How to build a capsule wardrobe: the pieces every man should own

A model wearing a suit - one of the key pieces that make up a men's capsule wardrobe
Nick Carvell,-Contributing fashion editor, GQ

Looking sharp and well put together is easier than you might think

Embracing trends is a key requirement for a fashion editor, but it does have its downsides. A couple of weeks ago, I was heading to a wedding and searching desperately for a white dress shirt. I discovered that I only had one – at the bottom of my laundry basket. I did, however, have three slightly bonkers, situation-inappropriate pyjama shirts. The moral of this tale is that new trends are great, but embracing them shouldn’t come at the cost of the items that you’ll actually wear over and over again.

The key is to build a capsule wardrobe by investing in quality classics, working largely around three solid colours: navy, grey and black – as well as white for your shirts. These should be instantly interchangeable, but still have cool detailing and quality fabrics to give each piece an edge. These items form the solid foundations of your new go-anywhere wardrobe. All future crises averted.

Man in a roll neck jumper

The rollneck sweater

A black or navy rollneck is quite possibly the most adaptable piece of knitwear a man can own, working just as well with a tux as it does with tailored tracksuit trousers. Be sure to go for a fine-gauge weave, which is less likely to lead to you overheating. A cashmere version is cosy, lightweight and an understated way to elevate any ensemble.

Man in a navy suit with denim shirt

The chinos

A wardrobe staple doesn’t have to be simple. Take these chinos, cut from quality herringbone cotton – the sort of fabric that will only get better with age – and featuring cool details such as patch back pockets and tab adjusters (no belt required). Navy is always a classic choice and looks equally sharp with a pale denim shirt or a relaxed cream hoodie.

Man in a white t-shirt and blue trousers

The white T-shirt

A great building is built on solid foundations, and that of course goes for your wardrobe, too. So take your time getting exactly the right T-shirt for you: something that fits well on the shoulders and is cut from the kind of fabric you want next to your skin. This is because a T-shirt should look good enough to show off, even though it won’t always be seen underneath knitwear.

Man in a grey suit

The single-breasted suit

Suits are no longer just an item to wear on-the-clock. The beauty of a slim-cut, single-breasted suit is that it can be worn as a full suit (for work and more casually with a crew-neck sweater slipped underneath), but can also be split up and worn separately. Your wardrobe is then augmented with a smarter jacket or a sleek trouser when the situation demands it. Slim cuts are flattering on most men and the great thing about John Lewis & Partners tailoring is that it comes in small, regular and long – and you can buy the trousers and jackets separately. Try a few variations until you get your perfect fit.

Man in a white shirt

The white shirt

You’ll always need white shirts, so it will pay for you to go for the best ones that you can afford, choosing a small cutaway collar to look neat and modern. Seek out natural fibres for comfort and a cut that works for your body type. For smart and casual outfits alike, always keep the shirt carefully pressed so that the overall effect is expensive and considered. Pair with blue jeans for a classic combination that will never date.

The classic overcoat

Having wardrobe staples in a limited palette means you can add colour in small but powerful doses. A navy cashmere coat (like the one pictured above, £199, Kin, available in store) can be jazzed up with bright accessories all winter long – a much more wallet-friendly way of ticking trends than buying a new coat every season. Look for details that signal the coat is a cut above: slim silhouette, contrast collar and slanted pockets. 

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