The Essentials You Need to Build a Versatile Wardrobe

Less is more. The key to building a solid wardrobe without breaking the bank is interchangeability. Owning a select few quality items that work well together takes out the the guesswork of getting dressed everyday.  A versatile wardrobe will have you looking presentable for pretty much any social occasion. This article will give you a concise list of what you need to own and wear. Provided, is an easy-to-use breakdown of what you should buy.

 Here’s how it will work:

Neutrals, in the colours of navy, white, grey, black, khaki, and brown, will make up the bulk of your colour palette; stick to solids for these ones. “Choice” will mean that you can  pick any colour and  pattern you like.

Naturally, your clothing needs may be different depending on your lifestyle, body type, age, location, and preferences. So long as you get the gist of it, I did my job. Feel free to modify.

Let’s get down to the basics. For starters, you will need:

  • 5 Short-Sleeve Shirts

White, grey, black, navy, and a colour/pattern of your choice.

 These can be a combination of  polos, t-shirts,or short sleeve button ups.

White v-neckgrey v-neckBlack v-neckchoice short sleeve shirt    navy polo

  • 3 Casual Shirts

White, light blue, choice. 

By “shirt” I mean anything with long sleeves and a button-down collar.

They can be button-down oxfords, band collars, or pop-overs.

White oxford shirtlight blue band collarplaid shirt

  • 3 Dress Shirts

White, light blue, choice.

No pocket, preferably.

White dress shirtLight blue dress shirtLavender dress shirt

  • 2 Sweaters

Navy and grey.

V-necks or cardigans.

navy v-neck sweatergrey cardigan

  • 2 Light-Weight Jackets

Black, blue denim, khaki, or any other colour.

They can be a leather biker jacket, a washed denim jacket, a fatigue jacket, or even a trench coat if you have the cash.

black leather jacketdenim jacketgreen fatigue filed jacketkhaki trench coat

  • 1 Blazer/Sportcoat/Sportjacket

Navy, without doubt.

It should be your first non-suit style jacket.

navy blazer

  • 2 Winter Coats

Grey, navy, black, camel.

Down parcas, peacoats, topcoats and dufflecoats are all fair game.

Parkanavy peacoatblack top coatcamel duffle coat

  • 1 Suit

Charcoal or navy. Solid.

Avoid pleats (that vertical crease in pants’ legs).

charcoal suitnavy suit

Note: For the average Joe/student, one suit should be enough. A navy blazer/sportcoat and grey/khaki trousers combo, with a shirt , shoes, and a tie may be enough to cover most of our “dressed up” needs. The suit is for those special occasions in which  you seriously have to look presentable. Job interviews, fancy dinners, funerals, weddings, graduations, and other ceremonies in general.

We’re through the top part of your wardrobe. Now, we’ll take care of the bottom half.

Step into:

  • 1 Pair of Jeans

Raw indigo.

These are supposed to be your “dressy” jeans, so no discoloration or rips (a.k.a. distress) allowed.

  raw jeans

  • 2 Odd Trousers or Chinos  

Grey, and khaki.

grey trouserskhaki chino

Note: We’ll skip corduroys, since they are not essential. If your legs are cold, wear long-johns under your pants.

  • 3 Shorts

Navy, grey, choice.

Avoid cargo and board shorts. Wear chino style or jorts (jeans shorts),it’s up to you.

navy shortsgrey jeans shortsfloral shorts

  • 3 Pairs of Casual Shoes

Black, brown, choice.

Recommended styles are fashion sneakers, boat shoes, canvas, brogues (they’re semi-formal), casual loafers/driving mocs.

Black casual shoesBrown boat shoeswhite shoesBrown broguesdriving mocs

  • 1  Pair of Formal Shoes

Black or brown. Closed-laced cap-toes.

Balmorals are about as dressy as you’ll need to go.

Black balmoralsbrown captoes

  • 2 Pairs of Boots

Black, brown, or choice.

Chelsea boots, work boots or desert boots are good options.

black bootsbrown bootschukkas desert boot

With the fundamentals down, we can move on to accessories.

  • 3 Ties

Black,navy, grey.

Either in a smooth silk, textured knit, or wool.

Black silk tieNavy knit tiegrey wool tie

Related: The Neck Tie: The Long and Short of It

  • 1 Tie-Bar


 Stainless-steel or sterling silver, clip or slide, it’s your call.

tie bar clamp tie bar slide

  • 1 Pocket Square


Cotton, silk or linen.

White pocket squarewhite pocket square 2

Tip: always put a pocket square in your jacket.

Related: The Pocket Square: More Than A Handkerchief

  • 3 Watches

Black, brown, silver.

Leather, stainless steel.

changeable brown black watchstainless steel watch

Tip: look for a watch with interchangeable bands.

  • 1 Belt

Black, and brown.

Leather, suede, or cotton.

Avoid eye-catching buckles. The material, colour, and finish should be same as the dress shoes. Bonus points if you find an reversible belt.

    Reversible belt

Related:Belt Basics: A Guide On How to Wear Belts

  • 2 Sunglasses

Black, and tortoise shell (brown).

Aviators, clubmasters, and wayfarers, are styles suitable for most face shapes.

black aviatorsclubmaster sunglassestortoise shell sunglasses

Tip: if you have an exceptionally round face choose square glasses, and if you have a Johnny Bravo-like square face like  go for round glasses.

  • 2 Scarves

Grey, choice.

Wool or acrylic. Get one of them in a thick knit for those colder days.

Grey scarfbeige scarf

  • 1 Toque (That’s what we call it in Canada)


Wool or acrylic.

grey toque

Tip:Look for one with a “thinsulate” tag inside, and make sure it covers your earlobes when you fold the end.

  • 1 Pair of Gloves

Grey (surprise!).

Wool, leather, or polyurethane/faux-leather; you want the gloves to be water and wind resistant, and with a warm lining.

grey gloves

Tell me: What clothing item can’t you live without?

Thank you for reading Principles of Style. I hope you enjoy this post and found the blog useful. If you have any questions, feedback, or want to share some of your style and scent tips, tricks, and insights, please leave your input in the comments section below, or send me a PM.

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