These 10 closet essentials evoke a timeless look, can be worn almost year round and don’t follow any particular fashion trends. Every man should have these men’s wardrobe basics as the cornerstones of their wardrobe. Chances are you already have most if not all these wardrobe basics, but regardless of your age group or profession, your closet should always have these garments hanging around.

“The goal I seek is to have people refine their style through my clothing without having them become victims of fashion.” Giorgio Armani

1. White Polo Shirt – It’s safe to go with a classic logo, such as an Alligator or a Horse. The material should be made out of pique cotton while having banded arms and a shallow shirt tail so it can be worn untucked. Don’t be afraid to use Clorox to keep the white bright, and hang dry it to maintain the crisp look. Strive for a spectrum of colors as if your closet was a store display.

2. Versatile Blue Jeans – Whether it’s a pair of classic Levi’s denim or hand-spun Japanese selvedge, you should have a pair you can wear casually or formally. Aim for a straight-cut finish, as boot-cut swallows your shoes [unless you’re actually wearing boots] and slim-cut makes you look like you’re an Emo band frontman. You should only have paint splatters if you’re a painter, and similarly only have carpenter jeans if you’re a carpenter.

3. Dark Solid Suit – If you only have one suit in your wardrobe, make sure it’s a resourceful one. You should be able to wear it to a wedding, job interview or even a funeral. Furthermore, if there’s only one item you choose to get tailored, it should be this piece. You don’t want to look like you’re borrowing your older brother’s jacket and pants. Also please don’t have more than 3 buttons unless you plan on shaking David Stern’s hand at the podium. You can buy a really great custom made suit online for $350 with free shipping.

4. Power Tie – You should have a tie that exudes confidence. You may not be in a position of power, but the proper tie can propel you on to the fast track. Don’t be afraid to mix a bold colored tie with your dark suit, as the contrast conveys self-assurance. A power tie is pretty debatable [I've yet to see power levels on any of my neckwear], so the other elements of your particular outfit can make it seem like one.

5. French Cuff Shirt – Formal cuffs can add a touch of elegance to a drab outfit. Like you would with your bedsheets [or probably not], pay attention to the thread count of your French cuff shirt. Spread collars will also give the shirt better symmetry. The sleeves should be slightly longer than your traditional dress shirt to give allowance for the corresponding cuff links, but if you go to a quality men’s boutique, they should tell you everything you need.

6. V-Neck Sweater – V-neck sweaters [either a patterned or solid color] provide the ultimate layer and middleman between a shirt and jacket. Go for a banded waistline for a better segue to your pants. Make sure you have a stiff collar underneath if you plan to layer it over this type of shirt. Although parallel, do not wear a V-Neck shirt along with a V-Neck sweater. The only double V’s belong to a vulva and vagina.
Men’s Wardrobe Basics: 10 Closet Essentials
7. Grey Wool Trousers – Similarly to the other bottoms on this list, grey trousers allow for maximum versatility – they’re work-appropriate, can be worn during a night out on the town or even at Church [that is, if you still go]. They coordinate well with light or dark colored tops as well. Faint designs such as light pinstripes or a herringbone pattern can make an otherwise dull garment more stylish. Try to stay away from cuffed bottoms though, as this will give you a heavier look.

8. Khaki Pants – Just because you can’t always wear jeans. Avoid pleats and a tapered cut. Since these aren’t your father’s pants, definitely stay away from an elastic waist. Opt for a softer cotton fabric for comfort and a darker khaki color for maximum wearing opportunities, from the golf course to your office.

9. Winter Coat – For those harsh winters or just a cold day, winter coats can vary from a ¾ length trench to a double-breasted pea coat. These jackets possess similar traits, as their functionality is adept for both business-formal or casual Friday attire. Please note that ski jackets are not an acceptable substitute.

10. Black Loafers – Out of your whole outift, the shoes can tell most about you. Go for a rounded-toe and leather sole for a smoother look. You might pay a premium for quality genuine leather, but it’ll be well worth it. Your waist line and neck size might change, but your foot won’t, so invest in quality footwear. Keep shoe trees in them and give them an occasional polish to maintain a spit shine.

