10 Pieces That Should Be In Every Man’s Capsule Wardrobe

Image Credit: Charlie Thomas

There are many reasons why creating a capsule wardrobe is a good idea. Chief among them is ease. Narrowing your clothing options down to a few key essentials that work harmoniously makes getting dressed one less thing you need to worry about each morning.

But what exactly are the pieces you should consider, and how should they be mixed and matched most effectively? From finding the right Oxford shirt to maximising versatility with your clothing, here’s everything you need to know about curating your own capsule wardrobe.

Why Build A Capsule Wardrobe?

There is something incredibly attractive about the idea of minimalism. Simplifying your life, shunning excess and only buying the things you actually need is a satisfying process. It’ll help reduce clutter and keep your life more focussed.

With clothing, it’s a chance to start afresh and save space. But when it comes to choosing which items to invest in, there’s another factor to consider: compatibility. Build a capsule wardrobe of staple garments that complement each other and you’ll not only save space and time, you’ll make putting outfits together completely effortless. Buy pieces that you know are going to work together and you can get dressed in the dark and still look good.

A capsule wardrobe consisting of well-made basics also has a timeless element. It’ll look as good now as it will be decades to come, as T-shirts, jeans, and Oxford shirts are classics that don’t rely on trends. As long as they’re made with high quality fabrics and providing they fit well, these are clothes you can rely on for a variety of social situations, from officewear to relaxing on the weekend.

But what are the pieces you need and how do you combine them effectively?

10 Classic Pieces For A Timeless Capsule Wardrobe

Blue Jeans

A certified classic, blue jeans are one of the easiest and most worn garments in the world. However, you need to get them right. You can’t just throw on any pair of blue jeans and expect to look good.

For ultimate versatility, invest in a dark indigo jeans cut from raw denim – that is, unwashed denim in its natural state. This gives them a rich shade that will subtly fade over time, resulting in a pair completely unique to you and how you wear them.

Grey Sweatshirt

With origins on the American football field in the 20s and 30s, the grey sweatshirt will always be associated with classic Americana. It’s well and truly evolved from its humble sporting roots though, becoming a staple layering piece that can be worn on its own or underneath a lightweight jacket or raincoat.

Inherently casual, it’s the perfect laidback alternative to knitwear and wears just as well with jeans as it does chinos or tailored trousers.

Canvas Sneakers

Canvas sneakers also boast extensive sports heritage. High-tops, such as Converse All Stars, were originally made for professional basketball players, whereas low-top designs like Vans were created for skaters, who required lightweight, flat bottomed shoes with grippy soles.

Both styles are arguably two of the most iconic sneaker designs ever, and you don’t need to have an NBA contract or be part of a pro skate outfit to wear them today. Perfect for dressing up or down, canvas trainers are the everyman of shoes, perfect for wearing casually in summer or adding a laid-back edge to smarter, tailored looks.

White T-shirt

As far as menswear essentials go, the white T-shirt has got to be up there among the most versatile. It really can do it all, from completing a high-summer look of shorts and sneakers, to finishing a casual take on tailoring with an unstructured suit.

The quintessential capsule wardrobe piece, look for one in a slim but not restrictive fit, which will wear as well on its own as it will under a lightweight jacket or sweatshirt.

Lightweight Jacket

Lightweight jackets often get overlooked in favour of heavier outerwear pieces, but when it comes to versatility, they can’t be beaten. Cropped silhouettes such as Harringtons, bomber jackets and blousons make for the perfect in-between pieces that provide the finishing touch to casual looks, while also adding a dressed-down feel to tailored trousers and leather shoes.

You can’t go wrong with one in black, which looks as good over a white tee and jeans as it does chinos and denim shirts.

Desert Boots

For times when sneakers are too casual but leather shoes are too stuffy; enter, desert boots. Crafted from soft suede or leather with supple crepe soles, desert boots are the ideal smart-yet-relaxed shoe.

They were originally intended for British soldiers in WWII who were stationed in stiflingly hot countries where traditional combat boots would have been too cumbersome. But today they can practically be worn anywhere and with anything – try yours with jeans, a white T-shirt and Harrington jacket.


While chinos also have their roots in the military, today they are arguably the definitive smart casual trouser. Wear them to the office, to a date, even pair them with a blazer for a wedding reception… you can’t go wrong.

They’re also great for casual weekend looks, combining with canvas sneakers and T-shirts as easily as jeans. Opt for a tapered fit that isn’t too slim and restricting and you’ll have a versatile pair of trousers you’ll reach for day after day.

Oxford Shirt

If versatility is what you’re after then an Oxford shirt should be one of the first items you buy for your capsule wardrobe. With their soft button-down collars and lightweight Oxford cotton, this is a shirt that looks as good teamed with a suit as it does worn open over shorts by the pool.

This is a true staple piece that will look as good now as it will in 20 years’ time. Just ensure the fit is not too slim and pick one in white or light blue for ultimate versatility.

Baseball Cap

Baseball caps offer function first and foremost, with their short peaks providing a respite from the sun on bright summer days. But they also offer plenty of style, depending on the design, and can add a further element of individuality to the most minimal of looks.

Easy to integrate into any wardrobe, baseball caps offer a casual feel that complements weekend attire of denim jeans, tees and jackets, while they can also add a laid-back, preppy feel to slightly smarter looks made up of chinos and Oxford shirts.

Classic Sunglasses

A good pair of sunglasses completes an outfit, taking it from basic and uninspiring to achingly cool in seconds. When looking for a pair yourself, stick to classic frame shapes and colouring and you won’t go far wrong. Take your inspiration from the mid century with a ‘keyhole’ design made from brown acetate with blue lenses and wear them throughout summer and beyond.

A paid partnership with very.co.uk – words and opinion are Ape’s own

Charlie Thomas

Charlie Thomas is a writer and photographer, contributing to publications including The Independent, The Times, The Rake and Black + White Photography magazine. His photography has been exhibited by Photofusion, Central Saint Martins and Photo Co-Op.