Men’s Essential 20 Piece Wardrobe
The modern gentleman’s wardrobe is built on a foundation of a few high quality, highly flexible items. I have compiled a list of 20 items that should be in every gentleman’s wardrobe. With these essential items you can create an outfit for most situations.
This is however, just the beginning; depending on your lifestyle or personal taste you will want to add some flair and personality with extra items, but as long as you have these 20 items – you won’t go far wrong.
- Charcoal grey suit
- Navy blue suit
- Sports Jacket
- Grey trousers
- Cream trousers
- Blue tie
- Black tie
- White business casual shirt
- Blue business casual shirt
- Striped business casual shirt
- Black business casual shirt
- Quality wool jumper
- Black leather belt
- Brown leather belt
- Blue denim jeans
- Black denim jeans
- Black leather shoes
- Brown leather shoes
- Casual shoes
CHARCOAL GREY SUIT
Without question, the first suit you should buy, no other suit will be as flexible. The charcoal grey suit will go with the maximum combination of colours when adding your shirts and ties. My advice is to go for a traditional Savile Row cut to start your collection. If you can, go bespoke, but even if you have to buy ‘off the peg’ get it altered by a tailor – you’ll be amazed at what a well fitting suit will do for your confidence.
NAVY BLUE SUIT
A classic among suits, the navy suit is more formal than a grey suit and a favourite of the power dressers. The bold silhouette is slimming, but pay extra attention to the cut. As a second suit, you can afford to be bolder on style and a trendy Italian cut would be a perfect addition to your wardrobe. As with any suit, the fit is paramount, so get it altered if you have to.
The more traditional/conservative should go for a very dark blue or Harris Tweed sports jacket/blazer. For the ultra trendy, bright bold colours are order of the day. Either way, a smart sports jacket is a very versatile garment that will go with trousers and jeans alike. Don’t skimp here and think you can get away with wearing a suit jacket – you can’t!
Grey trousers are highly versatile. You can wear them to work with a crisp white shirt and thin black tie for the mod cool look, add a cool patterned shirt and a sports jacket to go out for the evening or put on the latest in bright coloured knitwear for your trendy weekend days out.
Just as flexible as the grey trousers, but also has the extra benefit of being perfectly acceptable in more formal settings. Don’t get pleats as standard if you are of athletic build, you can get away with flat fronted trousers and you will look better for it. By the same token, get them if you need the extra room.
Depending on your taste, a tie can be classic and classy in silk, or cool and current if knitted. What ever you choose, just make sure you have a tie in your wardrobe. Blue is the most conservative, but also the most versatile and can be worn in almost any situation that requires a tie.
The unsung hero of ties, a quality thin black tie can be casual or formal alike. One of the few ties that really looks good with jeans. As with the blue tie, don’t discount a knitted tie. Your tie is a great way to experiment with different textures; ties do not always need to be shiny!
WHITE BUSINESS CASUAL SHIRT
Quite simply the most versatile item of clothing you will ever own, but please take my advice – don’t buy a regular fit shirt. Although the staple of men’s wardrobes for decades, they will make you look bloated. A slim fit shirt or better still a proper tailored white shirt will make you look fresh and will make you look leaner.
BLUE BUSINESS CASUAL SHIRT
Slim fit rules apply for all shirts in the essential 20 piece wardrobe. A blue shirt runs the white shirt a very close second in terms of versatility.
BLACK BUSINESS CASUAL SHIRT
Long forgotten, but don’t underestimate the power of a black shirt. If well fitting and worn well – a quality black shirt is a thing of beauty and sophistication. Just remember to keep gold medallions and chest hair out of sight!
STRIPED BUSINESS CASUAL SHIRT
If a tie will add a much needed dash of colour to an outfit, then a striped shirt can add a big splash of colour. If you wear a shirt regularly, adding stripes will bring some much needed variety to your wardrobe. Just make sure you avoid the pre-packed department store striped shirt and matching tie combos, you will look like someone else picks your clothes for you!
QUALITY WOOL V-NECK JUMPER
Jumpers are not just for winter; a quality merino wool jumper will keep you cool in summer and can bring great colours to your outfits. They are flexible too; they look just as good when worn under a blazer or sports jacket.
BLACK LEATHER BELT
I will let you into a secret – I don’t think you should wear a belt to hold your trousers up, trousers should fit you – period. Belts are great for breaking up outfits and adding a touch of class so invest in your belts wisely.
BROWN LEATHER BELT
If you have brown shoes (and you should because they are on this list!) you will need a belt to match. Always, always match your belt with your shoes. If you can’t find a belt to match exactly, custom needlepoint belts are always an option.
Depending on your location and climate, the type of overcoat will vary – but everyone should have one. I love my Burberry classic light weight trench coat; invest in a quality overcoat and you will look the finished article.
BLUE DENIM JEANS
Being a modern gentleman is not just about suits and bowties. You really should have blue denim jeans, but please select them with the care and attention you would any other item. Not too baggy and not so long that you walk on the backs and fray them.
BLACK DENIM JEANS
Denim can be smart too, and black jeans are perfect for this. Don’t be afraid to ask your tailor to alter your jeans. Tailored well fitting jeans are a great look that anyone can wear.
BLACK LEATHER SHOES
Brogues, Oxfords, Monks, Wingtips, the list is endless when it comes to men’s black leather shoes. If you have to wear them a lot, as so many men do, then have enough pairs so you don’t have to wear them on consecutive days. Even if you don’t need to wear leather shoes to work, every man should own at least one pair of quality shoes.
BROWN LEATHER SHOES
No brown in town? Bring your wardrobe right up to date and exponentially increase your options when putting together a quality outfit with the addition of a pair of quality brown leather shoes. Go on, you’ll be amazed how much you will want to wear them.
I’d go for a pair of quality loafers, but what ever you choose, make sure you have a pair of shoes you would never dream of wearing to work. Nothing is more certain to undermine your sense of getting dressed up to go out, than having to wear the same shoes you wore in the office yesterday!
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED?
That depends on how often you wear each item! Rule of thumb is never wear the same thing two days in a row. Example: If you wear black leather shoes every day for work – you need two pairs minimum, three if you want a choice! It is much better to wear an item because you choose to, rather than you have to. It would also be good to get a mens leather briefcase that will go with any outfit you chose to wear.
As I said at the start of this article, this is just the beginning, but you have to start somewhere. As with anything in life, for the best results you have to start with a solid foundation and build from there. Anything you would add/change/remove from the list? Leave a comment and I’ll be sure to include the best suggestions in the next edition.
About the Author
Steve Mitchell is a style blogger and image consultant who specializes in style and etiquette for the modern gentleman. This article was previously posted at Mr. Mitchell’s blog site – The Mitchelli.