Dark Wash Jeans
White Dress Shirt
Lace-up Dress Shoes
Casual Lace-up Boots
So here it is: These are the quintessential shoes that every man should have in his closet for year-round wear. Anything outside of these are specialty items, like snow boots, so they’re not included in this article.
Buy the Nike Roshe FlyKnit in gray
There’s nothing better than a sleek pair of athletic shoes. Not only can they function as your gym shoes, but they can be worn with your casual outfits, as well.
I recommend sticking with a black/white, black/grey/white (like above), or navy/white color to ensure that your sneakers compliment all your outfits. Other crazy colors like neon green or a bright red will only draw attention away from your outfit which is why I’m not recommending those colors. You probably wouldn’t know it, but these shoes are one of my clients and almost a year old.
Since all of the shoes I’m recommending have white soles, I highly recommend Jason Markk’s Essential Shoe Cleaner Kit. Just give the soles a quick scrub with the included brush and soap every few weeks and they’ll look good-as-new for a long time.
Buy the Adidas Stan Smith Sneakers
The second pair of shoes you should own, is what I’d consider an absolute essential to any well-dressed man’s wardrobe, which is why they were also included in my Men’s Wardrobe Essentials series.
They’re clean, classy and look great with a lot of your casual, even up to a little more dressy, outfits. Throw on a nice fitted blazer and some dark wash jeans with them and they’ll look amazing. See here for outfit inspiration images.
Under no circumstance should you wear these with a suit, though. That’s a trend that’s been floating around for a few years and I just think you’re not doing a suit justice by dumbing it down with sneakers.
A quick note, because it’s been brought up in the comments of my White Sneaker Video – Jordan’s and Air Force Ones are not the same as these – even if they’re white – because the shape and profile of those shoes are completely different. Notice how sleek and simple the profile of the above shoe is – THAT’S what makes all the difference. Jordan’s and Air Force Ones are chunky looking and have a very specific look that a lot of men can’t pull off.
The third pair of shoes you should own are suede driving moccasins. I’ve already covered these in my Summer Essentials Ebook, but they’re also great shoes during the other parts of the year, depending on your climate.
If you’ve never worn a pair, then you really should try them because they’re the most comfortable middle ground between a dress shoe and a sneaker and after they’ve been broken in a little bit, they’ll feel like you’re wearing a pair of socks.
I have these ones here by Tod’s that I really love. Stick with dark brown first, then you can add a tan color and then navy which will cover you for any outfit you can wear outside of a suit – which you should never wear driving mocs with. The construction is fantastic and they hug your feet nicely –
which is important because a lot of cheaply made driving mocs tend to look loose around your feet which is to be avoided.
There’s three things to remember about driving moccasins:
Only wear no-show socks with them. I did a whole video about socks so check out the link in the video description.
Before you wear them for the first time, make sure you Scotchguard them in order to protect the suede from dirt & liquids as much as possible.
They’re going to get dirty, it’s inevitable with suede. So buy them knowing they’re going to have a shorter shelf life than the rest of your shoes, but trust me, you won’t care because they’re so damn comfortable.
The fourth pair of shoes you should own are Oxford or Derby dress shoe with a sleek profile and round toe. I’ve covered these extensively before, but every man needs at least a black and possibly brown pair of dress shoes in his wardrobe. They go well with all outfits outside of a super casual outfit (think: t-shirt and jeans). And since you should at least own one suit, these are necessary because you can’t get away with wearing any other shoes with your suit. Remember: the goal is to have you looking amazing, no matter the scenario or outfit.
I prefer plain toe, but you can also get cap toes, but I will grab a pair of plain toed Oxfords or Derbys over any other kind of dress shoe 99% of the time.
As for brogueing, burnished toes, oxblood or other unique colors, don’t get me wrong, I love them, but that’s like two levels down the road if you’re new to dressing better. They’re very specific and won’t go with a lot of your outfits, so grab them after you’ve invested in a classic black and dark brown oxford.
