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The 25 wardrobe essentials every man needs: Your ultimate men’s fashion checklist

Men's essentials: Start with these building blocks to create the perfect wardrobe

Man in brown suit
Anastasiia Chepinska / Shutterstock

Your outward appearance is a reflection of your inner self-image. It may sound shallow, but our society judges books by their cover. When you first meet someone, either on the street or in a professional setting, they make up their mind about you in the first few minutes. That means you need to build a wardrobe that expresses all you are and all you can bring to the table. With that in mind, men’s fashion has some must-haves to help you make a great first impression.

Here are the 25 items that every man needs in their closet.

Man in vest and blazer
Rydale Clothing / Flickr

The blazer

The blazer is a must-have in every wardrobe, the fourth piece in the four-legged stool. While it is great for dressing down dress pants during the week at the office, it is also perfect for dressing up denim and chinos. The blazer is best known for contrasting buttons (brass or pewter). However, you can also get a sport coat, which is essentially a suit coat without pants. Many brands and menswear blogs use the terms interchangeably. The one you should invest in first is the navy, as it is a staple in menswear. However, you can feel free to branch out to other colors that better fit your personality.

Our choice – Bonobos Unconstructed Italian Wool Blazer

Bonobos has earned its reputation for accessible, great-fitting clothes. Their two-button, unconstructed blazer is loosely tailored from top-quality Italian fabric for a more effortless silhouette that can just as easily be dressed up or down.

A man getting dressed, buttoning up his shirt.
G-Stock Studio / Shutterstock

The Oxford shirt

The white dress shirt is the number one dress shirt you will wear. It is the blank slate, the clean canvas. There isn’t a tie or a suit this shirt won’t go with. It is also the one that shows wear the easiest. If you are a sweater or a guy who wears sunblock every day, this collar can start to look a little raggedy. Best stock up and make sure you always look crisp and clean.

Our choice – Charles Tyrwhitt Oxford Shirt

Charles Tyrwhitt has a collection of Icons that will fill your wardrobe with the best in the industry. While it can be one at a time or a three-shirt bundle, you won’t regret choosing one of the best in the business in keeping men looking their best no matter the occasion.

Close up photos of denim work shirt
KC Stone / The Manual

The denim shirt

Nothing says casual masculinity like the denim shirt. These were initially conceived to be worn on the ranch or in the gold mine while a man created wealth for himself and his family the hard way, with hard work. While the denim blue is the most classic look to go with, you can have fun with this shirt and go for anything from black to white, or olive to gray.

Our choice – Devil Dog Military Chambray Shirt

For 75 years, Devil Dog Dungarees has made some of the best denim on the market. They made the move to denim shirts, and the quality followed. Their Military Chambray shirt crosses the line between function and fashion, looking just as good on the ranch as at the cafe.

best t shirts
Richer Poorer / Facebook

The white tee

From James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause to John Travolta in Grease, the plain white t-shirt has forever been a staple in the men’s closet. Of course, it was originally a bit of a rebellious addition as it served as the antithesis to the suit and tie worn by the establishment in the 50s. But even today, as the world gets more casual, the white tee still stands as the ultimate in casual comfort and style.

Our choice – Hanes Crew Neck T-Shirt

Don’t be one of those guys who wear overpriced tees (or who conversationally will acknowledge it). With their signature high round neck and stiff silhouette, Hanes white tees are universally sworn upon. In 2023, the fashionable t-shirt is as strong as ever.

man in henley and cardigan
Sherman Yang / Unsplash

The henley

There are few items in your closet that will work with as many different outfits as the henley. As a marriage between the t-shirt, the sweater, and the button-up, it is the ultimate in versatility and one of our favorites on the men’s must-haves. Put it under a button-up, over a polo, or let it fly on its own with denim or chinos; the henley will be a go-to when you don’t feel like thinking about what to wear.

Our choice – Flag and Anthem Birmingham Slub Henley

Few henleys are as soft and luxurious as the Birmingham Slub from Flag & Anthem. Made from lightweight fabrics, it will be the perfect layering item whenever you want to pair it with a button-up or a polo. And with a fabric that feels buttery soft on your skin, it is just as wonderful on its own.

Man in sweater on the beach
Jonathan Zerger / Unsplash

The crewneck sweater

Speaking of not wanting to think about what to put on every morning, the crewneck sweater is about as thoughtless as it gets. The crew neck design first appeared in the 1930s when footballers wore them under their pads for comfort. Once they made them cool, other garments, including the old fisherman’s sweaters, began to adopt the style.

