Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Top 5 items of clothing you need to own

Maybe you're starting at uni, starting a new job, starting a more senior position, or just growing up a bit. Whatever the reason, you've realised that your wardrobe needs a revamp. Three pairs of jeans, a dozen lumberjack shirts and a shapeless jacket for special occasions just aren't going to cut it any more.

The trouble is, starting a proper wardrobe is hard work. And expensive. Which is a bad combination. Starting from scratch and becoming the sort of chap who has the perfect outfit for any and every occasion takes time, money and effort. I can't promise to reduce the money needed (although I can offer some pointers) but I do have some thoughts on how to make a start with slightly less time and effort. Buy the following five items (I cheated on some, and combined items. My blog, my rules) and you'll be fairly well set for the modern environment.

A blue blazer
Not a double-breasted, brass buttons type. Much as I love them, they're just no longer appropriate most of the time, especially if you're a younger fellow. No, what I'd recommend is something single-breasted, made of softish material, with horn or wooden buttons (or, you know, plastic. That is fine too). Get something that fits nicely, and you can wear it at practically any occasion. Dress it up with chinos and a tie, and you'll be suitably dressed for a private club or client meeting. Dress it down with an open-necked shirt and a jumper, and you'll still be the best-dressed man in most restaurants.

If you're going to wear a blazer and chinos as suggested, then there's one more thing you'll need. Yup, chinos. You can get them anywhere, and it's easier to tell you what not to go for. Don't get ones with the twisted seams, or elasticated bottoms, or any other modern nonsense. By the same token, don't get ones with a high waist and double-pleats. My preference is for flat-fronted, straight-leg, slim but not skinny, and in a nice soft cotton. For your first pair, I'd recommend khaki as the most versatile colour, but after that feel free to go wild - red, pink and yellow can all work nicely, and blue is useful so long as you've got something other than a blue blazer to wear it with.

A suit (and a shirt, and tie, and shoes)
Yes, I'm cheating, this is four items of clothing, but otherwise this list would just be 'things you need to wear with a suit', which would be dull.
Ok, so if you're only getting one suit then I'd recommend fairly plain blue or grey, darkish, single-breasted with two buttons. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it does have to fit.
Other than that, a reasonably discreet shirt, a tie with no more than two or three colours, and a pair of nice black oxfords with round toes, and you're sorted. Job interviews, smarter dinner and drinks parties or client meetings need hold no fear for you.

Brown brogues
Loafers are also useful, but brown brogues are pretty well the dressiest casual shoe around, so they're a very handy thing to have in your wardrobe. If, like me, you rarely wear a suit but like to look reasonably smart, then you could probably wear brown brogues five days a week if you only had enough pairs. Wear them with those chinos and blazer mentioned above, wear them with jeans to smarten up a bit, you can even wear them with a suit so long as it's tweed or otherwise very casual. 

A tweed jacket
This last choice was a tricky one but, in the end, I decided on a tweed jacket. Why? Because it provides a crucial alternative to the suit or blazer options discussed above. When you want to dress smartly in the country, at the weekend, or perhaps even on a Friday to give the vague impression that, come five o'clock, you're popping on a train to your second home in Kent, a tweed jacket is the best option. Better yet, it's maybe the most flexible bit of clothing you can own: perhaps the only tailored jacket that actually looks good with jeans, but equally something that looks hugely smart with a pair of tailored trousers and a tie.

It's only a start, and I could offer so many other more possibilities, but I honestly believe that if you bought all of the above (along with a couple of nice shirts) you'd be able to make a pretty good fist of being appropriately dressed for any occasion you might come across.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I'd largely agree, but perhaps not completely.

    A blue blazer/jacket is very handy but I coped for many years without one. Some sort of jacket/blazer is an essential but for many years a corduroy blazer and a tweed Norfolk jacket did me proud.

    I'd tend to the view that any sort of decent brown leather shoes or boots would do (rather than brogues). I don't care for brogue patterns so I avoid them. A good pair of derbys or chelsea boots would do the trick for me.

    Khaki chinos would be useful trousers but don't overlook the all round handiness of a pair of grey trousers. Much like chinos they can be dressed up to be very smart or down to be pretty casual.

    Of course, a suit that fits well and looks good is a genuine essential.

  3. Hal,

    Definitely agree with you on all those points. I've gone for fairly specific items to (hopefully) inspire people, or offer assistance to those who are a bit unsure. You're absolutely right, though, that any of my suggestions could be easily replaced with something roughly equivalent. Ultimately, it's having a whole range of options that will allow a man to be properly well dressed.


  4. Black Oxford (or brogue) shoes would not go amiss, Jake.

  5. Great list. I do think brogues, regardless of individual taste, are still the best all round option. They even look good with the right pair of jeans, and though black is traditional in the most formal settings, outside of a funeral and a black pinstripe suits, brown goes with grey suits, blue suits, tweed, etc etc..

    Perhaps we could get a similar list of accessories, cuff links and the like?

    1. That's a great idea. Definitely going to be doing that. Thanks!

  6. The tweed jacket in the picture is superb. Who made it? I really like that early to mid 1960s look; the sort of thing Harry Palmer wore to work. Smart but not standing out.

    1. Thank you - it was made by Cad and the Dandy from a length of Donegal Tweed that my Godfather brought back from Ireland a good 30 years ago, and which never quite made it into the suit it was intended for. I siezed upon it, and had C&D make it up for me. Although it doesn't get as much wear as some of my more conventional jackets and suits, it's probably my favourite item of clothing.
      I wrote about it while it was being made here:
      and here:


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