Dressing well is easy when it comes down to it, you only really need a few key pieces in your wardrobe to look good, wherever you go. The idea of the ‘capsule wardrobe’ has been floating around for quite some time now. But the concept is as appealing as ever. The idea is to curate a wardrobe where every garment complements the next. Essentially, you could get dressed in the dark, and look well put-together. One less thing to stress about in the morning. Who wouldn’t want that? Wardrobes take time to build though, as well as money – nobody could expect to have a closet full of iconic garments overnight. Here are the realistic to suggest wardrobe every man should own by the tender age of 30. Trend-proof, long lasting and flattering on anyone.
Hard Working Jeans
A pair of raw denim jeans are the perfect anchor for your entire casual wardrobe. ‘Raw’ essentially means ‘unwashed’, so the denim is left in its natural, dark indigo state. Not only is dark blue denim the most versatile, in that it can be dressed up as well as it can be worn off-duty, but it’ll also age beautifully. The indigo in raw denim changes the more you wear it, so with time you’ll see unique fades, making the jeans highly individual and uniquely yours. Although originally made for workmen and miners, jeans are an essential item regardless of your personal style. They’re the garment equivalent of a blank canvas, and can be worn in a multitude of ways, from mid-century mod to business casual office worker. The choice is yours.
Even Harder-Working Boots
It’s no coincidence that many of menswear’s key items stem from the military or hardy manual jobs. There’s something endlessly attractive about clothes that were made for a purpose, and classic work boots are no different. This is a simple style of boot that generally has a plain, rounded toe, a height that finishes around the lower calf, and a chunky rubber or leather sole that’s up to withstanding the elements. Durable, reliable, all-weather, and with a rugged, timeless charm: pulling on a pair of well-made lace-up boots is like sliding your feet inside two Land Rover Defenders.
A Classic Overcoat
A well-made overcoat is arguably the only piece of heavy outerwear you need. If you’re going to buy just one winter coat, this should be it. Look for one that is tailored but isn’t too slim – you’ll want it to accommodate the chunkiest knitwear for those cold walks to the pub on a Saturday afternoon, as well as a suit on the way to work. A good overcoat can easily cover both bases, just ensure it’s in tan, black, navy or grey and you’re good to go.
A Go-Anywhere Suit
These days you won’t always find yourself reaching for the suit in your wardrobe, even if you work in a corporate environment, as dress codes are forever becoming more casual. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t need one at all. Weddings, interviews and fancy birthday parties are all occasions that likely require one, and if you must only have a single suit, opt for the classic. A navy or charcoal version in a slim-to-classic fit is best. Pure wool (as opposed to an artificial blend) comes highly recommended, as do subtle tailoring details such as ticket pockets and double vents lapels. This ensures it can be broken up and worn separately which, let’s face it, is likely how it will get worn the most.
A Fallback Breton Top
To understand how the Breton top became a menswear icon, you only need to look at those who favoured it in years gone by: Pablo Picasso, James Dean, Andy Warhol, Kurt Cobain. Images of these famous names wearing simple white and blue striped tops showcase its style potential without us needing to say a word. But if we must, the Breton top should be at the top of your casual dress wishlist. Ideal on its own or worn as a layering piece, it adds a visual pop to minimalist looks and a certain gallic charm to everything else.
A Versatile Oxford Shirt
The do-everything shirt. An Oxford cloth button-down can be worn to a first date, to the office, a wedding, basically anywhere. Originally designed for polo players – the buttoned down collar stopped it flapping in their faces mid-game – the Oxford shirt is perhaps the only collared shirt you need. Look for one in white or blue, in a slim but not restricting fit that allows it to be worn both tucked in and untucked. Lastly, opt for high thread count shirts in good quality cotton. Anything less is a yellowing, shrinking, fraying false economy.
