Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

The Best Men’s Basics to Round Out Your Wardrobe

mens basics
Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you feel the urge to upgrade the basics in your wardrobe but have no idea where to begin, we’ve got you covered. When we say the best men’s basics, we mean the building blocks of your wardrobe. Sure. socks, underwear, undershirts, and pants might be the ones that cross your mind when talking about the basics, but they extend way past that. Not only is it essential to have great undergarments, but having the basics when it comes to accessories like shoes, bags, and sunglasses is just as vital.

So, when we say basics, we mean picks that are truly anything but basic or boring. We’re talking about classic pieces you can wear just about all the time, for each and every occasion in your life. Start your search here and check out our favorite basics below that will help you build out the ultimate and easy wardrobe.

Socks

Start from the ground up with some of the best socks for men. We’re not talking about an athletic logo or gym socks, though. We’re talking about great everyday socks you can wear with boots, sneakers, and beyond. They’ll provide comfort, durability, and long-lasting appeal.

Darn Tough Unstandard Stripe Crew Socks

Best everyday socks for men.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

For all-day comfort and performance, it’s tough to go wrong with Darn Tough’s decidedly “unstandard” socks. Wear them with rugged boots, chukka boots, or even dress shoes or travel sneakers for the perfect mix of good looks and a great feel on your feet.

American Trench Silver Crew Socks

Best men's crew socks for daily wear.
American Trench

Finding classic socks that stand the test of time just got a lot easier. These socks come in an array of crisp colors and feature the use of real silver for anti-microbial properties, making them socks you can wear with anything. Stock up accordingly.

Underwear

If ever you’ve worn underwear that’s subpar in terms of fit, feel, and fabric, then you know that the right pair or pairs make all the difference. We love one brand in particular when it comes to a variety of underwear styles, as you’re about to find out below. Once you’ve tried them, you’ll never go back to your old briefs.

Mack Weldon AIRKNITx Boxer Briefs

Best boxer briefs for men.
Mack Weldon

Boxer briefs are suitable for most guys, with a streamlined fit made to be worn under everything from dress trousers to jeans. The cool, breathable fabric here also makes a world of difference. Stock up on as many pairs as you can.

T-shirt

The humble T-shirt is essential in any man’s wardrobe, especially as you curate a collection of the best men’s basics. The T-shirt has moved well beyond its origins as an undershirt and is now a surefire staple to be paired with rugged trucker jackets or cotton blazers, not to mention your favorite pair of jeans.

HNLY LA HNLY Tee

Rugged men's T-shirt
HNLY LA

Coming from a brand that makes organic stretch cotton henleys, a great T-shirt seems like a no-brainer, does it not? This shirt should prove soft and reliable for layering or wearing all on its own.

Buttondown

The right buttondown can take your daily wardrobe from good to great. Every man needs a shirt he can wear, well, just about anywhere, be it the office, the bar post-work, or a casual weekend gathering. We think there’s one style that works well for all of these pursuits, the type of shirt you can wear untucked with jeans or tucked in with chinos and a classic cardigan. Welcome to a world you’ve got the perfect shirt for nearly every occasion.

Taylor Stitch Jack Oxford Shirt

Classic Oxford shirt for men.
Taylor Stitch

The humble roots of Taylor Stitch have given way to a brand that can do it all, from sweaters to waxed outerwear to chinos. And Taylor Stitch’s focus on the best men’s shirts has also paid off because this Oxford shirt is a picture-perfect example of what it means to have a shirt you can rock all the time.

Sweatshirt

The sweatshirt, like the once-rugged, now-versatile T-shirt, was once worn almost exclusively by athletes and sporting men. Now, it’s widely acknowledged that you can wear a stylish sweatshirt atop an Oxford shirt to the office or when out and about with your buddies. Throw one on underneath a navy blazer for true throwback style, too. We love ourselves a sweatshirt that’s more than just a sweatshirt, and this one takes the cake, so to speak.

