Rebuild your wardrobe with just 16 items? You bet. Ryan Gosling said so. There’s that line in the film ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ (the long weekend had us brainless movie watching) where Jacob Palmer (Gosling) declares a man can in fact rebuild his entire wardrobe with just 16 pieces of clothing.
Now, we’ll admit it. It’s hard. There are many factors – such as personal style, body type and workplace/dress code needs – to consider. But, if you’re starting from scratch or need to upgrade your look from the ground up, we’re betting that Gosling had these 16 men’s fashion items in mind.
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Cropped jackets – à la bomber or Harrington – are essential off-duty coats that can be worn smart, street-ish or sporty. Team one with a shirt and tie for a cool office vibe, or with relaxed, washed jeans and an oversized t-shirt for a clean Nineties vibe. Cuffed jogger pants and a sweatshirt will keep you stylishly snug en route to Saturday’s caffeine-hit. And, then the gym straight after.
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The trench coat is always ‘this season’ thanks to the military jacket’s design, embedded in practicality: the silhouette (a double-breasted cut and ten front buttons, along with wide lapels, a storm flap, belted waist and adjustable cuff straps). And it comes in traditional colours – khaki, navy, beige.
Invented by Burberry and Aquascutum (they both have dibs), styling the trench is your call: buttoned and cinched at the waist over a suit or worn open with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows. Just add sneakers, jeans and a basic t-shirt. Weekend-ready.
You’re either a leather jacket man – living it in like you would a pair of jeans – of you’re more cautious, afraid of what the rock, biker jacket might do to your reputation. For the newbie, the leather perfecto is killer; the lancer-fronted jacket cut in a svelte shape with masculine lapels and just enough hardware – zips, press studs, to be sophisticatedly badass.
Style with cropped woollen trousers and derby brogues à la Marlon Brando or with slim fit denim (black with rips) and this season’s boot, the Chelsea, in brown suede.
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Harking from Europe in the early 20th century, before being snapped up by Americans – the penny loafer is an easy-to-wear, yet smart footwear option for men. With a moccasin frame, know the penny style – as opposed to the tassel – by the strip of leather across the saddle and a diamond-gap.
Versatility is a key factor for the penny – a black or brown pair looks just as good with cropped jeans and a t-shirt as they do chinos or suit trousers.
This one’s a no-brainer, considering menswear’s infatuation with all-thing active right now. White sneakers, in a low-cut silhouette and streamline shape, go with everything and anything. Jeans, chinos, and suit pants: just make sure to stick to dress codes (so maybe don’t wear them to a corporate or formal gig). And please, keep them clean.
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Straight-cut jeans will revolutionised your wardrobe. The not-too-loose, not-too-tight silhouette will see you wearing these jeans everyday, of your life (if work allows). Stick to a mid-blue wash – no rips or fading to keep them timeless – and don’t buy cropped, you can roll the cuff if, and when, needed.
Wear with a casual blazer and loafers for weekend-smarts or sneakers and tee for easy breezy summer style in the city.
A well-fitting crew neck basic t-shirt compliments most necks, chests and sets of shoulders, so it’s every man’s style staple.
Kept white, black or navy, its rounded neckline (one that doesn’t plunge like its V-neck friend) can be worn in any setting: under a blazer for a casual suit look or with heritage-blue jeans and canvas tennis shoes, for a look Steve McQueen would nod at.
A navy, two button, peak lapel suit with double vents – in a custom fit (never skinny) – is your perfect suit purchase. Pair it with black lace-ups and a crisp white shirt and tie combination for the office, or a cotton t-shirt and penny loafers – the jacket left open – for a summer suit look for the weekend. Stick to a wool or cotton fabric depending on your climate. The best part? Split it – wearing the jacket as a blazer with chinos.
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The black tux doesn’t get mentioned all that much in typical men’s style staple guides. And while you might only wear it once or twice a year, having one is essential. Taking you from black-tie to semi-formal, stick to a single button, dinner jacket with a shawl or peak lapel in sheeny grosgrain.
The trouser should be flat-fronted and tapered in the leg (but never skinny), letting the add-ons like bowtie, boutonniere and shoes liven up the tux. Again – split the jacket and trouser and you’ve got two new looks.
The Oxford shirt can be worn off or on-duty due to its mid-weight cotton fabric and neat finish. Opting for white or blue (always office-appropriate with a tie) keep the cut and fit professional when tucked into suit pants or chinos. Meanwhile, the button-up looks great open-necked and with jeans. Sneakers or loafers? It’s up to you.
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Recognised for their punch hole design, brogue leather lace-ups are a smart shoe with a touch of va-va-voom in their aesthetic. In tan, chocolate or chestnut – a pair of brown leather brogues will slip seamlessly into your wardrobe and team well with plenty of outfits: smart or casually-so, and they’re a nice alternative to business black, pairing great with navy and grey pants. And mid-blue jeans.
Black lace-ups have to leather, always. Depending on your work/life status, the will serve a more formal man’s needs, while the Derby – while still smart – boasts a less streamline design with its raised eyelet flaps and slightly wider/rounder frame these days.
Perfect for the office, weddings and dinner parties, the black leather lace-up will match your suit nicely. Worn casually, a cropped trouser or rolled denim is better.
Chinos are cotton twill trousers. Getting more out of your chinos – for both smart and casual occasions – opt for pair in fine, mid weight twill. Wear your chinos lower on the hip that formal trouser, retaining the same rise and length in the leg and tapering toward the ankle.
Roll the cuff for a casual feel. And keep them a neutral – navy, khaki or black – avoiding bright colours.
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Ideal for summer, the casual blazer comes unstructured and lightweight in a fine wool or breezy cotton. Designed to give a sartorial lift to a mundane look, you can pair the casual blazer with an Oxford or common t-shirt, injecting chinos or jeans depending on your vibe.
Getting more from your jacket, keep the colour simple – keeping in mind other wardrobe pieces – then decide on what colour (and pattern – windowpane, perhaps?) is most suitable, if at all. Remember, plainer is simpler.
While there are plenty of sweaters, invest in a knit that’s just the right gauge: you want something weighty but slim – nothing too heavy that you can’t layer a jacket over the top. Like the t-shirt, the crew neck is the most versatile, and again – navy, charcoal, cream or beige – will give your more wear-value.
Team with favourite denim and trainers for sharp downtime style or dress it up with a pair of tailored trousers and some brogues, Derbies or loafers.
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We’ve piled accessories into one category, as they are no-brainers (and don’t warrant their own dot point) really. Ties and pocket squares should be cotton or silk (the former knitted if you like) and never gaudy. The belt – always leather with a metal buckle, and match it to the metal of your ring and watch, or tie clip and lapel pin.
Quality cotton socks and underwear, in pure cotton, are sans question. Your mother should have taught you that. Finally, eyewear. Black wayfarers, metal aviators or brown tortoiseshell D-frames are three big-hitting, timeless sunglasses. Invest in a pair that matches your face shape and personal style.