What makes something 'essential' in fashion? When, without it, your outfit is duller, and a lot harder to put together in the morning—basically you need it, sans questions. And that's what contemporary style is all about: a mix of on-trend, statement picks and classic, easy pieces—those pioneered by fashion's forefathers, for a look that's refined yet effortless.
Feeling a little fashion muddled? Lay a strong foundation with these ten men's style essentials:
1. The white trainers
Drop everything if you don’t yet own a pair of white sneakers. Actor and icon Paul Newman made the low-cut tennis court shoe super cool in the fifties and now modern brands have refined the retro. Common Projects' original Achilles model offers superior construction and a high-to-low minimalist design.
Basically, this sneaker is perfect for any occasion: a summertime shorts-and-t-shirt combo, or something smarter involving chinos and a collared shirt. You can also try pairing a low-cut white sneaker with relaxed suiting for a tailored look that’s effortlessly stylish.
Available at mrporter.com
2. The navy blazer
The blazer is one of the hardest style classics for men to buy, but worth the fight when you get it right. Decide on a dark neutral colour—think navy, grey or black—and then focus on the fit. You want the jacket to cut squarely on the shoulder and follow the natural drape of the torso right down to the waist.
Always go natural for fabric. Ideally, a blend wool and cotton will give a nice balance for shape, weight and overall feel. Alexander McQueen does a dashing double-breasted suit jacket with striking peak lapels. In inky woven wool, the slim fit jacket packs a smart casual punch with chinos or paired with its matching trouser.
Available at matchesfashion.com
3. The staple denim
The staple blue jean literally goes with everything, but be sure to get the fit and wash just right for maximum versatility. Ami has reimagined the classic American five-pocket jean in their signature contemporary Parisian aesthetic, crafted from premium cotton in a straight leg cut, and then washed for a mid-blue colour.
Pair it with a plain white tee in summer and add a knit or topcoat for when the temperature drops.</p>
4. The crew neck t-shirt
A man’s best (casual) friend is the basic t-shirt. Plain and print free, the style and brand options are endless, so focus on the cotton quality (pure cotton is best) and then look to the fit and finish of the t-shirt. American brand J.Crew offers garment-dyed shirts in a cool vintage wash white, grey, black or blue with a classic chest pocket and rib-trim round neck.
Try tucking in the slim-fit tee for a neat finish with pants or simply slip it on with blue jeans and white sneakers and you're California dreamin’ all season long.
5. The trench coat
The trench coat is something your grandfather would have worn regularly in the corporate world, and it remains a style essential today. When it comes to trenches, look no further than Burberry. After all, it's only fitting to invest in the original.
The Burberry Kensington jacket is made in England from weatherproof cotton gabardine in a timeless camel and classic tartan lining. Extremely versatile, you can wear the trench belted over tailoring or for a more casual, fluid look, go open and relaxed over jeans and a t-shirt.
Available at burberry.com
6. The white shirt
Whether you're the corporate honcho or more the creative agency type, the white button-down shirt is a weekday workplace essential to own. British designer Paul Smith knows tailoring: focusing on fit, fabric and fashionable accents.
The luxury brand's tailored-fit shirt is made from pure-cotton, a straight-point collar, and dark shell buttons. This number even has a contrast cuff—a blue floral print at the wrist; so come weekend-clock, just roll back your sleeves and you’re ready for post-work drinks.
7. The shawl collar cardigan
A cardigan is never amiss in the modern men’s style arsenal. Especially for those in-between seasons when the weather doesn’t know what it’s doing. A key style is the shawl cardigan, identified by a shawl collar and front button fastening, almost like a knit-blazer hybrid.
Tom Ford Steve McQueen cardigan is fashion win this season (and for the seasons to come). Channelling the style icon, the light grey knit will freshen up a winter palette and comes made in a ribbed wool and leather browns, for a textured cosiness.
Available at mrporter.com
8. The dress shoe
Leather dress shoes are a formal essential, but they need not be boring. Gucci's smooth black leather brogues are traditional in shape and construction but with fantasy perforations—think swirly lines and the Italian label's signature bee motif for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it design twist.
Wear black shoes with all types of tailoring; a two-piece suit or blazer-chino combo, and even jeans. Have fun with sock colour or prints too, injecting personal style into your office look.
Available at matchesfashion.com
9. The cashmere sweater
The sweater is the perfect multi-purpose style piece. On its own, the knit offers winter-combating comfort, and layered under a jacket or coat, it's instant thermal support for when winter really blows. Fabric is important, and will determine how dressy the sweater is: cotton is more relaxed; wool is formal, while cashmere is the king of luxury.
American label The Elder Statesman offers a soft cashmere sweater in regular fit with all the staple sweater cues: crew neck, long sleeves, ribbed trims, and is knitted with a bold grey stripe across the front and rear. Pair yours with a favourite track pant for a louche lounge look or with trousers or jeans, depending on the occasion.
Available at brownsfashion.com
10. The casual jacket
From bomber to biker, baseball to trucker, the casual jacket comes in many styles (why just pick one?). The fit is important: roomy enough to layer a light sweater underneath, but snug on the shoulder and cut close to the hip. Invest in a jacket that can flow between refined and relaxed, like this Tom Ford trucker jacket.
Made in Italy from soft, buttery suede, the camel-brown jacket comes fully quilted inside and has pockets in all the right places. But the collar is the cool insignia here: a plush cream shearling that softens the ruggedness. Pair with denim jeans and boots.
Available at MR.PORTER