What’s the most important part of your wardrobe? The winter coats? The tailoring? The printed Cuban-collar shirts that are only drafted in when the mercury creeps past 70 degrees? No. When it comes to wardrobe hierarchy, it’s the simplest garments that rule the roost.
We’re talking about your wardrobe basics. The plain white T-shirt that underpins every weekend outfit; the twill overshirt that can be called upon regardless of season; the trusty jeans you reach for EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. These are the garments at the core of it all. Strip the rest away and they’re really all you need to get by.
And we can prove it. In order to demonstrate that less really is more, we put together five key looks using only the essentials.
Every garment we used was sourced from ASKET, a premium direct-to-consumer menswear brand that hails from Sweden, the global capital of understated cool. It makes only what it deems to be true essentials and puts the rest of its resources into refining them to the nth degree. If you’re looking to upgrade the bedrock of your wardrobe, let these looks serve as your inspiration.
From traipsing around the supermarket for the weekly shop to linking with friends for dinner and drinks, the weekend poses a unique, varied and often unpredictable set of demands for your wardrobe. The solution: wear something that can do it all.
We like to opt for light colours when it comes to weekend duties. It keeps things relaxed and casual. Some mid-wash denim and a classic grey sweatshirt lay a solid foundation, while darker outerwear can bring a bit of contrast to the table. We’ve opted for an insulated gilet, which is great as it can be worn alone on cool days or layered up with a heavier coat to tackle frosty climes in style.
Footwear-wise, think comfortable, but also stylish. Suede sneakers are a great option for the weekend, or if you want to dress it up slightly you could swap these for something like a desert or Chelsea boot.
Learn how to style your basics well and they can take you places usually reserved for tailoring. The secret is to stick to dark colours which help to create a dressy feel. Keep lines clean and sharp, footwear smart and formal, and everything else will fall into place.
But if you’re looking for a secret formula to knockout smart-casual outfits every time, our advice would be this: don’t neglect your legwear. The right pants play a huge role in crossing the gap from casual to smart, which is why we love these tailored-feel chinos from ASKET. They’re casual, but with the DNA of a dress trouser. The dark colour paired with the clip-and-button fastening at the waist gives the pants a distinctly formal feel while retaining the comfort and practicality of something more laid back. They’re refined enough to do business with a patent-leather Derby, but aren’t too high and mighty to slum it with sneakers on their off days.
Thinking outside the box when it comes to a mid-layer is a good idea too. A shirt is the typical go-to garment for smart-casual looks but opting instead for a roll neck can lend a contemporary edge while remaining refined enough to pass in all but the most formal of settings. Throw in some big-coat energy in a contrasting shade and you’re onto a winner.
We don’t have the time or the inclination to think about every single outfit we wear in minute detail. Chances are, you’re the same, which is why monochromatic looks are such lifesavers. Black and white will always look good together, which means less time thinking about what to wear and more time to concentrate on things that actually matter.
It’s pretty simple to nail the aesthetic: just stick to garments that are either black or white. If you want to dial the contrast down and introduce some depth, you could introduce different shades of grey into the mix too. But remember, the name of the game here is simplicity.
Footwear-wise, alternate according to the setting. A black leather Chelsea boot to dress it up, a white leather sneaker to dress it down, or something like a black suede desert boot for occasions that require something between those two extremes.
Coco Chanel famously labelled it good practise to look in the mirror before leaving the house and take one thing off. We appreciate she was probably thinking more women’s couture and less menswear, but it’s a sentiment we can still get behind.
In style, less is often more, but there’s a fine line that separates minimalist from mundane. So how do you make a stripped-back look sing? For us, the key is in the details. The less there is going on, the harder each garment has to work, which is why quality is king when it comes to nailing the minimalist aesthetic.
It’s all about attention to detail. A knitted polo has texture and a subtle level of detail on its side. It’s understated but still has something to draw the eye in. Simple, but far more interesting than a boring old T-shirt or Oxford shirt. Similarly, raw denim jeans are crisp, clean and classic, with the talking points hidden in the details. The subtle selvedge line; the contrast stitching; the richness of the indigo colour. It all amounts to an outfit far greater than the sum of its parts. Perfectly rounded off with a pair of minimalist, box-fresh white sneakers.
Many of menswear’s MVPs have their roots in the workshop. Jeans began life as humble overalls; the T-shirt is the product of miners cutting up jumpsuits to stay cool; and the humble work boot, well, the clue is in the name. As a result, the very foundation of your wardrobe is planted in workwear, making it the perfect place to start when searching for inspiration.
The three-pocket overshirt is one of workwear’s key pieces. It’s timeless, it looks great, it’s functional and you can call on it all year round. It’s the obvious place to start when piecing a workwear-inspired look together and it can even be dressed up with smarter pieces if you don’t want to go full blue-collar chic. A pair of raw denim jeans are next on the list. They’re a workaday staple born out of industrial America and remain as relevant today as they were back then.
Layering is an important part of workwear style and it’s something you can use to your advantage through the changing seasons. In the winter, use the overshirt as a mid-layer, teamed up with heavier outerwear like a parka or a lined chore coat. When summer arrives, throw it on open over a T-shirt and cuff the sleeves. And in the awkward transitional months, use it as a light jacket on top of a tee and a classic crew-neck sweatshirt. Naturally a classic plain wool beanie provides added insulation, and style – in a similarly vein to a well constructed pair of hiking boots.
Modelled by Thom, styled by Ape’s own Paddy Maddison and photographed on location in the glorious North East of the United Kingdom.
A paid partnership with Ape-Approved brand ASKET – words and opinion are Ape’s own.