April 13, 2024

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Men’s Wardrobe Essentials: 64 Menswear Pieces to Own in 2024

15 min read

Table of Contents

When it comes to style, we’re guilty of talking about the idea of men’s wardrobe essentials as if everyone knows what the hell we’re rambling on about. But they’re more complicated than, say, the essentials you need to exist in the world: keys, wallet, phone, phone charger. Forge those and you’ll have a miserable day. But when it comes to what you wear, dividing what’s crucial from what’s just nice-to-have—and then finding the stuff that feels like your vibe—takes some energy. Which is where we come in.


The Men’s Wardrobe Essentials Checklist

What exactly should a men’s basic wardrobe include? If we’re talking about the atomic-level, just-arrived-on-Earth necessities, we end up with a list of five or six staples that’s almost useless in its vagueness: underwear, socks, a shirt, pants, shoes, maybe a jacket depending on where you call home. So we’ve pulled together a more specific starter pack of men’s essentials. One that—in our opinion—covers almost every need short of a black-tie gala.


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You should be able to take any piece from this list of closet essentials and put them together without fear of fashion failure. You can work some of these pieces into your closet now, and keep building from there. In the meantime, you’ll have enough variety to make your work outfits work, and your weekends relaxed.

The best part is that, down the line, you’ll veer in new sartorial directions. Maybe you’ll attain the kind of Steve-Jobsian power and focus that drives you to wear the same outfit every day. Or you’ll forge a 1-of-1 style that no one else could possibly emulate. Until then, you’ve got this guide—plus our 59 Do’s and Don’ts of Dressing—to help you dial how you dress. Each and every one of these menswear essentials is a small step toward upping your overall swag. Thanks for letting us walk with you.


The Go-To Jeans

There’s a reason that the Levi’s 501s is at the very top of our guide to the best men’s jeans: it has been, is, and always will be the jeans you come back to again (and again, and again). If you dig your denim dark and a little retro, though, Buck Mason’s is a close second. Can’t think of what to wear? Here’s your answer, seven days a week.

Buck Mason

Japanese Loomstate Selvedge Full Saddle Jeans

The Boss-Level Topcoat

There’s no clothing item more dramatic than a long coat. And while trench coats are a great look year-round, a thick woolen topcoat shines in the fall and winter. You may not be starring in any blockbusters coming up soon, but, boy, will you look like you are.

Mr P.

Belted Alpaca-Blend Top Coat

J.Crew

Ludlow Double-Breasted Irish Wool Topcoat

The Full-Zip Sweater

The full-zip sweater has been making a comeback in recent years, placing it firmly in the hot seat of fashion. But it’s more than just a trend. With a turtleneck silhouette and full-zip control, it can morph into multiple styles, unlike other sweaters.

L.L.Bean

Organic Cotton Waffle Sweater

The Indestructible Flannel Shirt

In cooler temperatures, a reliable flannel shirt is an absolute wardrobe essential. Most versions will be plaid, but the best flannels all feel substantial, being made from wool or thick cotton. In the right context, a flannel shirt is also great as a light jacket.

The Alpine Stompers

Hiking boots like the Danner Mountain Light are built for bad weather and even badder terrain, which makes them well-suited as a winter boot whether your place has a yard or a 20th-floor view. They also happen to look great with a pair of relaxed jeans or corduroy pants.

The Plain White T-Shirt

A plain white T-shirt can be worn as an undershirt, standalone with some vintage jeans, or—if you want to get DIY—screen-printed into a work of art. There’s also a lot of variety in the most basic of shirts, so if you’re looking for something different, check out our guide to the best white tee shirts.

Gildan

Hammer GH000 T-shirt (2-pack)

The Neck-Saving Accessory

The bare minimum a scarf should do is keep your neck warm, but the best scarves are big enough to double as a shawl, a hood, or something to sit on when the public bench is freezing.

Acne Studios

Canada Fringed Wool Scarf

The Tried-And-True Tote Bag

Whether you’re commuting to the office or to the resort’s tiki bar, you need to carry your stuff. For that, a simple-yet-sturdy canvas tote bag is the move and L.L.Bean’s legendary Boat and Tote bags are among the best, if not the best-known. They’re made of a super thick cotton canvas that can carry up to 500 pounds, take a beating, and look all the better for it.

The Real-Deal Handbag

Trust in Jacob Elordi, gender-construct destroyer and handbag evangelist. A great handbag takes a going-out outfit to 11, while also sparing your pockets from unsightly phone bulge.

Bottega Veneta

Andiamo Medium Leather Bag

The High-Flying Bomber Jacket

Like many staples of the menswear diet, the bomber jacket originated from the military, which means it’ll work in harsh conditions. And practicality aside, it’s just a masterpiece of design.

