I often spend quite a long time when trying to put together a decent look out of my wardrobe. It isn’t really about me being indecisive because I see myself as someone who has a rather strong vision in deciding what to wear. The problem is more about not being able to find the necessary pieces to construct the desired look.
I have a confession to make: I always shop without plan, and my shopping style is random and inconsistent. I can be deeply in love with a unique printed T-shirt this week, and then toss it somewhere else in the darkest corner of my wardrobe for the coming weeks. Or months. Or maybe years… You get the idea. Most often than not, my eccentric pieces such as the printed T can’t work with the rest of the members.
This is financially ineffective in the long run obviously. In align with my resolution to a simpler and more fulfilling lifestyle, I’ve decided to do some wardrobe housekeeping. The first step I took was to audit what I have in my closet to gauge how bad it is.
Affirmative, a wardrobe rebuilding project is required. #FashionFix
To rebuild a future-proof wardrobe foundation, I think the best approach will be to start with the basic items, and then slowly check them off the shopping list.
There are probably already thousands of “Top 10 Wardrobe Basics” lists out there by prolific men’s magazines and blogs. So for my 18 timeless basics, they will be more relevant to the non-fashionista as the list is based on my personal trial-and-error and my need as a normal white-collar in Malaysia.
Here are the 18 timeless basics I’ll need for the mission:
- Dress Shirts (White + Various Colours)
- Dark Sport Coat / Blazer
- Dark Gray / Charcoal Suit
- Dark Fitted Jeans
- Black Dress Shoes
- Word / Dress Pants
- Khakis / Chino
- Casual Shoes: Sneakers, Loafers & Boat Shoes
- Fitted T-shirt
- Formal bag
- Casual bag
1. Dress Shirts (White + Various Colours)
Dress shirts are very versatile staples that you can dress it up with a suit or blazer for weekdays, and dress it down with a pair of jeans and sneakers for Casual Friday or any casual occasion.
White dress shirts are my current favourite items. It will always be my go-to option when I run out of idea on what to wear, or when I’m in a rush, and also when I’m just simply too lazy to think of what to wear.
I’d recommend at least a white dress shirt, and then a black and a light-blue in your collection. Invest in really good ones, as average shirts will tend to fade after frequent wash and wear. A dress shirt should not have collar buttons or they will make the shirt less formal.
I do have enough dress shirts, but I’m considering adding a white and a blue-coloured dress shirt to my shopping list.
2. Dark Sport Coat / Blazer
An adult man should have at least ONE blazer if he’s serious about how he looks. If you don’t have one yet, trust me – better be prepared than sorry. It is not easy to buy a well-fitted one last minute. The ideal one should be a tailored piece with design that you really like.
I’ve got 2 off-the-rack black-coloured blazers, but there’s a reason why I always wear the same one instead of switching between the two: I dislike the fabric and the fit of one of them. The fabric of the blazer appears “shiny” (that’s a little too flashy for some occasions) and it’s not as breathable as the other one.
A new blazer will not be on my shopping list just yet but a tailored blazer will definitely be a must-have on your list if you don’t have one yet.
3. Dark Gray / Charcoal Suit
What’s the difference between a suit and a blazer? A suit is simply a blazer with a matching pair of pants, that is. If suit is not required for your work, you’ll probably need a suit when it’s time for you to become the best man for your best friend’s wedding, or when you’re attending a company’s annual dinner, or maybe for a funeral.
Why dark gray / charcoal you asked? For a man who rarely needs a suit (and for various occasions, when he does), charcoal gray suit will be the most versatile option.
I have a dark gray suit, which I only wore once. It is off-the-rack so it isn’t really well fitted. I’m thinking about Indochino.
4. Dark Fitted Jeans
Yes, you probably already have a few. But do you have one that is well fitted and classic? Let’s just exclude the skinny and the baggy type for now, and make sure there’s no patches, stitches or tatters.
Classic dark blue and fitted jeans should be your first jeans. This jeans will be very important because it can work with your dress shirt, t-shirts, polo and even tanks.
I have 3 pairs of jeans: skinny, straight cut and baggy. The straight cut one is fitted but I don’t really like how it’s a little too high-waist to my liking. My lower proportion is longer (I have longer legs) so I’ll need a mid rise or a low rise jeans.
5. Black Dress Shoes
A no-brainer. You’ll need it for work and for any formal occasion. Square-toe dress shoes are out of fashion so it’s best to opt for rounded toe. An oxford will be a great option, and it’s lace-up style looks classic and refined. You’ll have to make sure it’s a really dark jeans if you’re planning to go with a jeans.
I have a pair of black brogues and a pair of Chelsea dress boot. Checked.
6. Work / Dress Pants
Mainly for your dress shirts, but can also work with polo for casual look. I’d recommend flat-front dress pants in black and dark gray, and a light gray one made of wool. If you’re slender like me, opt for slim-fit. If you have big thighs or rather plump at your tummy area, you may want to opt for pleated front.
It is always necessary to hem your dress pants. “Breaks” refers to the amount of the pant legs that cover your shoes.
Most of the time you should go for Half or Quarter Break (a.k.a Medium Break): it covers the top of your shoes and parts of the laces. Go for a Short Break or no break if you prefer a more fashionable look. A full break is always not advisable and it makes you looks sloppy.
7. Khaki / Chino
They are the alternatives (but not replacement) to jeans. It is like a casual version of dress pants perfect for Casual Friday and weekends.
The common trait of khakis and chinos is they are both cotton casual pants, and the difference between them is that chino is dressier, have narrower cut and more stretchy.
I personally prefer Chino to Khakis as Chino comes in more vibrant colours. However, a khakis in neutral colour (normally in black, beige or blue) is more versatile in reality. Instead of getting a brighter coloured chino, I should go for a beige khakis for now.
On the other hand, if you love coloured pants but not sure how to wear one, see “How to wear Coloured Pants?“.
8. Casual Shoes: Sneakers, Loafers & Boat Shoes etc
When you’re in casual attire, but sandals and slippers are too underdressed for your look, you’ll need casual shoes. I’d recommend starting with a pair of sneakers, and then expand your collection to loafers or boat shoes.
Sneakers from Converse and Nike are basically good enough. I’d recommend sneakers with subtle colours so that you can easily mix-and-match with your casual pants, shorts and jeans of various colors or tones.
I’ve been on a hunt for boat shoes since the beginning of the year. I think it will still stay on my list for now.
Watch is the most basic and important accessory for a man. Even if you hardly use a watch to check time (I use my blackberry for that), a watch is still necessary to complete your overall look, especially when you’re suited up. A good watch adds personality to your style and reflects your personal taste. For some men, a watch helps communicate their status.
A good luxury watch is the kind of investment that can last for years (followed by luxury bags.) To make better financial sense for beginner, consider investing in basic luxury first, and then on slightly higher-than-average piece after that.
Metal or leather straps? It’s really up to your personal preferences. I personally prefer metal straps to leather, as leather is porous and tend to smell bad after absorbing oils and sweats from my wrist.
I hardly wear watches, but I do have two entry-level luxury watches (Casio and Orient.) Both of their batteries died a long time ago. I think it’s time to wake them up and at the same time plan for a higher-end upgrade.
This is just the beginning of the mission to rebuild my wardrobe, so let me just start with these 9 items on the list. I’m going to take some time to evaluate my need and edit my shopping list accordingly, before going on to the remaining 9 items. So stay tuned for Part 2 of “The 18 Timeless Basics” series.
If you’re planning to revamp your wardrobe as well, what basic item would you add to your list? Please, do share. If you’re following my list, do let me know how it works out.
Hope you enjoy this post.