Laying the foundation for a perfect wardrobe is all about sticking to the classics and making investments in pieces that will last for years. Your trendy jeans, t-shirts and hoodies will come and go, but you and these foundation items will be in an LTR for a while, so you’ll want to choose wisely. Be prepared to drop some coin initially, but remember, an $800 suit amortized over five years is actually a pretty good investment. With these ten items in your wardrobe you’ll be well on your way to having a grown up closet that’s prepared for any situation life throws at you.Suit Yourself
The lynch pin of your wardrobe is a perfect suit. The perfect suit can take you anywhere. To get the most wear out of your suit, you’ll want the 3-season versatility of a light weight wool, in either navy blue or black. To add a little variation, spring for a matching vest and get in the on the ground floor of the reemerging 3-piece suit trend.
If you only have one suit, better to choose the more flexible navy blue which you can dress up or down with different oxfords in solids or patterns. You can pair the suit jacket with khakis or jeans for a less formal look. But remember, it doesn’t matter if you buy a $800 suit or a $5000 suit, if it doesn’t fit right, it will never look good. Get measured, try on a jacket that’s a size smaller than you think you wear, you might be surprised how much better it looks and feels.
Today’s man has left behind the boxy, baggy, Wall Street era power suit in favor of a trimmer, more European fit. To be clear, your suit should not be tight, that’s probably worse than too big, but it should be fitted and flattering to your frame. For a great fit, and a great price, head directly to J. Crew for their wildly popular and sexy Ludlow Suit. This slimmer cut suit is the go-to choice for young execs on the move. Available in a multitude of fits and fabrics, with most options coming in under $800, it’s a great, fashion forward, yet classic suit that looks way more expensive than it is.
At Least One Made-to-Measure Dress ShirtSometimes the measure of a man can be summed up with a bespoke Oxford. Once upon a time handmade dress shirts were reserved for Wall Street bankers and CEO’s, but the modern man has options, many of which can be found online. Online tailors, like Ratio Clothing and Kent Wang Modern Haberdasher, offer affordable, made-to-measure shirts with foolproof fitting policies, for around the same price as an ill-fitting, off-the-rack dress shirt.
As with any traditional shirt maker, you select the fabric, the collar, the monogram, cuffs, and venting, with both sites offering helpful how-to sections to insure you order the right size and style for your body. And, if it doesn’t fit exactly the way you want, you can return it and they will alter it and keep your measurements on file for future orders. With the fit and cut of suits getting slimmer and more European every season, a well made, fitted dress shirt underneath is your best option.
Warning: Made-to-measure shirts can become an obsession. Once you realize how great you look in a shirt that really fits, you’ll never wear another blousy, off-the-rack one with a collar that’s too big.
A Signature, Good Luck TieIn your lifetime you will amass a pile of ties, ever evolving in widths, patterns, colors and materials. When you’re just starting out building your wardrobe, don’t skimp on the tie. Oftentimes, in a sea of navy and black suits, your tie can really set you apart from the herd, make sure it does, but in a quiet, understated way.
To really make a statement with your tie, don’t get a statement tie, get something ultra classic, like an Hermes tie. Quietly allowing your style to shine through with a subtle, luxurious silk tie from Hermes or Browns can really make an impression when it counts.
Wear your good luck tie for important events – a job interview, meeting her parents, lunch with the boss – anytime you need a boost of confidence. Exuding good taste over notice-me obviousness is never a bad thing.
Best Foot ForwardYou have to have at least one pair of really great dress shoes in your arsenal, if only for the reason it’s one of the things women notice first about you. Also, because you owe it to yourself and your suit to finish off the look with a classic, leather-soled shoe.
No loafers with your suit, please, save those for your jeans and khakis. Whether you choose a classic wing-tip, a derby lace up, or the hot-right-now double-monk strap, make sure to choose a leather sole. Many high-end shoe designers now offer a dress shoe with a Doc Marten style sole, but avoid that trap, embrace a leather sole. Whichever style you choose, be modern and go with a brown option, brown pairs well with a navy blue or grey suit.
When done right (i.e. with a matching belt), brown shoes can even be worn with a black suit, lending a certain Italian flair to your look. A good pair of leather dress shoes should last you for years, but only if you take care of them. Get your shoes shined every few weeks, or do it yourself with a good quality shoe cream like Meltonian. Have them professionally re-soled every year or two depending on wear and tear. Store them in your closet with cedar wood shoe-trees inside so they keep their shape over the years. Take care of your expensive shoes, and they’ll take care of you.
In The TrenchesPerhaps one of the most storied items you can own, the classic trench coat demands a place in your wardrobe. The quintessential man’s man of coats, this versatile piece adds a little bit of mystery and history to your look like no ordinary raincoat or topcoat can. Every man looks amazing in a trench coat and every man should own a trench coat. We recommend this mid-length trench by Burberry.
