“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 – $348+: Nice fabrics, two fits, and half canvas. As good as it gets in terms of bang-for-the-buck. Look for the $348 priced suits in wheelhouse colors. Can be had for less than $300 during big sales. Which is crazy. But they often sell out of stock fast.
- Black Lapel Online Made to Measure – $599+: For those with frames that don’t fit into standard suiting “drop” zones, and thus have to have a suit made to their measurements. If you’ve got tree trunk legs, or big shoulders, or short arms, these guys are worth a look. Full review of Black Lapel can be found here.
- Suitsupply’s “Wardrobe Starters” Line – $359 – $399: 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 – $299: Patch pockets keep it from looking like a suit jacket. Natural, unpadded shoulders are 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.
- Old Navy Built in Flex Cotton/Spandex Sportcoat – $60ish: 97% cotton/3% spandex. Cheap. Versatile. On sale a lot. One of their best sellers.
- Suitsupply Navy Check Havana Jacket – $399: Check please. A little pattern never hurt anybody. Ships and returns for free.
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 Cap Toe Oxfords – $248: Goodyear welted. Made in Portugal.
- 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 and Mackay Cap Toe Balmorals – $248: Goodyear welted. Made in Portugal. Solid price.
- Banana Republic Italian Leather Cap Toe Oxford – $95ish: Inexpensive but dependable if you don’t wear black dress shoes all that often.
Many sneaker trends come and go, but simple, leather or canvas, classic court inspired kicks have always been in style.
- adidas Stan Smith – $85: Recently updated with more eco-friendly materials. Just enough color.
- Nike Blazer Low ’77 – $85: White, Navy, and Gum. But not the ubiquitous “killshot” sneaker. Full review here.
- Good Man Brand Edge Sneaker – $198: Spendy but awesome. Made in Italy. Lots of colors. 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.
- Spier & Mackay Dress Chukkas- $248: Goodyear Welted. Made in Portugal. Dressy, but still versatile. Hard not to love.
- 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 – $85: A basic, introductory, automatic diver. Bit of a gateway drug.
- Nodus Retrospect III – $475: A total home run from a micro brand which assembles their watches in the USA. Review here.
- Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro – $1015: 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 Men’s MK1 Aluminum 40mm – $40 – $75ish: Basic, but not TOO basic. Classic military looks.
- Seiko 5 Sports Automatic Gray Dial Watch – $220 – $275: A new mode, and a new favorite from Seiko. Review here.
- Hamilton Khaki Automatic Field Watch – $400ish: 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.
- Spier & Mackay White Poplin – $58: Before getting into suits and shoes, Spier was founded as a shirt company. And they know what they’re doing. Terrific value.
- 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 Fine Twill Mid Spread – $135: 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.
- J. Crew Slim Stretch Secret Wash Shirt – $40 – $50: 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.
- Goodthreads 100% Merino Micro Striped Crewneck Sweater – $40: A breton or micro-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.
- Amazon Goodthreads Sueded Jersey Polo – $21: An inexpensive basic made from soft jersey fabric in a ton of different colors. And some of us really like that chest pocket.
- Banana Republic Luxe Touch Slim or Reg. Fit Polo – $30ish ($44.50): 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 (or $75 when you buy 3). 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 – $75ish: Super comfortable. For those who don’t mind performance & stretch with their denim.
- Amazon Goodthreads Slim Fit Jean – $40. 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.
- 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 Khakis – $35ish: A legend for good reason. Available in slim, straight, athletic, etc.
- 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.
- Lands’ End Tailored Fit Year’rounder Wool Dress Trousers – $60ish: $60ish is about where they land these days with sales and promos. Not bad for 98% wool / 2% stretch dress pants.
- Banana Republic Stretch Wool Dress Pant – $70ish: Often on sale. Available in slim or athletic tapered.
- Spier & Mackay Dress Trousers – $98 – $178: From basic workhorses to super fancy wools an flannels with side tabs. Multiple fits too.
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.
- TheTieBar Navy and White Stripe Tie – $25: Because sometimes a 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.
- Boconi Slim Zipster Laptop Briefcase – $120 ($298): You could do a lot worse for a hundred and twenty bucks.
- Hook & Albert Black Leather Briefcase – $299. Simple. Classy. Not stuffy. 5 year warranty.
- Saddleback Flight Bag – $589: A beast. Extremely well designed, great leather, and comes with a 100 year warranty.