The final pair of shoes – in this case – boots you should own are a pair of brown leather boots.
They’re utilitarian in that you can wear them in a lot of adverse weather situations as well as in more elevated casual outfits. I prefer brown because boots are usually more geared toward the cooler months, and brown is a great fall/winter color and it goes AMAZINGLY well with the dark wash jeans and wool trousers you should already own. But don’t be mistaken, you can also wear these year-round.
It’s been asked this a few times by viewers, so unless you’re going for the lumberjack or American/Japanese worker-style look, don’t wear these boots with a suit because these ARE NOT DRESS BOOTS.
I love the pebbled brown leather and goodyear welting of the Purdey boots above, which is why they’re my top choice. Trust me, I spent a lot of time finding the best boots out there and these are hands down my favorite.
If you want to know how to tie your boots properly like this so don’t have a bunch of excess laces flopping around, check out my video about how to properly tie men’s shoelaces.
If you’re like most of my clients, you’re probably wearing a t-shirt or polo shirt most of the time, so let’s make sure you look amazing in them. Before we get into that, though, I have a few bones to pick with men in regards to their t-shirts. They completely crap the bed in a few ways:
A t-shirt is defined as:
A lightweight shirt without buttons, with short sleeves and no collar. Often made of cotton and frequently bears a picture or slogan.
Before we get into the finer points of t-shirts, let’s talk about the two different types, first. Before I started in the fashion industry, I didn’t know that there were only really two types of t-shirts. So let’s quickly get this out of the way.
These t-shirts have round collars that fit closely to the neck like the image above. You probably have these in your closet right now. They are great base items for layering or worn on their own. They work on most body types. See the below section about fit for more details.
If your powers of deduction are strong, you’ll already know that the v-neck t-shirt is named as such because the neck is in the shape of a “v”. They also work on most body types. See the below section about fit for more details.
Long-sleeved shirts are not technially t-shirts. I put this here, because when I was first starting out, I swore that long-sleeved shirts, like Henleys, were also t-shirts. But, they’re not. Also, in my professional opinion you shouldn’t really own any long sleeve shirts. Henleys would be the only exception, but they only look good on certain body types. I’ll do an article about Henley shirts at a later time. But I don’t consider them a wardrobe essential.
I discussed my hatred of logos in my polo shirt article. And it definitely applies to t-shirts. Maybe more-so.
No self-respecting man should ever wear t-shirts with logos plastered all over them. We have enough billboards and advertisements in our lives, don’t turn your body into another one. Sports teams and concert/band tees are fine if worn to an event where it’s appropriate. But the worst is when I see guys wearing “designer” t-shirts. It just screams sucker, amateur and douche. Just don’t do it. If you own any of these, either throw them out right now or
See the T-Shirt Fit Guide for details. But I’ll quickly mention here, too, that no matter your age or body type, a t-shirt (any shirt, for that matter) should have a trim fit and lightly hug your body.
That doesn’t mean it should be skin tight, but it also doesn’t mean it should be baggy, either. A lot of my clients with larger builds tend to think that their shirts need to be baggy to hide their imperfections, but it actually works counter to that. It’ll highlight your imperfections if you attempt to hide them under larger swaths of fabric. And if you’re thinner, a larger shirt won’t add any bulk to your frame, it’ll just make you look even skinnier.
I can’t tell you how many nipples and belly buttons I see walking around town because guys are wearing undershirts or flimsy shirts with really thin or delicate fabrics as regular t-shirts.
I see a lot of guys wearing what looks like white undershirts because the fabric is so thin. I’ve honestly been searching for months for good white shirts that don’t show skin through. See my recommendations below. Thin shirts/undershirts are not the same as regular t-shirts. Undershirts, true to their name, should only be worn underneath another shirt – usually an Oxford Button Down Dress Shirt or a Semi-Spread Collar Dress Shirt. They’re thin and soft because they’re purpose-built to go underneath something else.
The quickest way to look like a creepy uncle is to wear a shiny or silky t-shirt. You should only wear cotton and matte (not shiny) t-shirts. Nothing else.
