Basic wardrobe guide V3

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Basic wardrobe guide V4




This guide applies to all ages, body types, social standings, or self-perceived personal archetypes. This guide lists the basics and fundamentals of the mens wardrobe and will point to some budget-minded options for this. Read this guide understanding that a lot of noobs can’t afford $150 shirts. Remember though, generally, you get what you pay for.

Fit is king, nothing can make cheap clothes look better like a good fit, and conversely, nothing can make expensive clothes look cheap like a bad fit. Tagged clothing size varies widely by manufacturer, a small isn’t always a small and a large might be a medium.

Check out the guide to [1] ‘How Clothes Should Fit’ for more info.


Jeans – The blue jean is a classic part of American workwear and a staple to any man’s wardrobe you can imagine. Anyone can wear these. Stick with a dark indigo wash. Avoid bootcut jeans, nobody has calves that flare out larger than their thighs.

Chinos – Colloquially known as ‘khakis’, khaki is the color and chino was the material originally used. Levi’s makes trousers in most of their jean cuts in varying colors. As a beginner, avoid cargo pockets and pleats. Flat front pants are much more flattering.

  •  Dockers Alpha Khaki – $39.99 – These fit slim, close to the 511, black is less versatile than you think, consider navy or the earth tones.
  •  Dockers D1 Slim Fit – $39.99 – These fit like 514s, a bit tight in the seat and straight past the knee. Black is less versatile than you think, consider navy or the earth tones.

Cords – AKA Corduroy pants. Lots of people wear these as kids. Again, the fit rules that apply to jeans also apply here. Make sure the wales (the thin strips) are small. Levi’s makes a lot of these in their jean cuts for similar prices.

Shorts – Avoid cargo pockets. Slim, plain front shorts work well during the summer and hotter months. Check out J. Crew Factory and Land’s End Canvas for some budget options.


Someone said that a shirt’s collar frames the face, which is important because people look at your face. For this reason I prefer V-necks over crew necks. Graphic tees you ask? Wear them at your own risk, they generally give off an air of immaturity.

  • Mossimo V-Neck Tees – $7.99 – Multiple colors – you can find these at target, they’re slim fitting and v-necked.
  • Similar Tees from LECCrew and  V There are however other shirts available too, collared button down shirts. Learn to like collared shirts, they can really make your image more mature.
  •  LEC Polos – $9.99 – Multiple colors, another basic, less versatile than collared button downs.

Button Ups – Stick with long sleeved versions for now. Keep em’ close to the body, off the rack shirts will typically need tailoring. Thicker and heavier weaves are more casual (oxford and twill) and lighter weaves more formal (poplin and broadcloth). There are exceptions to these rules, but this is just a guideline. Make sure your undershirt doesn’t show.

  •  Lands End Canvas – $20-30 – They have sales on all the time, the shirts aren’t the slimmest, but safe.
  • Alfani Red  “Dress Shirts” – $20-$30 – “Sport Shirts” – $20-$30 – These are decent slim shirts on a budget, dress shirts are usually longer and have to be tucked in. Prices vary between $20-$30 and a lot of sales go on.
  • Bar III  “Dress Shirts” – $30-60 – More from Macy’s, higher quality than Alfani.
  • H&M – $15-30 – H&M doesn’t do e-commerce, but they are a very prevalent mall store and carry many different types of button downs. They typically range from $15-30, they are generally slim fitting.
  •  J. Crew Factory Button-Ups – $15-40 – J. Crew’s outlet store, 30% off sales are relatively frequent. Quality is supposed to be below J. Crew’s mainline. Fits are typically a bit boxy, consider sizing down.


“Winter is coming.” So what do you wear? I like sweaters and cardigans, maybe a hoodie here or there. Check out the Fall or  Winter Wardrobe guides if you want more info.


Before I learned how to dress myself, I had a pair of ratty ass athletic Nikes, some flip flops and some bulky ass dress shoes. What you want to look for is a slim, rounded toebox that accentuates the shape of the feet. Avoid clunky soles, bulky toeboxes, square/pointed toes and pointless/gaudy stitching. Shoes are often the most expensive part of an outfit, so I’m only going over some cheap basics.

  • Canvas Sneakers –  Converse Chuck Taylor All Star – $45 –  Vans Authentic – $45 – These are basic low-top canvas sneakers, they usually look good with jeans and other casual outfits. I recommend Optical White for Chucks and True White for Vans.
  • Desert Boots –  Clarks – $60-80 – I have developed a loathing for these boots now, but they actually do look decent and I’ll recommend them again. Beeswax is a good color. They go well with jeans and chinos.
  • Brown BootsLL Bean Katahdin Engineer Boots – $159 – A solid, made in USA no-frills boots. It doesn’t have the sleekest toebox, but it is supposed to be built rugged. Can stand up to some weather by adding snoseal, but the soles aren’t lugged. Would go great matched with jeans.
  • Wingtips ‘Dress Shoes’ –  Florsheim – $100+ – The perforations or broguing on these ‘dress’ shoes make them more casual, allowing them to be suitable for smart casual or upscale casual wear. They go great with jeans or chinos. Go for a shade of brown to get the most mileage out of your shoes.


Accessories, the little details, sometimes these make an outfit, but leave that to the pros. Two basic accessories that can work for any man are a belt and a watch.

  • The Timex Weekender -40  Ah, the NATO-strapped Timex. The hardest circlejerk that MFA has ever experienced, but for good reason. It’s a good looking watch, with a lot of options for being you in the strap. Just please don’t post a picture of it when you get one. Black faces are more casual than white watch faces.
  •  4 STR / 4 STA Leather Belt – $35 – I got a decent leather belt from this store on ebay. The wider the belt the more casual, brown is generally more versatile than black, if you wear leather shoes, try to match the color with your belt.


Here are a few brick and mortar/mall stores which you can easily find some reasonably priced basics in person.

  •  H&M – Cheap, fast fashion, clothing is touted to last only one season.
  •  Gap – I feel like the design of Gap clothing isn’t as nice as some other retailers, but the quality is decent and sales are frequent.
  •  Zara – Cheap, fast fashion, higher quality than H&M.
  •  J. Crew Factiory – J. Crew’s factory line.
  •  Uniqlo – Only available in New York, much more availability outside of the US.

Take it slow, check out the guide to  How to Build A Wardrobe for some more pointers.

If you’re looking for inspiration or ideas, check out how  MFA’s ‘Consistent Contributors’ dress or check out how MFA’s general readership dresses in our  semi-weekly What Are You Wearing Today threads.

That’s it for now. These are just some basics, something to point you towards dressing better. The initial cost of dressing better might be high, but there’s a high return on investment here. Dressing well gives you confidence and with confidence, the world is your oyster.

by Renalan

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