The Oft-Forgotten Hoodie

All the cool guys are wearing zip hoodies now. Don’t get it twisted, though—zip hoodies never went away.

Russell Athletic

Dri-Power Full-Zip Hoodie

The Red-Hot Retro Sneakers

Who knew that the humble and comfy walking sneaker would become fashion’s hot-ticket item? Despite the unrelenting push for futuristic kicks, the retro dad sneaker has stood its ground, going from under-appreciated to ubiquitous (see also: Birkenstock and Uggs). Who says you have to suffer for fashion?

The Solid Skincare Routine

By now you’ve heard it a thousand times—take care of your skin! Your routine doesn’t have to be complicated, but it should involve cleansing, UV protection, and moisturizing at the very least. In a sea of artfully packaged and aesthetically curated grooming brands, we keep coming back to the “it just works” products from pharmacy-shelf standouts like Cetaphil and CeraVe.

CeraVe

Daily Skincare Hydrating Bundle

Cetaphil

Sensitive Skincare Holiday Kit

The Retro Stonemaster Puffer

We love the iconic North Face puffer (you know the one). But don’t let its objectively perfect design distract you from the avalanche of other great puffer jackets on the market.

Taion

Reversible Fleece Down Jacket

The Statement Cardigan

A delightfully fuzzy cardigan will keep you looking sharp (and feeling cozy) sans the constraints of a blazer. Opt for a funky print or stick with the staple neutral tones, and watch it become the Most Valuable Layer in your closet.

Beams Plus

Floral-Jacquard Knitted Cardigan

The Graphic Tee

At it’s best, a graphic tee is a wearable painting and an expression of your personal taste. Our advice? Get one (or twenty) you connect with personally and skip the bog-standard fashion logos.

Union LA

Cosmos Long-Sleeve T-Shirt

The Right Foundations

Slim, abbreviated trunks or boxer briefs that keep everything in place are the blue collar workers of your wardrobe. Luckily, the folks at Calvin Klein have perfected them, so all you have to do is start buying these guys in bulk.

Calvin Klein

Cotton Stretch Boxer Brief (3-Pack)

The Mood-Shifting Sweats

Sweatpants should be cozy, but the best sweatpants can achieve the near-impossible and actually look incredibly stylish out in public.

Todd Snyder x Champion

Relaxed Interlock Jersey Hoodie

The Perfect White Crew Socks

Plenty of high-energy socks were born to peek out from under a pant cuff (or from the back of some Birkenstock Bostons), but a crisp white pair looks unimpeachable wherever they’re doing their noble work.

The Birkenstocks, Of Course

Speaking of Birkenstock Bostons, just get some already!

The No-Sleeves-Necessary Sweater

Welcome ’90s-era sweater vests back into your life with open, sleeveless arms. Toss one over a boxy tee on the weekend, or go full professor emeritus by pairing one with your finest sportcoat and chinos.

Stòffa

Ribbed Cashmere Sweater Vest

The Base Layer You’ll Want to Show Off

Sure, thermal shirts make for great base layers. But there’s something punk about layering one underneath a short-sleeve T-shirt that feels extremely cool right now.

Indera

Cotton Waffle Knit Heavyweight Thermal Underwear Top

The Steamy, Confidence-Boosting Shirt

Slinky and printed, loose and semi-sheer—no matter which way your style skews, you’re going to need a shirt that makes you look as good as you feel on a big night out.

Bode

Filet Filigree Embroidered Mesh Button-Up Shirt

Factor’s

Factor’s Lace Short-Sleeve Shirt

The Signature Scent

Scent is a visceral, highly intimate, and criminally overlooked men’s style essential. If you’re hunting for a signature scent, scout our guide to the best men’s fragrances. Or trust fall with us and buy Aesop’s floral-yet-spicy Gloam eau de parfum—or Tom Ford’s swaggering riff—and prepare for everyone in the elevator to ask what you’re wearing.

Tom Ford

Myrrhe Mystère Eau de Parfum

The Do-It-All Navy Suit

The navy suit is the Swiss Army Knife of tailoring: it works in almost any situation, from job interviews (with a tie) to weddings (someone else’s or your own).

Umit Benan+

Double-Breasted Wool Suit Jacket

The Fashion-Guy Trackpants

You couldn’t go wrong with a pair of trackies from the Three Stripes brand, but the genre has transcended gym wear and blossomed into a thousand sick fashion-driven iterations. If you’re nervous about letting your sweats make a public appearance, track pants are the secret to showing up and showing out.

