What would you say if I told you you could build a versatile wardrobe around just 10 items?
These 10 items can make up an outfit for a wedding, a casual trip to the bar, a job interview and even a first date.
Don’t believe me?
The issue is most men overbuy and hoard clothing they rarely wear. Menswear is all about quality over quantity and in this feature today I want to show you how it can be done with just 10 items.
I call it the ’10 Items Wardrobe’…
I’m hoping this feature inspires you to start building a wardrobe around versatile, timeless pieces alongside stressing the principle that style doesn’t need to cost a lot.
The 10 Item Wardrobe
So these are 10 wardrobe essentials, 10 versatile pieces that you can get from anywhere and any one can own. With these 10 items I’m going to build various different looks for various different occasions showing you how versatile they are.
Now, you’re going to have to give me a little bit of leniency here. I haven’t included underwear, I haven’t included socks and I’ve kept the accessories to a minimum.
I’m firstly going to highlight the 10 items and why you need them and then showcase various different ways to wear them.
The Navy Suit
The first thing to invest in is the classic navy suit. The Navy suit really is versatile and it’s extremely timeless.
We’ve spoken about suits in great length before but every guy (no matter what your day to day style consists of) should own a good suit. Why? There’s always an occasion to wear a suit.
As with everything recommended in this article focus on the fit of the suit alongside the fabric and quality. A wool 2 button navy suit with peak lapels is going to be more versatile than a linen double breasted navy pinstripe suit. I’m not saying the latter is a worthy investment but versatility is all about keeping it simple.
Navy not for you? Opt for Charcoal grey.
The Blue Dress Shirt
Opting for a more formal dress shirt will allow you to easily dress up for certain occasions. Pale blue is a very versatile colour and offers a more casual feel to the crisp, white shirt.
A cutaway colour will allow you to easily wear the shirt with or without a tie and opting for a lightweight cotton will make it suitable all year round.
Again as with the suit the fit is extremely important so don’t be afraid to use a tailor to alter your purchase or opt for made to measure or bespoke.
The White Button Down Shirt
You’ve then got the white button down, another timeless essential. This bridges the gap between formal and casual making it the perfect addition to any mans wardrobe.
I personally would recommend an Oxford shirt, it’s a lot more casual and you can easily dress it up or dress it down.
Looking for a shirt to wear with jeans on a night out? Reach for your Button Down Shirt. Looking for a shirt to layer underneath a sweater? Reach for your Button Down Shirt. Looking for something to wear with your suit? Reach for your Button Down Shirt.
This is a basic essential every man should own and you can of course find them stocked by most brands and retailers. Focus on quality, fit and also comfort.
Dark Denim Jeans
Next up is a pair of well fitted dark denim jeans.
Everyone knows how versatile a pair of jeans are and at times we can often overwear them. Opting for dark denim over lighter denim will again allow you to dress them up or dress them down.
Treat your jeans like a pair of suit trousers focusing on how well the fit and how they’re made. Choosing cheap denim and avoiding the length, how they fit around your waist and how tapered they are is a huge mistake. You can easily get them altered to fit as they should with most brands and retailers offering a free alteration service with every purchase.
You can’t go wrong with selvedge denim and remember good denim doesn’t need to be washed as much as formal trousers.
The next item is a white t-shirt. Nothing is more classic or versatile than a white t-shirt but again getting the right fit plays a huge part in how good it will look.
No one wore the white t-shirt like James Dean did and even when worn with a simple pair of jeans he still looked effortlessly stylish.
The issue is with t-shirts is we often go for the cheapest option avoiding how well it’s made, meaning after a few washes it’s either starting to shrink or the material is starting to wear.
With the white t-shirt look for a mid to heavy weight cotton as this is going to give you more wears and last longer.
Navy Knitted Tie
Now this is the only accessory I’m including in the 10 item wardrobe but depending on your day to day style it might be something you rarely use.
Wearing a tie isn’t as popular as it once was with even more creative based office jobs not requiring ties to be worn. With this being said the Navy Knitted Tie bridges that gap between a tie that looks corporate and one that can be easily worn with more casual attire such as the White Button Down shirt I’ve already recommended.
Pay attention to the finer details focusing on the knot you use (I recommend a simple four in hand), the length of the tie alongside mastering that dimple.
In terms of footwear nothing is more versatile than white sneakers. Now before you make any judgements I’m not talking about a pair of running shoes or flimsy plimsolls, I’m talking about a classic pair of minimal white sneakers.
Opting for a tennis shoe such as the Adidas Stan Smith’s will offer versatility allowing you to wear them with all of the items I’ve mentioned in this article already.
A leather pair will add elegance to a pretty casual item but the main thing you want to focus on is minimalism. Keep the detailing to a minimum and you’ll get more wears from them.
Don’t forget to look after your white sneakers as well, clean white sneakers look stylish but dirty, battered white sneakers look cheap.
Brown Double Monk Strap Shoes
For the more formal side of things I’ve decided to opt for some double monk straps.
The double monk is a real classic shoe and again can be worn with the suit or they can be worn to dress up your jeans.
Now this is where you can step outside of the box slightly and go for something you personally feel would suit your style as the double monk strap isn’t the only option you have.
A Brogue, a Chelsea Boot, an Oxford or Derby and even a Loafer are all options you could choose from.
