes, and more contemporary length (mid thigh). The color is fantastic too.

  • 8. Helene  |  November 26th, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    What color shoes are worn with a man’s navy blue suit?

  • 9. Trisha  |  November 27th, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Hi Helene,

    With a navy blue suit, try a rich shade of brown for shoes.

    Hope that helps!

  • 10. ali shams  |  November 3rd, 2011 at 9:30 am

    hello to every body can u share ore picteres for overcoat??
    thank u

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