Our choice – Paka The Original Crew

There are all sorts of sweater materials out there. Whether you want something heavy and pick up a cashmere or light with a linen, you will be happy. However, alpaca is one of the softest and most luxurious sweater materials on the market. Paka is one-of-a-kind and the perfect sweater maker to add to your wardrobe.

man wearing a hoodie
Phillip Lansing / Unsplash

The hoodie

Sometimes, the day calls for comfort and warmth over style and high-end fashion. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style altogether, but it does mean that the focus is different. If warmth and comfort are what your day calls for, the hoodie is the best bet. Take your normal, everyday sweatshirt and add a hood (hence the name) and a kangaroo pocket, and you have the best overshirt in the closet. Here’s the best part: if you do it right, the hoodie is still a great piece of fashionable masculine style.

Our choice – Flint and Tinder 10-year hoodie

How many items in your closet last for a decade? Let me answer that for you, not many. This hoodie has been tested and approved by over twenty hard-working men to guarantee it will hold up to whatever you throw at it for the next ten years. That makes the aptly named 10-year hoodie our must-have for your closet.

man wearing boxer briefs
Mike Jones / Pexels

The boxer brief

Whether you feel like you are a boxers guy or a briefs guy, there is another choice for you. If you wore boxers briefly and weren’t a fan of how loose and free everything was as you went about your business, but briefs feel outdated, boxer briefs are the perfect mix. Long and flattering like boxers but snug and secure like briefs, there really isn’t a better choice in our eyes.

Our choice – Manscaped Boxers 2.0

Don’t worry; they may be called boxers, but they are boxer briefs. From the people who revolutionized care for the undercarriage, Manscaped gives you the most comfortable boxer briefs on the market. The best part? There is a jewel pouch—a pocket to tuck your fellas away to avoid chaffing.

Man sitting wearing cuffed jeans
SaLam Ullah / Pexels

The jeans

There really is no substitute for a great pair of jeans. They will be with you through thick and thin, like a best friend you can always count on. While they were first envisioned as work pants, they are now so versatile that they will go with virtually everything else on this list. If you only own one pair, they should be dark dress denim. But if you are like us, there are likely all kinds of jeans in your closet.

Our choice – Levi’s 501 Original Fit Men’s Jeans in Dark Wash

When Levi Strauss came to the United States in 1873, he created the first-ever pair of blue jeans: The Levi’s 501 Original. To this day, 501s are some of the best-selling denim on the planet and are a must-have. Even if you aren’t digging for gold in California, Mr. Strauss’s invention is tough and stylish enough to get the job done.

James Bond in black cardigan and chinos in Quantum of Solace
Courtesy of MGM

The chino

Dress pants are too elevated for a weekend get-together, and jeans are a little too casual for a night out or the office. But you know what you can get to bridge that gap? That’s right, a chino. Typically made of lightweight cotton, the chino is the perfect versatile pant that can work in the office or night out with a button-up and sport coat or paired with a henley or t-shirt for the weekend getaway.

Our choice – J. Crew 484 Slim-Fit Stretch Chino

J. Crew’s 484 style is known for its unique pitch (the difference between rising in front and back) and flattering, tapered leg. We recommend these in neutrals like their signature military green.

man doing dips
Frame Kings / Pexels

The sweatpants

The top half of the body isn’t the only half that deserves to be kept warm, comfortable, and mobile with the hoodie. Your bottom half deserves the same good treatment. Therefore, every man should invest in a good pair of sweatpants. While they shouldn’t be your go-to when going out, they are perfect for lounging around the house and going to the gym.

Our choice – Athletegy Supima Sweatpant

Made by athletes, for athletes, Athletegy believes that every athlete deserves to hit the gym with the proper strategy (hence the name) and the proper gear. That is where their 100% Supima cotton sweatpants come into the equation. While you are hitting it hard at the gym, they are keeping it soft against the legs.

Citizen watch on wrist
KC Stone / The Manual

The watch

We know what you are thinking, “I already have my phone to tell the time.” Here is the rub. Your phone is in your pocket. And even the phone company wants you to start moving everything to your wrist, which is why they gave you a smartwatch. The argument between a good old-fashioned dumb watch and a new-fangled smartwatch is one for the ages. But for us, it is all about the classic look of a great watch on your wrist.

