How to Choose a Basic Wardrobe for a Man

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A man's wardrobe--and his ability to coordinate that wardrobe--expresses his personal style and taste. But comfort and care also play a big part. This chart demonstrates the basic furnishings for a stylish wardrobe, plus some suggestions for injecting more personality.

Invest in a blazer. A one-stop blazer shop can solve many of your business and formal attire needs. To pair with the blazer, purchase at least three cotton or cotton-polyester blend button-down shirts in white, light or French blue, or ecru.

Stock up on casual shirts. These should be solid, neutral colors to add diversity of outfits and occasions for which they're appropriate. There needs to be a mix of cotton-knit polos and T-shirts.

Buy one good sweater. Again, it should be a neutral color. You can opt for wool, but cotton knits have more seasonal diversity. Cashmere offers the best of warmth in cold months, and light-sweat feel in autumn and spring, but can be a bit pricier.

Look into a few options for pants purchases. You should have at least one pair of dress slacks in a light-wool weave, neutral colors are preferred: navy, tan, mid-gray or charcoal. You should have one pair of more casual khakis or chinos in tan, stone or olive colors. And you should have one pair of medium-wash denim jeans.

Outfit yourself with peripheral, or support items. This includes ties and belts. You should have two belts (that match your shoes), and two to three ties, or more depending on frequency of use. One should be a simple, solid color. Blue and red or burgundy are the best options here. One should be striped, and one tie should be a bit more laid back, with vibrant colors or designs (not too ostentatious, mind you).

Get three pairs of shoes for perfection, but at least two are needed. You should have one dress shoe in black, brown or cordovan (reddish-black). Low-rise boots, oxfords or loafers are good, all-purpose casual shoes that can, coupled with khakis or chinos, dress-down a blazer and button-down shirt. Tennis or athletic shoes are also a staple of the casual wardrobe.

Tips & Warnings

  • To save time, take advantage of free personal shoppers at department stores.
  • Read care tags. Don't buy a garment that requires hand washing or dry-cleaning if you throw everything in the washer.

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