“What suit should I buy?” “Which shoes are the most versatile?” “Do you have a favorite button down?” This Essentials Shop is an attempt to provide some answers to those FAQs. No, we’re not suggesting you buy everything below. The goal here is to give you a few options for each category. Also know that prices on the below items can fluctuate quite a bit depending on sales, codes, and promos. Follow us on the main page for steals, deals, and opportunities to pick up these wheelhouse items, and more, for less (sometimes a lot less). We’ll do our best to keep this shop updated, but know that in today’s retail world, product can come and go pretty fast. Got a question or a tip about any of these items? Send those to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on an item to skip down to our choices:
- Navy Blazer
- Brown Dress Shoes
- Black Dress Shoes
- Dress Watches
- Dive Watches
- Casual Watches
- Dress Shirts
- Casual Shirts
- Dress Pant
A good suit can elevate any wardrobe, but doesn’t have to break the bank in the process. Start with navy and charcoal options. Half canvas construction if you can afford it, or a flexible fused suit if you need to go cheap.
- Spier & Mackay’s Slim or Contemporary Base Line Suits – $358+: Nice fabrics, two fits, and half canvas. As good as it gets in terms of bang-for-the-buck. Look for the $358-$368 priced suits in wheelhouse colors. Stock comes and goes with Spier. Which is understandable, considering how much “suit” you get for the price.
- Banana Republic Signature Italian Wool Suits – $360 when 40% off: For those with frames that require suit separates (you pick a sized jacket, and then a separate sized pant) instead of “nested” suit pairs. Italian wool from the Reda mill. Nailhead or hopsack fabrics. Just gotta wait for the increasingly rare 40% off deal.
- Suitsupply’s “Wardrobe Starters” Line – $449 – $499: Great fabrics, ships and returns for free, half canvas.
The Navy Blazer
A navy blazer is timeless and incredibly versatile. Look for updated but not trendy versions, which are sleek, slimmed down but not tight, and made of breathable wool.
- Spier & Mackay Vitale Barberis Canonico Wool Blazer – $348: Excellent all around. Does drift in and out of stock.
- Bonobos Unconstructed Italian Wool Blazer – $400: Minimal construction. Airy. Versatile.
- Suitsupply Havana Fit Blazer – $449: Patch pockets keep it from looking like a suit jacket. Italian crease-resistant traveller wool is a nice plus.
There are many reasons to wear a sportcoat. And they’re a great way to branch out from your navy blazer.
- Bonobos Italian Wool Sportcoat in Grey – $400: Just about as versatile as your navy blazer. Looks great with jeans.
- Charles Tyrwhitt Cotton Stretch Jacket – $229: Not all navy jackets are blazers. Stretch cotton blend here. Super versatile. Can and will go on sale.
- Spier & Mackay Green Linen/Wool Hopsack Sportcoat – $398: A quarter lined, airy, warm-weather sportcoat with a bit of color. Yet it deftly avoids the crazy/wacky/loud territory.
The Brown Dress Shoes
More versatile than black dress shoes, and often more eye catching. These are a true workhorse for many a man’s wardrobe. Stick with medium to dark brown shades for maximum versatility.
- Allen Edmonds Strand in Mahogany – $395: The light “walnut” shade might be sexier, but a darker brown can be worn with gray trousers. Perfect shade of dark brown with some reddish hues. Review here.
- Grant Stone Cap Toe Oxfords – $322: Goodyear welted. Terrific quality.
- Nordstrom Dane Cap Toe Oxford – $99.95: Cheap. Ships and returns for free. Simple, warm brown cap toe.
The Black Dress Shoes
For the serious stuff. Big job interviews at conservative places of work, funerals, weddings, etc. Can be worn with navy suits/trousers despite many saying they can’t.
- Allen Edmonds Carlyle Oxford – $395: More modern than their Park Avenue, but still sober and sharp.
- Charles Tyrwhitt Oxfords – $249: Good, maybe not great quality. Goes on sale with codes occasionally.
- Nordstrom Dane Cap Toe Oxford – $99.95: Cheap. Ships and returns for free.
Many sneaker trends come and go, but simple, leather or canvas, classic court inspired kicks have always been in style.
- adidas Stan Smith – $95: Recently updated with more eco-friendly materials. Just enough color.
