Introduction

One of the most popular topics on our forum is the new fashion follower asking for advice on the reinvention of their wardrobe. The demographic of these types of posts is pretty wide, but the question is always the same: where do I start?

Luckily for these budding fashionistos, the FashionBeans community is very responsive, friendly and, to my mind, helpful. Either through direct suggestions or referrals to various articles, assistance is always on hand.

Aside from the forums, we’ve got Matt Allinson’s fantastic ‘Basics’ series, covering almost every aspect of men’s style you could think of. We have also produced guides on reinvention, top trends, how to wear… pretty much everything.

Yet after a quick browse through the archives, I realised that we didn’t have a simple round up of the wardrobe basics – something that identified the kind of pieces that would help build your new, stylish wardrobe.

Now, I don’t agree with the principle of ‘essentials’. Nothing is ever essential, apart from air, water and food, so none of the below will ever be referred to as essential – they are simply things that could help you on your way. I understand that a list of this kind is subjective, but what I have tried to do is base it on a general, gathered knowledge and the in-house style that FashionBeans advocates daily.

The pieces below are generally appropriate for all ages and tastes; they that aren’t flashy or trendy, but rock solid, versatile basics. Enjoy…

The Oxford Cloth Button-Down Shirt (OCBD)

If FashionBeans had a club strip, this would most definitely be it. A firm favourite across the board, it is one of the first pieces I would ever suggest to anyone.

Straddling the divide between formal and casual perfectly, these shirts are a worthwhile addition to any modern wardrobe and you will definitely get a lot of use out of them.

Dress shirts can often be too smart – particularly when you’re just starting out – so these are the perfect solution. Buy a couple of them in white and blue and wear them with everything.

Great/popular brands for the OCBD include Uniqlo, Gap, ASOS, Reiss, H.E. By Mango and AllSaints. Being a preppy wardrobe staple, look to American brands like Ralph Lauren, Gant Rugger and J.Crew for premium versions.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Oxford Cloth Button-Down Shirt Lookbook Outfit Inspiration

river island holloway road ss13massimo dutti september 2013he by mango winter 2013minimum winter 2012he by mango aw13river island xmas 2013
Key Pieces
  • River Island Oxford Shirt In Emerald GreenRiver Island Oxford Shirt In Emerald Green
  • Farah Vintage Brewer Oxford Shirt In GreyFarah Vintage Brewer Oxford Shirt In Grey
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Plain Oxford Slim Fit ShirtPolo Ralph Lauren Plain Oxford Slim Fit Shirt
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Oxford ShirtHe By Mango Slim-fit Oxford Shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Oxford Long Sleeve Shirt BUniqlo Men Oxford Long Sleeve Shirt B
  • Topman Clean Grey Oxford Long Sleeve ShirtTopman Clean Grey Oxford Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Nn.07 Derek Cotton Oxford ShirtNn.07 Derek Cotton Oxford Shirt
  • J.crew Button-down Collar Cotton Oxford ShirtJ.crew Button-down Collar Cotton Oxford Shirt
  • Reiss Astley Button Down Oxford Shirt BlueReiss Astley Button Down Oxford Shirt Blue
Desert Boots

Arguably the perfect beginner’s shoe, they make the transition from trainer to something more grown up effortless. Smart without being formal, the desert boot works with everything, from jeans to shorts to suits – it’s all about how you dress it up.

They are super comfortable and, if you opt for iconic Clarks Originals (which I suggest you do), long lasting.

A pair in light sand or stone suede will complement every piece in your existing wardrobe, but you could also consider brown leather if you are looking for something a bit more hard wearing and seasonally-appropriate.

I will always suggest Clarks first, simply because they are the best – they are the creators of the desert boot silhouette, after all – and £79 isn’t unreasonable for the quality and style kudos that comes as standard.

Cheaper alternatives can be sourced at ASOS, River Island or Office, whilst brands such as Tod’s No_Code, Red Wing, Kurt Geiger and Aldo produce some seriously desirable styles at a higher price point.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Desert Boots Lookbook Outfit Inspiration

he by mango aw12club monaco aw12he by mango september 2012h&m spring 2013unknownboohoo aw13
Key Pieces
  • Clarks Originals Leather Desert BootsClarks Originals Leather Desert Boots
  • Aldo BraultAldo Brault
  • Desert Boot SandDesert Boot Sand
  • Topman Nevada Binding Desert BootsTopman Nevada Binding Desert Boots
  • Ben Sherman Clegg Suede Desert BootsBen Sherman Clegg Suede Desert Boots
  • Tods No_code Crepe-sole Suede Desert BootsTods No_code Crepe-sole Suede Desert Boots
  • Burns Kg Kurt GeigerBurns Kg Kurt Geiger
  • Asos Desert Boots In SuedeAsos Desert Boots In Suede
  • He By Mango Suede Desert BootsHe By Mango Suede Desert Boots
Slim-Fit Indigo Denim

Completely classic and timeless, slim-fitting indigo jeans are one of the most versatile pieces you’ll ever own.

