Wardrobe Staples Every Man Should Own
Only in recent years have a majority of modern men become conscious of how they dress.
Thanks to smoldering, handsome male celebs that guys-next-door quietly idolize and want to emulate, fashion-forward men — or metrosexuals — are more aware of what they’re wearing when they step out and how others perceive their various looks.
They say that clothes make the man. It’s true — to an extent. A well-fitted tee and a pair of khakis can turn duds into dapper specimens. Just don’t confuse that colloquialism with brands. Brands do not make the man. Any well-groomed guy can look great even if he prefers K-Mart to Kenneth Cole, so long as what he’s donning is crisp, clean, and classic.
That’s the key to forever style — keeping it classic. To help build your wardrobe with pieces that will have you looking GQ-ready — past, present, and future — here are my suggestions on staples and accessories that every Y-chromosomed closet must have. (See also: Men: Why Frugal Is Sexy)
Unless you have a chest that someone actually wants to see bare — although that’s subjective, I suppose — you should keep it covered. I rarely wear shirts with buttons without an undershirt underneath. I like the contrast of the stark white against the patterned shirt, and it prevents the sweat stains from seeping through to the outside shirt for the most part. Personally I’m partial to American Apparel tees (because they fit me better than other brands), but lower-priced Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, and off brands will do the same job as a more expensive name. It’s only an undershirt, after all. No need to spend an arm a leg, especially considering that you should be replacing them every one to two years.
There’s no reason you should have a drawer full of ratty, stained, and holey underwear. When you look and feel great, you have more confidence — and how can you exude confidence if your undies look like the swamp monster chewed them up and spit them out? I’m not saying you can’t keep that one pair of boxers you’ve had since college, just reserve them for Sundays at home alone on the couch. Otherwise, your underwear should reflect the rest of your wardrobe; when your pants come off, you should still look the part of someone who cares about his appearance, right down to his skivvies. Calvin Kleins are the mark of a man who knows what he’s doing, especially if that man bought them for 50% off at shops like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls.
If it seems like you buy a new pair of black socks every time you have a formal event and afterward they disappear into thin air, you’re not alone. My husband has the same problem. Where they go, I don’t know. To combat this problem, I recommend buying three-packs, even better in various colors like navy blue and tan to coordinate with other outfits. When you’re done with the black socks after your event, put them away in a separate drawer so they don’t get mixed up with other items and subsequently “lost.” And by no means should you opt for white socks if you can’t find the black pair. In my book, that’s wholly unacceptable. Even if you’re in a rush, you can stop by a Walgreens or CVS and pick up a pair in a pinch.
Non-Pleated Khaki Pants
Pleated pants make your waist look wider, so avoid them at all costs. However, a nice pair of flat-front khakis look great on anyone (and I do mean anyone) who knows how to wear them right — on the waist with low-cut sneakers, mocs, or boat or driving shoes. If you think they look good with your basketball shoes, you’re wrong; you have to be a special type of guy to pull off that look, and most of us are not him. I tend to avoid khakis with cuffed bottoms, too. They look dated, but they sometimes work for guys with short legs.
When I was in college, and even the first years afterward, I was one of those guys who spent hundreds of dollars for denim with holes in the knees and distressed seams. I grew out of it in favor of jeans that fit and don’t me look like an out-of-touch, over-the-hill idiot from an MTV reality show. You should, too. No one over age 30 should be buying jeans that showcase the patella. Whether you prefer slim fit, regular, or boot cut, make sure they’re a proper fit around your hips and thighs and just barely touch the bottom of your shoes.
A nice polo shirt will last you decades if correctly cared for. I prefer Ralph Lauren or Lacoste, simply because of the quality, but if you’re cost conscious when it comes to clothing you can find a polo just about any place you shop. Stock up in classic colors like blue, white, pink, and black. Trust me when I tell you that you can never have too many polos. They’re great for the weekend, casual Fridays, networking events — just about anything that doesn’t require a blazer and tie.
Navy Blue Blazer
Why navy blue? Because it goes with just about anything, making it the smarter, more versatile long-term choice. I recommend a fitted cut for a more tailored look, but that’s just personal preference.
Brown/Black Belts and Shoes
I’m consistently amazed when I spot guys who pair brown belts with black shoes and vice versa. I just don’t get it. For me, that’s simple science. Either way, each of these pieces, individually, should be in your closet. While you can’t easily change the color of your shoes — you should invest in nice, dressy brown and black pairs — you can get away with buying a reversible belt; one side will be black, the other will be brown. Perfectly acceptable.
Button-Down Oxford Shirts
White and light blue are the most popular, versatile colors, but you can choose the palate that best suits you. As someone who’s melanin-challenged — that is, very pale — I can rarely get away with stark white; still, nothing looks cleaner than bright white, so I wear it from time to time. Whatever you choose, a pressed oxford (yes, pressed; you should know how to use an iron or pay a dry cleaner) looks fresh and inviting.
There’s an infinite numbers of tie designs — paisley, polka dot, cartoon characters (please avoid the latter at all costs) — but in my observation, college-striped ties seem to withstand the test of time. They’re your best bet for keeping your look current without having to run to the department store every time trends change. RIP, skinny ties — for now.
Stainless Steel Timepiece
A masculine, stainless-steel watch completes any ensemble, whether it’s for work or the weekend. My favorite is ESQ, but there are plenty of quality watches in all price ranges on the market. Fossil, for instance, manufacturers great watches at affordable prices — just right for guys who might live a little tougher and rougher than I do. No matter what brand you choose, you will always look put together and well-to-do with a nice watch — even when you’re bummin’ it.
Did I miss a wardrobe staple? What essentials do you recommend? Let me know in the comments below.