- Nike Air Max Pre-Day – $130: Retro classic “Dad” sneakers meet future hyper squish Air Max tech.
- Rancourt Bennett Court – $295: Spendy but awesome. Made in the USA. Full review here.
Not everyone needs (or wants) a heavy pair of boots. But chukkas? Chukkas are good just about anywhere, just about any time.
- Jack Erwin Reade Chukkas – $188: Made in Portugal, subtle traction thanks to the “city” rubber sole, and goes with everything.
- Clarks Bushacre 3 in Beeswax – $90: A casual staple that just got a really, really good update. Textured sole is tough to dress up, and they’re not super sleek, but you’ll still wear them a ton. Review here.
- Sanders Hi-Top Chukkas – $270ish: A bit hard to find stateside, but 100% worth it, even if you have to order direct from the UK.
The Dress Watches
Clean, subtle, but interesting. That’s what you’re looking for in a dress watch. Try and keep it simple and timeless (while it’s still easy to tell the time).
- Orient Bambino V2 – $150ish: An instant classic. Vintage looks, automatic movement, terrific price.
- Dan Henry 1937 Dress Chrono – $270: A chrono but still plenty dressy. Old school glamor. Seiko Mecaquartz movement.
- Seiko SRPB43 “Cocktail Time” Automatic – $319: Sharp. Clean. A favorite of enthusiasts.
The Dive Watches
Sturdy but still smart enough to dress up with a suit if you choose, dive watches are the choice for many one-watch-guys because they look great with just about anything.
- Invicta Pro Diver Auto – $110: A basic, introductory, automatic diver. Bit of a gateway drug.
- Seiko 5KX Dive Style Automatic – $225ish: Seiko’s sporty, automatic, new foundation line of divers.
- Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro – $1095: Swiss made, great specs, and while not cheap, a fraction of what a luxury (Omega, Rolex) brand diver would run you.
The Casual Watches
Casual but not cheesy, these are the watches that look good with jeans and a t-shirt, or a sportcoat and chinos. Note that any of the dive watches already listed could fit in here too.
- Timex Weekender Chrono 40mm – $65ish: Basic, but not TOO basic.
- Seiko 5 Sports Automatic Black Dial Watch – $220 – $275: A new model, and a new favorite from Seiko.
- Hamilton Khaki Automatic Field Watch – $575: An investment, but the perfect watch for the casual to smart-casual dresser.
Dress Shirts (white, light blue, striped or check)
Most men can get away with a few white and light blue solid dress shirts. For those wanting to branch out, avoid jumping too far ahead in the order of what to buy when. You risk getting stuck with loud checks or stripes when you truly do need solids. Stick with mid-spread collars for their versatility.
- Nordstrom Extra Trim Fit Non-Iron Solid Stretch Dress Shirt – $49.50: Good quality from a dependable source. Ships & returns for free.
- Charles Tyrwhitt Slim Fit Non-Iron Poplin – $50 – $80: A brand that many men lean on for their dress shirts… when on sale/during multi-buy promos.
- Ledbury Astor Poplin Dress Shirt – $98: Fingers crossed that their top of the line MID spread fine twills come back soon. Until then, these are a fine substitute.
Button Down Casual Shirts
“Button Down” usually indicates the style of the collar. “Button up” usually implies a more casual shirt. These would be button down button ups.
- UNIQLO Oxford Cloth Button Down – $29.90: Oxford cloth that’s more substantial than poplin, but not weighty like flannel.
- Amazon Goodthreads Slim-fit Long-Sleeve Solid Oxford Cloth Button Down – $25: Ships fast and free with Prime.
- J. Crew Slim Stretch Secret Wash Shirt – $40 – $50ish when on sale: Navy gingham is classic for a reason. On sale often.
There are a ton of different styles of sweaters. But remember the name of this shop: “Essentials.” That’s why we’re sticking with classics here.
- Amazon Goodthreads 100% Merino Wool V-Neck Sweaters – $40ish Lightweight but strong. You’ll probably want a few of these in basic colors like navy, gray, black, and camel. Review here.
- J. Crew Cotton garter-stitch crewneck sweater in stripe – $64.50: A breton or micro-striped sweater is a classic look that looks great on just about everyone. And it’s different but not loud.
