10 Wardrobe Essentials Every Man Should Own

What would you say if we told you you could build a versatile wardrobe around just 10 items?

These 10 items can make up an outfit for a wedding, a casual trip to the bar, a job interview and even a first date.

Don’t believe us?

The issue is most men overbuy and hoard clothing they rarely wear. Menswear is all about quality over quantity and in this article today we want to prove how it can be done with just 10 items.

Consider it the ’10 Items Wardrobe’…

We’re hoping this feature inspires you to start building a wardrobe around versatile, timeless pieces alongside stressing the principle that style doesn’t need to cost a lot.

The 10 Item Wardrobe

So these are 10 wardrobe essentials, 10 versatile pieces that you can get from anywhere and any one can own. With these 10 items we’re going to build various different looks for various different occasions showing you how versatile they are.

Now, you’re going to have to give us a little bit of leniency here. We haven’t included underwear, we haven’t included socks and we’ve kept the accessories to the bare minimum. If you want a more comprehensive breakdown of a modern capsule wardrobe, try reading Men’s Flair’s article on the subject.

With that out of the way, here are the 10 items, why you need them and how to wear them.

The Navy Suit

The first thing to invest in is the classic navy suit. The Navy suit really is versatile and it’s extremely timeless.

We’ve spoken about suits in great length before but every guy (no matter what your day to day style consists of) should own a good suit. Why? There’s always an occasion to wear a suit – yes, even in these WFH times.

As with everything recommended in this article, focus on the fit of the suit alongside the fabric and quality. A wool 2-button navy suit with peak lapels is going to be more versatile than a linen double-breasted navy pinstripe suit. We’re not saying the latter is a worthy investment but versatility is all about keeping it simple.

Navy not for you? Opt for Charcoal grey.

The Blue Dress Shirt

Opting for a more formal dress shirt will allow you to easily dress up for certain occasions. Pale blue is a very versatile colour and offers a more casual feel to the crisp, white shirt.

A cutaway colour will allow you to easily wear the shirt with or without a tie and opting for a lightweight cotton will make it suitable all year round.

Again, as with the suit, the fit is extremely important so don’t be afraid to use a tailor to alter your purchase or opt for made to measure or bespoke. After all, we’re buying less but better here.

pale blue shirt

The White Button-Down Shirt

You’ve then got the white button-down shirt, another timeless essential. This bridges the gap between formal and casual making it the perfect addition to any man’s capsule wardrobe.

Go for an Oxford shirt – it’s a lot more casual and you can easily dress it up or dress it down. We would also recommend long sleeves, as they are more versatile and can be worn year-round (just roll the sleeves if it’s hot).

mens white oxford shirt

Looking for a shirt to wear with jeans on a night out? Reach for your button-down shirt. Looking for a shirt to layer underneath a sweater? Reach for your button-down shirt. Looking for something to wear with your suit? You get the picture…

This is a basic essential every man should own and you will find them stocked by almost every modern menswear brand and retailer. Focus on quality, fit and comfort as you’ll be wearing this regularly.

Dark Denim Jeans

Next up is a pair of well-fitting dark denim jeans.

Everyone knows how versatile a pair of jeans are and at times we can often over-wear them. Opting for dark denim over a lighter wash will allow you to dress them up or dress them down.

selvedge denim jeans

Treat your jeans like a pair of suit trousers focusing on how well they fit and how they’re made. Choosing cheap denim and avoiding the length, how they fit around your waist and how tapered they are is a huge mistake. 

You can easily get them altered to fit these days. A lot of brands and retailers offer a free alteration service with every purchase, but if not a local tailor will do this for very little outlay.

You can’t go wrong with selvedge denim and remember good denim doesn’t need to be washed as much as formal trousers.

White T-Shirt

The next item is a white T-shirt. Nothing is more classic or versatile than a white T-shirt but getting the right fit plays a huge part in how good it will look.

No one wore the white t-shirt like James Dean did – even when worn with a simple pair of jeans he still looked effortlessly stylish.

james dean

The issue with T-shirts is we often go for the cheapest option because they are commodities. But scrimping on quality means after a few washes it’s either shrunk, the material starts to wear, or the colour loses its lustre.

With the white t-shirt look for a mid to heavy weight cotton as this is going to give you more wears and last longer.

Navy Knitted Tie

Controversial, but this is the only accessory we’re including in the 10 item wardrobe. However, depending on your day to day style, it might be something you rarely use.

Wearing a tie isn’t as popular as it once was, with many modern office jobs not requiring ties to be worn. With this being said the Navy Knitted Tie bridges that gap between a tie that looks corporate and one that can be easily worn with more casual attire such as the White Button Down shirt above.

navy knitted tie

Pay attention to the finer details, including the knot you use (a simple four in hand is always a winner) and the length of the tie, alongside mastering that dimple.

