Blue. Especially navy. It’s the backbone of many a guy’s wardrobe. So much so that sometimes it’s tough to avoid. But y’know? That’s not always a bad thing. Quite the opposite for some of us in fact, and leaning on dark blue can be a great strategy for the men’s style newbie. Let’s give one of the most popular colors in men’s style its due. Ten “essentials” (there will always be exceptions, these are more guidelines really) follow, with a few picks for each.
#10. Casual Woven/Macrame Belt
- J. Crew Made in the USA Braided Web Belt – $31.99 ($45) shown above
- Bonobos Casual Belt – $54.40 w/ ECLIPSE20 ($78)
- Lands’ End Elastic Woven Belt – $23.97 when 40% off ($39.95)
- Jomers Made in the USA Sagamore Belt – $20 sold out, but fantastic if you can get your hands on one.
- GAP Elastic Braided Belt – $17.97 when 40% off ($29.95)
These are especially useful during the warmer months, but also look great with a pair of jeans in fall & winter. Once the weather gets hot, use it with shorts, lightweight pants, and even to further dress down a light summer suit. There are plenty of more colorful/preppy casual belt options out there, but hardly any as versatile as a deep blue or navy woven belt with leather accents.
#9. Lightweight Mac and/or Warm Wool Peacoat or Topcoat
- Charles Tyrwhitt Peak Lapel Wool & Cashmere Topcoat – $499
- UNIQLO Navy Mac Jacket – $129.90
- UNIQLO Wool/Cashmere Topcoat – $149.90
- Suitsupply Navy Wool Blend Raincoat – $499
- J. Crew Dock Peacoat – $298 (navy should show up closer to winter)
- Billy Reid “Bond” Peacoat – $695 (but seriously, check your Army/Navy surplus store)
The standard khaki trench looks great on most, but a dark blue lightweight mac for spring/summer, and a classic deep blue peacoat for fall and winter are a little more subtle. Less Inspector Gadget. Prices, depending on the maker, can vary wildly for both of these styles. From the hyper inexpensive to the 401k wrecking level, yet each might be able to be sourced (especially peacoats) at your local army/navy surplus store for a heck of a lot cheaper than you’d think.
#8. Chinos and/or Wool Trousers
- Year’rounder Wool Dress Trousers in Tailored or Traditional Fit – $53.97 when 40% off ($89.95)
- Nordstrom Flat Front Wool Trousers – $49.75 ($99.50)
- Bonobos “Jet Blues” Stretch Washed Chinos – $78.40 w/ ECLIPSE20 ($98)
- Amazon Goodthreads Slim-Fit Washed Chino Pant – $30
- Banana Republic Slim Fit Core Temp Chino – $58.80 when 40% off ($98)
This would be an “or” situation for most. If you work in a more casual environment, then flat front cotton chinos are probably as formal as you’ll want to get in terms of stand alone pants. But if you’re in a white-collar workplace, navy wool trousers are gonna see plenty of time alongside mid-grey sportcoats, sweaters, and shirt & tie combinations.
#7. Socks. Especially wool socks.
- Nordstrom Wool Blend Above-the-Calf Dress Socks – $14.50
- Gold Toe Men’s Windsor Wool Dress Sock, 3-Pack – $21.00
The guideline is to match your socks to your pants. Or at least get close. Wearing blue socks with blue pants (even jeans) helps make you look taller, since showing matching sock elongates your legs, instead of having a bold contrast visually cutting you off at the ankle. (Shoes pictured are the Allen Edmonds Fairfax in the old Chili. They also seem to be available on Nordstrom Rack in Walnut.)
#6. Grenadine or Matte Silk Necktie
- TheTieBar 3” Grenafaux in Navy – $19.
- Kent Wang Made in Italy Grenadine Necktie – $75 shown above
- Brooks Brothers Made in the USA Italian Silk Tie – $79.50
For grey suits of all kinds, from light grey to charcoal, pinstriped to solid. A deep navy tie is a serious tie, but the bit of texture that grenadine offers can keep it from looking too slick. More on the advantages of navy ties (and ties of other colors too), can be found over here.
