Sometimes the world of menswear can take itself a little bit too seriously. Whether it’s declaring a £500 navy blazer a great investment or suggesting that having a pocket square in every colour imaginable is a perfectly normal thing, those of us that write on the subject of men’s style have all been guilty of hyperbole in our prose.
Those of you that read my articles regularly will already know that I have one pet peeve when it comes to this subject: the overuse of the term ‘essential’.
Because if being a writer for FashionBeans all these years has taught me anything, it’s that outside of a select few items, there really are very few menswear pieces that can be deemed essential. In the real world, far away from Rick Owens, Band of Outsiders and Thom Browne, most guys don’t have money to spend on luxury ‘essential’ items. Instead, they live on a budget and purchase pieces they know they will get a lot of wear out of and that fit in with their own personal style.
However, if being a writer for FashionBeans all these years has taught me anything else, it’s that we operate in a small niche medium. I mean, there are only so many clothes going around! Inevitably, when it does come to writing an essentials list, aside from the obvious navy suit, black Derbies and white dress shirt, you do feel like throwing in a few curve balls just to liven things up and separate your list from the rest.
I think all of us who wax sartorial are guilty of trying to justify why one pretty needless item is a ‘must own this season’. In reality, the ONLY ‘must own’ during any season is clothes. End of story. Being naked in public just isn’t socially acceptable these days.
So with that in mind, I bring you my favourite items that seem to pop up on website lists across the globe, which really aren’t that essential when it comes to style – even if people keep trying to convince you they are. An essential ‘non-essential’ list, if you will.
The Top 5 Non-Essentials List
1. Moleskin Notebooks With A Fancy Pen
My personal favourite. Because for the stylish man it’s not good enough leaving your thoughts in the notes app of your iPhone. Oh no, it’s all about getting your notebook out of your bag – then rooting around for the pen and writing down what is now only a half-baked idea on how to bring Reebok Classics back from the dead.
I’m pretty sure I’ve never had an idea that’s been so good it has to be put down in its own soft-backed booked. Sure, people look cool when they’re making notes at fashion shows, but that’s a fashion show – they’re a world unto themselves. What you think makes you look like Nick Wooster sitting at the front row of an Alexander Wang show is really just you in a suit with no break writing down hip hop lyrics on a bench in Bracknell.
2. ‘Investment’ Watches
You know, the expensive kind that get referred to as ‘timepieces’ and ‘worthwhile investments’ when they’re actually just stupidly expensive for the everyday male. Like £4,000 expensive. A worthwhile investment at that price is a deposit on a house. Or a car that isn’t a sh*theap. Or your child’s future:
“Hey Dad, why do we live in a shed and have no money like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?”
“Well son, before your mother and I had you I decided to spend a small fortune on a shiny time keeper on my wrist that I eventually had to sell to buy food for you.”
“Didn’t your phone do that for you?”
“Well yeah, but GQ said it was a timeless investment…”
“I hate you, Dad.”
3. Pocket Knives & Cut Throat Razors
OK, technically this is two things shoe-horned into one but it’s my list and I’ll do what I bloody well want.
It seems these days every blog/tumblr/instagram that’s even remotely dedicated to being a modern day, rough-and-ready, fully bearded, manly man is obsessed with these things:
“The ten items I can’t live without? Easy – my 40z jeans, my four flannel plaid shirts, my Wolverine boots, my axe, my pocket knife and my cut throat razor.”
Firstly, you only need a pocket knife if you plan on camping or living in the wild. Secondly, what’s wrong with Wilkinson’s Sword, King of Shaves or Gillette? You’ve got a huge beard anyway, so what are you actually shaving? If you’re shaving off your downstairs goatee with a cut throat razor you’re not manly – you’re crazy! John Galliano crazy.
4. A Huge (Expensive) Travel Bag
Oh and it MUST be real leather and from Mulberry. It’ll set you back about £1,500 but it’ll be worth it to travel in style with all other essential items that you’ve purchased – provided there is any money left after buying said bag.
So now you’ve got a real awesome duffle bag to carry around with nothing but spare toothpaste, pants and socks. Have you ever seen a quality leather bag barely full? It’s just sad. Make sure you actually have essential clothes first before buying a fancy bag.
This one is probably my fault as much as the next guy, mainly because I’m obsessed with owning as much tailoring as I can possibly fit my wardrobe.
I can write that it’s a worthwhile investment and a better decision than renting as much as I want but it still doesn’t make it essential. In reality, as long as you know your size and what looks good on you, there are plenty of places you can rent a good tuxedo from without breaking the bank. Especially if, like most people, you’ll only ever attend one event a year where you’ll need one. If that.
Truth is, you could just buy a black suit from Topman and spruce it up with a fancy shirt, tie and shoes and most will be none the wiser. I know you want to look like you’re attending the Oscars but, come on, your ten year school reunion isn’t really the same, is it?
So there you have it, five of my favourite items that make appearances on ‘essentials’ lists without any real justification, other than the writer personally wished they had one or just wanted to make a list that stood out from the hundreds of others.
But why not tell me what you think? Is there one that I missed that you think deserves to be on the non-essential ‘essential’ list? Let me know in the comments section…