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Menswear can include anything from formal attire to casual jeans and sneakers.

A dark suit is a versatile staple of the male wardrobe. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
A dark suit is a versatile staple of the male wardrobe.


Even if they majored in business or worked a steady job throughout college, many guys do not have the menswear essentials necessary to establish a professional identity once they graduate. Unlike experienced workers, who may have the money to buy designer clothes and accessories, recent graduates are on limited budgets, meaning they need to find outfits that are both affordable and tasteful, as well as versatile. The following essential menswear items should be present in every male graduate's wardrobe.

Plain Cotton T-Shirts

A good t-shirt matches jeans, chinos, cargo shorts and even dress pants, and it is an essential layering piece in cold weather. For examples of classic tees, men should check out J. Crew's Always List. The collection features shirts with and without collars in a variety of stylish cuts and subtle colors. For a more timeless look, men might opt for the classic white t-shirt, made famous by iconic film stars like James Dean and Bruce Willis.

Blue Jeans

Blue jeans have been a menswear essential for decades, but the preferred style is always changing. For example, light-colored stonewashed jeans were extremely popular in the 1980s and early 1990s; recently, however, the trend has been to wear darker washes and overly distressed fabrics. Guys building a professional wardrobe should avoid trendy styles for ones that are more classic and durable a medium-wash, relaxed-cut jean is almost always in style and can be worn with sneakers and t-shirts or sport coats and loafers.

A Gray Suit

Most men don a suit at some point in their professional lives. Men who wear suits on a daily basis (e.g., lawyers, corporate businessmen or stockbrokers) should keep a variety of colors and cuts on hand, but guys who only dress up on occasion can get away with having a single suit in their closet. GQ recommends buying a suit in a medium gray, which is formal enough for job interviews and boardrooms but casual enough for dinner dates and church services.

Classic Sneakers

A good pair of classic sneakers goes with just about anything, including khaki shorts, blue jeans, and button-down and polo shirts. The key to picking a great pair of tennis shoes is to stay away from loud colors and complicated designs. Instead, according to Mens Flair, guys should look for shoes that are relatively unadorned and plain, in solid colors like white, navy blue and black. Also, sneakers with uppers made from canvas or leather are generally more versatile than those made with synthetic mesh (e.g., running shoes).

Button-downs and Polo Shirts

Aside from a crisp white dress shirt, guys should have at least one or two button-down or polo shirts to wear for casual dates and other social events. These items are some of the most versatile in a mans wardrobe, as they can be worn with blazers and khakis or board shorts and sandals. Since these shirts blend elements of both casual and formal clothing, they are appropriate substitutes in most work places for a coat and tie. Light blues, pinks and yellows are classic colors, while bold reds, oranges and greens are more adventurous.

A Versatile Sweater

For cool temperatures (i.e., between 45 and 65 degrees F), one of the best menswear essentials is a lightweight sweater. Heavy wool sweaters are great in cold weather, but thinner materials are more versatile and can be layered more easily under outerwear. Sweaters generally come in four different styles v-necks, crewnecks, cardigans and half-zips all of which work well in both casual and professional settings. If price is an issue, men should spring for a solid or thin-striped sweater in a classic color like black, gray, blue or brown.

Genuine Leather Accessories

Though they may conflict with some guys religious or ideological beliefs, leather accessories are considered a staple of mens fashion. Three basic leather items to include in a starter wardrobe are:

  • A belt
  • A wallet
  • A briefcase or messenger bag

All three should be made of high-quality leather that ages well not only does the accessory look better, but good leather lasts a very long time, making it a better value than cheaper, less-durable materials. Both the wallet and the messenger bag should have room to accommodate a growing collection of credit cards, electronic devices, notepads and other day-to-day supplies. After considering function and value, guys are free to choose accessories with styles that match their personalities and dress codes at work.

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