These ten basics are pillars you can craft your wardrobe around. You can still create individual style by complementing your various garments carefully. Basic rules of paying attention to fabric, material, color and fit still apply. As you would with your car and stereo equipment, clothes require maintenance and care to preserve their clean look, so be sure to read the care label for instructions. Above all else, just remember it’s the person who makes the clothes and not the other way around.


13 Responses to “Men’s Wardrobe Basics: 10 Closet Essentials”

  1. Sebastian on May 24th, 2008 1:52 am

    Sorry for my imperfect English but it is not my mother tounge. I strongly believe that the reason so many people wear suits at work is that they do not have a feeling for fashion and that they feel safe turning to a suit. Do not get me wring, a suit looks good but not every day, please. You do not eat the same thing every day either. And choosing a different tie does not make an individual look. Spend some thought on what to wear and develop your own style. You do not want to look like everyone else. You will remain unnoticed in the crowd wearing all the same. It does not mean that you should get you a red mohawk. But put some effort in developing your own style that will distinguish youself from others. After all, you do not want to be treated like everyone else, like a number. You want people to recognise your individuality. And you will not be able to achieve this if you wear the same things everyone wears. Please refrein of wearing thouse boring Polo Shirts and plain simple Blue Jeans and a V-Neck Sweater. These things will make you look like a unimaginative person. Khaki Pants and generic Black Loafers are not better. It is hard to develop an own style. Nevertheless, try it and make people recognise that you stand out from the crowd. After all: Clothes make the man! or “Kleider machen Läute”.

  2. MsMarc on May 27th, 2008 9:38 am

    Whats a good example of a tie that “exudes confidence”? Bright colors with dark suit? What type of pattern?

  3. Brad on May 27th, 2008 1:48 pm

    Nice tips but would be great if they were more specific.

  4. Tim on June 6th, 2008 9:03 am

    How can you forget the Black Tee? A basic black tee-shirt can be worn to a club, bar, restaurant, a meeting (with jacket), school, etc…. with jeans, jacket, shoes, sneakers, khakis….you name it. It’s an essential for men.

  5. Gordon on June 15th, 2008 12:53 pm

    Seriously, you forgot something very important.
    The Black Knit Tie. It goes with everything, is a great tie for casual outings, looks great, its a wardrobe essential indeed.

    Also what about shorts? Every man needs a good pair of shorts, none of this overgrown child nonsense. I nice quality pair of khaki shorts, perhaps with cargo pockets…maybe not. Or get two pairs…one with, one without.

  6. Celticdawg on August 5th, 2008 7:02 pm

    A power red tie is good. I also like a decent sports jacket. Can be worn casual or formal depending what you wear with it.

  7. NickyC on September 24th, 2008 4:55 am

    Some good advice here, don’t get me wrong, but some that I cannot agree with. Here are a couple of alternatives:

    On black loafers: Not the most versatile. Brown shoes work with much more than black. Plus black shoes say “I know nothing about shoes so I went with black to be safe”. Brown shoes go with blue jeans, and black shoes don’t go with jeans, period. Black jeans require boots or sneakers. Get some brown shoes first, then some black ones. Black shoes are great, and also essential, but not as versatile as the brown. But never, ever, ever wear brown shoes with black pants. There is no excuse for it.

    On suits: There is a common myth that the dark 2-piece is the most versatile of suits. Usually black or navy. This is wrong. The most versatile suit, and the first one you should get is a mid-grey 3-piece. The whole thing together is elegant and goes with many colours of shirt and tie. It can be worn with brown or black shoes. You can doff the jacket, lose the tie and have just the waistcoat and pants (which ladies simply adore), or lose the waistcoat and wear it as a 2-piece. Get this first, then the dark one. Cary Grant practically lived in a grey suit, and he is the most elegant, stylish man of the last century. Who do you think George Clooney looks up to?