Your t-shirts shouldn’t look like the garment equivalent of those terrible worn-out baseball caps. A t-shirt should look clean, comfortable and relatively new. Once they’ve got holes or they’re faded, even a little bit, they need to be replaced. Such is the nature of being a well-dressed gentleman. There’s nothing worse than old, stretched-out, or faded looking shirts, unless you’re deliberately going for that look.
You’ll get more usage out of your t-shirts if you wash in cold water and hang dry them. But once they’re stretched out or faded, it’s time to donate and replace them.
Choosing the best t-shirts comes down to your body type, preference and the colors. I’ll reiterate again, because my older clients like to give me this excuse before they see the light: AGE DOESN’T FACTOR INTO WHAT SHIRTS YOU SHOULD GET – AT ALL.
Between the two, I would say it all depends on your preference. Some of my clients are adamant about their love or hate for one or the other. But if you don’t have a preference, I’d suggest getting one set of each. That way, you have the option to switch it up.
As for which ones you should get, there’s 3 points to consider:
Every man should have these colors to start since they’ll go with everything else in your Essential Wardrobe.
As for how many of each you should have, I suggest getting at least 2 of each, that way you can easily get through a week without needing to do laundry.
The fabrics of these options are really amazing and super comfortable. The James Perse ones are a personal favorite and I use them on a lot of my clients. I wish I could make all my clothes out of some of these materials. See my note in the section below, before making your decision. All of these shirts come in the colors I recommended above.
I’d probably default to these options over the designer ones because I find very minute differences between them. The biggest factors would be fit and slightly better fabrics. I don’t find the added costs are worth what you get in return, especially because t-shirts will need to be replaced much quicker than other items in your wardrobe. All of these shirts come in the colors I recommended above. I especially love the RibbedTee shirts and the American Apparel Summer Shirts.
I see a boatload of guys making the following mistakes, so I want you to be aware of them:
The word “chino” means “toasted” and is derived from Latin American Spanish. Chino pants are named after the cotton twill fabric they’re constructed from, often called Chino Cloth. Another distinguishing characteristic is that chino pants will also usually have side-loading pockets, which are different than the traditional front or top-loading pockets as traditionally found on jeans.
In the most simple terms possible: Khaki is a shade of brown. Chino is a type of pants and called this because they’re usually made from Chino cloth.
The original khaki (light brown) is the traditional and most popular color, but chinos are come in many shades. See my color preferences for men below.
As I said in my wool trouser article, I frickin’ hate pleats with a passion.
I don’t care how old or young you are or what your body type is – whether you’re thin or a larger guy, you should NEVER, EVER have pleated chino pants. Honestly, I f*#@%ing hate them because they’re so unnecessary and are unflattering on every guy. I’ll be the first to dance on their grave if they ever completely go away. I’ve never seen a guy look good while wearing them – ever.
You can, and sometimes should, cuff or roll up chino pants. But don’t ever buy a pair of chinos that are pre-cuffed. It’ll be very hard to get that crease out and the hem will likely be very thick, which won’t look that great.
As for creasing the front the of leg, if you’re looking at a pair of chinos that’s creased like this, run for the hills! They should never be creased like dress pants because… repeat after me: They’re not dress pants.
You should at least have two colors of chinos because they’ll pair well with all the other items in your Essential Wardrobe. A quick note about colors: Whatever you do, make sure the colors you choose are not too shiny or glossy looking. You’ll know it when you see it. You want a more matte finish to your chinos.
If you already own these colors and want to add more, then go for gray/charcoal or an olive color. If you want to try other colors, just make sure you understand what colors work best with your skin tone.
You’ll want to get a “Slim” fit chino pant that will hug the thighs, knees, and calves while tapering down from your knee to ankle.
A lot of my slim & regular built clients initially believe this style will make them look too skinny. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just that they’re used to wearing super baggier clothes to try and hide their slimness, which, coincidentally, just makes them look slimmer. A proper fitting pair of chino pants just looks right, regardless of your build, and doesn’t make you look one way or another – I promise.
