Top 10 Clothing Items Any Man Should Own

Some people don’t have to be taught the importance of looking presentable, because they are perfectly aware of the power that a well-put-together look has on others. We are visual creatures and perceive others, whether we would like to admit it or not, by how they present themselves. Everyone will eventually attract a partner for themselves, will nail that top job or move into the “right” circles, but the astute amongst us do not leave that to chance. They realize the importance of being earnest in what they wear and prepare accordingly.

If you do not subscribe to that worldview, this article probably isn’t for you and you are welcome to move onto something else. Those who want to get some ideas on how to spend your budget for clothes should stay on. We cannot assume lightly that everyone has an unlimited budget these days, so the selection below is suitable for all pockets and it does not matter whether you are 18, 28 or 38:

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(1) A smart crisp cotton white shirt

You can take this item very far, because of its innate flexibility. You can rock it with a pair of denims, you can wear it with a suit, and you will look good in it in daytime and in the evenings. Opt for the most reliable brand you can afford – it will serve you well.

(2) A madly-polished pair of smart black shoes

Toe caps went down with the 90's(though some men still seem to sport them 20 years later), the pointy toes made a brief appearance in the 90's, and now is the time for the classics. They also make a better investment, because they have a look that does not date – think of the classics like the Oxford, the Derby, the brogue or even the black chukka boot. Much like the crisp white shirt, you can combine them with just about anything, from jeans to formal attire.

(3) A reliable pair of jeans

If you pick them out too skinny, they will look dated in a couple of years; if they are too baggy, they might not look that flattering on you. Your best bet is something with a straight leg and stone washed. The rest of the detailing (like that torn patch they make on them at the factory or a slightly longer trouser leg so that you can turn it up) is up to you. Jeans have held their own for over a century and will get you in on most events and occasions.
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(4) A V-neck sweater

A stylish piece that is enjoying something of a revival. What color would suit you best will depend on your complexion and other personal traits, but it is almost impossible to go wrong with black, burgundy or bright yellow. It’s the type of item that will combine with pretty much everything else on this list.

(5) A black suit

This is one item that you are guaranteed to look good in whenever you wear it, be it at work, for that job interview, at a formal occasion or just a night out. Your one concern should be that it fits you well at the shoulders and around your waist. These days, the sartorially-correct look has narrow flat-front trousers, two buttons, and peaked lapels. If you can, get it cut by a proper tailor. You’ll know why when you walk out of his shop wearing it.

(6) A covert coat

“Covert” here rhymes with “over” – either charcoal or fawn. The same rules apply as for the suit: it must fit well at the shoulders and around the waist. Only skip this item unless it will be useless to you if you live in a climate that renders it unnecessary or inadequate.
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(7) A pair of more casual brown shoes

You can go for leather or for suede, it will probably not matter that much unless where you live often gets very wet and you might be out walking the street in such weather, which will ruin the soft suede fabric. Moccasins, loafers, brogues – get the pair that best works for you.

(8) A pair of tailored chinos

yet another classic making it back onto the list of stylish items. Stone, tan, and light grey will combine with most (if not all) items on this list. If you want to go a bit more daring, lime green and wine red are very in these days. It is an item you can wear as a replacement for jeans pretty much at all times.
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(9) A navy suit

this is you back-up brother in arms, who will serve you as a substitute for when you have to wear a suit more often, except possibly to go to a funeral. Just to be more flexible, try this one with flat-front trousers, two buttons, but notch lapels.

(10) A waistcoat (or a vest, if you live in North America)

Somewhat underrated, but having too many applications to mention. If you pick it out in black or navy, it can work with possibly all items in this list.

This is how it all works, assuming that the weather is not bitterly cold or oppressively hot:

  • First date with her (daytime) – (1) + (7) + (8). Adding (4) is optional.

  • Meeting her folks (at their house, like casual supper) – (1) + (2) + (3) + (4) + (6).

  • Night about town (depending on where you’re going) – (1) + (2) + (3) + (10) or (1) + (2) + (5)

  • Campus – (1) + (2) + (7). Substitute (2) for (8) if you want the prep look. Add (4) and/or (6) for when it’s cooler outside.

  • Formal dinner or event or appearing before court on a charge – (1) + (2) + (5) and add a conservative tie.

  • Office or job interview – (1) + (2) or (7) + (9) and add a conservative tie. (7) will work if they are not too casual (like moccasins) and if you do not work in Britain or countries where British culture prevails – despite what they say, the British uphold the “no brown in town” rule and you will look unreliable if you do not wear black shoes.

  • Casual Friday – (1) + (3) + (7) + the jacket from (9). People see casual Friday as some sort of a license for ill-fitting jeans and naff T-shirts. Stand out from your co-workers and impress you superiors with a slightly smarter look.

  • Party at your friend’s house – (1) + (2) + (3) + (10).

Everything else which you have owned until now makes you one of the boys. Having the above will make you the man.


Most Helpful Guy

  • Sebastian - just noticed you're south African. I don't know if dress there (business) follows more german/dutch lines, where I think black suits were more traditional? They don't pass older/conservative requirements in anglo saxon countries as a daytime suit. I'll note that in the most conservative settings, ONLY navy and charcoal fly. Black with a pinstripe is different.

    I'll note that 'rule' is falling apart, so people certainly DO wear black. But I wouldn't encourage it for a first.


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What Guys Said 9

  • ... on the black suit - a charcoal one is an excellent alternative, I concur; I am, in fact, wearing a three-piece black one right now, with a duck-yellow/white/blue stripes and a yellow and blue polka dot tie; what makes you say it is frowned upon in the most conservative industries? (it would be interesting to hear your thoughts.) as to the waistcoat, the picture on the article was selected by the admins (the post itself was made into an article) - do you own one?

  • @kheserthorpe - there are bound to be disagreements; style is not something readily definable. my idea was to put together a list that would hold its own despite changes in fashions and would be valid across contexts and ages. jeans are emotional - we could go into the whole detail about raw denim as well. ctd...

  • Disagree on a few of these:

    - Stonewash jeans -are- dated. You're better off with a dark wash.

    - Black suit - still considered inappropriate for daytime wear in the most conservative offices. Also much less flexible then you'd imagine - because they don't work with soft colors, they look good very formal or very relaxed, but not in between. Stick with navy and charcoal as first suits.

    - Waistcoat/vest. Nowhere near top 10. Wear if you like (carefully) but not something men need.

  • Eh? The suit doesn't always look so good when going out. It can make you stick out and look like a guy who graduated from business school and doesn't have any fashion sense if you wear it too much.

    I recommend a sport coat or blazer with a dress shirt and jeans for something like that, though I must admit that has also been looking like an overplayed card recently.

  • I agree with most of the list, but nowadays, those items only pertain to work-related clothing or older more sophisticated men. For the younger crowd, a pair of converse low-tops; a long over-sized tee of some sort, and a backwards baseball cap is all that's needed to go out on dates. Traditionally; women not only have wider options in terms of fashion than men, but they also have more of a fashion sense as well - at least most of them do.

  • Nice article, but I think V necks aren't a necessity and many are missing. V necks look really bad on very skinny guys in my opinion, but 5 stars for effort.


  • 10 items my ass... it doesn't matter what clothes you own

  • clothes guys need: shoes, socks, jeans, shirts.

  • This is excelent! I always wanted to write something like this. Kudos to you, this is the real deal.