    And further more, the man who reallys cares about his appearance will match his socks to his trousers. It looks like you really know what you’re doing and elongates the leg when you sit down and your trouser cuffs ride up a little. Every time you buy a new pair of pants, get at least 2 pairs of socks exactly the same colour.

  8. kris on November 16th, 2008 6:18 pm

    @NickyC The dark 2 piece serves a dual purpose: you need one to attend a funeral in the US. Here is what I have (agree and disagree with), in order of importance (in the US):
    1) Dark Suit – if you die, you will probably be buried in it, so better have one.
    2) Blue Jeans – the casual mainstay
    3) Sport Coat – Putting your wallet in your pants ended when you turned 20.
    4) Blue Dress Shirt – Takes the edge off the black suit and puts some adulthood in the blue jeans.
    5) Brown leather shoes – Have to go with NickyC on this one.
    6)Tux – If a woman asks you to a formal event, don’t show up in a rental
    7) Winter Coat – Long and bad-ass is my preference.
    8) White Shirt – almost goes without saying due to the suit and tux
    9) Polo Shirt – Over 20? Stop wearing shirts with no collar unless you plan on working on the car.
    10) Khaki Pants. And for crying out loud, ditch the cuffs and pleats.

    That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

  9. RafaelC on March 5th, 2009 9:12 am

    The comments of Kris and NickyC make a better, more informed article than the original. A question I’d like to ask the author of the article is, why mention a power tie when you have no idea what one is?
    I agree with Kris that a dark (navy or black) 2-piece suit is a basic essential however, I agree with NickyC that a mid-gray 3 piece would make an excellent addition to a basic wardrobe. I say get the black 2-piece first, then get the 3-piece mid-gray. As for shoes, I think it’s essential to have a black pair and a brown pair for more versatility.

  10. penelope on March 5th, 2009 2:04 pm

    I think polo shirts are soooo ICKY! It’s what construction workers wear when they think they are dressing up… They make one look like a snob…. Hate them…

  11. Dunning Performance Woven Sportshirt : ploomy - what men need to know on July 31st, 2009 1:58 pm

    [...] If you’re like most guys, you’ve got more than a dozen long sleeve button down shirts hanging in your closet. They’re all the usual suspects…JCrew, Banana Republic, Ralph Lauren, Guess, and hell maybe even thrown in a few Van Heusen outlet shirt specials you got a few birthdays ago.  Either way, we’ve all got our fair share of these button down sportshirts fighting for playing time.  And why not, they’re essential to every man’s wardrobe. [...]

  12. Mark on August 10th, 2009 3:53 pm


    1) I agree, black loafers to me are a dumb idea. It’s dressing it down (loafer) with a more formal color (black). But in no way are brown shoes more important or more versatile than black. If a man needs one pair of dress shoes, it is a simple black cap toe oxford. See AE Park Avenue if you need a picture.

    2) You are correct, don’t wear brown shoes with black pants. But that’s because you should not be wearing black pants, EVER. Unless you work in Hollywood.

    3) Sorry, a dark charcoal or navy suit is much more versatile than mid grey. Not sure where you heard that was a “myth.” See number 2 – a black suit should not hang in your closet. (But then again, neither should any odd black dress pants.) There is no reason to own one, period.

    4) Wearing the waist coat from a three piece with just the pants screams “I’m trying to be unconventional but in a conventional and dorky way.” It’s like drinking Pepsi instead of Coke – don’t be one of those people. And just because the hookers tell you they adore it doesn’t make it ok, you are paying them to be nice remember?

    And you saved the worst for last.

    5) I don’t know who told you to match the socks to the pants, but they need to be taken out back and shot. Now. Socks should complement the pants, bot match them exactly, even if they have the same base color.

    Khaki pants should be worn with navy blue. That is it. Not brown and for gods sake NEVER wear khaki pants with khaki socks. It amazes me why people still do this.

    Kris did a pretty good job, but left out the black dress shoes.

  13. Michael on October 1st, 2009 8:19 am

    If you are writing a clothing article, you should, at the very least, know that the logo on Rene La Coste’s shirt is a CROCODILE, not an alligator.

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