 Our choice – Citizen Promaster Dive Automatic

If you can only have one watch in your collection, then you need to think about two things: quality and versatility. Citizen is the perfect mix of quality and affordability. The Japanese brand is one of the premier watch companies in the world, with quality that rivals that of Rolex, Breitling, and Omega without the price point. Their Promaster series is arguably their most iconic line, giving Rolex’s Submariner and Omega’s Seamaster a run for their money, and the neutral color of the dial and silver bracelet makes it perfect for any outfit.

man wearing belt and watch sitting on stool
Hong Son / Pexels

The belt

Some guys don’t wear belts. While there is something to be said about forgetting the rules and going unconventional, there is also a reason these rules exist. Belts break up lines and can make taller men look shorter (if you are overly tall and want to blend in, you understand) or skinny men look wider. But they also ensure your pants stay where they are designed to be worn, making you look better all around. We advise going with a dressier belt instead of a casual one at first. A dressy belt can be dressed down for jeans or chinos. A casual belt looks dreadfully out of place with a suit.

Our choice – Brooks Brothers Silver Buckle Leather Dress Belt

Brooks Brothers’ Italian-made calfskin leather dress belt with a shiny square buckle will make your simplest outfit look well thought through. Black, brown, cordovan (oxblood or burgundy), whatever best matches your shoes is the belt to spring for.

Man sitting on a step adjusting his tie
William Stitt / StockSnap

The tie

No matter what your everyday style is or which Style archetype you are, sometimes you need to step up and look your best. Whether going to a wedding, interviewing for a job, or meeting your partner’s parents for the first time, a tie can take you from mediocre to the best-dressed man in the room.

Our choice – Tie Bar Grosgrain Solid Black Tie in Black

Handmade from 100% woven silk, Tie Bar’s grosgrain styles are available in six different widths. Their quality fabric and subtle sheen make for a timeless classic when you need to throw something on and look spectacular.

Man in Travis Mathew hat and Privé Revaux sunglasses
KC Stone / The Manual

The sunglasses

Sure, we can talk about how harmful the sun’s rays can be when you’re outside in the summer. We also harp on you about wearing sunglasses when you drive so you don’t get blinded by the sun or reflections unexpectedly. But really, every guy needs a good pair of shades because they are just as cool as they are useful. Nothing better than multi-purpose, right?

Our choice – Tom Ford Fletcher

Tom Ford dresses James Bond. So he knows what is cool, what is in style, and what works. The Fletcher is a universally flattering shape and will last long enough for dozens of summers or every ride to work. Just make sure your car is as cool as they are.

A man outside fixing his coat and wearing glasses.
Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels / Pexels

The eyeglasses

Of course, if you have a prescription for eyeglasses, you already have the right pair for you, and you likely don’t need us to tell you what to get and where since your doctor already did. But for the rest of us, we live in a digital world, and we likely spend all day staring at a computer or cell phone screen. Therefore, picking up a pair of blue light filter glasses is best to shield your eyes and save yourself a few migraines.

Our choice – MVMT Rover Everscroll

MVMT may be best known for their high-quality watches, but they branched out to other areas, and their blue light tech has begun to blow up the same way their timepieces have. Another universally flattering shape provides a stylish way to protect your eyes from the harmful blue light of technology.

wallet sitting on table
Lukas / Pexels

The wallet

There are three kinds of guys in this world. The guys that carry a bifold/trifold wallet in their back pocket. The guys that carry a money clip or slim wallet in their front pocket. The guy that has a wallet on his phone case. We suggest you stay away from the latter of the three just in case you lose your phone, because then you have lost everything at once. The first of the three is a bit antiquated since you rarely need more than just a few cards and/or bills. Therefore, the middle guy is the most prepared in our eyes.

Our choice – Dango D01 Dapper Bifold Pen Wallet

Speaking of prepared. If you want to be a combination of the first and second guy with the utmost preparedness, this is the wallet for you. A slim front wallet as a bifold that allows enough space for a small notebook and pen. This is the number one choice for the modern-day MacGyver.

man walking on river rocks with high socks
Taylor Deas-Melesh / Unsplash

The socks

Of course, you need socks. We’re not telling you anything you don’t know. The importance of socks is more than fashion or style. They protect your shoes from sweat damage. They protect your feet and keep them dry and warm. And they protect your nose from the aromas of sweaty feet. But which socks to get is another question entirely.