They are really easy dress to up or down, with the slimmer cut ensuring sharper lines and a better shape. Indigo denim works with almost any look you can think of and will never fall out of fashion, so it’s worth investing good money in selvedge, which is of a higher quality and is almost guaranteed to last longer.

If you are on a budget then I have always found H&M denim to stand up pretty well, but specialist alternatives include A.P.C., Nudie, Levi’s, Edwin, Acne and Diesel, whilst AllSaints have also had some good reviews on our forum.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Slim-fit Indigo Jeans Lookbook Outfit Inspiration

superdry aw13he by mango aw12burton aw13he by mango winter 2013allsaints ss13he by mango november 2012
Key Pieces
  • Allsaints Megaru Cigarette JeansAllsaints Megaru Cigarette Jeans
  • Asos Skinny Jean In IndigoAsos Skinny Jean In Indigo
  • Edwin Black Label Red Listed JeansEdwin Black Label Red Listed Jeans
  • Reiss Bath Selvedge Denim Jeans LilacReiss Bath Selvedge Denim Jeans Lilac
  • Uniqlo Men Slim Fit Straight Denim Jeans AUniqlo Men Slim Fit Straight Denim Jeans A
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Dark Bob JeansHe By Mango Slim-fit Dark Bob Jeans
  • Levis Jeans 511 Slim Fit Rain ShowerLevis Jeans 511 Slim Fit Rain Shower
  • Nudie Jeans Grim Tim Slim-fit Organic Dry Denim JeansNudie Jeans Grim Tim Slim-fit Organic Dry Denim Jeans
  • A.p.c. Petit New Standard Slim-fit Dry Selvedge JeansA.p.c. Petit New Standard Slim-fit Dry Selvedge Jeans
Basic Knitwear

Basic knitwear will be an essential component of your layering this season, and you’ll be wearing it a lot.

A couple of crew neck, mid-weight wool or cotton jumpers in grey, navy or oatmeal are a great place to start. These staple colours allow you to play around with bolder shades within the rest of your ensemble and the mid-weight ensures that they sit on the casual side of the spectrum, which is much more suitable when you’re just starting out.

Look for good natural fibre content; brands to check out include H&M, Marks & Spencer, UNIQLO and Reiss.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Basic Knitwear Lookbook Outfit Inspiration

A.P.C. SS14h&mhe by mango spring 2013house of fraser aw12allsaints ss13zara edition 2013
Key Pieces
  • Selected Fisherman JumperSelected Fisherman Jumper
  • Allsaints Hexen Crew JumperAllsaints Hexen Crew Jumper
  • Asos Lambswool Rich JumperAsos Lambswool Rich Jumper
  • Topman Navy Cable JumperTopman Navy Cable Jumper
  • Reiss Chestnut Tuck Stitch Jumper GreyReiss Chestnut Tuck Stitch Jumper Grey
  • Blue Harbour Extrafine Pure Lambswool Twisted Cable Knit JumperBlue Harbour Extrafine Pure Lambswool Twisted Cable Knit Jumper
  • He By Mango Flecked Wool-blend SweaterHe By Mango Flecked Wool-blend Sweater
  • Uniqlo Men Lambswool Blend Crew Neck SweaternepUniqlo Men Lambswool Blend Crew Neck Sweaternep
  • A.p.c. Wool And Cashmere-blend SweaterA.p.c. Wool And Cashmere-blend Sweater
The Shawl Collar Cardigan

One of Matt Allinson’s favourite pieces, the shawl collar cardigan is an extension of your basic knitwear, working as a second or even third layer in your outfits.

The structured nature of the knit can really help to dress up your overall aesthetic and they look great with basic shirts – try pairing with your OCBD, jeans and desert boots.

Look for one in navy or grey as cream or oatmeal can often be a little bit too bold when applied to such a substantial piece. See basic knitwear section above for recommended brands.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Shawl Collar Cardigan Lookbook Outfit Inspiration

he by mango aw12zara february 2013river island holloway road aw13he by mango winter 2013banana republic aw13massimo dutti september 2012
Key Pieces
  • Asos Textured CardiganAsos Textured Cardigan
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Cardigan In Chunky Knit Shawl NeckPolo Ralph Lauren Cardigan In Chunky Knit Shawl Neck
  • He By Mango Cable-knit Wool CardiganHe By Mango Cable-knit Wool Cardigan
  • Shawl Neck CardiganShawl Neck Cardigan
  • Reiss Wayfield Textured Shawl Cardi NavyReiss Wayfield Textured Shawl Cardi Navy
  • Topman Grey Shawl Collar CardiganTopman Grey Shawl Collar Cardigan
  • He By Mango Shawl Collar Cotton CardiganHe By Mango Shawl Collar Cotton Cardigan
  • J.crew Shawl-collar Lambswool CardiganJ.crew Shawl-collar Lambswool Cardigan
  • Grey Shawl Collar CardiganGrey Shawl Collar Cardigan
Plain Tees

It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of men that don’t own a decent selection of plain tees. These are a throw on piece that you don’t need to think about and they elevate any look instantly, just by being unfussy and classic.