A Trusty Weekend Bag
You’ll find yourself using a weekend bag more than you think. As well as for the obvious weekend away, they’re useful for the gym, swimming and trips to the beach, so it pays to have one you’re proud to be seen with. All-leather bags are beautiful but often prohibitively expensive, so opt for canvas or nylon, in a minimal design that’ll complement your chosen look. Some even have special zips for transporting an extra pair of shoes.
A key throughout this list is versatility, and there’s no shoe more versatile than the plain toe Derby. It’s a smart-enough style to be worn with a suit, but when paired with a chunky sole the Derby transitions seamlessly to the casual wardrobe and is the ideal in-between style for smartening up a laid-back look. Derbies in dark brown or black are best, with brands such as Grenson and Dr Martens producing some of the best designs out there.
Clean, minimal white sneakers are a go-to for many men these days. Easy to dress up and more comfortable than any proper leather shoe, classic trainers should round out your shoe wardrobe. Due to the ubiquity of minimal trainer styles these days – they all look the same – opt for a pair with a bit of personality. A Vans stripe, a Stepney Worker’s Club chunky sole, or an Adidas perforated logo will separate yours from the rest.
An Unstructured Blazer
On top of your navy suit, an unstructured blazer will ensure you’ve got all the tailoring boxes covered. As you’ve already got a blue blazer, this is your chance to move into slightly bolder territory. Look for textured greys, or subtle patterns which’ll aid with layering and pairing with trousers or jeans. An unstructured blazer is something you’ll wear a lot mainly because of its cut. Soft shoulders and lack of padding in the chest make it extremely comfortable and more casual than a typical suit blazer, meaning smart-casual dress codes are sorted.
A Classic Cropped Jacket
To be worn on its own in spring, or layered under a heavy coat in winter, the lightweight, cropped jacket is as important as anything on this list. There are many styles which fit into this category: denim jacket, Harrington, bomber, chore jacket. Whichever you go for, ensure the colour is classic and it’ll pair well with literally anything.
Your First Serious Watch
A serious watch is a serious investment. We’re talking $1000 and above here, for a wristwatch that’ll likely be powered by an automatic, or at least a mechanical movement, as opposed to battery-powered quartz. As with everything on this list, aim for a classic design that can be worn anywhere. Simple diving watches, chronographs or minimal time-only watches such as those made by NOMOS are great shouts. Other details that denote quality: sapphire crystal glass, applied hour markers/numbers, anti-reflective dials and solid metal bracelets.
A Breezy Cuban Collar Shirt
Harking back to mid-century dress, Cuban collar shirts have become staple summer garments over the past few years. There’s something about that open collar that exudes stylish nonchalance and, thanks to the shirt’s popularity, an increasing number are being made with long sleeves, so you can dress like you’re in a ‘50s jazz band in autumn now, too. Many high street retailers produce Cuban collar shirts now, but for something a bit different look to the specialists. Both Scott Fraser Collection and Basic Rights produce exemplary versions in a range of colour ways, fabric options and sleeve lengths.
They’ve been around forever, but chinos don’t have to be boring. Ignore the slim-leg styles that the high street pumps out every minute. Instead look to wider, more relaxed styles which bring a more relaxed, contemporary feel to the old faithful. Get one pair in navy and one pair in stone and watch as they take on everything from the boardroom to the beach hut. To further differentiate yours, brands such as Universal Works and COS make a range of pleated chinos, which work perfectly with the above Cuban collar shirt for a suitably throwback feel.
And A Leather Jacket, Obviously
Leather jackets aren’t the easiest to wear and they won’t suit everyone. They have to be worn with confidence and almost forgotten about – turn to Jeff Goldblum if you want a lesson in that. First of all the cut needs to be right. Go classic – either biker or bomber – and ensure it’s slim through the body and arms. Baggy leather has never been a good look. Next it’s advisable you wear it with dark colours – think that raw denim we mentioned above and your go-to dark T-shirt – or alternatively a Breton top to mix things up and avoid looking too cliche.