White Sneakers

In terms of footwear nothing is more versatile than white sneakers. Now before you make any judgements, we’re not talking about a pair of running shoes or flimsy plimsolls, we’re talking about a classic pair of minimal white leather sneakers.

Opting for a tennis shoe such as the Adidas Stan Smith’s will offer versatility allowing you to wear them with all of the items mentioned in this article already.

A leather pair will add elegance to a pretty casual item but the main thing you want to focus on is minimalism. Keep the detailing to a minimum and you’ll get more wears from them.

white sneakers

Brown Double Monk Strap Shoes

For the more formal side of things we’re gone for some double monk straps.

The double monk is a real classic shoe and again can be worn with the suit or they can be worn to dress up your jeans.

Now this is where you can step outside of the box slightly and go for something you personally feel would suit your style as the double monk strap isn’t the only option you have.

Double-monk-strap-shoes

A Brogue, a Chelsea Boot, an Oxford or Derby and even a Loafer are all options you could choose from.

Make sure you focus on the quality of construction alongside the choice of leather. Tan or dark brown (chocolate) are the most versatile colour options and don’t be afraid to spend a bit more on quality.

Shoes are an investment piece, if you invest wisely they’ll last you for years to come.

A Sweater

The choice of colour is up to you but keep it neutral. We’ve gone for a camel sweater for this article but navy, grey, stone and even lighter hues work.

Merino wool is the obvious choice in terms of fabric but cashmere will offer a more snug and comfortable fit.

sweater

Stone Chinos

Last but not least, stone chinos. Again these could be navy, grey and even black but we wanted to add some lighter hues into this wardrobe.

These are obviously going to help dress down a lot of the formal wear. These are still very, very smart and still very elegant as well.

Make sure they’re comfortable to wear, they fit well around the waist and leg and they’re not too long or short. Don’t be afraid to roll them up for a more casual feel and even go slightly looser with the fit.

stone chinos

How To Wear Them

10 item wardrobe

Now we’re going to showcase various different looks using the 10 items mentioned above. We’re also going to mention where and what kind of occasion you could wear that look for. 

The idea is to prove just how versatile you can make your wardrobe with less.

Formal Outfit

formal outfit

Here we team the navy suit with the blue formal shirt and accessorise with the navy knitted tie. Very, very simple: suit,, shirt, tie. Done.

We finish with the double monk straps. You could go for a brogue, you could go for a Derby… any well constructed formal shoe will work here.

If it’s a colder day there’s the option to layer with the sweater. 

Casual Outfit

casual outfit

For our casual outfit, we move to the opposite end of the scale. Again, keep it simple: white T-Shirt, dark denim jeans and white sneakers.

Now imagine that this is a baggy t-shirt, a baggy pair of jeans and some really battered, scuffed white sneakers. It’s not going to look as good as if it was obviously a well fitted, well made white t-shirt, dark denim jeans, and a pair of white sneakers.

That’s your go-to off-duty look. It’s timeless and masucline and will make any guy look good..

Smart Casual Alternative

casual outfit 2

This outfit sits somewhere between formal and casual. We’re recycling the white t-shirt but have swapped the jeans for stone chinos, and introduced our dress shoes.

This gives us the option to layer the blazer over the top if we want to add a little more formality to the look, but you could easily go for just the t-shirt (tucked in), the chinos and the smarter shoes.

If you want to lean the other way, use the white sneakers to dress it down. 

Business Casual Outfit

business casual outfit

For our business casual look, we split up the suit and combine the blazer with the stone chinos (a concept known as ‘separates’)..

The blue shirt brings the refinement up a notch, with the sweater adding a nice tactile element. 

Now, you can choose how smart you want to go with this outfit: go for the brown double monks if you need to dress up, or your sneakers if a more relaxed approach is required.

Simple, stylish, professional. What more would you want?

Business Casual Alternative

business casual outfit 2

Another foolproof business casual look. This time we’ve kept the time-test combo of a dress shirt and sweater, but introduced our dark denim jeans and white sneakers.

A classic outfit that will see you through many professional and social occasions.

Other Outfits

other outfits

A few more example combos to get the creative juices flowing:

  • You’ve got the jumper on its own with some chinos and the sneakers.
  • You’ve got the shirt with the suit trousers and the pair of double monk strap shoes.
  • You’ve also got the white t-shirt and the jeans, which is then dressed up with a pair of double monk strap shoes.
  • The final option is the full suit with the white t-shirt. This is great for a creative office environment or an occasion where a full suit may be too formal.

This is still just scratching the surface on how many outfits can be made from these 10 pieces.

It really does highlight how easy it is and also how effective it is when you have a very classic, versatile wardrobe.

Wardrobe Essentials Infographic

wardrobe essentials for men