Dress Tips

What essentials do men need to build a wardrobe?

By on February 12th, 2014

What essentials do men need to build a wardrobe? After all, you need to start somewhere, right?

Well, there are certainly many ways to answer this question! Essential pieces of clothing can mean different things to different people and will vary depending on one’s personal style, age, influences, etc.

But if you’ll allow me to take a stab at it, here are the essentials men need to build a wardrobe:

1. A great fitting blazer
2. Dark jeans
3. (3) versatile dress shirts
4. (1) great pair of shoes


1. A great fitting blazer

To begin building a foundation, a blazer is going to be more economical than buying a full suit. However, if you can afford to take the plunge and buy a fitted suit, then by all means go for it, but a blazer is a great first step.

Unless you work in a very formal office, a dark blazer with the right pants will probably get the job done. And when paired with a nice pair of dark jeans (see #2 below) you’ll be prepared for date night – grab a pocket square for extra style points.

2. Dark jeans

Everyone has their favorite brand of jeans and you probably already have a great looking pair of jeans in the closet. Just make sure that your nice jeans are not riddled with holes or light blue in color. A darker blue is dressier and should be your go-to choice when the sun goes down.

3. (3) versatile dress shirts

I would suggest that three shirts are really all you need to start building a foundation.

The following fabrics are some of the most versatile – you can dress them up or down – dinners out, formal occasions, work, pleasure, and everything in between. These three shirts will provide you a solid foundation from which to build.

White – but with some panache!
Face it, you need a white shirt. Whether it’s for an interview where you want something relatively conservative or if you plan to wear a dark suit to a formal occasion, white is the obvious choice. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring. For instance, pick one with a textured look or some sort of subdued pattern to set you apart from the crowd.


Just about any tie will work with a white shirt. And any suit for that matter. One of the best combos with a white shirt is this: A dark blazer, dark jeans, white shirt and white pocket square. Just like that, you’re instantly dressed up and ready for anything.

Blue – The most friendly of all fabrics
Believe it or not, studies have shown that wearing blue is often the best choice because it conveys trust and calmness and helps people to perceive you as reliable. Plus, blue is downright friendly. Why do you think so many companies use blue in their logos?

Blue is also very versatile with a myriad of neckties and suits. Although it can be a strong background when choosing ties, you’ll still have many options available.

Striped – When you want to show a little style
Pick your favorite color and make it a striped shirt. Simple as that. In some ways, a striped shirt is pure business. It’ll look great with your bespoke suits and carry you through any meeting or business lunch under the sun. However, loosen the collar and throw on those dark jeans and it’ll have a whole new look. Suddenly, you’re ready to go out and won’t feel overdressed at happy hour.


If you’re only in the market for one striped shirt, then go with a lighter background and a less bold stripe. Imagine you drew on the stripes using a pen or pencil, not a marker. This will keep the shirt more casual so that you can still wear the shirt outside the office.

4. (1) great pair of shoes

I know what you’re thinking…’just one pair of shoes!?’ If you’re looking to build a foundation you have to start somewhere :).

Stick with a lace-up so that you can dress them up when you need to and invest in a quality manufacturer. Brown? Black? I’d say it’s up to your personal preference and what you think you’ll wear most often. Black shoes are easy to match, but brown (when matched well) will set you apart from the crowd.

Wrap up:

Keep in mind that the above recommendations are what I consider to be a starting point for a versatile wardrobe. Some guys will definitely need a suit or at least a nice pair of wool pants for the office environment. But hopefully this gets your creativity spun up and you can make any necessary substitutions.

Building a wardrobe foundation doesn’t need to be as expensive or complex as you may think.

By Ryan Wagner