Billy Reid Dover Sweatshirt

Best crewneck sweatshirt for men.
Billy Reid

The iconic crewneck sweatshirt gets a very luxe update in the hands of Billy Reid, one of the country’s foremost menswear designers. The leather elbow patches give this sweatshirt a touch of luxury and wearability, even at the office and especially on a winter date night.

Pants

Look, any list of the best men’s basics also needs to include some of the best pants for men. That means at least two distinct styles in our book: Jeans, the timeless and end-all, be-all, and wear-with-everything kind, especially in crisp blue. And chinos, a staple once worn by off-duty soldiers and now made more than ready for your day-to-day pursuits. You can style chinos and jeans back at the office, at weekend parties, and well beyond that. Here are a few favorites to shop for now.

Mott and Bow Wooster Jeans

Best skinny blue jeans for men
Mott and Bow

Mott and Bow have all the bases covered when it comes to stylish, classic jeans. They offer a range of fits and sizes to suit every guy, and they also provide a mix of classic washes, like the dark blue of the Wooster Jeans. Team these with an Oxford shirt and blazer, or else with a crewneck sweatshirt and high-tops. The choices are endless.

Bonobos Stretch Washed Chinos

Well-fitting pants for men.
Bonobos

Bonobos chinos are the stuff of your menswear dreams, made to fit perfectly every time and done up in extremely comfortable stretch fabric. Plus, the color options are unstoppable and as versatile as it gets.

Sweatpants

When we talk about men’s basics, it’s clear that sweatpants should be high on any list for all kinds of laidback lounging. We’re recommending that you ditch the baggy athletic sweatpants and go with something more streamlined, all the better to wear out of the house on casual weekends. This pair is so essential, it’s like you’re not even wearing sweats.

Public Rec Stadium Joggers

Public Rec Stadium Joggers for men
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Public Rec focuses on modern updates to the classics, like these joggers. They just so happen to be the perfect pants to throw on at a moment’s notice, especially if you want to show off your new sneakers. The rest of the time, they’re perfect for laidback, cozy comfort.

Shoes

There are certain items you’d be remiss for forgetting as you dash out the door (even the best of us forget to put on a watch in a hurry), but shoes aren’t one of those items. The best men’s shoes are certainly up for debate, but if you had to focus on two particular pairs to start your next wardrobe revamp, we’d say you can’t go wrong with a great pair of sneakers (to wear with sweatpants, jeans, or chinos), plus a great pair of rugged leather boots. Take a look at what could become your new go-to pair of men’s shoes.

Vans Old Skool

Vans Old Skool
Vans

Vans sneakers are about as timeless and wearable as it gets, with an instantly recognizable design and the sort of affordable price point you just don’t find anymore these days. Wear these in the spring, in the summer, and in the fall, and get more than one pair at that low, low price.

Wolverine Original 1000 Mile Boots

Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Wolverine is yet another brand that makes some of the most classic, iconic men’s shoes on the planet, and the 1000 Mile line is an ideal choice if you want to invest in the best boots for men. These will only get better the more you wear them.

Read more: Best Shoes for Men

Outerwear

When building a rotation of the best outerwear for multiple situations, it’s best to start slowly but surely, and then build from there. If you can find a rugged yet versatile jacket that works for both more casual and slightly more formal layering, for instance, then that’s a huge benefit and a major must-have for your wardrobe (think of a jacket you can wear with either an Oxford shirt or a simple tee in equal measure). We think our featured pick below gets the job done quite handily.

Flint and Tinder Waxed Trucker Jacket

Flint and Tinder Waxed Trucker Jacket
Huckberry

There’s plenty of reasons why this waxed trucker jacket from Huckberry is so downright essential. It’s hard-wearing, it comes in a wide range of colors to suit every palette, it looks great with jeans or chinos, and you’re going to get a ton of wear out of it heading right into springtime. Sounds like a major winner to us.

Read more: Best Jackets for Men

An Essential Bag

If ever you’ve tried to haul your daily carry with a bag that’s not that well-made, the kind of bag that simply doesn’t pass muster, you know the potential pitfalls and problems with using said bag. For your commute especially, and for road trips beyond that, you need a durable, dependable rotation of bags that can carry your valuables and do so in style. We think we’ve found exactly what you need.

