The creatively stylized result: an infallible, streamlined wardrobe that puts to best use the pieces that have proven — time immemorial — to always having been in vogue, in one form or another.
As such, essentialism (or minimalism if you would prefer) forthrightly illustrates what is the contrasting sartorial paradox that divides the subtle refinement and dependably judicious nature behind classic staple wears and their baseless popular counterparts — seasonally disposable fast-fashion commercialized goods.
With that said, essentialist wardrobing is one predicated upon an educated knowledge — and not a seasonal guessing game — of knowing what works, what is truly timeless, and then adding a personally dignifying touch of individuality to it all.
Accordingly, just such a studied approach is one that befits the gentleman who has no express desire in aimlessly experimenting with his style when there is indeed a simple, dignified template with a proven track record and history awaiting to be put to use. It is with his desires in mind that this wardrobe was tailor made for — for those gents who revel in the subtle eccentricities that covertly reside within the associative confines of these otherwise plain pieces that most tend to overlook. He who is set upon the path of smartly abiding to a classically backed styling status quo that is sophisticatingly refined and always in good taste.
Collectively speaking, this capsule collection of clothing arrives ingratiated by a gilded sartorial history and an enticingly inherent stylish ethos sewn directly into every single thread and strand of each respective feature piece. They are, in layman's terms, the persistent bearers of an immediate shot of refined class, as it were.
Nevertheless, and if you were to completely dissect and analyze an essentialists express styling desires, you would ultimately discover that it can be edited down to wanting to exploit one's wardrobe to its fullest potential with minimal effort and options at hand. This curated wardrobe edit consists of articles of clothing that will allow you to do just that — each distinct item is stylishly harmonious, seamlessly interchangeable, and infinitely accommodating to the next.
Overarchingly transitional in nature, an essentialists approach thereby eschews modern wardrobing fickleness for that of a more tasteful teaming of traditional craftsmanship alongside practical convenience and contemporary ingenuity.
Be at as it may, for reassuring comfort and stylish simplicity, all one needs are these 18 staple essentials to make it through nearly any imaginable occasion in life.
Categorized into ten groups, from the quintessential solid neutral suit to the requisite performance fitness/sporting wears, this is a comprehensive — yet streamlined — list of the bare wardrobe essentials (including many iconic menswear pieces) one would require to simply transition through life with ease .
So, shall we dive in?
The neutral suit, it is a gentleman's (and essentialists) formative staple wardrobe essential as well as his day-to-day workhorse.
By that definition, a solid suit (in grey or navy blue…or one of each) that is crafted from a super-fine, all-season, mid-weight wool that has little to no shine and is cut with a slim, streamlined physique in mind (tailored to your body) comes highly recommended. Bespoke would be ideal but understandably out-of-reach for some — although a trip to ones tailor will appease any and all off-the-rack fit concerns you may encounter.
The shoulders should be snug, the waist tapered in a flattering "V" shape (nipped at the waist), the sleeves cut about 1/4-inch short of your wrist bone (allowing your dress shirt to smartly show), and the jacket length resting roughly half way down ones derriere (or just completely covering it).
Styling wise, a two-button (with the top button resting between your navel & chest), notched lapel (1-2 inches wide), double-vented jacket with slit pockets that is accompanied by a pair of slim (straight or possibly single-pleated) trousers will never look dated.
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Being the modern gent's workwear essential, formality comes breed into its styling identity (business wear, weddings, work trips, etc.). Nevertheless, it can also be sported casually dressed down, as either a whole or as separates. From pairing it with its classically formal bedfellows (dress shirts/turtlenecks, ties/pocket squares, and formal footwear) to its casual modern creative muses (jeans, striped sweaters/t-shirts, and Chelsea boots) a solid suit is without question an irreplaceable staple that will pay you back in (sartorial) spades for decades to come — be it formally, casually, or business wise.
It's difficult to imagine a time when a navy blazer was not an absolute wardrobe essential, being from the dawn of modern menswear as we know it — harking back to the formative days of Beau Brummell — the most transitionally practical and whimsically versatile of all staple wears at a gentleman’s disposal.
