The basics

Its probably appropriate to make one of the first posts about how to start your working wardrobe.

Regardless of whether you are straight out of school, entering a graduate position, or changing careers, developing an appropriate wardrobe will always provide a headache to the ill informed. The following suggestions are just that, suggestions, but they will serve well in any environment. That said do take heed of the satorial climate of your workplace and industry, as what will suit a senior advertising executive will be very different to what is expected of a lawyer starting their first job.


This is where it all starts. For those wearing suits everyday, having at least three is a must and having two trousers with at least one is extremely beneficial. Suits require resting after wear and should never be worn on consecutive days and preferably given two days rest. As we wear suits the wool absorbs moisture and this is what causes wear and tear much quicker than usual.

The first suits should consist of the following, plain navy; plain charoal or dark grey; navy/dark grey self stripe; black navy or charcoal pinstripe and black navy or charcoal chalkstripes. Some may notice that I haven’t listed plain black and it is not an oversight. Plain black or black self stripes are very formal and are almost tuxedos and really should be kept purely for weddings funerals and other occasions more formal than standard office wear. Obviously a mixture of the patterns and plains is preferable, having three chalkstripe suits is always going to be a bit much, and 3 plains may be too boring for most. Please note when I refer to plains I also mean to include herringbones, twills, pic n pics sharkskins etc. I like to advise clients that 2 plains and one pattern is a good base and will enable you to mix and match quite easily and have enough variation. In more conservative positions, opt for more subtle stripes and darker shades. With reference to cuts, the key to the basic core wardrobe is to avoid the trends and ensure classic style is attained. This will ensure that these core pieces will still be relevant despite changes in fashion over the next couple of years, and then they will only need replacing as they wear out. It is also vital when purchasing ready to wear suits to allow some budget for alterations to ensure that the suits look like they fit! One final note, dont buy the ultrafine suits when starting out as these are designed for occasional wear and will not last if worn twice a week, and will result in dissapointment.


I believe that 5 shirts is an absolute minimum. This allows one for every day of the working week. In conservative roles these 5 should be at least 2 white 2 blue and perhaps one classic stripe. There is nothing wrong with having 5 whites or just whites and blues, especially in conservative industries. You can have a more interesting group of shirts but you will need more than 5 and still need the basic 2 whites and blues. These then take away any hassles as far as combinations of shirts and suits, and also enable you to get by with a smaller tie selection. Please choose pure cotton, if not for your own comfort, then at least for everyone elses as poly cotton will cause sweating and as a result smell!! Not ideal. Cuts on shirts should be fitted, but never tight, but never oversized. As the wardrobe expands add more stripes and checks to your own taste but always keep a selection of the classic range, they are always great when running late and you cant be bothered thinking what goes with what!! Style wise french or button cuff are fine just avoid pockets!!!!


Again the key is rotation. 3 pairs are ideal, probably 2 brown and 1 black. Please wear only brown with navy and any blue, and as brown shoes are nicer with greys having two pairs is preferable with one black.The reason rotation is vital is actually a bit gross, we lose 1 pint of fluid through our feet everyday, of which most is absorbed by our shoes and if we do not let them dry they literally rot! Avoid the really “trendy” styles and ensure that the look you have chosen will be suitable for at least a couple of years! The other absolute must is regular maintenance, please polish and condition regularly. Shoes should be comfortable but never like sneakers. They should have leather soles, which will enable resoling later on.


There is  a great quote and I do not know who to credit but here it is, “I am too poor to buy cheap things”.

The inference is that they do not last as long and will require replacing more often and in the long run cost more. While it is good to look for great value such as a high quality suit on sale, skimping and buying poor quality will hurt in the long run. Not only will it not last, it will not be as comfortable, and will more than like not fit as well.


About themaninasuit

I have been involved in the menswear business since university in1997. Have gradually fallen in love with men's suiting and more recently tailor made garments. I am perpetually asked for style advise and things to wear so decided to get some of my thoughts and passions out and about

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