Clothing Essentials: What Should Every Man Have In His Closet
Men’s essential clothing are what give you an effortless appearance as they are the foundation to everything else you put on your body. Have you ever watched someone walk down the street and observe just how well put together they are? You don’t initially notice any one specific article of clothing or accessory, just that their overall look is effortless. Do you have these items? There are at least seven that you need.
Wardrobe Men’s Essentials Clothing 101
The key to looking effortless does take a little effort up front. You need to be picky in what you chose to make up your essentials (i.e. fit, fabric, quality). We believe a good rule to follow is get the highest quality you can afford. No one is asking you to break the bank here.
Once the initial work of putting together a collection of the fundamentals is out of the way, you’ll always look put together because you’ll have the pieces you need readily available in your closet. Here are the items we’ll discuss:
• White dress shirt
• Dark wash jeans
• High-quality underwear (socks, underwear, shirts)
• Charcoal gray suit
Did you know that several studies have been done that prove dressing well improves quality of life? Think about it, when you appear collected (which can, in and of itself, boost your confidence), you have better odds in interviews, getting dates, receiving better service, and more. Implementing the above essentials will put you well on your way.
If you want to summarize men’s essential clothing in one idea, it would be proper fitting, no matter the item. Proper fitting is a must.
Whenever you make a purchase through links on this page we make a small commission from our affiliate partners. Learn more
Men’s Basic Essentials
Classic White Dress Shirt, Casual Crew Neck Shirt and Stylish Henley
A white dress shirt, a pair of dark wash denim jeans, and a crew neck shirt are three foundational pieces to a man’s essential wardrobe. While not as simple as the plain white crew neck, a fourth item of no less importance is the Henley shirt. It offers a slight variety from your crew neck with the buttons below the neck, while still being muted enough to look casual yet sharp.
Men come in all different shapes and sizes, so it’s important to find these in styles that fit your body type. A good rule for most men is slim/fitted. The leaner the man, the more polished the cut should be.
Sorry bootcut, this isn’t your moment.
Because the dress shirt and jeans can be dressed up or dressed down, keep detailing and embellishments to a minimum or none at all. For all four of these items, stitching should be subtle without any contrasting colors to the main garment. Read more here on the best Slim Fit Dress shirts.
The white dress shirt should be just that: white. As for the crew neck and Henley, it’s best to stay with neutrals such as white, beige, gray, black, olive and navy. For any of these colors, getting them in a heathered look is also completely acceptable. To offset the essential clothing palette that is mostly made up of neutrals, going a little bolder with colors or incorporating subtle design such as horizontal stripes is also okay for your crew neck and Henley.
Don’t Neglect Your Feet!
What you put on your feet can have just as much of an impact, if not more, as what you put on the rest of your body.
You can hide a crew neck behind a sports coat, or likely get away with wearing jeans without a belt, but the wrong pair of shoes with a dapper ensemble negates the whole look. Chinos with Chacos? No thank you. Chinos and white sneakers? Yes please.
Minimalist white sneakers are your casual shoe: they’ll anchor your outfit and the white will classically match anything. Just keep them looking white.
Dress Shoes that’ll make a Classic Style Statement at Work
Then there’s the dress shoe. We’re thinking something like the Oxford lace-up specifically because its classic silhouette and clean lines lend itself to be quite the versatile shoe, offering timeless allure and everyday functionality. Depending on how much you are able to expand on this essential, you’ll find a few color options. Leather black and brown are your basics, but really, the color options can offer quite the array to chose from. Should you be so bold, you could even opt for suede, although we don’t envy you in keeping those clean.
A Chelsea Boots You Can Pair with Literally Any Thing
Lastly, we must mention the Chelsea Boot. Chelsea boots are the jeans of footwear. They can be dressed up or down, worn with jeans or a suit, whatever the occasion may bring, they’re completely adaptable. Especially if you find yourself battling rainy weather and not wanting to give up style for functionality. This boot will serve both purposes.
Of course, there are other styles of shoes one could argue should be considered in a man’s regular rotation, but these are universal. Whether you’re a man of minimal means, minimal space, minimalist style, or just starting to cultivate your shoe collection, these are the three pairs you need to have.
You put plenty of effort into ensuring your clothing essentials are spot on, so it’s just as important that your warmer layers compliment this effort. There are a few pieces that an essential wardrobe requires for cooler weather and when your foundational items need protection from the elements.
A Sweater That’s Perfect for Layering or Worn by Itself
The sweater. Like other wardrobe essentials, it can be worn for more casual or formal occasions. It gets its spot as an essential because something needs to bridge the gap between the crew or Henley and the must-have jackets we’ll soon discuss.