With that in mind, as well as its stylish versatility and classic timelessness, what you are looking for is a construction that mirrors that of the aforementioned suit jacket (2-button, notched lapel, etc.) — a style that will simply always be held in high regard. Yet, unlike your suit jacket (which should come with minimal shoulder padding), a blazer's shoulders should be unconstructed (meaning it will mould to your physique over time more naturally).
Which brings me to the fact that if there is indeed one undeniable truism behind its historically stylish laurels it is this: it will always be in vogue — a staple (signature) piece for the essentialist as well as every single type of modern gentleman (irrespective of monetary means or lifestyle) found wondering this planet.
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Whatever the occasion may be, from formal date nights to laid-back social gatherings, the navy blazer is a refined mans go-to piece for off-the-clock (and occasionally on; casual-Friday's and smart-casual offices) private social affairs and paired back work functions alike.
Worn dressed down with denim/chinos or Sprezzatura style with a tonally juxtaposed fitted dress trouser, its versatility is only limited by ones creative imagination and personal tastes.
In paying particular heed to the old maxim of "a man is most often judged by his shoes", one can never go wrong in opting for an oxford (or derby) dress shoe in either black (the French & English mainstay) or chocolate/caramel brown (the Italian mindset). Want to smarten them up or add a refined touch of playfulness to them? A decorative and genteel brogue pattern will do just that.
Brogueing aside, the inclusion — and importance — of a classic (cap-toe) dress shoe in the essentialists wardrobe is, quite frankly, a nonnegotiable. Streamlined, elegant, and always fit for duty (be it casually with jeans or formally fused up), they will seamlessly handle any style/event parameter one must culturally adhere too.
Which is, more or less, also what can be said of the rakishly charming (and slimming) Chelsea boot.
Simple, sleek, and tonally solid in colour. That's everything a Chelsea need be. No extra detailing nor added detailing, just flexible elastic side panels and
a rounded (not pointed/square) almond toe. And much alike the oxfords above, one would do well in opting for a pair in a solid (Beatle) black leather or a tanned brown suede.
Construction wise (for both), a goodyear-welted sole is something that should be considered (despite its costs), being the timeless standard from which an unparalleled quality and lasting durability come attached.
Styling and construction matters aside, at the end of the day both come built-in with a practically versatile nature that is unrivalled by any other respective shoe or boot.
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As time-tested conduits exuding an enticing juxtaposed touch and combination of casual rakishness and requisite formal resplendency, both are utilitarian choices for the modern essentialist who has a stylish M.O. that is predicated upon transitional versatility. Combine that with an understated and undeniably chic aura, and what you have are the only two pairs of footwear you will arguably ever need. Which means that they will ultimately look good with everything from suits to denim — and all that falls in-between.
Perfectly fitted (physique hugging; no boxiness or extra side material))!
That is the defining characteristic one should actively pursue when considering the basic structuring of his essential casual wears: numerous t-shirts and the iconically apropos summer (Breton) striped sweater/long-sleeved tee.
Aside from a fitted aesthetic, a crewneck enclosure also comes highly recommended (being both timeless and easy to wear), as does a length that ends roughly at one's waist with sleeves that are neither bulky nor too long (for the short-sleeved t-shirt that means 1/3 way down the shoulder to mid bicep)
Fabrication wise, for all season wear the t-shirts would ideally be a 100% pure cotton, with cashmere, linen, and wool being seasonal alternatives. On the sweater/long-sleeved t-shirt front, cotton again is advisable, but a wool/cotton blend could also come in handy for those days when the mercury drops.
Tip: Buy the t-shirts in bulk once you've found a brand (& fit) that you find most becoming and reliable.
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Dress a suit down with either for a smart-casual look or let them shine on their own alongside your denim/chinos + oxfords/boots/tasseled loafers (which were omitted, but also deserving of a spot in the essentialists wardrobe). Highlighting the t-shirts in particular, they will always naturally accentuate your leather jacket (featured below) as well.
Whatever the case may be, both are basic essential layering pieces that will be called to active duty on more occasions then one would care to count.
Whether skinny fir or slim (which is a matter of preference) its important to keep your jeans and chinos simple and solid in colour. That means avoiding kitschy embellishments such as gaudy rips, flares, uninspiring tonal distresses, and zippered pockets on either.
