“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.
- Suitsupply’s Blue Line – $359 – $399: Great fabrics, ships and returns for free, half canvas.
- J.C.F. Thompson Worsted Wool Suit Jacket & Pant – $299: Fused but moves well. Can be had for mid $200s during big sales.
- Spier & Mackay’s Slim or Contemporary Base Line Suits – $328: Nice fabrics, two fits, and 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.
- Bonobos Unconstructed Italian Wool Blazer – $400: Minimal construction. Airy. Versatile.
- Suitsupply Havana Fit Blazer – $399: Patch pockets keep it from looking like a suit jacket. Natural, unpadded shoulders are a nice plus.
- Spier & Mackay Navy Hopsack Blazer – $300ish: Excellent for the price. Does drift in and out of stock.
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.
- J.C.F. Flex Chino Sportcoat – $99: Made from cotton chino, so less dressy than a navy wool blazer. Comfortable. Also looks good with jeans.
- Spier & Mackay Green Cotton Sportcoat – $228: Year round appropriate in a color that doesn’t get enough love.
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 Cigar – $395: The light “walnut” shade might be sexier, but a darker brown can be worn with gray trousers.
- Jack Erwin Joe Cap Toe in Espresso – $195: Simple, sleek, and a solid price.
- Suitsupply Brown Cap Toe Oxfords – $299: Made in Italy with just enough flash. Ships and returns for free.
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.
- Massimo Matteo Black Cap Toe Oxford – $159: Made in Italy, affordable, and ships fast and free.
- Meermin Black Cap Toe Oxfords – $195: Goodyear welted. Know that shipping is pricey and you’re on the hook for returns.
Many sneaker trends come and go, but simple, white leather or canvas, classic court inspired kicks have always been in style.
- adidas Stan Smith – $80: Thick leather, super comfortable, and just enough color.
- Banana Republic Nicklas – $75ish: A more mature, logo free alternative to the J. Crew Nike Killshot.
- Good Man Brand Legend Sneaker in White – $198: Spendy but awesome. Made in Italy. Can go on sale.
Not everyone needs (or wants) a heavy pair of boots. But chukkas? Chukkas are good just about anywhere, just about any time.
- Banana Republic Norman Chukka – $90ish: Not too casual, but not too dressy. Always on sale.
- Clarks Bushacre in Beeswax – $70: A casual staple. Textured sole is tough to dress up, and they’re not super sleek, but you’ll still wear them a ton.
- Jack Erwin Mason Suede Chukkas – $195: A bit of an investment, but not crazy expensive. Made in Portugal.
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 – $125: An instant classic. Vintage looks, automatic movement, terrific price.
- Tissot Visodate Automatic – $399: Simple and Swiss. Never going to go out of style.
- Orient Polaris GMT Automatic – $345: A legend. Looks, feels, and wears way too good to be under $350.
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 – $85: A basic, introductory, automatic diver. Bit of a gateway drug.
- Seiko 007 – $225: A bit on the thicker/more casual side, but a robust workhorse that plenty depend on.
- Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro – $830: Swiss made, great specs, and while not cheap, a fraction of what a luxury 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 Waterbury Chronograph – $90: Timex has come a long way in the last few years. This is proof.
- Citizen Nighthawk – $190: A truly do-everything watch. Aviation inspired, with a stainless band and 200m of water resistance. Slide-rule included.
- Hamilton Khaki Automatic Field Watch – $400: 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 Trim Fit SmartCare – $49.50: A terrific, affordable but not cheap dress shirt.
- Charles Tyrwhitt Slim Fit Non-Iron Poplin – $69: Often had for less with multi-buy sales and catalog codes.
- Ledbury Fine Twill Mid Spread – $145: A huge splurge, but it’s hard not to be seriously impressed. The lowered 2nd button looks great when skipping a tie.
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.
- GAP Poplin Blue Gingham Button Down – $30ish: Navy gingham is classic for a reason.
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.
- UNIQLO Extra Fine Merino Wool V-Neck – $39.90: Super lightweight but strong. You’ll probably want a few of these in basic colors like navy, gray, black, and camel.
- UNIQLO Supima Striped Crew in Off White – $29.90: A breton or mariner striped sweater somehow makes the wearer look 27.5% more handsome. Even if they don’t know a sheet bend from a sheepshank.
- Goodthreads Merino Wool Cardigan – $40: Yes, a cardigan. They look great over a button up, under a sportcoat, or over a 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.
- UNIQLO AIRism Button Down Collar Polo – $29.90: Breathable cotton blend. Button down collar is a unique, and welcome feature for plenty of us.
- EXPRESS Solid Performance Polo – $39.90: Cotton/Spandex with lots of stretch. On sale often.
- Kent Wang Collar Band Polos – $65.00: A bit of a favorite in the menswear world. And priced like it. A splurge.
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. Rapid Movement Denim in Slim or Athletic Tapered – $118: For those who don’t mind performance & stretch with their denim. Often but not always on sale.
- Goodfellow & Co Slim Straight Fit Selvedge Jeans – $39.99. Traditional, rigid, 14oz 100% cotton denim. At Target no less.
- Levi’s 505 in Tumbled Rigid – $39.99: Timeless. Comfortable. One of the best, bang-for-the-buck items in all of menswear.
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.
- Banana Republic Core Temp Chinos – $60ish: A total game changer. 55% cotton, 39% polyester, 6% spandex. A tech pant that somehow avoids all the pitfalls of fully synthetic tech pants.
- GAP Original Khakis – $35ish: A legend for good reason. Available in slim, straight, athletic, etc.
- Bonobos Stretch Chinos – $88: Spendy, but they make your butt look good.
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.
- Lands’ End Tailored Fit Year’rounder Wool Dress Trousers – $50ish: A real deal at fifty bucks, which is about where they land with sales and promos. Also available in traditional fit.
- Banana Republic Stretch Wool Dress Pant – $70ish: Often on sale. Available in slim or athletic tapered.
- Nordstrom Trim Fit Stretch Wool Trousers – $99.50: Lots of colors. Ships and returns for free.
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.
- Gap Basic Leather Belt – $39.95. Looks good with everything but suits.
- Marino Ratchet Belt in #37 Mahogany – $27.99: 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 Grenfaux – $19: It might not see a lot of use, but when you need a black necktie, you need a black necktie.
- TheTieBar Navy and White Stripe Tie – $19: Because sometimes a thin stripe is called for.
The goal is to find the direct midpoint between a true, schlumpy messenger, and a hard sided attache. Meaning: softish sides, quality materials, a detachable shoulder strap, and a top grab handle for shorter trips.
- Boarding Pass NYC Flight Brief – $189: Perfect for a smart casual workplace. Made in the USA from waxed canvas.
- Filson Original Briefcase – $300ish: Made in the USA and walks the line between professional but not stuffy extremely well.
- Saddleback Flight Bag – $549: A beast. Extremely well designed, great leather, and comes with a 100 year warranty.