Men’s Style – The Basic Work Wardrobe


No matter if you’re just starting your career, or you’re a bit further along in it, your wardrobe can be at least half of the impression you make in the workplace (along with your stellar drive and effort). But, contrary to popular belief, you do not have to spend a fortune to look like a million bucks. In reality, with only 13 key pieces, you can create at least 3 weeks of different and stylish outfits for the office.

Here’s the ground rules: Since these pieces will form the foundation of your work wardrobe, keep the colors neutral, fits trim (not skinny), have the pieces tailored if needed, and patterns (if any) small. Think of it as if you were building a house. You wouldn’t put the windows, ornate trim, shutters, and shingles in the foundation, would you? Nope. The foundation needs to be clean and strong, that way it can later support all the bells and whistles.

1 suit – This is one area where you would be justified in spending a bit more money. Suits are the workhorses of your wardrobe. A good one will last you years, and will be versatile enough to mix with practically anything. Although black is considered a neutral, it is too severe for day-to-day office wear, so opt for a suit in other neutrals such as dark grey or navy blue, like this, this, and this.

2 pairs of chinos – Flat-front chinos can blend easily with a dress shirt, dress shoes, and a tie, so long as the fit is trim and the length is good (the “break” should be slight, if any, and you can wear them cuffed or not, depending on your liking).  Again, go with solid, neutral colors like tan, khaki, or dark grey. Handsome options include chinos like these, these, these, and these.

3 dress shirts – Dress shirts should be regular or trim fit, never skinny or classic fit (classic fit often comes with too much excess material in the arms and torso, and skinny just looks plain awkward and uncomfortable unless you’re a runway model). You will always need a crisp white shirt, but you can also add shades of blue and hints of small pattern (like stripes or checks).

2 ties, 2 belts – Belts are easy. Make sure they are not too wide, and as for colors, start with black and brown, like this, this, and this (or be sneaky and find a good quality reversible one, like this). Ties should be regular width (not thick, not skinny), and while you can incorporate some color here, keep it within reason (these ties will act as a base, remember), and keep any pattern small and repetitive. Great choices include ties like this, this, and this.

1 thin sweater – No pattern here, please. Solid colors only. Stick to your tried and true neutrals like greys, tans, blues…thin yet durable materials (like fine Murano wool)…and either crew or v-neck (not too deep a v, though), like this, this, this, and this.

2 pairs of shoes – Here is the other area, aside from suits, where you might want to spend more of the budget, as a good pair of work shoes will need to be stylish, comfortable, and durable. One brown and one black pair will do, and classic styles…loafers, like these and these…or oxfords, like these and these…will never let you down.

All that with only 13 pieces! Just imagine, with 20-25 pieces (adding a few more shirts, pants, and one more suit)…well, the outfit combinations are definitely work apropos and practically endless!


Image by Gerald Rich is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (source: flickr)