Accordingly, a dark-rinse indigo wash (or black if you'd prefer) pair of jeans is a timeless staple that is endlessly versatile (can be dressed up or down). On the chino front, a tan/caramel or navy chino would be sufficiently appropriate as well.
And if your looking for refined heritage, durability, and unmatched quality in your jeans, then raw denim/selvedge is the route to take (although they do take considerable time to break-in). The chinos, on the other hand, should consist of a sturdy cotton/twill construction that can stand up to most any occasion or elemental condition.
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Individually overflowing with an implicit essence of simple, effortless style and tonal practicality, a slim fitting pair of jeans or chinos can transitionally segway you seamlessly from day-to-night with ease and reassuring comfort in tow. And like most everything else in this capsule wardrobe, they too can be styled alongside nearly any piece iimaginable — from the navy blazer and the trench to the various sweaters and shirting. Versatility, is after all, the name of the essentialist studied game.
Nonetheless, it is a tailored approach to wardrobing predicated upon both an aura of unshakeable dependability and its accompanied, unmistakably refined styling template. Accordingly, it thereby eschews the popular mindset — held by many men these days — that sees one strictly seeking his style inspirations (and wardrobing needs) from seasonal trends, adhering to an almost slavish-like blind faith to the notion that only forward (and fresh) progress matters — of desiring change merely for the sake of it.
Point being, they recognized that there is indeed plenty of style to be gleaned from these otherwise perceptively mundane classic menswear staples. And as of immediate consequence, they have also proven that it is we (on an individual basis) who provide the clothes we wear with their uniquely definitive personalities and not the other way around — that it is indeed the man who maketh the clothes and not fashionable fickleness nor the quality of the clothes themselves that maketh the man.
Two dress shirts, one pale blue, the other white.
The structural requisites: cutaway (semi-spread) collars — which are universally flattering to almost every face shape and social function — alongside a single-buttoned barrel-cuff, high arm holes, and a fitted construction that sees the seams of the shoulder sitting directly upon yours, sleeves that end at your wrist bone, and a length that roughly ends 1/3 of the way down your thighs (so as to be easily tucked in). For the white dress shirt in particular, an OCBD (oxford-cloth button-down) is also a versatile alternative (and ivy/prep classic) that can be considered.
Fabrication: for both aim for a soft, breathable lightweight cotton with little sheen and some added flexibility.
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The dress shirt is the stylishly proverbial sidekick — the unassuming Robin to your studied Batman, as it were — to nearly every piece imaginable in your wardrobe— not just your suits. As such, it can — and should — be worn with everything in this curated wardrobe, from its formal wears to the iconic leather jacket (sported rakishly with a tie).
Being duplicitously versatile —work and play — and coming accompanied by a near boundless styling template, these two dress shirts look as good with jeans and a blazer or with their sleeves rolled up, accompanied chinos + loafers, as they do with your suited (business) wears.
Jackets are essentials no matter where one finds himself residing, from the frigid alpine regions to the bustling streets of metropolitan cities. Which is exactly why choosing two jackets that stand tall above all others to represent the essentialists wardrobe was a tad difficult …yet not too hard.
With that said, some would argue for the inclusion of a bomber/Harrington or even that of an overcoat, but both are surpassed in both a stylishly versatile and functionally practical sense by the iconic trench and the winter staple parka.
With a militaristic pedigree built-in, and consisting of a superior makeup and incremental durability, an iconic trench — whether cropped in length or traditional — can carry you through seasonal thick and thin. Historically chic, and embodying a high-end sophistication that surprisingly (to some) goes with anything from tailored formal wear to casual essentials, the (belted) double-breasted trench is an elegantly timeless staple bar non. Accordingly, a refined (and classic) camel/caramel or beige hue is recommended
The parka on the other hand, is a cold weather essential — from fall through early spring — for those who are tasked with battling mother nature's full contingent of seasonal offerings. It's a functional piece of outerwear that just so happens to also be ruggedly masculine, stylish, and utterly practical all the same.
Ft wise, (for both) its important that the length of the jacket covers whatever you are wearing beneath (so hitting just below the waist… to mid thigh for the trench) and that the shoulders extend about half an inch beyond yours so as to allow for seasonal layering. The rest should be fitted to trap warm and streamline your silhouette.
