Our series enlists expert help to pinpoint every new piece your budget should buy. This week, build a capsule wardrobe that will work in every season.
1 Pair Of Black Brogues
Footwear is an investment. But rightly so. Not only do shoes get more wear than any other piece, you don’t have as deep a rotation. If you’re going to wear something almost every day, you need to know they can handle a battering.
“Start with a pair of black Oxfords or semi-brogues for any smarter occasions, with minimal detailing to allow maximum versatility,” says Ryan Lee, stylist at Harry Stedman. Look for Goodyear-welted soles – stitching where it meets the upper is a giveaway – which means when the sole gets tired it can be swapped out. Better economics than replacing the entire shoe.
And as for where to look? “A Northampton town brand is ideal, budget permitting. The region has been a stronghold of shoe craftsmanship for over a century.” Most also offer resoling services, so you don’t ruin them at a local keymaker.
Alfred Black Semi-Brogues, available at Barker Shoes, priced £180.
1 Pair Of Converse All Stars
Brogues may be versatile, but not every occasion calls for formal footwear. Which is where the everyday sneaker step in. “The Converse All Star is a classic choice that’ll anchor most outfits,” says Lee.
“The more premium white All Star ’70 high-tops offers a higher rubber sole and better cushioning – meaning they’ll last that little bit longer.”
Chuck Taylor All Star ’70s, available at Converse, priced £65.
1 Pair Of Neutral Chinos
“A pair of twill chinos are a good midpoint between casual denims and formal trousers,” says Lee. “And plenty of brands offer a balance between craftsmanship and affordability. What you’re essentially buying is premium cotton – a densely woven fabric with a soft handle and straight-cut silhouette.”
Decent fabric isn’t just about the aesthetics, though. A 100 per cent treated cotton is more hard-wearing and will survive everything from machine washes to beer garden sessions, hazy festival walks and stranger’s bedroom floors.
770 Broken-In Cotton-Twill Chinos, available at Mr Porter, priced £75.
1 Pair Of Navy Trousers
Decent tailoring doesn’t only come at Savile Row prices. With fewer men wearing suits to work, the high street’s upped its separates game recently. Which means when someone suggests a post-work pint, you don’t need to go home and change into strides you don’t mind spilling a drink on.
“Your focus should be on price and fabric,” says Lee. “If you spend less, you can afford to get trousers amended at your tailor. A slim midpoint between spray-on and wide-leg is universally flattering and they should finish comfortably on the ankle.”
Better yet, smarter trousers can also be incorporated into more casual looks. “Simply pair with a white tee and white trainers for a sharp but relaxed ensemble. Extra points for tucking in.”
Suit Linen-Blend Trousers, available at H&M, priced £24.99.
1 Decent Pair Of Jeans
Every discerning man should own at least one pair of quality jeans. Aside from being the backbone of most outfits, decent denim is one of the few pieces that will always remain in style – provided you buy the right kind, in a weight that can weather the years.
“Selvedge jeans are a must as they’ll only get better with age,” says Lee. “But they’ll take some wearing in. Opt for a modern, tapered fit.” Loose or skinny cuts don’t work for smarter occasions. Nor does stonewash. Opt for unwashed indigo: they’ll look brand new for longer and are much more versatile.
16.5 oz Kulsan Jeans, available at Harry Stedman, priced £190.
3 Plain White Tees
“White tees are versatile, easy-to-wear and impactful,” says Lee. “Which means you can never have enough.” That doesn’t mean you need to drop a bank loan, though.
The top end of the high street offers the same fabric composition and quality as many designer brands, so don’t be tempted by the ‘costs more, lasts longer’ mantra; you’re just paying for the label.
“COS offer a reasonable option with all the things you should look out for: round neck, high cotton content and a relatively relaxed fit. Pair with basic jeans or tuck into chinos or trousers.”
Round Neck T-Shirt, available at COS, priced £12 each.
2 Classic Oxford Shirts
The Oxford shirt is arguably your most essential wardrobe basic. Smart, versatile and appropriate for multiple events, it pays to invest a little extra, to ensure they’ll last season after season. They’re not going to date, after all.
“The likes of Uniqlo and GAP offer an array of colours and fabrics which are kind on the wallet, but still ensure quality. If you’ve got that little bit extra to spend, J.Crew is a nice balance between high street cost and designer craftsmanship.”
And as for fit? “Always go for a standard size. A good indicator is the finger test – if you can fit two to three fingers between the collar roll and the button, you’re onto a winner.”
Oxford Slim-Fit Long Sleeve Shirt, available at Uniqlo, priced £19.90 each.
1 Navy Blazer
Cost, fit, occasion and even your line of work can all play a massive part in suit shopping, which often makes it easier to purchase on an entirely separate budget. That doesn’t mean to say you can’t indulge in separates, though.
“A well-selected blazer can be paired with chinos, trousers or dark jeans for a polished look without overdoing it,” says Lee. “With most styles, go for something form-fitting that isn’t too tight. Chances are your weight may fluctuate with gym visits and annual Christmas dinners. An inch of extra room will make all the difference.”
Pure New Wool Tailored Herringbone Blazer, available at M&S, priced £149.
1 Knitted Polo Shirt
A menswear classic long before The Talented Mr Ripley, the knitted polo has seen a renaissance as of late thanks to Burberry and Gucci’s backing on the runways. But that doesn’t mean the style’s going to burn out.
“A well-crafted knitted polo is another good midpoint between smart and casual,” Lee says. “As something that can be paired just as easily with a blazer as an everyday jacket, always look at potential purchases and imagine them with your most worn wardrobe pieces.” Dusty pink works from summer to winter as a subtle dab of colour.
Bernwell Knitted Polo Shirt, available at Peter Werth, priced £55.
1 Blue Denim Jacket
“You can pick up a denim jacket in pretty much any vintage store these days,” Lee says. “But you may struggle to find the right fit or wash.” The alternative? An off-the-rail piece that looks like it’s spent some years on the road.
“A trucker jacket will be your companion for a long time, with darker washes ageing better and moulding into your shape.” And while other pieces demand a looser silhouette, denim jackets are designed to sit closely on the body. “Look for a snug fit that finishes on or just below the waist. Relaxed fits steer into a more 1990s grunge look.” Which is a trend that will only last until Bieber’s next reinvention.
Blue Denim Jacket, available at New Look, priced £29.99.
1 Mac Trench Coat
In the hierarchy of classic menswear pieces, the mackintosh is top dog. Everyone from Aquascutum to Jaeger has their own take, and Lee lists it as one of the most intelligent purchases you can make. “Again, the mac trench can be dressed up and down at will depending on what you team it with. No matter your age, it’ll always look sharp and sits just as well with a tee and jeans as it does with a three-piece suit.”
And if you do a bit of research, there’s more one way to glean extra wear. “A removable lining is a strong move as you can lose it for warmer months, then pop it back in for winter. Two coats for the price of one.”
Cotton Trench Coat, available at Zara, priced £119.