I’ve dubbed this year the year of Big Wins.

And today, I’m going to share with you one of the biggest wins you can make with your style: focusing on building your wardrobe around what I call “Essentials”.

What’s an Essential?

An essential is a style of clothing that’s timeless.

A style that’s nearly immune to eras and trends. Essentials are clothes that have proven themselves with their lasting power.

In short, they’re clothes that will make you look really good.

So why is building your wardrobe around essentials a big win?

I like to think about it in terms of cooking. Think of essentials like all the important elements of pizza.

Good dough. Great sauce. High-quality buffalo mozzarella. If you stopped there, you’d have an amazing pizza.

If you wanted to add your own flair to that, you can throw on a few toppings. (This is where trendy clothes come in.)

You know, the style equivalent to pineapple and pepperoni (If you hate pineapple pizza, feel free to never visit The Essential Man again. J/k, sorta.)

I’ve written about a few essentials in the past. Today, I want to share you my 3 personal favorite essentials that I think every man should have in his closet.

Bonus: One a tight budget? Need some outfit ideas for these essentials? I’ve put together a bonus for these 3 Essentials with not only options for every budget, but a handful of outfit ideas. Click below to get the bonus!

Here Are My 3 Favorite Style Essentials Every Man Should Have:

THE FIELD JACKET

Like all great men’s styles, the field jacket has its origins in the military.

Imagine if the peacoat, denim jacket and bomber all had a baby, you’d get the field jacket. A perfect jacket you can throw on, look great, with a ton of functional pockets to carry your stuff. 

Pair it with a white tee and jeans for a running around the city outfit. For the office, you can throw it over a button-up or even a blazer. If green looks too army/hunter for you, go for a dark navy blue (see above, bottom picture) which makes it slightly more formal.

Details to look for:

  1. M-65 jackets, which many of these field jackets are based on, usually have hoods that zip into the collar. Some designers keep this detail. It’s ok if you get a jacket with it. I almost never use it, so I prefer jackets without the hidden hood for a cleaner look.
  2. Army green (Olive) is, of course, the most classic color to choose. It’s also what I recommend you get first. You can find field jackets in lighter or brighter shades of green, or other colors like grey, light blue, or black. None of them look quite “right” to me. I recommend just sticking to the classic. If your workplace is a bit more formal, or you are looking for a more “serious” look, I recommend a dark navy.
  3. Four front pockets, two on the chest and two at the bottom are signature details of the field jacket. Other signature details include adjustable waist via a drawstring hidden on the side of the jacket (as you can see here). Some designers will leave out this detail.
  4. Hidden side pockets are sometimes added by designers behind the bottom pockets. If you can find a jacket with these additional side pockets, pick it up. They’re extremely useful and feel a lot more natural to use than the bottom flap pockets.

My pick: J.Crew “Field Mechanic Jacket”, $198

 

THE CHAMBRAY SHIRT

The chambray/denim shirt is one of the few pieces that looks universally good on any kind of guy. Tall. Short. Skinny. Big. Light Skinned or Dark. I would go so far to say that it works on more guys than actual denim jeans.

The chambray shirt is a masculine piece of clothing. Maybe because of it’s historical origins as workwear. It not only makes you look manly but makes you feel more manly. I love using under a blazer to break the monotony of the white dress shirt. Wear it with a sports coat and chinos, or go casual and throw it under a leather jacket. Extremely versatile, my personal favorite shirt, no matter the season.

Details to look for:

  1. Chambray shirts have moved their way out of casual workwear. You’ll often find designers using chambray for classic formal shirt designs to be worn with suits. This example with a button down collar is more casual, but can still work under your charcoal grey suit, or thrown under a casual jacket like your bomber. (Good rule of thumb: the more details an item has, like button-down collars, the more casual it is.)
  2. Chest pockets are optional here. Same rules apply, this chest pocket makes this shirt a bit more casual. But just because it’s casual doesn’t mean you can’t wear it under a blazer. It’s still extremely versatile.
  3. Solid blues will give you more versatility. Chambray often comes in washes to mimic wear and sun bleaching. Save those lighter washes for spring and summer. For day to day use, stick with a more consistent solid blue chambray.

My pick: Mr. P “Selvedge cotton-chambray shirt”, $190

 

THE LACE-UP BOOT

The right lace-up boot will become the most versatile shoe option in your closet. Perfect with a pair of jeans, sleek enough to be worn with a suit. 

Now, why would we get a boot if we had an oxford dress shoe? A dress shoe can look odd when pairing it with, say, a pair of jeans. Oxfords are usually sleeker in silhouette, making the combination of jeans and oxfords just strange. The strange look is what I call “Dad trying to be cool.”. If you want to dress up jeans, I recommend a refined lace-up boot. 

Details to look for:

  1. The boot can end at the ankle or slightly above. A high ankle boot offers a bit more support, while a boot that hits lower can feel a lot more maneuverable. It’s all personal preference.
  2. Waxed laces give you extra protection from the elements. You’ll most likely be wearing these stomping through rain puddles. A waterproofing spray ($9 via Amazon) is highly recommended for the entire shoe.
  3. This heavy stitching along the edge is a Goodyear Welt. A shoe construction method where the bottom sole is sewn into the upper portion of the shoe. Goodyear Welt shoes are preferred as you can get them resoled infinitely after the sole wears down. While Goodyear Welt shoes cost more upfront, the money you save over the years from resoling vs buying new shoes is well worth it.
  4. For more versatility, look for a tapered toe (toe-cap optional) While I’ve never seen a square-toed boot, it should be mentioned that your boots should have a rounded toe with a slight taper. An extremely rounded toe are usually found in workwear type boots, which might be too casual if you want to wear it for dressy occasions. A plain toe boot is more formal looking. I’m really into these cap toes. Both are versatile, which to get first is a matter of preference.
  5. Black or Brown? It depends. If you have a lot of black or darker clothes, especially dark pants, I would go for black. Brown is extremely versatile and looks great with darker shades like dark blue jeans, but can look odd with black jeans and a lot of grey pants. For me, the safest bet is always getting black first. In the long run, I would recommend you eventually getting a pair of black boots to round out your wardrobe.

My pick: Thursday Boot Co. “Captain Boots” $199

Need a More Budget-Friendly Recommendation?

Or some outfit ideas for these essentials? I’ve put together a bonus for these three Essentials with options for every budget and a handful of outfit ideas. Click below to get the bonus. 

peter@theessentialman.com'
Author

Hi, I'm Peter. I spent 11 years as a menswear designer here in NYC. Now, I help some of the most successful men look really good as a Private Personal Stylist and writer of The Essential Man. You can learn more about what I do by clicking here