Adidas x Wales Bonner

Logo-Embroidered Striped Track Pants

The Rootin’ Tootin Cowboy Boots

Cowboy boots are the big swing your footwear rotation needs in the new year. Two pieces of advice: First, they’re good with jeans, but great with almost anything else. Second, the taller the heel, the closer to god.

Celine Homme

Moon Embroidered Suede Boots

The Movie Star Shades

Contrary to popular belief, sunglasses are a year-round necessity, whether you’re basking in summertime rays or trying to block out the wintertime glare. Kenzo’s chunky, light-lensed shades will have everyone asking for your Bandcamp link.

Akila

Tortoiseshell Logos Sunglasses

The Crispy White Oxford Shirt

No button-down shirt works harder than a white Oxford. And a truly great one, like Sid Mashburn’s spread collar joint, only gets better with each wear as the sturdy cotton begins to soften.

Sid Mashburn

Spread Collar Dress Shirt

Gitman Vintage

Classic Slim Oxford Shirt

The Fuzzy Fleece Zip-Up

Second only to a hug from mom on the “cozy warmth” meter is zipping on a great fleece jacket.

Patagonia

Synchilla Recyled Fleece Anorak

The Wear-and-Repair Jeans

Raw selvedge jeans in a classic cut are something every man should buy—and promptly make his own. You’ll have them for years, so we’d recommend starting with something from the denim obsessives at NYC’s 3sixteen.

3sixteen

CS-100x Classic Straight Jeans

Levi’s

501 Original Shrink-to-Fit Jeans

The Belt That Gets Better With Age

Belts can often be an afterthought—and thus, a waisted (sorry) opportunity. The western belt (much like the cowboy boot) is riding high right now. Get in the saddle, and don’t get hung up on wearing it with blue jeans.

The Go-With-Everything Loafers

The right loafers can be casual, dressy, even messy. Their versatility can’t be understated. Wear ’em with socks or without, and count yourself lucky when they get truly worn in—then keep wearing them.

G.H. Bass & Co.

Weejuns Heritage Larson Loafers

Gucci

1953 Horsebit Leather Loafer

The Leather Blouson

Wearing a leather jacket is like eating a mushroom in Super Mario Bros: it makes you bigger, tougher, and practically unstoppable. Most leather jackets will give you the same effect, but the leather blouson, a cropped jacket with very few frills, is our silhouette du jour.

The Sweater That Makes Every Outfit Better

A classic crewneck sweater can easily add some bonus points to an already buttoned-up look (and impress the in-laws in the process). One can also help your groggy coffee-run outfit feel like a highly-considered outfit.

Everlane

Everlane Premium Merino Crewneck Sweater

J.Crew

Cashmere Cale-Knit Crewneck Sweater

The Slick Ticker

Not ready to take the plunge on a serious diver from Rolex or Omega? You’re in luck: Seiko’s much-heralded 5 series gives you everything you could want in a dive watch—an automatic movement, a day-date display, water resistance, and a near-indestructible case—at a price that won’t require a second mortgage. (Oh, and if you’ve got a few more dollars to play around with, Oris is no slouch, either.)

Oris

Divers Sixty-Five Stainless Steel Watch

The Swaggering Black Suit

You’re gonna need a black suit at some point, but don’t wait for an occasion to bust it out of its garment bag. With the right shirt and some groovy slacks, the jacket can be divorced from its other half for a raucous night out on the town. We dig the double-breasted shape and subtly stripes of this Our Legacy blazer (matching pants here), but we’ve got more options in our guide to black suits.

Saint Laurent

Peak-Lapel Wool Suit Jacket

Saint Laurent

High-Rise Straight-Leg Wool Trousers

Arket hopsack modern blazer

Arket hopsack wool trousers

The Hearthrob Button-Up

The humble button-up shirt is back in a big way (though we’ll be the first to tell you that it never really left). Reach for one with a touch of ’90s heartthrob energy and see what the fuss is about for yourself.

Uniqlo

Extra Fine Cotton Broadcloth Striped Long-Sleeve Shirt

The Big, Baggy Cargo Pants

Remember that brief but painful era a decade or so ago when we were actively pushing for slim cargo pants? It felt right in the moment. Cargo pants are back again but this time in their rightfully baggy state.

The All-Purpose Hoodie

Todd Snyder’s Champion sweats have the stamina to take you from a coffee run to casual Friday at the office (just put it under one of those chore coats we’re always telling you about). Lady White Co.’s, on the other hand, look so damn good you’ll want to make them the showstopper.

The A-List Celebrity Suede Jacket

The fast lane to looking like a celeb is a suede jacket. Now all you have to do is wait for the paparazzi to snap some pics.

