Top 5 items of clothing you need to own

Tuesday, July 10, 2012
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.