Determining the ideal cut of your chinos depends on your physique.
If you’re a heftier guy or have larger thighs, I recommend a straight leg chino. It will give your body a trim, well-proportioned appearance. Slim fit chinos that taper slightly in the leg will make you look somewhat imbalanced—giving you a top-heavy look with skinny legs. Unless you’re on the shorter side, then a slight taper is OK, but under no other circumstances should your chinos be tapered.
The classic “Straight-Leg” fit is perfect for you. No matter a man’s build, but especially in your case, it’s all about balancing your body’s proportions to make sure your bottom half complements your upper half. So stick to this cut of chinos for your physique and you’ll look fantastic.
See my Chino and Khaki Pants Fit Guide for details.
I’m a huge fan of each of these designer’s chinos as the construction, quality, and fit are spot on. You won’t go wrong with any of these, but just remember to choose the right fit for your body type.
If you’re on a budget, all three of these are great. Each brand offers a few color choices, which are usually the typical khaki, navy, and gray. A great thing about Uniqlo is that they offer free hemming service so there’s no excuse to have your chinos be too long 🙂
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A good polo shirt will:
Fabric choice is the biggest thing to consider when choosing a polo shirt and heavily dependent on your body type. The fabric you choose will determine how good (or bad) you look in a polo shirt.
Piqué cotton polo shirts are made with cotton yarn and have thin ribbing visible in the garment. The texture is soft, and if you look closely you can see the tightly raised cords that give a waffle-like appearance.
Piqué polos are best for heavier-set men with wider physiques because the textured fabric hugs the body without conforming to the less flattering areas of the chest and stomach. When I’m working with a client who’s worried about his belly being accentuated, I always go with pique cotton. Think of the fabric as airbrushing your torso and hiding the problem areas.
Check out how much more flattering the piqué cotton polo is on the same guy compared to a cotton/silk blend polo. I bet his hands are covering his belly button divot in the cotton polo shirt picture, too. It’s an old photographer’s trick. Notice his chest area looks a little more smoothed out? Please don’t think I’m recommending this polo, it’s pretty bad (that’s a horrible sleeve length) but it highlights the “airbrushing” effect that piqué cotton has very nicely.
If you’re in decent shape, skip the piqué polos and grab a few cotton/cotton-silk blended polo shirts. The material looks better on your body type and is softer and more comfortable than pique cotton. These polos have a sleek, modern look that are great on their own or underneath a jacket. Beware, it’ll shine a spotlight on your body’s imperfections if you’re not in good shape!
Avoid any patterns or collar/sleeve piping and stick with the basic (and best) colors to begin. Grab a few white, black, navy, and charcoal/gray colored polos. They’ll give you the most versatility with the rest of your Essential Wardrobe and will work with any skin tone and body type.
If you’ve got the basic colors already, definitely get some brighter colors that compliment your skin tone and/or throw some stripes in there, too. I would universally avoid plaids or any other wackier patterns, it’s just too much and looks tacky.
If you’re wearing a polo shirt without a jacket, then don’t tuck your shirt into your pants. I know golfers do this, but you’re not on a golf course and it looks horrible tucked in.
If you’re wearing a jacket, then loosely tuck in the front part of the shirt by your belt buckle like in my 3 ways to wear images below. The shirt should still cover the top half of your belt buckle – you don’t want to completely see the buckle. I love doing this on my clients because it breaks up the outfit when you see a little of the belt buckle and gives it a little polish without overdoing it.
Please don’t get a shirt with a huge logo all over it. Just. Don’t. Logos that are small and the same color of the rest of the shirt are passable, but if you have the option, go logo-less.
Check out my Men’s Polo Shirt Fit Guide for details.
For a pique polo, I recommend the Sunspel Riviera Polo Shirt. This shirt was made for Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale. A black or navy polo pairs well with either dark wash jeans or grey wool trousers. For a silk/cotton blend polo shirt, I love John Varvatos and Burberry. The shirt’s impressive construction and fit is well worth the price.
