White Sneakers, Pain T-Shirts, and Navy Chinos: You Need 8 Pieces for a Stylish Men’s Basic Wardrobe

B. Right

For a couple of years now, I’ve been loving my basic, minimalist wardrobe that only contains pieces I really wear and love. Here’s how I started.

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Start with the shoes

A great outfit ALWAYS starts with the shoes. Footwear is the basis, the foundation to build upon. It’s incredibly easy to choose the right pair of shoes for an essential wardrobe. Yet, so many men don’t know where to start. Neither did I.

A white sneaker

The first item you need is a basic white sneaker. Preferably without big logos or branding. It should have a simple, yet elegant silhouette. No clunky basketball shoes. They have their place, but it’s not going to be your foundation.

Popular options include the Adidas Stan Smith or Common Projects Achilles. But any white sneaker will do. Make sure it fits, feels comfortable, and suits your budget, as you will be wearing it to death. If you’re not keen on a white sneaker, look for something that incorporates a little color at the front or back of the shoe (like the Adidas Continental 80, my current favorite). If you really can’t stand white, go for a gray one. I’d stay away from black though, as it severely limits the outfit color combinations.

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A leather shoe

It doesn’t have to be leather, it can be faux as well. But you need a more formal shoe. You don’t have to go for a dress shoe unless you wear suits often. If you do, get a dress shoe in dark brown. Otherwise, go for a dark brown loafer, Chelsea boot, Chukka boot, casual Derby, or Oxford. Never, I repeat, never go for a boat shoe though. Unless you work on a boat, that is.

I’d stick to brown, as black — just like with sneakers — limits the way you can combine your pieces. If you only wear tones on the grayscale (black, white, gray), you can go with black. If you wear navy blue, dark green, burgundy, and other colors a lot, I’d always go with brown.

The next steps

You’re covered with these two basics. But if you’re looking to go further, the next shoes would be a brown boot (e.g., work boot, Chelsea boot) and a casual sneaker (e.g., New Balance, Vans, Converse).

Work your way up to the pants

Denim

Pants are easy… and complicated. Easy to recommend: Firstly, you want a dark wash pair of denim. May that be dark blue, or (again if you wear a lot of gray tones) black jeans. They’re complicated because it’s in my experience always difficult to find the perfect fit, the right cut. Everyone’s legs are shaped differently. And, of course, there are the trends. I’d stick to a slim cut, but right now a wider fit will also work great.

Navy trouser

Secondly, you need navy or charcoal trousers. This could be anything from a casual navy chino, up to a pleated trouser. Choose whatever you like, but make sure it fits and feels great. Medium gray is another color option. Just don’t go too light.

(T-)Shirts

To the upper body. It’s no secret and really nothing special you need to look for here. The most important thing is fit. Fit is king. Always.

Pick your color

Just go for a basic crew-neck t-shirt. Pick a neutral color first: White, heather gray, navy, black. If you’re good with those, you can try dark green, burgundy, or even brighter colors. A blue and white striped t-shirt is another great option. Please don’t wear a V-neck t-shirt.

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A button-down

Next, you’re going to pick a shirt. I’d highly recommend an Oxford shirt, button-down or button-up. Stick to the proven colors: White, light blue, light gray. After that, experiment with navy, dark green, and burgundy.

Sweaters for the chilly days

If it gets a little chilly outside, you need a good sweater, or two. I’d suggest a casual option and one that can be dressed up.

Basic sweatshirt

The perfect former option is a crew-neck sweatshirt, no logos or branding. Great colors have always been heather gray or navy. If a basic sweatshirt is not your thing, another staple casual option is the hoodie, also in heather gray or navy. But no zipper!

A dressy sweater

The logical way to go here would be a fine-knit V-neck sweater. But I can’t stand V-necks. Instead, I’d recommend the opposite, pretty much: A turtleneck or roll neck. This type of sweater looks dashing with a more dressed-up outfit, but it also rocks any casual look. Color options include black, gray, charcoal, or navy.

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That’s it

It’s a wrap. With these 8 pieces, you have a great basic wardrobe. A nice foundation for casual days or office meetings. Most importantly, you can combine all pieces without thinking about it. Getting dressed in the morning has never been easier.

What’s next: jackets and other warm pieces, depending on the place you live in. As mentioned earlier, some of you will need one or multiple suits. You also probably need underwear and socks, I would guess. A few pairs of navy and black boxer briefs, and gray, navy, and black socks will cover every occasion. Pick up a nice pajama in addition, and a pair of comfy joggers. And you recreated my wardrobe.

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