How to build the essential gentleman’s wardrobe

happy businessman

Image source: shutterstock
“I lost all my luggage, but I know how to complete a new wardrobe quickly!”

Nightmare. You’ve just landed in a foreign city ready for a week of important sales meetings, presentations, client meetings, networking events and an awards dinner – and the airline has lost your luggage. You’re meeting your boss at the hotel in a few hours – and all you have are the jeans, trainers and hoodie you’re stood up in. What do you do?

Stay calm. You can get through the week if you know what to buy. Here are the 10 essential items you need to build a functional, versatile wardrobe quickly and cheaply, to cater for a range of events and occasions.

1. Classic grey suit

First, you need a suit. A two-button, single breasted jacket is the most flexible choice. Charcoal grey is more versatile than navy, and will see you through the week. Matt Allinson at FashionBeans says:

“… the navy suit can be harder to dress down… The fact that grey goes with any colour under the sun doesn’t hurt either.”

Wear it for your presentations, client meetings and even to your awards dinner. Even if the event is supposed to be black tie, you can get away with a charcoal grey lounge suit this once – something you wouldn’t be able to do with navy. Plus you can wear the jacket with jeans or chinos for a more casual look, for informal networking events.

2. White shirt

A classic white shirt is a staple in your wardrobe
Image source: Samuel Windsor Formal Shirts

Solid white shirts are the most versatile – but make sure you get the right size. Robert at Restart Your Style says:

“Wear it buttoned up with a tie for a dressy look, or unbuttoned over a t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and look super-casual.”

Get a couple (so that you stay fresh), and wear them for the more formal events in your diary – such as that awards dinner.

3. Blue shirt

blue cotton shirt

Image source: Samuel Windsor Twill Shirts
Formal or informal blue

A pale blue shirt adds variety and works with a suit and tie, or dressed down with jeans or chinos. Michael A. Lubarsky at AskMen writes:

“The classic blue bridges the gap between formal and informal simply in the way you wear it.”

Wear a blue shirt with a suit and tie to vary your business outfit through the week. Pair it with chinos for a smart-casual look, and jeans for an informal relaxed look.

4. Solid colour tie

plain silk ties

Image source: Samuel Windsor Silk Ties
Wear deep, solid colours

Choosing from selection of ties is the quickest, cheapest way to vary your outfit throughout the week. So that it doesn’t look like you lost your luggage or anything… We learn from Antonio Centeno at Business Insider:

“Dark blue is the safest and most versatile, but any deep, rich colour is good. Dark greens, burgundies, and for some complexions purples all work great.”

You’ll also need a black tie for your awards dinner (NOT a bow tie, which should only be worn with a dinner suit: if you’re winging it with your charcoal grey lounge suit, wear a black neck tie).

5. White t-shirt

white t-shirts

Image source: Samuel Windsor Loungewear
Goes with anything

Pick up a pack of t-shirts. A solid white crew neck t-shirt is one of the most versatile pieces of clothing you’ll own. As Robert at Restart Your Style tells us:

“You can wear it with anything… on its own during summer, or layer it during fall and winter. It’s super-simple and looks much sharper than a graphic tee.”

Depending on the weather, you can wear a t-shirt under your shirt, under a jumper, or on its own. And you’ll have something to sleep in, too.

6. Grey V-neck jumper

A grey V-neck is a classic item that will work well with the rest of your wardrobe. Paul of Modern Gentleman’s take is that it:

“…goes well with jeans, suit trousers or jacket, you can wear a white shirt underneath it.”

For informal events, such as a meal out with your colleague, you can wear it over a t-shirt with your suit jacket and jeans; or wear it over a shirt without a tie for a slightly smarter look to meet clients.

7. Camel chinos

chinos in camel

Image source: Samuel Windsor Chinos
A more relaxed look

You may want to stick with your jeans for a casual look. But if you have the time and budget, have a lot of networking events and want to vary your wardrobe, a pair of chinos will provide more options from your limited wardrobe. Adam Titchener of Men’s Fashion magazine says:

“It’s a great go to piece when jeans are not appropriate, and can be dressed up or down easily.”

Smarter than jeans, but more relaxed than formal trousers, chinos’ lighter cotton is particularly comfortable in the summer. Wear with a shirt and jumper to be ‘smart casual man’. Or bring those t-shirts back in to the frame to wear with your chinos for the casual look!

8. Black oxford shoes

black oxford shoes

Image source: Samuel Windsor Oxford Shoes
Classic black oxfords

A pair of black oxford shoes is the classic piece of footwear that will go with everything in your emergency wardrobe. The chaps at Tieapart say:

“…the most formal men’s shoes that can be matched with the suit. It must therefore be worn at work and on important occasions … but will also raise a more casual outfit with a white shirt and a pair of jeans.”

Wear them with your charcoal grey suit, with jeans or with chinos. They’ll get you through the week.

9. Black leather belt

black formal belt

Image source: Samuel Windsor Belts
Remember: always match your belt’s colour to your shoes

Black is the most versatile colour for a belt. ModernGentleman advises:

“Belts are great for breaking up outfits and adding a touch of class… Always, always match your belt with your shoes.”

A black belt works for all occasions – and will go with the shoes on this list!

10. Navy wool coat

Model 2 wearing Navy Cashmere-Mix Coat

Stay cosy in a a wool-cashmere blend coat
Image: Navy Cashmere-Mix Coat from Samuel Windsor

If the weather is cool, and if you’ll be spending time outside travelling from one client meeting to another, get a coat too. A dark wool coat looks great over a suit, but also works with the more casual items in your wardrobe. The advice from Chris Beastall of the Ape to Gentleman blog is to:

“Wear over a smart suit jacket or shirt, and in equal stylish measure – wear with joggers, a white t-shirt and some Nike Flyknit Racers.”

All the items on this list will happily slot into your existing wardrobe – when you’re finally reunited with it! They also form the foundation for any style, give you something to build on – and something to wear in any situation.
What are your favourite wardrobe essentials – the pieces you just couldn’t live without? Share your best-loved garment choices with us on our Facebook page.

Posted in How To - Style.