Make sure you focus on the quality of construction alongside the choice of leather. I personally would opt for a tan or dark brown (chocolate) and I wouldn’t be afraid to spend a bit more on quality.
Shoes are an investment piece, if you invest wisely they’ll last you for years to come.
The choice of colour is opt to you but keep it neutral. I’ve gone for a camel sweater for this example but navy, grey, stone and even lighter hues could work well.
Merino wool is the obvious choice in terms of fabric but cashmere will offer a more snug and comfortable fit.
Again as with every item already recommended make sure you focus on how well the sweater fits.
Last but not least, I’ve gone for a pair of stone chinos. Again these could be navy, grey and even black but I wanted to add some lighter hues into this wardrobe.
These are obviously going to help dress down a lot of the formal wear. These are still very, very smart and still very elegant as well.
Make sure they’re comfortable to wear, they fit well around the waist and leg and they’re not too long or short. Don’t be afraid to roll them up for a more casual feel and even go slightly looser with the fit.
How To Wear Them
That’s my 10 items, 10 items I recommend every man owns in their wardrobe.
Now I’m going to go ahead now and showcase various different looks using just those 10 items. I’m also going to mention where and what kind of occasion you could wear that look for too. This is again just to show you how versatile you can make your wardrobe, how simple, how classic, and hopefully you enjoy some of the looks that I come up with.
So here is the 10 item wardrobe.
Again, just recapping, I’ve got the navy suit, the blue formal shirt, the stone chinos, the white t-shirt, the dark denim jeans, the brown/camel jumper, the white sneakers, the navy knitted tie and I’ve gone for the double monk strap shoe.
That is the 10 items I’ve got and I’m going to go and create various different looks suitable for multiple occasions. This is just to show you how versatile you can make your wardrobe if you make sure it’s very classic and you focus on quality over quantity.
This time I’ve gone for the navy suit, I’ve then teamed that with the blue formal shirt with a cutaway collar and I’ve accessorised with the navy knitted tie. Very, very simple, just suit, shirt, tie.
Of course, this outfit is going to look great if it’s well fitting so although it’s a basic combination the finer details have a huge impact. I’ve then gone for, obviously, the double monk straps. You could go for a brogue, you could go for an Oxford any well constructed formal shoe will work here.
If it’s a colder day I have the option to layer with the jumper or the sweater, so that’s there also. If it’s a nice day just leave the sweater at home and go for the suit, the shirt, the tie and the shoes. Very, very simple, but just using some of those items.
Now, here’s a casual outfit.
I’ve gone for something completely on the other end of the scale. I’ve gone for just the white T-Shirt, the dark denim jeans and white sneakers. Very, very simple.
Now imagine that this is a baggy t-shirt, a baggy pair of jeans and some really battered, scuffed white sneakers. It’s not going to look as good as if it was obviously a well fitted, well made white t-shirt, dark denim jeans, and a pair of white sneakers.
That’s the casual outfit. You can see the difference in the two. Again, I’m just sticking with these 10 items.
Here’s another casual outfit. This time I’ve gone for the white t-shirt but I’ve actually swapped the jeans for the stone chinos, just to dress it up slightly and paired it with the formal shoes.
Now I can also wear the blazer if I wanted to dress it up. Wearing the blazer from the suit with this outfit is going to add a little more formality to the look, but you could easily go for just the t-shirt, the chinos and the smarter shoes as the formal shoes will dress it up slightly.
Again, you can obviously go for the sneakers if you wanted to dress it down. I’m just showing you how versatile this is and how many options you have from just 10 items.
Business Casual Outfit
Here’s a business casual look. I’ve gone for the suit this time, but obviously I’ve taken away the suit trousers. For this example I’m going for separates and wearing it with the stone chinos.
I’ve then got the blue shirt which is obviously a little bit more formal and I’ve paired that with a jumper, and I can then choose how formal or how casual I want to make it. If you want to dress it up go for the brown double monks or whatever formal shoe you want to go for. If you want to dress it down you’ll want to go for the sneakers.
Again, this is a really, really simple business casual look implementing separates which is obviously a separate jacket to trousers which I believe has that balance extremely well between formal and casual. That’s a business casual look. Again, just using 10 items.
Business Casual Alternative
Another business casual look. This time I’ve just gone for the jumper layered with obviously the shirt underneath, a pair of denim jeans and a pair of white sneakers.
This is another classic, simple look that will look stylish if worn well.
Here’s a few more options…
You’ve got the jumper on its own with some chinos and the sneakers.
You’ve got the shirt with the suit trousers and the pair of double monk strap shoes.
You’ve also got the white t-shirt and the jeans which is then dressed up with a pair of double monk strap shoes which is great for a casual ocassion such as meeting friends at a bar or a cinema date. You can of course go for the sneakers instead but this will dress that outfit down completely.
Another option is the full suit with the white t-shirt as well. This is great for a creative office environment or an ocassion where a full suit may be too formal.
This is still scratching the surface on how many outfits can be made from just these 10 items.
It really does highlight how easy it is and also how effective it is when you have a very classic, versatile wardrobe.
Wardrobe Essentials Infographic
Out of the 10 items how many do you own?
What outfits can you create?
Let me know in the comments below!
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This article was originally published on MFM: 10 Wardrobe Essentials Every Man Should Own