Our choice – Darn Tough

Whether you work in an office, on the construction site, or at home, the right pair of socks is vital to your day. Darn Tough provides the most cushion with the best fit. And, if they ever get a hole in them, you can exchange them for a new pair. By our calculations, once you buy ten pairs, you will never need to buy another pair of socks again.

man sitting on bench in shorts and sunglasses
Pauline Bernard / Unsplash

The summer shoe

Let’s be honest: seasons come with different shoe needs. While you may have shoes in your closet that go with most things, wearing the right pair of shoes with shorts or linen pants can change your entire look. Something lightweight, versatile, and low is the best bet for the right summer shoe.

Our choice – Suavs The Zilkner

Suavs has perfected the shoe that acts as a two-in-one shoe and sock. These are an easy gray low top that look amazing with chinos or shorts, completing every summer look flawlessly.

Man in khakis with white sneakers
Samuel Vrba / Pexels

The casual sneaker

The sneaker game is an animal all its own. There are literally hundreds of styles, colors, brands, and philosophies that any sneakerhead can give you the nice, two-hour rundown. If you are not a sneakerhead, then your best bet is to keep it simple. Nothing beats a great white sneaker. If you want to put some flair in the sneaker look, go with a high-top instead of a mid or a low.

Our choice – Nike Blazer High

High-cut canvas and narrow silhouette radiate classic cool to be worn with a simple shirt and jeans. You should definitely have at least one vintage pair of kicks in the closet, and these 1977 throwbacks are a great addition.

Guy at a gym grabs a barbell to start a snatch exercise.
Victor Freitas / Unsplash

The trainer

You are going to work hard on your body. The gym is a temple, so street shoes aren’t the shoes to elect. The best trainers are the ones specifically designed for improving yourself physically. The ones that can stand up to anything you throw at them or your body. Invest in the right shoes the same way you invest in your body.

Our choice – No Bull Black Ivy

Created and designed specifically for CrossFit and expanded for training across various sports, No Bull has what you need to keep in shape. They are built to keep you on the move and away from injury and excuses.

A man with white shoes on a skateboard
Budgeron Bach / Pexels

The low top

The truth is, sometimes the outfit needs to speak for itself, and the shoes can distract. The best way to divert attention from your feet to the outfit itself is to go with something simple and neat. The low-top is a great addition to your wardrobe due to its low-profile aura. Make sure you have one of these sneaker styles to let your outfit speak for itself.

Our choice – Beckett Simonon Geller Trainers

Don’t let the name fool you; these are made for comfort, not training. The soli, high-quality leather, and low-sole give you the look you want with the feel you need. And since these are all made to order, there is no waste, so you can feel just as good ethically as you do sartorily.

Chelsea boot in the woods
Hamza Bounaim / Unsplash

The Chelsea

There is a long list of boots every man should own, and maybe one of the most important is the Chelsea boot. While it originally came about in Victorian England, it gained worldwide popularity in the swinging 60s when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones made them menswear staples. Today, they can be worn casually with jeans or chinos or even dressed in a suit and tie.

Our choice – Taft Model 010 Boot

Taft is known for revolutionizing the boot game with unique patterns and designs that become the centerpiece of many looks. The Model 010 does that in a way that not only looks sharp but also finds a way to tone it down with an angle section that blends in instead of standing out. This is the perfect boot for virtually any outfit.

men's dress shoes from above
Jason Briscoe / Unsplash

The dress shoe

While Chelsea boots are perfect for almost any occasion, Oxford shoes are the most classic dress shoes you can have in your closet. There are many different styles of dress shoes, but the most classic is the Oxford, which is characterized by closed laces. This means the flaps holding the laces are joined at the toe end of the laces as opposed to the open feature of the rest.

Our choice – Johnston & Murphy Conrad Cap Toe

Johnston & Murphy is one of the top names in the game, and their Conrad Cap Toe will never go out of style. Whether you are wearing them with your dress denim or getting dapper in your suit, these will be the best shoes to reach for. And they will last nearly forever.

Suede loafers
Noah Smith / Pexels

The loafer

While you may hear some people call this the “old man shoe,” you would be wrong if you didn’t think your closet was in need of the loafer. Part slipper and part dress shoe, this style of shoe dresses up a pair of jeans or chinos and dresses down a suit, similar to a Chelsea boot.

Our choice – G.H. Bass Larson Weejuns

Since 1936, G.H. Bass has been the authority for top-quality heritage loafers to wear with everything from jeans to your favorite suit. Their signature Weejuns style features moc stitching and penny keeper stitching.

Your wardrobe can go in any direction, and your signature style archetype can develop over time. But no matter the archetype, the building blocks are the same. Start with these 25 essential clothing items, and your wardrobe will be classic and elegant, never out of style.

Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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