“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: email@example.com.
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 Fit Base Line Suits – $378+: Nice fabrics, two fits, and half canvas. As good as it gets in terms of bang-for-the-buck. Look for the $378 priced suits in wheelhouse colors. Stock comes and goes with Spier. Which is understandable, considering how much “suit” you get for the price. People love these things, so they can sell out.
- Suitsupply’s “Perennial Suits” Line – $499: Great fabrics, ships and returns for free, half canvas.
- Oliver Wicks online custom – $699+: For the hard to fit. One of those “you measure yourself, then they make it” companies. Nice fabrics. Made in Europe.
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 Italian Wool Blazer – $428: Excellent all around. Can 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 traveler 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.
- TheTieBar Wool Blend “Miracle” jacket – $195: Soft shoulders, breathable half-lining in the back. Review here.
- Suitsupply Italian Wool Navy Checked Jacket – $449: Check please. Patterned, but keeping it dark and lower-ish contrast increases its versatility.
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.
- Spier and Mackay Dark Brown Cap Toes – $178: Blake stitched soles. Really nice leather. Fantastic for the price.
- 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.
- Spier & Mackay Balmoral Cap Toes – $178: Full grain leather. Blake stitched. Specifically designed for those just getting into high quality shoes. A significant step up from mall-brands, but still reasonably affordable.
- 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.
- Nike Air Max Pre-Day – $135: Retro classic “Dad” sneakers meet future hyper squish Air Max tech. Lots of colors to choose from.
- adidas Stan Smith Luxe – $145: The (recently re-released) upgraded version. Buttery soft leather uppers. Lined in leather as well.
- Rancourt Bennett Court – $295: Spendy but awesome. Made in the USA. Full review here of a suede option.
Not everyone needs (or wants) a heavy pair of boots. But chukkas? Chukkas are good just about anywhere, just about any time.
- 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.
- Thursday Scout – $149: Goodyear welted, weirdly good price, non slip rubber studded sole.
- 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 affordable modern-classic. Automatic movement, terrific price. Goes with everything.
- 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 – $85ish: A basic, introductory, automatic diver. Bit of a gateway drug. Review here.
- Seiko 5KX Dive Style Automatic – $225ish: Seiko’s sporty automatic new foundation line of divers. Review here.
- Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 300 – $1050: Swiss made, great specs, and while not cheap, a fraction of what a luxury (Omega, Rolex) brand diver would run you. Ultra wearable, slimmer than other divers case. One of the best bracelets in the business. Available in 3 sizes.
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 Standard 40mm – $79: It’s like a Weekender and an Omega Seamaster heritage made an horological alternative of Knocked Up.
- Seiko 5 Sports Automatic Black Dial Watch – $220 – $275: A new favorite from Seiko.
- Hamilton Murph 38mm – $895 or original 42mm – $995: From the movie Interstellar, now with a sized down 38mm option. Review of the original 42mm can be found here.
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.
- TheTieBar White Non-Iron Poplin- $55: Good quality and they do their best to keep them in stock.
- Charles Tyrwhitt Slim Fit Non-Iron Poplin – $40 – $99: A brand that many men lean on for their dress shirts… when on sale/during multi-buy promos. You’ve gotta play the sale game with CT (hence the enormous price range)
- Ledbury White Sutton Stretch Twill Custom Dress Shirt – $135: Six different collar options, three fits, and sleeve lengths down to the half inch (no more extra tailoring charges). Delivered in a few weeks since they’re custom.
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 – $39.90: Oxford cloth that’s more substantial than poplin, but not weighty like flannel.
- Target Goodfellow Slim Fit Stretch Oxford – $24.99: Affordable. Widely available. Lots of sizes.
- J. Crew Slim Stretch Secret Wash Shirt – $50ish when on sale: Navy gingham is classic for a reason. Will go on sale. Slim fit or classic fit.
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.
- Wills Speckled Merino Crewneck – $98: Classically handsome. Warm and rugged without being overly weighty. Looks great with jeans. Looks great under a suit or blazer.
- Amazon Goodthreads Merino Wool Cardigan – $40ish: 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 great thanks to the go-dry tech fabric.
- Banana Republic Luxe Touch Slim or Reg. Fit Polo – $60: 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. Can drop to $80ish during a big sale.
- Amazon Goodthreads Slim Fit Jean – $45: 98% cotton, 2% elastane. From Amazon’s own brand Goodthreads.
- Target Goodfellow Slim Fit Jeans – $32.99: 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.
- Old Navy Rotation Chinos – $30ish: An affordable basic made in 98% cotton/2% spandex, eleven colors, and slim or straight fit.
- J. Crew Stretch Chinos in Slim, Straight, or Athletic – $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 – $148: Sold in both waist AND inseam length. So no tailoring required. Can sometimes go on sale.
- Bonobos Italian Stretch Wool Dress Pants – $229: 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 Side-Tab Wool Dress Trousers – $118: No belt required. Contemporary rat-pack style. Super 110s merino wool.
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.
- Made in the USA Flint and Tinder 365 Belt 2.0 – $85: Built to last. Wear with everything casual or smart casual. Review here.
- 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.
- Tie Bar 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.
- Fossil Haskell Leather Double Zip Briefcase – $250ish: Yes, Fossil. It does not look or feel like a mall buy from 2004. Super soft, pebbled leather. Barely visible, small, subtle branding stamp near the base.
- WP Standard “The Woodward” Briefcase – $348: Classy. Great leather. Lifetime guarantee. Full review here.