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From stormy weather (layered over sweaters/tees + jeans & boots) to business board meetings (layered over a suit & dress shoes), a double-breasted trench can handle any sartorial occasion or weather conundrum it is challenged with.
And winter be damned, because the parka is also expressly tailor made to battle its trying elements. Looks best with casual wear (team it with the shawl cardigan, a t-shirt, jeans, and boots…not included) but is having a contemporary urban rebirth as a contrasting layering piece worn over tailored suiting..
V-neck or crewneck?
Most would vouch for a lightweight (lambswool/merino wool for F/W ; cotton/linen/cashmere for SS) v-neck sweater over a crewneck, but I tend to disagree.
Personal proclivities aside (both styles work equally well), when it comes the formal layering demands set upon the essential lightweight sweater, a cotton-cashmere blend teamed with a form-fitting aesthetic will serve you well, allowing you to transition between seasons with ease and practical grace.
As for the character defining — casually polarizing — shawl-collared knit cardigan, a texturally thick, fitted cable knit in pure wool is an all-seasons essential. Casually sophisticated and ruggedly refined, it can be utilized as an in-between seasons jacket of sorts, as a winter buffer piece, or as an added layer to trap heat on bitter summer evenings.
For either sweater, dark hues — charcoal grey, navy blue, browns — are once again an essentialists essential. But for the cable-knit cardigan in particular, and with express intent of adding a punch of sophisticated class, a luxurious cream or caramel hue can be a richly understated statement making alternative to the essentialists otherwise subdued colour wheel.
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The shawl collared cardigan can be sported as a casual jacket of sorts (over a t-shirt + jeans + boots/shoes), as a fresh smart-casual alternative to your navy blazer (worn over a dress shirt + tie combo), or just as a warming layering piece whenever the situation dictates.
Whereas the lightweight crewneck sweater is a business/formal/casual jack-of-all-trades alternative to the vest in a 3-piece suit that can also be worn in a leisurely manner over a dress shirt and chinos in more informal situations — smart casual office environments/during an unfussy weekend social gathering. It is amongst the most versatile pieces you will ever own, representing everything from a featured headliner in the summer to a layered supporting role player come winter.
An iconically formidable force to say the least, the black leather (biker) jacket is as versatile as the very word itself — it simply transcends ethnic and racial tropes as well as any and all preordained restrictive style parameters.
Big, small, short, tall, your physique is of little consequence when it comes to the practical (warm, sturdy) and fitting adoptability of the leather jacket. In stating that, one would be wise to invest in both quality
(authentic leather can be expensive but well worth it) and classically detailed simplicity.
As such, a jacket that is seasonally practical — for colder climes that means fully lined with wool/shearling -- and crafted of genuine authentic leather is what you should idealistically be hunting for. Available in a vast array of styles, from a luxurious black shearling leather bomber, a classic (Belstaff) Roadmaster, or a simple biker/aviator jacket with a rebellious 50's high-collar (to name but a few), there really is no universally correct choice — it really comes down to personal preference. With that said, and amongst the dizzying amount of options, I would still recommend the biker jacket if you are considering but only one style that transcends all others and that is always fashionable.
Fit wise, physique hugging shoulders are your sole priority seeing as they alone are impossible to tailor.
Additionally, a shorter (streamlined) crop that playfully grazes the top of (or directly sits upon) your chosen trousers alongside a tapered (silhouette slimming) waist that leaves just enough space so as to account for any seasonally desirable layering needs.
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Easier to wear — and pull off — then most have come to believe, it looks best when teamed with black Chelsea boots, a white/grey/black tee (or a polka dot dress shirt), and a pair of black skinny jeans (which deserve an honourable mention in this feature) Conversely, substitute it in for your suit jacket to add a charming touch of rebellion to any (ideally grey) suited look.
We all must keep in shape, which makes trainers, sneakers, and sporting shorts mandatory lifestyle essentials.
As a collective unit, and when speaking strictly in terms of colour, its advised that they should all adhere to a monochromatic palette consisting of whites, blacks, and greys. Why? Because they are tastefully polished, understated colours that do not attract any unwanted attention (ie. nobody wants someone glaring at them while they are exercising/training or to distract others with gaudy, overpowering neoned hues).
