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Clothing

Menswear Basics

Kamau Hosten

While clothing enthusiasts explore the most exclusive tweeds and bespoke monk straps in exotic skins, the man less versed in clothing is left wondering what is truly essential when it comes to dressing well. While we should strive to evolve in our dress and, more importantly, ourselves, there are some basic pieces that men can build on.

Suits

When it comes to wardrobes, a suit is the cornerstone of a man’s closet. The importance of a navy suit to the closet was covered here recently. When considering suiting options, a mid-grey and a charcoal pin-stripe are two strong options for a closet. The mid-grey is nearly as versatile as the navy; it can be dressed up, with fiercely polished black shoes or done casual, sans tie.

The charcoal pin-stripe can serve as a deal-making suit.  While this may not be as appropriate for an evening out, it’s welcome in a professional setting and connotes authority.

Sport coats

A navy blazer is the first step in building a wardrobe. Following that, a plaid, gun club check sport coat or houndstooth are the next options that lends themselves to a variety of combinations.

While casual Friday has been replaced with casual Monday through Friday, the guy who cares gives a middle finger to baggy, pleated chino and well-worn deck shoes masses in favor of thought-out ensembles everyday.

Shirts

In the spirit of oversimplification, one day shirt everyday of the week (7). Two white shirts, one light blue, one blue/white stripe, one pale pink, one oxford cloth in a casual hue and one check. Again, that’s merely the basic.

Neckwear

For me, the navy grenadine is the undisputed champion of neckwear. I’ve not encountered a sport coat or suit this tie wouldn’t work with. The black knit, brown polka-dot and grey cashmere are equally valuable additions. Add at (tasteful) whim.

Trousers

Grey and navy are the most versatile options for most men to reach for. Either pant would work well with a multitude of blazers and sport coats.  While one could break up a solid grey or navy suit to use as separates in a pinch, the textures of dressier fabrics used for suits can look out of place when broken up.

Casual pants

Two pair of dark jeans, two pair of chinos (light and dark)

Shoes

Past features here have included the essential black cap toe for business, suede lace up for textured trousers and suits, double monk trap for the jaunty side of you, and the suede chukka, tassel loafer and the adult sneaker.

This is merely about building a wardrobe. It may be overwhelming to attempt this in one sitting. Department stores tend to more fashion-focused, and thus one may be tempted by displays with up-to-the moment trends. Visiting a men’s shop or haberdashery, or having a clothier visit you is a more beneficial option. The latter, allows for the one-on-one consultation without the disruption of a store setting.