Flexible enough for Fall, Winter and Spring, throw it over a suit or a casual outfit and you’ll look perfect. The most classic trench is, of course, tan but the modern, edgier guy can choose a navy blue or ultra-dramatic black option. Keep the look tailored, think more super spy, not rumpled private eye, when selecting the perfect trench. You’ll probably never actually use the belt, but if you do, you should rakishly tie it instead of actually belting it.
The best part of owning a really nice trench coat, knowing it will never go out of style. That, and the fact that every time you wear it you’ll look better than everyone else who isn’t wearing one.
Casual FridayGive your suit a rest once in awhile and pull together a business casual look with a blazer and really great khakis. American men love their khakis, evoking memories real or imagined of a misspent prep school youth and the Kennedy’s on Cape Cod.
Romance aside, don’t fall into the schoolboy trap when wearing khakis, avoid a solid white oxford and stripped repp tie, since you’re actually not in prep school anymore. Instead, opt for a striped or plaid shirt with a contrasting knit tie or bowtie.
While the weather is still warm enough, give them a little roll-up at the hem for an on-the-way-to-the-Hamptons look. For classic khaki looks, check out J.Press and Brooks Brothers (where they call them chinos); for a trendier look and modern cut, check out J. Crew and Uniqlo’s skinnier khakis.
Big Boy BeltThe devil is always in the details and this is especially true when picking your accessories. Just as it’s imperative to impress with your shoes, it’s equally important to not overlook the impact of your dress belt. Buy the right big boy belt, such as the one pictured by Salvatore Ferragamo, and you’ll have the perfect accessory for years.
As with anything you expect to wear forever, don’t go too trendy on your belt, and don’t go too tall, anything over 1.5” is too much. And yes, your belt needs to match your shoes, but you can always be prepared with a swanky, reversible option that’s brown on one side, black on the other. Silver toned buckles are preferable over gold tone buckles, or for a more modern look, a matte black or grey buckle looks great, too.
The Best SweaterIn colder weather layering a sweater under your suit jacket isn’t just a sartorial choice, it’s a necessity, so why not make it pop? Layering a sweater under your suit requires a more streamlined wool like Merino or cashmere. A dressier, versatile Merino wool sweater will also look great on the weekend with your jeans and a t-shirt.
Not to be confused with its bulkier siblings, the Merino is made for layering, not replacing a jacket on colder days. It’s best to go with a small v-neck, which looks better with a tie. Also, go for a darker color so you can’t see the print of your tie or shirt through the sweater.
Have some fun with it, this is where you can make a statement with a pop of color that contrasts with your suit. But don’t go too far, no Christmas sweaters with reindeers, please. Think bright red, orange, or this amazing deep purple option from Thom Browne’s Black Fleece for Brooks Brothers label. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean your clothes have to be drab!
Let Loose With LeatherMen don’t just dress for work, so it’s important to have something a little rebellious, something that is patently not businesslike, in your wardrobe for the weekends and nights out. For those occasions that don’t require a business conservative look, when you can really showcase your individual style, a great leather jacket, like this one by Dsquared2, can change everything.
However, a bad leather jacket can also change everything and not in a good way. As with anything, make sure your leather jacket fits snugly, no 80’s oversized leather or you’ll end up looking more Kelly McGillis than Tom Cruise. Avoid cheap leather as well, seriously, just don’t do it. Be very careful about color, hold off on the butterscotch leather until your second midlife crisis.
And please, no matching leather pants, thanks. Whether you’re a brooding rebel in a brown bomber jacket, a rocker in a punky motorcycle jacket or a modern preppy in a varsity jacket, leather lets you say it with a style that exudes a bad boy edge and immediately becomes your own.
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Black Tie BasicsIt may sound crazy to you now, but you’ll thank us later, every metropolitan guy needs to be ready for a black tie event. Eventually you’ll want to own a tuxedo suit, if you’ve been invited to a fancy shindig, do you really want to rent a polyester blend suit?
However, until your wardrobe gets to the point of containing multiple suits, you can sneak your way through most black tie events wearing your own black suit accessorized with the right tuxedo basics. Most importantly, you’ll need a tuxedo shirt. For a modern touch, choose one with a spread collar, a more traditional wing collar is also a great look, but probably better for weddings and the Met ball.
Hugo Boss is a great go-to for a tux shirt, or any major department store will have a black tie section. Always have your tux shirt professionally cleaned and pressed, but never store your shirts in your closet in the dry cleaner’s plastic bag. Nearly all tuxedo shirts have French cuffs, (and should, if it doesn’t, don’t buy it), so you’ll need an extraordinary pair of cufflinks. Men pride themselves on their cufflink game so get something clever and chic like Dunhill’s unexpected Bulldog cufflinks in black lacquer.
And, of course, you’ll need a bow tie. Absolutely no clip-on bow ties, you’re way past the prom, time to learn how to tie a bow tie. Spend a few quality minutes on YouTube where you can find several tutorials on bow tie tying. It’s actually easier than you think. Stick with either a solid black or white, silk satin option, like this one by J. Crew. Leave the whimsical patterns and plaids for daywear. With these three black tie basics in your closet, and a freshly shined pair of black shoes, you can easily throw together a respectable enough tuxedo anytime.