Todd Snyder

Italian Suede Snap “Dylan” Jacket

The Chambray Shirt

Like a pair of blue jeans, a classic chambray shirt can work with just about every outfit. On those mornings where you can’t figure out what to wear, pull out a chambray shirt and you’ll be miles ahead of the rest of the sleepy guys on the block.

RRL

Indigo Chambray Workshirt

Orslow

Button-Down Collar Cotton-Chambray Shirt

The Cozy Corduroy Pants

Cozier than wool trousers but nicer than jeans, cords are your winter wardrobe secret weapon.

The Steezy Geezer Shoes

Dress for a future where you’re not just older and wiser, but also swaggier. If there’s one thing old folks have mastered, other than a 401k, it’s shoes. Chief among the list of AARP-approved, fashion-beloved kicks is Paraboot’s Michael and Kleman’s Padror.

The PR-Crushing Workout Shorts

Speaking of taking care of yourself, exercise is vital. A pair of stylish workout shorts that can really perform whether you’re on the treadmill, at the squat rack, or in tree pose are essential.

The Scruff Maintenance Kit

We dubbed the Philips Norelco 7000 series our favorite beard trimmer because it does the job and (looks knowingly down south) thanks to a slew of included trimming accessories. If you’re looking for precision, Bevel’s best-in-class shavers are still the ones to beat.

The Moodboard-Famous Denim Trucker

From McQueen to Gosling, menswear’s biggest muses have one thing in common: a well-fitting denim jacket. Don’t overthink it.

The Row

“Orson” Selvedge Denim Jacket

The Throwback Chinos

As far as chinos go right now, we’re running away from slim-fit. While we’re all for going wide and pleated, but these are a happy-ish medium if you’re still escaping the clutches of target-marketed chinos.

Studio Nicholson Sorte pleated cotton-twill wide-leg trousers

The Foundational Lace-Ups

Black derbies are the kind of shoe that can pull through when you need something for more formal occasions and also elevate a quick-and-dirty jeans and tee outfit. Dr. Martens is a great entry-level choice, and you’ll get a lot more mileage out of the Mono pair, which forgoes the brand’s signature yellow stitching on the sole for black thread.

The Can’t-Fail Tie

A silk knit tie is the Switzerland of neckwear. It doesn’t go with some of the collared shirts in your closet—it goes with all of them. When you need to spice up your neckwear, though, a fire-engine red medallion print is the way to go.

The Chunky Clog

Like adding fish sauce to a dish, tossing on a pair of far-out mules or thick-cut clogs will bring some sorely-needed funk to an otherwise bland ensemble.

The Around-The-Clock Trousers

When your dressy pants are this good—roomy and comfortable, statement-making but versatile—there’s no sense in saving them for special occasions. Wear them all the time, with anything, the way you would your jeans.

The Hardworking Pants

Skater teens, construction workers, and no-nonsense dads agree: Dickies makes a mean pair of pants. Even if you don’t fall into any of these groups, you need a pair, too, if only to give your jeans a break.

The Bad Hair Day Panacea

Wouldn’t you love to be one of those guys that doesn’t need any hair products to achieve a leading-man look? Us, too. But for now, we’re using a matte, medium-hold product with natural ingredients like either of these.

Double-Duty Swim Trunks

You don’t need to go swimming in swim trunks just to wear ’em. In fact, swim trunks should serve dual functions, since you probably won’t find yourself near a body of water all that often. Bather remains a GQ favorite—we’ve put the Canadian swimsuit brand in everything from the GQ Box to our first-annual GQ Recommends All-Star line-up of the best…everything.

The Swishy Adventure Shorts

Not saying your waterproof, do-anything-anywhere shorts have to be Patagonia’s hyper-popular Baggies. But it’s hard to understand why they wouldn’t be—unless, of course, you’re wearing Gramicci’s.

The Upper Body-Positive Tank

Take it from the admirals of the A-shirt, Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber—a clean white tank is the easiest way to look hot in hot weather. Pair it with a purposely unbuttoned shirt, and you’ve got your beach vacation outfit.

The Woven Sandals

Speaking of winter vacation: a breezy pair of woven leather sandals are the move. Go from cabana to playa with Chris-Pine-approved huaraches, or level up your summer shoe rotations with a pair of fancified fisherman sandals.

The Ritzy Sunscreen Upgrade

Practical, necessary, vital—sunscreen is all those things. Remember: health is wealth!

The Statement Jewelry

You wouldn’t press send on an important email without proofreading it first, right? An icy piece of jewelry is more efficient than Grammarly at letting you know your outfit is absolutely impeccable—and a heck of a lot more fun to play around with. (That fiery missive to your boss, on the other hand, might need a little rejiggering.)

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