Buy multiples in white, navy, grey and black and you’ll be set for a while. My personal brands of choice would be GAP or American Apparel – it’s worth spending a bit more on your tees to avoid shrinkage and warping.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Basic T-Shirts Lookbook Outfit Inspiration

reiss sports lux 2012zara february 2013h&m spring 2013drykorn aw13CALIBRE ss14allsaints ss13
Key Pieces
  • American Apparel T-shirtAmerican Apparel T-shirt
  • Allsaints Tonic Crew T-shirtAllsaints Tonic Crew T-shirt
  • American Apparel Power Washed TeeAmerican Apparel Power Washed Tee
  • The New Crewneck TThe New Crewneck T
  • Reiss Dayton Short Sleeve Basic V-neck T-shirt NavyReiss Dayton Short Sleeve Basic V-neck T-shirt Navy
  • River Island Grey Marl Crew Neck T-shirtRiver Island Grey Marl Crew Neck T-shirt
Sweatshirts

Sweaters have seen a real resurgence in popularity over the last year or so, coming to the fore due to the sportswear trend that we’re now experiencing in full force.

These are a bit of an outside choice when it comes to forming a solid wardrobe base, especially when you have already curated a selection of basic knitwear, but for truly casual layering there is nothing better.

Layer over your OCBD or use it as the bottom layer of your outfit under a chunky cardigan or denim jacket. Uniqlo, H&M and Topman all stock a wide selection of sweaters in some great colours and prints, whilst premium brands like Carhartt, Norse Projects, J Crew, Our Legacy and A.P.C. offer high quality versions that are the epitome of sports luxe.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Sweatshirts Lookbook Outfit Inspiration

burton aw137 diamonds aw13river island holloway road aw13h&m aw12allsaints ss13pull & bear heritage ss13
Key Pieces
  • Norse Projects Men’s Vorm SweatshirtNorse Projects Men’s Vorm Sweatshirt
  • Allsaints Sprint Crew SweaterAllsaints Sprint Crew Sweater
  • Carhartt Crew Sweatshirt Chase ClassicCarhartt Crew Sweatshirt Chase Classic
  • Topman Grey Marl Mini Cable Quilted SweatshirtTopman Grey Marl Mini Cable Quilted Sweatshirt
  • Uniqlo Men Sweat Long Sleeve Shirt CUniqlo Men Sweat Long Sleeve Shirt C
  • He By Mango Ribbed Panel Wool-blend SweaterHe By Mango Ribbed Panel Wool-blend Sweater
  • Reiss Roche Crew Neck Sweater Grey MelangeReiss Roche Crew Neck Sweater Grey Melange
  • Our Legacy Reversible Cotton-blend SweatshirtOur Legacy Reversible Cotton-blend Sweatshirt
  • Levis Vintage Clothing 1950s Cotton-jersey Crew Neck SweatshirtLevis Vintage Clothing 1950s Cotton-jersey Crew Neck Sweatshirt
Check Shirts

The check shirt is the casual alternative to the OCBD. In thicker flannel or brushed cotton, these are a considered choice for winter and make great layering pieces – whether under a jumper or over a tee.

Look for larger checks to keep things more casual but in terms of palette, it really is up to you. Uniqlo, H&M, AllSaints or almost any high street store will offer a good selection of check shirts.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Check Shirt Lookbook Outfit Inspiration

he by mango winter 2013debenhams aw13banana republic aw13j crew pre fall 2013jack wills aw13Hartford ss13
Key Pieces
  • Levis Shirt Barstow Flannel CheckLevis Shirt Barstow Flannel Check
  • Allsaints Burrows ShirtAllsaints Burrows Shirt
  • Shore Leave Flannel Check ShirtShore Leave Flannel Check Shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Flannel Checked Long Sleeve Shirt EUniqlo Men Flannel Checked Long Sleeve Shirt E
  • Uniqlo Men Flannel Checked Long Sleeve Shirt IUniqlo Men Flannel Checked Long Sleeve Shirt I
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Twill Check ShirtHe By Mango Slim-fit Twill Check Shirt
  • Topman Navy Herringbone Tartan Long Sleeve ShirtTopman Navy Herringbone Tartan Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Gant Rugger Plaid Button-down Collar Cotton Oxford ShirtGant Rugger Plaid Button-down Collar Cotton Oxford Shirt
  • River Island Cream Wesc Check Flannel ShirtRiver Island Cream Wesc Check Flannel Shirt
Final Word

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive – it could go on indefinitely depending on who was writing it – but I have tried to keep it concise and relevant to our readership. The FashionBeans image and ethos is what makes this site so popular, and that is reflected in the advice we give, which is designed to be suitable for the everyday male.

I’d like to believe that the above list is a collection of versatile, wardrobe basics that anyone and everyone could wear with confidence. These timeless pieces will all work together in terms of colour and style, offering a fantastic base to build from.

But now it’s time for you to have your say, so let me know your thoughts in the comments section below…

Will