Individually speaking, and with performance in mind, a flexible (yet sturdy) sole alongside an ankle grazing height and a breathable cotton (mesh?) construction is desirable in ones trainers while your sneakers should be crafted of a premium leather or buffed suede (with a stiff yet pliable sole) that gives off that casual, yet sophisticated vibe.
Sporting shorts wise, a lightweight (breathable) cotton or a mixed construction consisting of cooling and wicking fabrics/capabilities alongside a length that hits (roughly) mid-thigh will do exactly what you require of them while keeping your lower half from uncomfortably overheating. If need be, you could also invest in a performance wicking top, but your essential t-shirts are sufficiently capable of handling any of your fitness inspired needs.
And as celebrity endorsements have made it, your fitness wears are also arguably the only wardrobing pieces in which visible branding is acceptable — but do try to keep it to a suitable minimalism.
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Your crisp sneakers (solid white or black) should be fresh, clean, and ready for anything thrown their direction, which makes styling them a rather simple matter. In essence, they will look good traditionally teamed up with denim/chinos and a tee or in a conventionally defiant formal manner contrasting your formal suit of choice (although I've never been one to truly advise such a choice). From casual weekend social gatherings to days spent off-the-clock relaxing or running chores, your sneakers/trainers will carry you comfortably through it all.
Fitness wise, it's a cinch. Toss on your trainers with your shorts and a cotton t-shirt/wicking performance top and you will be prepped for any sporting activity that suits your fancy (hiking, running, weight training, futbol, tennis, etc.).
Now as for New Years and essentialism...
Rebirth, reinvention, renewal, the dawning of a new year carries with it a wide variety of differing associative contextual meanings to each and every one of us .
Nonetheless, it most often comes down to this: out with the old, in with the new.
Yet, it's a universally held belief that — when taking into sole consideration your style and wardrobing — needn't be so narrow minded or falsely omniscient.
For you see your style, unlike all those transparently transient fitness, culture, and lifestyle resolutions, is a visually definitive characteristic that you cannot simply neglect or brush aside knowing that passing it over will have no ill consequence. On the contrary, it's rather a herald of expressive self-respect, speaking highly of who you are, what you believe in (your ambitions), and (ultimately) what you stand for — whether you give it its due diligence or not.
Point being, your style = your daily (physical) business card.
Which, as it were, collectively illuminates why investing in it — as well as a simple wardrobe foundation to build it upon — is of upmost importance.
Which is precisely why this essentialists wardrobe edit and guide was crafted — for the gentleman who wants his clothing to be as versatile and adaptive as his lifestyle — but with minimal effort and a guaranteed sartorial reassurance.
Minimalistic in approach, and consisting of practical, utilitarian pieces that will carry one through most any occasion (formal or casual), the aforementioned and outlined collection of time-tested “staple" wears have proven themselves to being most becoming of any (and every) gent and will appease any selectively pervasive and reluctant fears. It's a reductivists approach to wardrobing, one overarchingly defined by iconic pieces that will suit most any gentleman; one that includes simple selections that require little consideration and styling effort to put to best use.
Thematically built upon the utterly versatile holy (coloured) trinity of menswear — navy, black, and grey— it's a collection that is both tonally and characteristically suitable for gentlemen of all walks of life and cultured backgrounds — irrespective of stature (height/weight), race, geographical residence, or monetary means. And in eschewing the fashionable heedlessness of disposable trendy (fast-fashion) commercialism (ie. quantity) for that of a more studied and precise aesthetically classic (staple/essentials investment + quality) approach, it is also reflective of financial sensiblity and sartorial practicality at their coalescent/collective peaks.
For you see, by opting for an classically refined, interchangeable wardrobe that requires little consideration — one that utilizes transitionally friendly muted colour palettes like black, grey, and navy with a studied splash of white and brown — you will be able to stylishly adapt to any environment, scenario, occasion, or season.
Whatever the case may be, and at the end of the day, for most gentlemen its safe to say that they don’t need a lot of choices, just simply the right ones.
Here's to the essentialists wardrobing approach, which takes the guessing game out of just such (intimidating?) matters!
Did I happen to miss an absolute essential that you would deem fit for a spot in the essentialists wardrobe? Is 18 pieces too many to be considered essential? And, what would you omit from this wardrobe edit?
Comment below to spark a constructive conversation or to chime in with your opinions on essential matters…
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