A proper sweater can come in a variety of styles, but a classic essential is a light merino wool or cashmere. These types offer the warmth of wool without the itch. The sweater looks smart under a blazer or can stand on its own when it’s too cold for just a tee shirt. Look for this pull-over item in neutral colors to have more options of bottoms and accessories to accompany it.
Denim Jacket for That Instant Trendy Look
Denim jacket, an especially North American staple, is essential to your outerwear rotation. Its versatility can be surprising as it looks as good with chino trousers as it does with jeans. A word of caution is to be mindful of the wash and distress, as too light or too vintage will make it harder to incorporate with other looks. This hopefully goes without saying, but acid wash (for jeans too) is never a consideration…not as an essential anyway.
When you want something more casual than our next jacket but still need an outer layer, the denim jacket is the way to go.
Check out this article on the 8 Best Men’s Sherpa Lined Denim Jacket You Can Buy Right Now
Field Jacket to Up Your Streetwear Game
The field jacket belongs in your wardrobe because it will work seamlessly with many of your other essentials, helping further cultivate your cohesive closet. This jacket was originally designed for the military, but has evolved to serve its purpose for the modern man as outerwear that goes with everything. It’s sleek while offering warmth and functionality. Like its origins, the field jacket looks great in olive green, but can be found in other colors as well. When in doubt, opt for black.
shopping for this outerwear, check out this review of the Best Field Jackets For Men
Men’s Unseen Essentials
While it’s not something that anyone else might pay attention to, maybe the most important essential item is proper undergarments. Undergarments should fit well, meaning they should always seamlessly fit under your clothes and remain discreet. Go ahead, do a squat in front of the mirror and see if your underwear passes the test.
Take the time to find yourself a pair of boxer briefs that feel so good, you wonder how you ever made it through the day without them. If you’re an ‘only briefs’ guy or ‘only boxers’ man, the same rule applies. Anything you wear should never require you to constantly tuck, fidget with, or pull.
Ponder this: you shouldn’t think about your underwear – ever – throughout the day. And if you do, get new underwear.
The same should be said about socks and undershirts. These are items you put on your body everyday, you owe it to yourself to invest in good quality…then buy several…and replace as soon as their functionality dissipates.
Nowadays, jeans don’t have to be your only lower half staple. Trousers, such as the classic chino (which is what we’ll focus on here), offer new variety and colors to mix into your essential wardrobe.
Gray, olive, khaki, and navy are our highly recommended colors; although, you will see bolder ones such as yellow, red, and pale blue. We’re not going to stop you from venturing into the rainbow, but to keep with our essentials, toned down a must. And because you have all those neutral colors for your crew necks and Henleys, your variety of trousers will greatly expand your wardrobe possibilities.
Everyone looks well dressed in chinos, so just by putting on this essential, you’ve already made an impression on your day. These are acceptable in most business casual offices and work just as well with rolled cuffs on a sailboat or weekend brunching.
The Charcoal Gray Suit
A custom fitted suit is expensive, but worth the investment. And if not custom fit, then find one as tailored to your body type as possible.
Only in the market for one suit? Then the ubiquitous charcoal gray is the color to opt for.
Navy is next on the list if you were curious and want to take your suit essentials to the next level.
The charcoal gray suit earns its place as an essential item because it’s appropriate for a whole spectrum of events – work, weddings, funerals, special occasions – your life needs this suit.
Keep in mind the small details. A couple prominent accessories are the icing on the cake. A cake doesn’t necessarily need icing, but it sure looks more complete with it.
A Leather Belt That Will Last for Decades
A high-quality leather belt and classic analogue watch can be the very items you need to elevate your whole look without looking like you tried. If you can, buy a few different colors of leather belts to vary your outfits. Black and brown are classics; but cognac brown or even a navy belt can add flair without being flashy.
A Men’s Watch That Will Complement Your Personality
Same with the watch. If you can get a few different colors and types, you again are further expanding the outfit combinations just your essential items alone will give you. Try a brown leather strap with cream face, or navy face with a black leather strap, even the right digital watch can work with your ensemble.
While the world of accessories may seem like embellishments to the foundations of an essential wardrobe, there are some (like the belt and watch) that need to be there. As mentioned before, accessories such as these may not stick out, per se, but they round out the look of a well-dressed man.
So How Does Your Wardrobe Compare?
If real estate is all about location, location, location; men’s essential clothing is all about proper fit, fit, fit. If not already in place, these few simple suggestions will instantly transform your style. And talk about options. A wardrobe of just essentials will provide you dozens of looks alone, not to mention other trendy or seasonal pieces you already have.
Everyone wants to look their best and we hope you now realize just how easy it is to do so. As a man, ensuring these fundamentals are the foundation to your closet, you’ll be set for whatever your day may bring.
Be the one that gets noticed for looking well put together as you walk by. Effortless looks good on everyone.
More Men’s Fashion Recommendations