I’m a big fan of H&M’s cotton polo shirts. Actually, I would probably get those over the designer options a majority of the time. They won’t last forever, but they’re cheap enough to replace every season or two. They have a clean design with a great fit and a price that you can’t beat. The model in the first picture below is wearing the H&M Polo.
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I want to clear the air about something first, because it’s important for you to know this:
The category of wool trousers is quite broad and basically includes any pants that are made of wool. This means trousers made of a more lightweight fabric, like suit pants, and the traditional, heavier-weight wool trouser are all considered “wool trousers.” If you want to get technical, I’m specifically meaning a wool fabric weight of anywhere from about 10-12oz and up.
When I say wool trousers from this point forward, I only mean the thick/heavier-weight wool trousers because the lightweight fabrics, like suit pants, look flimsy and unpolished when worn with items outside of a suit jacket. The thicker weight of the wool trousers I recommend below will not wrinkle as easily, lay cleaner on the legs and look great with everything from a sweater or overcoat/peacoat and semi-spread collared shirt (oxford button down dress shirt, too) to a leather jacket and t-shirt. Basically anything in your essential wardrobe will look great with the recommended wool trousers.
Some of my older readers often ask about “slacks” or “suit trousers” and my answer is always the same: don’t bother. You should never be wearing slacks or suit pants or similar without a full suit. Its flimsy looking, tacky and the mark of a guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing.
I don’t care how old or young you are or what your body type is – whether you’re thin or a larger guy, you should NEVER, EVER have pleated wool pants. Honestly, I f*#@%ing hate them because they’re so unnecessary and are unflattering on every guy. I’ll be the first to dance on their grave if they ever completely go away. I’ve never seen a guy look good while wearing them – ever.
I’d recommend having at least two pairs of wool pants in your wardrobe. My first choice would be gray, then dark blue, and then brown, if blue or gray wasn’t available. Black is OK, but I’d consider that my last option, if I were you. It’s just too heavy of a fabric to wear black in, as it’ll look more imposing.
See my How Should Dress Pants and Wool Trousers fit article.
The V-Neck Sweater is an essential because you’re going to need warm layering pieces for the cooler parts of the year and it allows you to mix and match your Essential Wardrobe a little better by layering it with a blazer or suit, over an oxford or semi-spread collar dress shirt and paired with simple dark wash jeans or wool trousers and a white sneaker, boots or oxford dress shoes. So how could I leave it off this list?
Crewnecks are okay, but they’re a more casual item. So for this reason, a V-Neck sweater is essential because it’s the classy mofo of the sweater world. V-necks add a touch of dressy formality that you just won’t get with a crewneck.
I love crewnecks, don’t get me wrong, but most guys don’t know how to wear them so then it starts looking really sloppy. I know some guys like the crew neck and tie or suit look, but I would choose a v-neck or cardigan sweater over a crewneck in this case almost every time.
I prefer the V-Neck Sweaters I work with to be made of wool, – either regular or merino wool. Cashmere is also a great fabric, but it’s definitely on the pricier side. If you run a little warmer, then go for a wool/silk or cotton-blended sweater – Pima cotton is also great, but it stretches out very easily.
You need at least 1 black V-Neck Sweater in your closet. If you’ve got a black one already, grab a navy and/or charcoal gray version. These colors will go with everything else in your Essential Wardrobe. If you want a 3rd option, then a darker brown will also go pretty well with your wardrobe, too.
Check out my V-Neck Sweater fit guide for how (all) your sweater(s) should fit.
I love these because the fit, fabric weight, and overall construction is impeccable and I’ve worked with these brands many, many times.
I love each one of these v-neck sweaters, especially the H&M and Life After Denim sweaters. Even though they’re budget-friendly, the quality, fabric weight, and overall fit is really good.