#5. Lightweight Wool Sweater
- UNIQLO Extra Fine Merino Wool – $39.90
- GAP 100% Merino Wool V Neck – $35.97 when 40% off ($59.95)
- Banana Republic Extra Fine Merino V-Neck – $47.70 when 40% off ($79.50 )
- Amazon Goodthreads 100% Cashmere V-Neck Sweater – $89
Looks equally as good with contrasting pants like traditional khaki-chinos, or with an all-blue outfit up against dark wash denim. Most brands release their wool sweaters in August as we start sneaking up on fall. Merino just might be the perfect material too. Not too bulky, not too itchy, warm but breathable, and nowhere near the cost of cashmere. But hey, if you wanna treat yourself, treat yourself.
#4. A Cotton Chino or Knit Sportcoat
- North & Mark Union Blazer – $219.98 ($245) shown above
- J. Crew Factory Unconstructed Chino Sportcoat – $89.99
- GAP Casual Classic Blazer in Stretch Chino – $53.97 when 40% off ($89.95)
- Suitsupply Havana in Cotton/Linen – $399
Fudging the definition of “Navy” here just a bit. While a deep dark navy is great, so is a medium blue. That’ll do too. And less is more here. You want less lining, and try to skip the functional sleeve buttons which can be a pain to tailor. An all cotton chino sportcoat is extremely versatile, and can really elevate even the most casual looks in a pinch. And it just doesn’t look anywhere as dressed up as a navy blazer looks. Which is good considering the world seems to be getting more and more casual.
#3. Dark Wash Denim
- Banana Republic Rapid Movement Denim in Slim or Straight – $70.80 when 40% off ($118)
- Levis 505/501/514/511 – $39 – $59 (especially in Tumbled Rigid or Rinse)
- Banana Republic Traveler Jeans – $71.40 when 40% off ($119) review here
- GAP Slim Fit Jeans with GapFlex – $41.97 when 40% off ($69.95)
- Amazon Goodthreads Selvage Denim in Slim or Straight – $50
Some of us could live in dark wash denim. Some of us DO live in dark wash denim. And it doesn’t have to be some bespoke $200 pair of selvedge, raw, hand rubbed by free-range Civets immediately after passing their butt-java… jeans. A pair of $40 Levis does just fine. More than fine. With everything from a plain t-shirt to an OCBD and a rumpled blazer.
#2. A versatile Wool Blazer
- Land’s End Tailored Fit Italian Wool Blazer – $179.40 when 40% off ($299) full review here
- J. Crew Legacy Blazer in Ludlow or Crosby Fit – $350
- Bonobos Unconstructed Italian Wool Blazer – $320 w/ ECLIPSE20 ($400)
- Brooks Brothers Regent Fit BrooksCool Stretch Wool Blazer – $498
A little less structure than a suit jacket, but still easy to dress up with chinos or trousers. Often looks dynamite with jeans. Some guys prefer the traditional, brass-button look, but others want darker buttons on their blazers. More on the differences between blazers, sportcoats, and suit jackets can be found here.
#1. A well fitting Navy Suit
- Spier & Mackay Super 120s Navy Suit in Slim or Contemporary Fit – $328 (shown above)
- SuitSupply Napoli Fit – $399
- J. Crew Ludlow or Crosby Fit in Italian Wool – $350 – $650 (depending on sales & codes)
- Black Lapel Midnight Blue Custom Suit – $499 (also shown at top of post)
- Nordstrom Tech-Smart Trim Fit Solid Stretch Wool Travel Suit – $249.49 ($499)
Charcoal might be more versatile (it can be worn in more serious and somber situations, such as a funeral), but most guys just look better in a navy blue suit. Plus, as long as the buttons are a dark brown, you can wear just about any color shoe with it. From black to walnut, and everything in between. For a guy’s first navy suit, he should look for a suit with a solid fabric, notch lapel jacket, and flap pockets with a welt at the chest. And it should skim, but not strangle your frame.
Also receiving votes for this list: Suede Bucks, A dark chambray shirt, a classic umbrella, a wool scarf, a corduroy or velvet blazer for the holiday season, and/or a navy tuxedo.
This post originally ran in 2015, but has since been updated with current product suggestions.