Men are constantly told that our image is important and that first impressions are immediate and irrevocable.
It’s hugely important that we stock our wardrobes with clothing that fits us well, both literally and metaphorically.
With this in mind, we created this guide to help you determine which types of garments you should invest in, and in what quantities.
A well-stocked wardrobe should be comprised of the following:
You need solid charcoal and solid navy as your starter suits. Unsurprisingly, these are the two suits that should form the backbone of your capsule wardrobe.
Not only will you have two suits that you can wear to nearly any event imaginable, but the individual pieces can be broken up and worn with each other. The navy jacket can be worn as a sport coat with the charcoal trousers just as the charcoal jacket can be worn with the navy trousers.
2. Sports Coats & Outerwear
We consider a sport coat to be any “odd” jacket; that is, any suit-style jacket that does not have a perfectly matched pair of trousers. The sport coat is a lynch pin of a casual wardrobe. Even men who dress down often will instantly have their presentation elevated with the addition of a well-tailored sport coat.
We are indeed including the navy blazer in the sport coat category. Though sport coats and blazers are technically different, they are similar enough to be categorized together.
Shirts are obviously important to a man’s wardrobe, and they can be sub-categorized as follows:
- Dress Shirts: Basic white and blue are covered by the capsule wardrobe, but there’s a whole world of color and pattern to be explored for men with less staid sartorial needs.
- Casual Shirts: We don’t use the term “button-down” here because that refers to a type of collar, not a type of shirt. For our purposes, a casual shirt buttons similarly to and has a collar like a dress shirt, but it’s less structured and meant to be worn without a tie. This may also refer to pullover styles that don’t have a full row of front buttons, Western shirts, and the like.
- Polo/Golf Shirts: Soft, pullover cotton shirts with unstructured collars in short or long sleeve versions. The term “golf shirt” is sometimes used to describe these. It’s not uncommon for some polo shirts to feature fashion or designer logos on the chest.
- T-Shirts: Short- or long-sleeve cotton shirts that serve as layering pieces or à-la-carte tops in warm weather. We treat undershirts as underwear.
4. Sweaters & cardigan
Sweaters (or “jumpers” for our British readers) are incredibly versatile for any man in nearly any temperature. The two most common materials are:
- Wool: Wool is thick and casual, merino and cashmere are thinner, have a more lustrous hand, and are dressier than wool. Wool of any kind is also naturally water resistant, so you don’t have to worry too much if you get caught in the rain.
- Cotton: Cotton sweaters are great for transitional seasons: spring and autumn. They offer just enough warmth to keep you comfortable during these times. Unlike wool, cotton is not at all water resistant and will soak through if you let it happen.
- Cardigan: Cardigan sweaters have a button or zip front and are incredibly versatile. In casual lambswool or cotton they’re great with denim, and in merino or cashmere they’re perfect for a business casual office.
Wearing a waistcoat with trousers and a coat that match is quite dressy; a way to bring the formality down a notch is to wear one as an “odd” waistcoat. This means that it coordinates with but doesn’t match the trousers and / or the coat.
We divide waistcoats into two sub-categories:
- Dress: A dress vest is any vest that belongs to a suit, typically made from worsted wool. Can be turned into an odd vest when paired strategically with trousers or a coat.
- Casual: Casual vests are generally sold à la carte without any matching garments. These tend to pair quite well with denim or chinos.
Every casual wardrobe needs at least a pair or two of denim. While there’s much to talk about with regard to denim fits and styles, for our purposes we can break denim into two sub-categories: light and dark.
Light denim is great for weekend wear or if you work in a very casual office. It’s unfussy and very casual.
Dark denim, when free of holes and whiskering, is sometimes referred to as “dress” denim. While the merit of that term is debatable, the fact remains that this type of denim pairs as well with casual sport coats and button-up shirts as it does sneakers and a t-shirt.
7. Casual Trousers/chinos
Not all pants are jeans or suit trousers. The well-stocked man’s wardrobe will have a few pairs of these two trouser sub-categories:
- Casual trousers (chinos): These are basic cotton pants that are casual but not as dressed-down as jeans. They’re available in a huge array of colors every season from countless retailers in a wide range of price points.
- Slacks: These are typically lightweight wool trousers that are not meant to have a matching jacket. Typical of the business casual dress code, slacks are meant to be worn with dress shirts and dress shoes.
If you live in a place where it ever gets warm, you’ll want some shorts. They key to successfully wearing shorts is to make sure they end above your knee. Shorter men should wear shorter shorts and taller men longer ones, but the rule still applies.
9. The quantity of items in Classic Wardrobe
Classic guy’s wardrobe has tailored, timeless clothing as its cornerstone.
- 3-5 suits: At least four should be dark, the rest can be a mix of medium tones and / or seasonal fabrics
- 2-3 sport coats: One of which is solid navy
- 10+ ties: To be clear, we’re talking about neckties. If you’re into bow ties though, by all means keep them in your rotation.
- 2 scarves: A black one for black/grey outfits, blue/grey/brown for Earth-toned ones.
- 12-15 dress shirts: Classic guys wear dress shirts day in day out, so the best way to increase the lifespan of each shirt is to have a lot more than you might think is necessary. You can keep a couple at the office as well in case you’re a messy eater.
- White and blue are part of your capsule wardrobe, so make sure you have some stripes and checks in there, in addition to a pink shirt or two.
- 4-5 casual shirts: Even guys who wear suits five days a week have nights and weekends to dress for. Mix casual button-up shirts with polos depending on the temperature.
- 5-10 sweaters: Merino and cashmere are your best options, and have a couple of cotton ones in there for warmer months. Have your basic colors covered (black, blue, and grey) and select the rest based on your coloring and personal taste.
- 2 pairs of jeans: One light, one dark.
- 2 pairs of chinos: One classic khaki color, one navy blue
- 5-7 pairs of shoes: 3-5 dress shoes, 1-2 casual shoes