NOTE: A Navy Blazer looks horrible with a pair of tan chinos/khakis. This is the quintessential older, out-of-touch-guy-who-wants-to-dress-up uniform. Just. don’t – Ever.
I see some resources online talking about how a Blazer is different from a Sport Coat/Sports Jacket and honestly, in all my years in the industry, the term is used so interchangeably that it doesn’t matter. They’re basically the same garment. If I have a hard time telling the difference, you’ll have an even harder time, so I say don’t worry about it and call it whatever you want.
The differences between a Blazer and Suit Jacket are constantly debated. A lot of sources say they’re the same, others say they’re different, but allow me to flex my teeny tiny muscles a bit, as I deal with these items day in and day out.
First and foremost, they’re not the same. A Blazer is made of thicker fabric so it pairs better with other clothing items of different weights, like jeans, for example. A Suit Jacket is made of lighter material and should only be worn as part of a suit.
You may not notice, but fabric weights can influence whether an outfit looks off or not. Blazers are not made of the same weight of fabric that a Suit Jacket is.
If you have a chance, go somewhere that requires a jacket be worn – like a business casual event or restaurant that requires a dinner jacket be worn – and I guarantee you’ll see some guys wearing suit jackets with jeans or khakis. I’m sorry to call them out, but older gentleman are the worst offenders here.
I want you to notice how it just looks… weird. The jacket fabric seems a little too “thin” and “flowy” compared to the pants because it’s too light of a fabric to go with a heavier fabric like denim or khaki. They don’t lay or move the same, so it looks weird.
The problem is that most guys see pictures of other guys wearing suit jackets with denim pants and think it looks great, which it does – in pictures. In person it looks bad due to the differing fabric weights. So trust me on this one – you need separate Blazers and Suit Jackets.
Here’s my patented 4-Step process to tell if a jacket is a Blazer or a Suit Jacket:
I recommend you go with a heavier, textured wool fabric because its robust and you’ll get a lot of mileage out of this type of blazer. I like a fabric weight of between 8 to 10 ounces, depending on your climate (hotter climates, I like around 6 ounces). If you go heavier than my recommendations, then you’re getting into Fall/Winter territory and the lighter weight fabric would wrinkle pretty badly. This weight also looks best with the other items a blazer is typically worn with – jeans, wool pants, sweaters, etc. – basically everything else in your Essential Wardrobe. Lighter fabrics have very slim use cases and are a pain in the butt to maintain that they’re usually not worth the hassle.
If you read the title, you know I’m going to say navy :). The reason is because it will go with everything else in my Men’s Wardrobe Essentials list. If you already own a navy Blazer – great job! – then go with a Charcoal or Charcoal Herringbone pattern.
Ideally, you’ll want to go with a double vent. This style of vent has been around for quite a while and is flattering on every body type. With that being said, a single vent is not a poor choice, but it’s definitely second in my book. Just make sure that, no matter what, you never go with a blazer without a vent – it’s a horrible look.
Check out my Blazer/Sport Coat Fit Guide for details.
I chose these blazers because they’re not only well-constructed, but they’re also made of a nice, textured fabric that has the perfect amount of weight to them. Each of these blazers has the 2-button, notch-lapel features that I love and that work on all body types. The navy Brooks Brothers blazer is only offered with gold buttons online, but they do have non-gold button options available in their stores. Stick with their Milano or Fitzgerald lines as they offer the most tailored fits. Ermenegildo Zegna and Z Zegna make incredible blazers that always makes me stop and touch them whenever I’m at the store pulling clothes for a client. Burberry is fantastic for slimmer men that are 5’10” and above.
These are my go-to for blazers that look great, sport all the features I want to see on a blazer, and hit a more affordable price poin. J.Crew offers wool blazers for an extremely affordable price and their Ludlow line has a tailored fit that is fantastic and offered in a range of sizes, from Short to Regular to Tall. If you’re a slim to regular build, I love Topman because their cuts are the best! The material is usually a polyester-wool blend so it’s not the best, but it’ll get the job done and still look fantastic.