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The Master List: The indispensable men’s wardrobe

This shortest shopping list is a cut-and-keep guide to the world of men's clothing

So many brands. So many cuts. So many styles. So many exasperating little differences in detail. All of which help to make shopping for clothes an ordeal. Especially if you’re the kind of person who has plenty of things to worry besides the content of your wardrobe. Worry no more. This is the definitive guide to stocking your wardrobe. We strip—pardon the pun—a man’s wardrobe down to the bare essentials. Leaving you with nothing more than the shortest shopping list that will help you be a man who is dressed for almost any occasion short of accepting a Nobel Prize. The Indulge Master List is a cut-and-keep guide to the world of men’s clothing.

TOPS

1. The white shirt

The plain button-down white shirt is both essential and versatile. Not only does it go with everything else and fit with every occasion, it is also ridiculously easy to buy. There is a great white shirt to be had at every price point. But experts recommend something in soft cotton. You can’t go wrong with that.

2. The pale shirt

White is right. But there is also such a thing as too much of a good thing. Which is why you also need at least a few other button-down shirts in pale colours. Blue and pinks are the no-brainer choices. And once you find a brand and size that work for you, just keep topping your supply up every year or two. Looks great with jeans and under a sweater.

3. The crew-neck shirt

Depending on the weather, your crew-neck could be made from wool or cotton blends. Choose something that can be worn by itself, or can be paired with a shirt when the weather gets cooler. Can’t choose? Then go with this thumb rule: something dark that you can wear inside an airline cabin comfortably.

4. The white T-shirt

Never doubt the white T-shirt. Never listen to people who tell you that the white T-shirt is no longer in fashion. The white T-shirt does not lie. The white T-shirt exists. And we merely exist to do its bidding.

5. The dark T-shirt

Unless, that is, you also have a dark T-shirt. Because beyond a bit a white T-shirt gets boring. Just like your button-downs, once you find a brand and size that fits, just buy enough dark and white T-shirts to last you for a week. That should keep you going for months.

6. The kurta

Pick a kurta that is halfway between disco-silk and college-communist, and you should have a piece of clothing that is uber-versatile. Choose a length that flatters your build and a fabric that is just thick enough to not collapse into wrinkles at the merest touch. Feel free to go for bolder patterns.

BOTTOMS

1. The dark chinos

Simple, no-nonsense, unremarkable, off-the-rack pants in dark colours. Basically, pants you can wear to work without raising eyebrows. They are very boring indeed. But you can wear them without thinking. And they go well under almost any top. Find a fabric blend that is long lasting and low maintenance. Choose a cut that is so pedestrian that nobody notices that you are wearing the same cut day after day after day.

2. The light chinos/khakhis

We love our light chinos. Especially in the summer when we can pair them with a T-shirt or a white linen shirt. Pick a pair that fit well but isn’t snug. These are pants you want to wear to feel and look cool. Pick a slightly more rugged fabric if you intend to wear these on trips up hills and down valleys.

3. The good jeans

And by good we mean jeans that you wear on semi-special occasions. Jeans that don’t look like you’ve had the same pair since engineering college. So go for a good cut, a good fabric and a good brand. If a tailor needs to get involved, then don’t hold back. Why? Because this is the jeans you wear on a date or one of those company off-sites that could end in a promotion.

4. The workhorse jeans

These are those engineering college jeans we were talking about. Jeans that you wash once a year. Jeans that are cheap and cheerful and can handle punishment. Jeans that you sometimes go to bed in when you’ve had one too many pints of draught. As before, find something that works, and then stick with it.

5. The trek pants

Ideally, you’re looking at one of those slightly high-tech pants with an above-average number of pockets. But please, show restraint. Because what you’re really looking for is a pair of pants that you can, in emergencies, wear to a parent-teacher meeting as well. Light, rugged, water- and dust-proof. Those are the essential qualities.

6. The walking shorts

Unless you live in place devoid of any sunshine, a pair of good shorts is a good investment. But please, we are not talking about shorts to lounge around the home in. No, no. We mean good, proper shorts that you can pair with a belt and T-shirt. Pro tip: Get one of those trek pants with tearaway bits that change into shorts.

JACKETS

1. The denim jacket

Denim jackets are timeless. As long as you avoid a few pitfalls. Don’t get one that is so cavernous that you can smuggle small children in them. And don’t get one with excessive linings. Ideally, you should be able to wear them over a shirt in warm weather. (We said warm. Not face-melting Delhi weather.)

