You don’t need money to be stylish, they say. But we wonder if they ever had to make the call between shelling out for a premium two-piece suit and not defaulting on next month’s rent.
While it’s true that money can’t always buy you style, it definitely betters your chances – if you’re making bank, you’re probably not going to think twice about dropping several K on top-tier clothes for every occasion. The rest of us, however, need to get a little more creative.
Which is where your basics come in, those versatile wardrobe staples that invariably have your back – here’s how to make them work even harder to save you time and money.
1. Long-Sleeved Shirt + Shorts
Hot as hell but still need to sharpen up? This warm-weather duo is sure to stand you in good stead. Not as casual as a tee and shorts, it’s a pairing allows your legs to breathe but keeps you looking the business up top.
Not that it’s ever work-appropriate, mind. Choose a lightweight cotton, linen or cotton-linen blend shirt and opt for chino or tailored shorts depending on how dressed-up or -down you want to take it.
As for the finer styling points (especially during high summer), try rolling your sleeves up for extra ventilation and to give your look that sense of effortless nonchalance.
2. Polo Shirt + Chinos + Loafers
Popularised on the Riviera, this effortless mix of sharp and low-key pieces epitomises the style of refined holidaymakers. It’s also a cakewalk to pull off: as ever, fit is paramount, and although a polo shirt is technically a casual piece, you need it to sit like a long-sleeved shirt in this scenario.
Look for a polo with sleeves that end mid-bicep and that lightly hug but don’t squeeze them. You’ll also want the shirt’s hem to finish no lower than your trouser fly. Speaking of trousers, your chinos should be slim or straight and rolled up slightly to reveal your mankles.
3. Blazer + Tee + Jeans
Ever confused as to what ‘smart-casual’ actually means? Well, this is it. Comfortable but put-together, this classic combination is a guaranteed style win for everything from a relaxed client dinner to date night.
To realise its full potential, opt for a single-breasted blazer, a fitted crew neck T-shirt (not bicep-suffocatingly tight, but definitely not sloppily loose either) and a slim-fitting pair of jeans.
Polish the look off with a genuine leather belt (hold the WWE-worthy supersize buckles, though) and a pair of minimal leather sneakers, brogues or Chelsea boots.
4. Blazer + Oxford Shirt + Chinos
This preppy combo will have you looking smart without having to go all out with head-to-toe tailoring.
Nailing something as simple as this is all in the detail, so you’ll want to make sure your colours are coordinated: a navy blazer works well with beige chinos (and vice versa), while a black blazer teams perfectly with dark grey legwear.
As crucial as it is to find a shirt and blazer that fit well, don’t neglect your chinos: they should be cut slim with a minimal break in order to maintain a sense of sophistication.
5. Leather Jacket + Tee + Jeans
Keen to bring your look a little edge? This iconic punk-inflected combination has more of it than you can shake a Fender Stratocaster at.
To stay faithful to the original line-up you’ll need a black leather biker jacket, black skinny or slim jeans (extra points for distressed or ripped versions) and a T-shirt that’s either white/black or from your favourite band’s tour merch. Bring the look full circle with a pair of Chelsea boots or scuffed Converse Chuck Taylors.
As an alternative to the rock variation, try switching the biker for a sleek bomber silhouette.
6. Leather Jacket + Shirt + Trousers
Like your leather jacket but don’t want to take it the Ramones-inspired route? No problem: simply switch out the tee and drainpipe jeans for a chambray or cotton shirt and some well-cut trousers.
This high-low mix offers a more contemporary alternative to the traditional blazer + Oxford shirt + trousers formula, giving you a little more edge for occasions that call for smarter attire.
7. Crew Neck Jumper + Collared Shirt
One to fall back on when the winds turn fresh, this pairing is a foolproof solution to looking sharp throughout the autumn/winter season.
Key to making this one work is finding a well-fitting shirt (fixed into place with a military tuck if necessary) and a jumper that’s just the right gauge: nothing light enough to cling unflatteringly and expose the shape of buttons, but nothing so heavy as to stop you from layering a jacket on top either.
Wear with your favourite denim and trainers to stay looking sharp on your downtime or dress it up with a pair of tailored trousers and some brogues, Derbies or loafers.
8. Pea Coat + Chunky Jumper + Heavyweight Legwear
Nautical isn’t just for summer. Practical and classically masculine, this autumn/winter line-up should be your go-to once the wintry weather hits.
Stick to a pea coat in navy to nail the maritime theme, and then style with a heavy gauge knit – everything from cable to waffle styles – in a complementary colour like off-white, grey, burgundy, or a flecked style that adds another dose of rugged charm.
Round out the look with a pair of hiking or work boots and don’t forget a pair of thick knitted socks for optimal comfort.
9. Shawl Collar Cardigan + Shirt
This pairing is perfect for days when you’d rather wear your duvet out rather than actually get dressed. Much less restrictive than a shirt and blazer, it looks just as buttoned-up and also lends your look an Old Hollywood charm (Steve McQueen was a huge fan of the shawl collar cardi).
We suggest a handsomely sized, thicker gauge cardigan worn open over a shirt that’s been undone a button or two. But, the choice is yours – it’s hard to go far wrong with this one provided the colours of your shirt and cardigan contrast to a degree that they don’t blend into one mass.
Without the luxuries of infinite time and a bottomless bank account, ensuring you look stylishly on-point at all times can be a challenge. But don’t fall into the rut of reverting to the same look – try these easily put-together combinations instead.
Which of these looks is in your regular rotation? And are there any other wardrobe basics formulas we’ve missed?
Drop a comment below to let us know.