- Goodthreads Merino Wool Cardigan – $40: Yes, a cardigan. They look great over a button up, under a sportcoat, or over a polo or t-shirt. That and you don’t have to pull them over your head, mussing up your hair, if you want to take it off in a hot room.
Polos are such an important part of a guy’s wardrobe that we devote a big round-up post to them every single year.
- Old Navy Go-Dry Polo – $15ish: Cheap. Very cheap. Yet feels terrific thanks to the go-dry tech fabric.
- Banana Republic Luxe Touch Slim or Reg. Fit Polo – $54.50: Always a contender for best in show for our annual polo-palooza round up. Be aware that some experience shrinkage with these in the wash. Maybe try one first, before committing to multiple?
- Rhone Delta Pique Hidden Button Down Collar Polo – $88. Spendy, but pretty much perfect if you like tech-wear that looks as good as it performs. Breathable, wicking fabric, and the hidden under the collar button down feature is a game changer for those of us who love our collars looking good all day.
Even as we as a society move more towards athleisure, a pair of dark wash denim will always be a key foundation to any guy’s wardrobe. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options…
- B.R. Luxe Traveler Jean in Slim or Athletic Fit – $130: Spendy, but super comfortable. For those who don’t mind performance & stretch with their denim.
- Amazon Goodthreads Slim Fit Jean – $45. 98% cotton, 2% elastane. From the Amazon’s own brand Goodthreads
- Target Goodfellow Slim Fit Jeans – $29.99: Inexpensive, and they can sometimes be had for less when on sale.
Because there’s more to your pants-life than just jeans. Look for a trim but not tight fit, and feel free to avoid the standard pale-khaki color of Dockers circa 1996.
- GAP Khakis – $45ish: A legend for good reason. Available in slim, straight, athletic, etc.
- J. Crew Stretch Chinos in Slim or Straight – $79.50: The pants they built a smart casual empire on. Can go on sale too.
- Lululemon Warpstreme Commission Pants – $128: Spendy as all get-out, but they’re the best tech-pant (that doesn’t feel or look our sounds like a tech pant) on the market.
The Dress Pants
Because sometimes a suit can be overkill. Look for slim but not tight trousers made from good quality, four season wool. Favor grays and blues since they’re the most versatile.
- J. Crew Bowery Slim-fit pant in stretch four-season wool blend – $128: Sold in both waist AND inseam length. So no tailoring required. Can sometimes go on sale.
- Bonobos Italian Stretch Wool Dress Pants – $199: Pricey. But that’s Bonobos for you. Also sold in precise inseam lengths, so you’ll save money by not having to have them hemmed.
- Spier & Mackay Cotton/Linen Side-tab Dress Trousers – $148: Summery dress trousers, no belt required. Contemporary rat-pack style.
Belts are a bit like refs in sports. If you notice them, that’s maybe not the best thing.
- Nordstrom Reversible Leather Belt – $49.50: A simple, reversible belt, with a brown shade that isn’t too light.
- Banana Republic Italian Leather Belt – $59.50. The rare belt that looks great with jeans, chinos, and can even pull duty with suits.
- Marino Ratchet Belt in Amber – $18.99: Don’t knock ratchet belts until you’ve tried one. Just make sure it looks like a regular belt at a glance. And avoid the cheesy looking buckles.
Unless you’re in a suit five days a week, you don’t need nearly as many neckties as you might think. But you do need a few. Here’s what you need.
- Kent Wang Navy Grenadine Tie – $75: Expensive, but you’ll have it (and use it) for the rest of your life. Made in Italy. Here’s a cheap alternative if you can’t swing the $75.
- TheTieBar Black Grenlaux – $22: It might not see a lot of use, but when you need a black necktie, you need a black necktie.
- J. Crew English silk tie in diagonal stripe – $59.50: Because sometimes a stripe is called for. Made in the USA. Often on sale.
The goal is to find the direct midpoint between a true, schlumpy messenger, and a hard sided attaché. Meaning: softish sides, quality materials, a detachable shoulder strap, and a top grab handle for shorter trips.
- Boconi Slim Zipster Laptop Briefcase – $120 ($298): You could do a lot worse for a hundred and twenty bucks.
- Shinola Brakeman Briefcase – $299.97 ($495): Contemporary but not stuffy.
- WP Standard “The Woodward” Briefcase – $348. Classy. Great leather. Lifetime guarantee.