20 Modern Wardrobe Essentials Every Man Should Own In 2022

Image Credit: Luca Faloni

Want to start dressing better? Well you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re stuck in a style rut or have something important on the horizon that’s inspired you to up your game, refining your wardrobe can give you an all-important confidence boost and allow you to evolve your own personal style.

It’s tempting to go straight out and start buying pieces you like at random, but your wardrobe is only as good as the proverbial glue holding it together, which is why the first and most important thing is to get your staples sorted.

Regardless of what style tribe you align yourself with, there are certain core garments that every man should own. Setting the foundation of any modern capsule wardrobe, they’re highly versatile, immune to the changing of fashion’s tides, and no man should be without them.

Oxford Button-Down Shirt

The OCBD is the ultimate smart-casual shirt. It can do it all. Wear it open over a T-shirt with shorts and leather sandals for a breezy summer look, or dress it up with preppy casual pieces like penny loafers, chinos and a cardigan. It’s the most versatile shirt there is, which makes it a must in every man’s wardrobe.

Plain T-Shirt

Not just the one, mind you. Quality plain tees are something it’s well worth stocking up on. Find one that fits you like a glove and buy it in every colour (especially white, navy, black and grey).

Plain T-shirts are one of those things you’ll find yourself wearing on an almost daily basis, so it’s important to get it right and have plenty of options on hand.

Polo Shirt

A polo shirt bridges the gap between an Oxford shirt and a T-shirt. It’s your friend when you need to look put together while keeping things laid back. It’s right at home with anything from shorts and sneakers to tailored pants and Derby shoes, and can even be worn with a suit for summer weddings and various other semi-formal warm-weather occasions.

Cuban-Collar Shirt

With its open spread collar, this summery button-through shirt is a great alternative to a traditional short-sleeved version. It’s got a more relaxed feel to it and looks equally great with beach garb, casualwear or tailoring.

Pick one in a roomy cut made from linen or linen-blend fabric to get the most out of its warm-weather potential.

Crew Neck Sweater

A simple jersey crew neck in a plain block colour is a great tool for layering during the colder months. It’s warm, low-profile enough to slot under things like overshirts and light jackets, and can be worn as a standalone layer in the transitional months too.

Knitted Roll Neck

A fine-gauge roll neck in lambswool, merino or cashmere is a smart-casual layering essential. It can be worn with a suit in place of a shirt for a contemporary twist on traditional tailoring, or layered underneath an overshirt, bomber or denim jacket to give casual looks a sense of direction and purpose.

Hoodie

Comfy, cosy and easy to wear, a hoodie is one of those things you can just throw on at the weekend when you’re not sure what to wear. It’s an invaluable layering tool in the fall and winter, and looks great worn under some heavy outerwear like a parka or wool overcoat.

Jeans

Whether they’re raw denim, mid-wash or stonewash, it’s important to have at least one pair of jeans in your wardrobe. Historically, they’re casual legwear, but these days there’s nothing stopping you from dressing them up too.

Try wearing mid-wash denim with a pair of brown suede loafers, a tucked T-shirt and a Cuban-collar shirt for a summery slant on smart-casual.

Chinos

The Ivy League look is a big trend right now and chinos are arguably the preppiest legwear option there is. They occupy a middle ground between jeans and dress pants and can be worn with anything from soft tailoring to T-shirts and sandals.

For maximum versatility, opt for a classic slim or straight leg in a subtle colour like navy, forest green or classic khaki.

Shorts

You can’t hide those legs away all year. Shorts are just as important as full-length pants, even if they don’t see as much action. There are lots of styles to choose from but to get the most wear out of them, we’d recommend looking at something like a tailored swim short.

This is a great option if you only want to buy one pair as it’s essentially an amphibious chino short – smart enough to wear with a shirt and deck shoes to dinner, but you won’t raise any eyebrows when you jump into the pool wearing them either.

Navy Suit

Provided you’re not a city trader or corporate worker whose job requires you to be suited and booted at all times, there’s no need to buy multiple suits in different colours. In the name of minimalism, invest as much as you can comfortably afford in a single-breasted navy suit – you’ll be surprised at how much it can do.

For bonus points, get it made to measure. Or, failing that, enlist the help of your local tailor to ensure it fits like a glove.

Poplin Shirt

Oxford shirts are great, but you’ll need something a little smarter when the time comes to dress up. That’s where a poplin shirt comes in. It’s a tighter, lighter, smoother cotton weave, which means it lacks the texture of Oxford cloth and therefore looks a bit more formal.

Buy one in white and one in light blue or pastel pink to cover all bases.

Wool Overcoat

A proper wool overcoat is expensive, but it’s a worthwhile investment. This sort of outerwear doesn’t date, you’ll have it for life and it’s actually surprisingly versatile.

Throw it on over tailoring in the winter, as is tradition, or bring it up to date and use it to dress casual outfits up. Try wearing it over a hoodie or track jacket for a nice balance of high and low.

Overshirt

Few garments work harder than the humble overshirt. It’s one of those rare pieces that can be summoned at any time of year thanks to its versatility and adaptability. Wear it layered with knitwear and a heavy coat in winter, or use it as a light outer layer in the transitional months.

Parka

In the darkest depths of winter, even the best wool overcoat won’t keep you sufficiently insulated. When you really need to wrap up warm, a parka is the most obvious and effective way to go. A proper arctic parka should be made from heavy-duty fabric, feature either natural or synthetic insulation, and be cut to around thigh length.

Style it with casual winter staples like work boots, flannel shirts and heavy knitwear.

Minimalist Sneakers

There aren’t many places sneakers can’t go nowadays. Dress codes have loosened up a lot over the last decade and a bit, and as a result, they can now be worn with pretty much everything short of a tuxedo.

Still, in order for it to work, they need to be the right type. We’d recommend investing in a pair of simple, white leather sneakers for maximum versatility.

Suede Loafers

These laid-back slip-ons are the solution to all your smart-casual footwear problems. They’re comfy, versatile, smarter than a sneaker and more relaxed than a Derby or Oxford shoe. Wear them in place of a sneaker to dress casual looks up, or team them with tailoring to lend formal pieces a laid-back feel.

Leather Derby Shoes

A classic Derby shoe in black or brown is the only dress shoe you really need. It’s less stuffy than an Oxford, but still smart enough to see you through the vast majority of formal occasions.

It’s not above being paired with smart-casual outfits either – try wearing a pair with tailored pants, a roll neck, and an overshirt for a modern spin on the notoriously vague dress code.

Work Boots

Winter footwear can be tricky, but not if you invest in a quality pair of leather work boots. These sturdy stompers are built to last and look great with layered winter looks. Team them up with textured knitwear, raw denim, thick flannel shirts and heavyweight winter outerwear.

Athletic Sneakers

Minimalist leather kicks might look good, but there are more comfortable options out there when it comes to being active. Whether it’s for the gym, running in the park or simply running errands around town at the weekend, a pair of proper sporty sneakers with a foam midsole and mesh or knit upper is the best way to go.

Paddy Maddison

Paddy Maddison is Ape's Style Editor. His work has been published in Esquire, Men’s Health, ShortList, The Independent and more. An outerwear and sneaker fanatic, his finger is firmly on the pulse for the latest trends, while always maintaining an interest in classic style.