Public Rec Pro Weekender

Public Rec

For the guy on the go, or the guy with a ton of stuff to haul to the gym and the office, this weekender bag can do it all. Designed for busy traveling professionals, it’s both streamlined and smooth enough to serve as your daily bag for a change of clothes and work essentials, yet it can also pull double-duty when you hit the road for a weekend out of town. Plus, it’s designed to pair up with any ensemble you’re wearing without looking like a typical athletic logo duffle bag.

Read more: Best Weekend Bags

Sunglasses

Once you find the best pair of men’s sunglasses on the market, there’s no telling the world of style you’ll unlock. We’re all about classic frame shapes that have stood the test of time, especially shades that can work with some of the more casual men’s basics on this list, plus your more dressy pieces for the office. It helps if you find a style rooted in functionality and iconic design, too. This is the pair to buy right now.

Ray-Ban Aviator Sunglasses

Ray-Ban Aviator Sunglasses
Ray-Ban

What could be more iconic than Aviator sunglasses from a brand that practically owns the category? These are as crisp and cool as it gets, wearable in every single season, and with every possible ensemble you can dream up. Better still, they’ll last for years and years.

Editors' Recommendations

Zoe Roscoe
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Zoë Roscoe is a freelance fashion and lifestyle writer based in New York. Her writing has appeared on a number of lifestyle…
Men’s fashion tips: The 16 essential rules every well-dressed man should know
What every man should know to ensure he's always the best dressed in the room
Man wearing scarf in sunset

Style is a bit of a Rorschach test. It can tell people around us who we are and what we think of ourselves. It can tell people more than we think. Some of us are mavericks, shirking the rules and subverting expectations at every turn, simply because we don't like to be put in boxes. Other groups of us like rules and we want the comfort that order and uniformity bring us. Then, even more of us are somewhere in the middle when it comes to men's style and crave order and uniformity to allow us to find our boundaries, only to shirk them later when we want to feel free. Men's fashion offers us all of the above. While some rules are made to be broken, others are tried-and-true staples to live on.

Rules vs. guidelines and how to break them
Never mix black and brown. Don't wear black dress shoes with a navy suit. Ditch the graphic tee. These are considered "rules of menswear," but they are more of guidelines. They help you look great while you learn what your style is or how to put together an outfit. Once you figure out how to do that, these rules tend to get in the way of evolving your style to be truly unique. The first thing you need to know if you're looking to revamp or upgrade your wardrobe is that guidelines can be adjusted, deviated from, or flat-out ignored. Rules, however, should be followed whenever possible. Don't worry; we took the time to collect the rules you should always follow in men's style.

Read more
The best black jeans for men: Class up your casual look
Elevate your wardrobe with one of these pairs of black jeans
Man leaning in tan shacket and black denim

Black denim is the underrated hero of the jeans world. While dark dress jeans will always be the go-to for any event where you need to look your best, black jeans are a unique alternative that will help you stand out from everyone else. They are the perfect pair to wear with sneakers and a T-shirt, Chelsea boots and a button-up, or dress shoes and a sport coat. Of course, there are options everywhere but it's our job to point you in the right direction.

When to wear black jeans

Read more
Barbour, Flint and Tinder, and more: Why your wardrobe needs a waxed canvas jacket (and the best ones to get)
Here's everything to know about waxed cotton jackets so you can pick the best one for you
Waxed jacket

Modern science has created fabrics that are remarkably light and breathable while providing complete protection from the elements. The functionality of these advanced materials can't be denied, but they lack the texture and character of those old-fashioned fabrics. A well-made and properly maintained waxed jacket provides both exceptional protection from the elements and a rugged beauty that modern science cannot match.

Talk about fashion meets function. If you prefer a more charismatic fabric, look, and style for your outerwear, then a canvas jacket or cotton field jacket is the way to go. If you are in the market to make an investment in a stylish but sturdy waxed canvas jacket, we'll take you on a ride about how these classic jackets came to be and the best ones for you to shop for.

Read more