For model and visual designer Bappie Kortram, a good menswear basic means something that fits well, looks good and holds up over time. Proclaiming his style “dadcore to the max,” Kortram believes in creating a wardrobe around versatile, comfortable clothes. “You’re not going to build a house on paper maché and dreams,” he told HuffPost. “You need your basics. You need good basics.”
“You have do a lot of research before you buy anything… because it has to work in many ways,” Kortram said. “For me most important thing is fabrics and composition. Figure out which shape is best for you. The color has to work. Then you have to look for materials. Yes, you can get nice cheap pants, but will they last five years?”
Durability and fit were a common concern among style experts I talked to about the best menswear basics. You want something you can always rely on, and something that makes you feel good when you wear it.
“Basics should be your most comfortable and best-fitting pieces,” stylist David Komisarchik told HuffPost. “Discomfort with those means discomfort all day.”
Though “men’s basics” may conjure images of bulk packs of undershirts and ill-fitting khakis, Kortram, Komisarchik and others encourage being intentional with basics, finding sharp, timeless pieces you really love, which likely means spending a little more money on them.
Vinh Luong, owner and creative director of the brand PNKDRMS, said basics should also be stand-alone pieces. “I think a misconception about basics is the need for more. You only need a few good basics. Wear them constantly,” Luong told HuffPost. “If something fits you well and you feel good in it. Double up. Triple up.”
Getting something to fit you well may mean taking it to a tailor. You don’t have to wear something straight from the store, especially if it’s three inches too long. Comedian Mike Abrusci said personalizing basics is an imperative step. “I think tinkering with your clothes is the best way to really control how you look, and then how you feel about how you look,” he said, “which is really the most important thing.”
To help you look and feel your best, I consulted menswear enthusiasts I know from across the gender spectrum to share their favorite basics and how they wear them.
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Men’s pants and shorts
Woolrich wool plaid bibbed overalls
“Woolrich doesn’t produce these anymore, but there are tons on Ebay. They’re made from really nice wool, last forever, keep you warm in cold butcher shops. Look closely because some are lined with green silk, which makes them insanely comfortable. I love the red suspender straps. Woolrich has gotten fancier, but an Ebay search will get you some fantastic Woolrich workwear from previous years.” — Nicoletti