Designer suits are lovely, the newest Italian leather shoes add polish to a look, and a Bvlgari timepiece always adds a little pizazz to whatever you’re wearing, but basics are a man’s best friend.

Though we may all be tempted to go for the flashy or big-ticket items occasionally, and there's nothing wrong with that, a wardrobe without a good range of basics will have no foundation to start building great outfits.

Basics can be as dressed up or simplified as you like, and there are basics to suit every wardrobe. If you’re looking for designer mens t shirts to wear under casual jackets or blazers, for example, go wild!

Just ensure that the cuts and colours are such that they can go under all or at least most of the jackets you have. If you’re looking for cashmere socks to keep your feet toasty in the winter, ensure they’ll look good with as many of your suits and jeans as possible, reducing the cost per wear.

Whether you’ve already got all your basic bases covered or you need to get shopping for those essential, wearable pieces, we’ve got some tips for you on the best ways to maximize their wearability and mix-and-match ability.

What are wardrobe basics?

Wardrobe basics are the building blocks that help us create outfits. They rotate between different looks and fill in the gaps: plain t-shirts; plain button-down shirts; sweats; plain polo/turtlenecks if you like that style; simple jeans in a variety of colours.

These are the items that we throw on under a statement jacket, pair with a suit to go on a date and wear with our favourite collector’s edition sneakers. They’re the backdrop that our “fancier’ pieces shine against, and they fill in the gaps so that our wardrobe can be reasonably priced bus still look as well styled as possible at all times.

We advise you to purchase basics that are “neutral” in colour compared to your wardrobe. Blacks and whites are a good choice as they match almost everything. The whole point of a basic item is that you can wear it with several different looks. The basic is usually not the show's star, so it should be clean and straightforward.

How can I use my basics?

We've got you if you’re new to the basics. Whether you shop budget or designer, basics are simple to style and should be able to go with at least 90% of your wardrobe.

Plain tees

Never underestimate the appeal of a simple plain tee, particularly a black or white one. If your wardrobe leans toward brighter colors, you can add those in. What makes a basic tee is that its plan is non-printed and simple. Styling these tees is straightforward in the extreme. They work well under a statement bomber or a casual blazer for a date; update to long sleeves if the weather is cooler. If your office is casual, switch up what would usually be a button-down shirt for a crisp, creaseless, clean tee, and keep it comfy.

Button-down shirts

There is debate as to whether or not these are basic. Where you land on this depends on your job, the events you go to, and your lifestyle. If these things usually lean towards the more formal or corporate side, a button-down shirt will replace a plain tee as a basic. If you like flair over simplicity, an excellent way to implement that is to opt for a printed button-down with a plain suit, making the shirt the statement piece.

Polo/turtle neck

What you call this shirt depends on where you live or where you’re from; in the States, it's a Turtle Neck, and in the UK, it's a Polo Neck. This is not a shirt style for everyone, but it can be a practical basic slightly different from the usual crew-neck sweater or tee. The same applies here as it does to the basic tee and button-down shirt: keep it simple. A polo neck with a great coat or a suit blazer (the suit may need a little bit of a jazzy cut to work with this unusual basic) is a great look with a little retro angle.


Sweats are no longer just for wearing to the gym or lounging at home. Keeping your sweats in good condition and choosing a good cut, they can form a functional part of a more extensive wardrobe. A pair of slim-cut sweatpants can be styled with clean sneakers and a tee for a casual work environment or an outdoor date. You can wear a classic crew-neck sweater or a hoodie under a denim jacket for a winter night out.

Simple Jeans

Nothing beats a classic cut, simple shade in a pair of jeans. We recommend going with indigo, baby blue, or black. Generally, a good cut is either straight leg or slim leg; these cuts have remained in style for years despite trends coming and going, so they will serve you well.

Pair your turtleneck with jeans and boots like Docs for a fun, retro-inspired look. Depending on your environment, a non-patched or frayed pair could be accepted as office wear. There are few places where jeans aren't accepted these days.

Understanding how to work your basics gives you many wardrobe options. If you have a few on hand at all times, you’ll never be short of a well-rounded outfit.