Wardrobe Basics for Men: Clothes Every Man Should Own


The Suit
Almost every man will find occasion to wear a suit once in a while. The two-button black suit is perhaps the most classic, and certainly the most versatile. Think of the salesperson as a resource, not a nuisance. Get measured, even if you think you know your size. Explain what you’re looking for and ask for advice. A good salesperson will know what features in a suit will best suit your features.

Dress Clothes
Start with an undershirt. Undershirts protect your dress clothes from perspiration and hide their translucence. Now add a white dress shirt—once again, get measured! Add a solid colored neck tie, black dress socks and dress shoes and you’re almost there.

Belts
A black dress belt is a must. Better yet, buy a reversible dress belt that easily switches from black to brown. If you own a dress watch with a metal band, choose a dress belt with a buckle that matches (silver or gold). Also buy a casual belt (usually wider and less shiny) to wear with jeans or other casual pants. A properly fitting belt should be comfortable when set to the middle notch.

Business Casual
Khaki chinos are an absolute must! Dress them up with a dress shirt, tie, and blazer, or dress them down with a polo shirt. A blazer is optional, but very snazzy—the most classic look is a blue blazer with brass buttons, paired with khakis. Wear dress socks that match your pants.

Jeans
Darker, unadorned, straight-leg jeans have an enduring quality. If you only own one pair of jeans, choose some of this sort. Avoid jeans that are heinously baggy, too short, or excessively distressed. Jeans should be worn with matching casual socks and a casual belt. Sport shirts or t-shirts go well with jeans.

Outerwear
If needed, a dressier coat such as a peacoat or trench coat should be worn with suits and more formal clothing. “Hoodies” and sweatshirts should be reserved for jeans and other casual clothing. Sweaters are great for layering and can be worn over a dress shirt under a suit coat or blazer, or over a sport shirt with a pair of jeans.

Matching
  • Match leather. Belt, shoes, and watch band should be the same color. Leather accessories such as briefcase or padfolio can match too, but are less critical.
  • Match metal. Metal watch bands and belt buckles should be the same color.
  • Match dressiness. Wear casual accessories (socks, shoes, belt) with casual clothes and dress accessories with dress or business casual clothes
  • Match socks and pants. Blue jeans should be worn with blue socks, black pants with black socks. Save white athletic socks for the gym.

Extending the Wardrobe
Buy more of what you wear more frequently. If you wear a suit every day, buy several suits. If you wear jeans, buy more. Buy different colors and styles. Look at what the people around you are wearing, and find a balance of conforming to style guidelines and expressing your individuality.

Also, remember that you don’t have to buy everything at once. Start with what you wear most frequently and buy what you need as the need arises. Take advantage of sales and even thrift stores, and make use of what you already own.

Finally, consider that while the clothes may make the man, style is about more than just clothing. Proper grooming completes a good look, but even that isn’t everything. Looking good on the outside can only do so much to help if you lack the moral character to match.