2. The great suit

This should be the star attraction of your wardrobe. A suit that has been forged out of painstaking effort, much musing, several trials and excellent workmanship. A suit that is so expensive that you plan an outing weeks in advance. This is the suit to win hearts and minds and directorships in. Do it.

3. The good suit

This is the suit you wear for your breakfast meetings, or you carry in your bag when you have to change at the toilet in the airport. Something that can take some punishment, will serve you well, and doesn’t mind being laundered by the odd dodgy three-star hotel. Get something in a boring colour so that you can occasionally wear just the jacket or just the trousers without the public wondering why you look like a ringmaster.

4. The summer jacket

Wait a minute. We don’t mean just one of bright and garish summer coats that oligarchs wear in Monte Carlo. Those are great. But you could also get yourself a super-thin number in linen without any linings. Or a light-as-a-feather bomber jacket. Any jacket that you can wear in the summer. They are super-versatile and will serve you all year round.

5. The light down jacket

Many people think they don’t need a proper winter jacket. Until they do need a proper winter jacket. But then it is too late and they’re being rolled into the ambulance. Buy a good quality light down jacket that is easy to pack. Something so light and compact that it doesn’t take up too much space in your luggage. When the mercury plunges during your trip to Istanbul, you’ll be glad.

BELTS

1. The formal belt

The best strategy? Get one of those reversible belts in black and brown with a buckle that can go both ways. You have instantly solved the problem of holding up the vast majority of bottoms in your wardrobe. And please exercise moderation when it comes to width.

2. The casual belt

Something fun. Like a woven leather belt. Or a belt with exaggerated stitching. Something that you can wear on the weekends with your light khakhi chinos. No. Not the one with the cowboy buckle. No, really. No.

3. The sporty belt

Actually, there is really one kind of sporty belt you need to buy. A woven belt in a nice bright colour with a double d-ring belt buckle. They go well with most informal ensembles and are fun to wear. Try matching the colours with your favourite sports team or…err…favourite colour of capsicum.

SHOES

1. The Oxford

The shoe that you wear with your good suit. They don’t have to be actual “Oxford" shoes. But anything in black with laces and polished to a mirror finish will do nicely. And if you shop carefully, there are many bargains to be had. If you find something cheap, buy two. One for special occasions and one to beat to death.

2. The brown ones

Brown shoes can be a little confusing. But you can actually wear them with almost anything these days. Especially jeans. Just get a good sturdy pair that you don’t mind wearing till it falls apart. But if you do intend to wear them often, then do pick a pair with comfortable soles and linings. Be good to your feet. You only have two.

3. The good sneakers

And by good we don’t mean high-end necessarily. Or even expensive. But shoes you will never actually run in. Sneakers that are comfortable to wear and in sober colours. So that you can pair them with the rest of your wardrobe and look eternally youthful. (At least that is our plan.)

4. The workhorse sneakers

Same as above. But shoes you can occasionally run in. And unless you are some kind of fitness fanatic, you should be able to find a pair that is good to run in and decent to just walk and lounge in.

5. The kurta sandal

Men exposing toes? There are countries in the West where this is a crime akin to treason. But who in India doesn’t own a pair of excellent leather sandals. Sandals that add gravitas and dignity to whatever kurta you’re wearing. Beware though. Many of these sandals can be sheer torture for your feet. Pick a pair that is comfortable, easy to wash and clean, with soles that won’t collapse at the first sight of that freshly watered lawn.

WATCHES

1. The slim mechanical

Okay, fine. It doesn’t have to be mechanical. But it must be slim, minimal, elegant and unobtrusive. How to choose? Pick a watch that matches your best suit. And also vanishes inside your sleeve when your drop your hand. Perfect.

2. The chunky sports watch

You can get the latest tourbillion chronograph diver if you want to. But we recommend nothing more expensive than a nice, solid Casio G-Shock. A watch for the weekends by the pool. Or by the bar. Or by the pool by the bar. You get the drift.

3. The workhorse quartz

This is the watch you wear day in and day out. The watch you wake up in the morning and wrap around your wrist. The watch that you always keep in that bowl by the front door. Choose something powered by a battery or one of those solar-powered models. So that you literally have to never ever think about it. It should just always be there for you. Like your fridge.

4. The vanity watch

You know what is indispensable? The odd bit of luxury in your wardrobe. That little bauble that makes you feel good about yourself. And what can do that job better than a wristwatch that is a reflection of your personality. It doesn’t have to be expensive or rare or even a collector’s item. It could be your grandfather’s HMT Pilot. But you’ve equipped it with a monogrammed strap. Because you’re worth it.

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