For model and visual designer Bappie Kortram, a good menswear basic means something that fits well, looks good and holds up over time. Proclaiming his style “dadcore to the max,” Kortram believes in creating a wardrobe around versatile, comfortable clothes. “You’re not going to build a house on paper maché and dreams,” he told HuffPost. “You need your basics. You need good basics.”
“You have do a lot of research before you buy anything… because it has to work in many ways,” Kortram said. “For me most important thing is fabrics and composition. Figure out which shape is best for you. The color has to work. Then you have to look for materials. Yes, you can get nice cheap pants, but will they last five years?”
Durability and fit were a common concern among style experts I talked to about the best menswear basics. You want something you can always rely on, and something that makes you feel good when you wear it.
“Basics should be your most comfortable and best-fitting pieces,” stylist David Komisarchik told HuffPost. “Discomfort with those means discomfort all day.”
Though “men’s basics” may conjure images of bulk packs of undershirts and ill-fitting khakis, Kortram, Komisarchik and others encourage being intentional with basics, finding sharp, timeless pieces you really love, which likely means spending a little more money on them.
Vinh Luong, owner and creative director of the brand PNKDRMS, said basics should also be stand-alone pieces. “I think a misconception about basics is the need for more. You only need a few good basics. Wear them constantly,” Luong told HuffPost. “If something fits you well and you feel good in it. Double up. Triple up.”
Getting something to fit you well may mean taking it to a tailor. You don’t have to wear something straight from the store, especially if it’s three inches too long. Comedian Mike Abrusci said personalizing basics is an imperative step. “I think tinkering with your clothes is the best way to really control how you look, and then how you feel about how you look,” he said, “which is really the most important thing.”
To help you look and feel your best, I consulted menswear enthusiasts I know from across the gender spectrum to share their favorite basics and how they wear them.
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Anonymous Ism socks
“[T]hey’re pricey, but the coolest, most comfortable, and highest quality sock you’ll ever grace your feet with. Their most well-known sock is probably the 5 knit in cotton. They’re made in Japan on vintage shuttle looms and are hand-finished so there are only a couple dozen of a single pattern or colorway made, so they all vary and give a unique look even if you decide to double up on a pair. They also come in a variety of volumes (thin, medium, thick) so there’s something for everyone. You can always find them on sale in all the well-known menswear sites too.” — Grullon
Men’s pants and shorts
Woolrich wool plaid bibbed overalls
“Woolrich doesn’t produce these anymore, but there are tons on Ebay. They’re made from really nice wool, last forever, keep you warm in cold butcher shops. Look closely because some are lined with green silk, which makes them insanely comfortable. I love the red suspender straps. Woolrich has gotten fancier, but an Ebay search will get you some fantastic Woolrich workwear from previous years.” — Nicoletti
Shirts and outerwear
Oris Roberto Clemente watch
“There are seven days in a week, [and] five of those seven I’m wearing my Oris Roberto Clemente watch made in Holstein Switzerland, by a totally carbon-neutral company who gives back to the town … where they’ve operated uninterrupted since 1904. [I]t has a very legible pointer date and bright white dial with some of the best luminescent hands in the game.” — Grullon