Style

How to Build a Stylish and Affordable Men's Capsule Wardrobe

A case for "dressing French"

I wore the same pair of jeans three days last week.

On Monday, I paired my favorite high-waisted, black Naked & Famous skinny jeans with a button-up shirt and Nike dunks. Two days later, I wore them out for drinks with gray heels and a white sequined top (an after-the-holidays steal from Madewell), and that Friday with a blazer and concert tee.

At no point did I hear, “Um, Megan…didn’t you just wear those jeans?”

Which really shouldn’t be so surprising. As much as we all tend to assume the world revolves around us (and our sublime wardrobe choices), no one actually thinks about what you’re wearing as much as you do.

That’s why building a men’s capsule wardrobe is such a good idea.

I noticed this phenomenon of fewer, but better clothes when I lived in the south of France my junior year of college. Mes amis français always looked super chic, though I knew none of them had many beaucoup euros to spend on clothes.

One friend, Henri, would bust out this très cool blazer for class..maybe he’d wear it on Tuesday, and again on Thursday, but always in different outfit combinations. Marietta had a pair of suede boots that she paired with jeans, skirts, and dresses alike.

The lesson from my too cool for école pals? That a wardrobe that repeats doesn’t have to be a bad thing. That if you want to wear that blue oxford shirt twice in one week—once under a sweater with chinos, once with jeans and sneakers—go for it.

Women will notice that you look put together, not that you’re repeating basics.

This doesn’t mean I’m letting you off the hook for putting thought and care into your outfits each day, quite the opposite, really. It’s better to repeat clothes in your closet—really great, quality clothes that you know you look and feel great in—rather than rack your brain (and bust your budget) in order to pull together a totally new outfit each day of the week.

Get started with these building blocks of a men’s capsule wardrobe:

1. Blue oxford shirt

SG Says: Hold onto your butts, because for almost all of these men’s capsule wardrobe items, we’re going to link to other stories we’ve already done on Style Girlfriend about the oh-my-god mission critical importance of having this item in your style rotation already.

That’s the nice thing about capsule wardrobes; they really are just the essentials, so you probably already own at least a few of the items on this list. Like an Oxford shirt, which looks good dressed up and dressed down, with chinos and with jeans.

2. Henley

SG Says: By now you know how everyone on the team here feels about a henley. If you haven’t yet worn yours in new and interesting ways (like pairing it with a suit!), I highly recommend it. You’ll be surprised by how versatile this wardrobe workhorse can be.

2. Dark wash jeans

SG Says: Obviously you need (and probably have) plenty of jeans. But it’s worth doing a Mari Kondo-style purge of your denim drawer. There could be a pair or two that aren’t doing you any favors in the style department. You know the ones. You’ve had them since college, and they’re a little worn out, a little faded. And while they’re probably comfy as hell, you don’t look (and therefore don’t feel) your best in them.

Reward yourself for getting rid of the safety blanket clothes by investing in a new pair of dark-rinse, slim-to-straight fit denim that makes you look and feel like a million bucks.

4. Navy sport coat

SG Says: You can get a lot of mileage out of a well-fitting navy sport coat. If you already own one, but it doesn’t fit great, consider taking it to the tailor before starting from zero. They might be able to tweak it here and there for a better fit that practically feels MTM.

5. Brown oxfords

SG Says: You could also go with a lace-up boot as your one necessary dress-up shoe. Just make sure you have at least one pair of shoes you can wear with a suit to funeral or to court (hopefully not in the same day..that would be a rough one…)

6. Khaki chinos

If you’re starting from scratch, a pair of chinos in a khaki color is the way to go. This color is easy to find from most brands, and the overall effect is a neutral building block for whatever kind of outfit you decide to wear that day.

7. Grey crewneck sweatshirt

SG Says: I’m actually shocked we haven’t done a story on grey crewneck sweatshirts by now. They’re one of my favorite wardrobe items (okay okay, they’re actually several of my favorite wardrobe items..I have three or four) and I love them on guys, too. Reigning Champ makes a great one. So does Todd Snyder + Champion. And if you’ve never tried on Alternative Apparel’s Eco-Fleece crewneck sweatshirt, believe me when I tell you it’s like wearing butter. In a good way, obviously.
> Read the case for and against adopting a daily uniform!

8. Striped shirt 

SG Says: Guys, stripes are cool! Give in already, oui oui?!

9. Charcoal suit

SG Says: Aaand, the suit you’ll wear to that “headed to court then a funeral” day.

10. White sneakers

SG Says: Who can’t use new white sneakers? No one can’t…that’s who!

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Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of building a men’s capsule wardrobe?

SG can help!

Having a wardrobe that makes you feel like a million bucks does a lot for your confidence, but it can feel like a slog to build. If you’re ready to invest in some new clothes for your wardrobe but dread the thought of shopping for them…consider having Team SG shop for you! We can curate an online shopping list just for you that fits your budget, your body type, and your lifestyle.

Let us rescue you from shopping fatigue and sartorial apathy. You’ll receive personal attention and care that will make you feel like the best version of the awesome guy you already are! Ready to seriously improve your closet and your confidence? Give us a shout.

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