Wardrobe Essentials : 10 Pieces Every Man Should Own

Every man's wardrobe should be built around a few quality staples. These items shouldn’t be too trendy or they’ll have to be replaced frequently. For example, the baggy, oversized suits from the 90’s or the painted-on-skinny version from the following decade make someone look “fashionable” in the moment and like a total ass just a year later. Quite often, these staple pieces get better with age, so investing in quality from the beginning is almost always a good idea. Here are 10 of my most loved pieces that helped me to elevate my style in a variety of situations.

1. Oxford Cloth Button Down

They look sophisticated but are as comfortable as a long-sleeved T. They instantly dress up a casual look and can give a suit a more laid-back feel. I prefer these in light blue or with a subtle stripe to maximize versatility.

2. Crisp White Shirt

Completes the refined look with your suit or can be worn with jeans and a blazer for that smart casual look.

3. Chinos

As versatile as your denim, these can be dressed up or down and the no-fuss cotton construction makes them a comfortable choice for all day wear.

4. Cardigan

I’ve completely abandoned hoodies unless I'm going to the gym. Cardigans are another piece that can have all of the comfort and ease of their less formal counterparts but give one a put together look. Buttons up the front make taking it on and off a breeze, perfect for those buildings that have their thermostats set to Sahara. I prefer a shawl neck as I find it enhances my physique rather than detract from. The extra roll of fabric gives the illusion of taller traps where as the standard cardigan creates the look of slouchy shoulders. You can get a nice affordable option from Target.

5. Dark Denim

Pre-distressed denim makes me cringe. Denim that was bought raw (not distressed) and broken-in naturally tells a story of love and adventure. Not really, but you get the idea. They can be worn in classic combination with a T-shirt or dressed up with a button up and/or a blazer.

6. Leather Jacket

Go with a classic style and a slim fit. Your best bet is to go with a short bomber style, and avoiding anything with too many straps or pockets. Also, no leather blazers or trench coats. Adding a leather jacket is a sure fire way to inject some badass style, and confidence, into any outfit. You can take a proper pairing of oxfords, gray trousers, and a crisp shirt and tie from school boy to rebel in one step with this single piece. Choose brown or black based on personal preference.

7. Navy Blazer

In some cases you can wear the suit jacket separately, but I find having a blazer made of less formal fabric with softer construction helps bridge the gap between casual and formal. My favorite outfits are the ones that are dressed up based on garment style but casual based on fabric and combination.

8. Boat Shoes

As comfortable as slippers. As cool and easy as flip-flops. This is my everyday shoe from spring until autumn. They can take you from running errands, to the beach, then out to lunch with a special lady (or gent, I don't judge). Sperry make the perfect pair.

9. Suit

Even if you don’t need one for work, every man should have at least one. Job interviews, weddings, and a night on the town just aren’t the same without it. Navy or charcoal are your best bets early on as you build your suit game, as black is mostly appropriate for evening wear and lighter colors aren't great for formal occasions.

10. Wingtips

Equally at home with jeans as with a suit. If I were to only own one dress/casual shoe, it would be a pair of brown wingtips. Appropriate in all but the most formal occasions. You can wear them to an interview then out to the pub after. Brown is more casual and can develop a wonderful patina while black looks more elegant. The pair I've shown here is the Player's Shoe (discontinued) from Allen Edmonds.

This obviously isn’t an exhaustive list of everything a man should own, but since I limited myself to 10 items when I wrote the title, I’ll have to save the rest for future posts. I also plan on featuring each of these pieces separately to illustrate their flexibility and to give a little more advice on fit, fabric, color, and pairing options.

So, what say you?  Which pieces would you like me to cover in a separate post first?  Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Reply
    January 25, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    I like your style man, found this blog through B&D. I think another essential should be a waistcoat

    • Reply
      January 25, 2015 at 10:08 pm

      Thanks for the comment Thomas and I totally agree with you on the waistcoat. As you may have guessed, was critical in motivating me to start my blog.

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    January 14, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Hi Nate,

    I also found you through B&D. Love your website and your articles. I’m currently shopping for a good fitting cardigan and leather jacket, Would love to see you cover these in more detail.

    Thanks in advance,

    • Reply
      January 15, 2016 at 5:42 am

      Thanks, Brian! I’ll have a detailed article on those two pieces at some point. Have you downloaded my 10 Timeless Wardrobe Essentials? Both of those pieces are covered in there regarding style, fit, and materials.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2017 at 4:48 am

    Hey Nate,

    Did you buy that brown leather jacket when you had an ‘average’ body or after you started lifting? If so, did it stretch a bit when you got bigger?
    I’m asking this because I want a cool leather jacket, but I’m afraid if I buy it now (I have an average body) that it will become too small/tight when I start lifting.


    Casual Style 101 has helped me a lot!

    • Reply
      February 26, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      I bought the jacket when I was on the leaner side and unfortunately I can’t zip it up at the moment. A leather jacket won’t stretch a noticeable amount, if at all. It’s best to invest in a quality one once you’re sure you won’t fluctuate any more than 10 lbs or so.

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