So you're in your 20s. Maybe you just graduated from college. Maybe you're at your first job. Whatever the case, you're in the real world now, and you can't get away with sweatpants with your college logo going down on one knee and a T-shirt that looks as if it should be turned into a rag to spot clean your floors. But since you're a man now, maybe you're also looking to be stylish but don't know how. Well, this is the time to dress to impress. This is the time to invest in the basics, the essentials, go-to pieces that are fundamental to your wardrobe, or lack thereof. These clothes and accessories that you buy now will form the foundation of your wardrobe for many years to come. But you need to know what should go in your closet, regardless of cost. Lucky for you, we've identified the stuff you need and, in some cases, told you exactly what items to buy. For example, it's time for you to invest in a proper suit even if your job is "come as you are". You need to get some hardworking jeans that will get better in time, hard-wearing khakis that can take you from office to happy hour, as well as some iconic pieces known to last a lifetime.
"Iconic" is the keyword that should describe your wardrobe. These are pieces that don't go out of style. They are, in essence, the embodiment of style. The New Balance 574. The Alden dress shoe. The Barbour jacket. Do you want more? Well, here are 25 items that men in their 20s should be buying if they want to dress to impress.
The polo shirt is an essential part of a young man's wardrobe as it's multi-purpose. In the summer, it's the perfect alternative to the T-shirt. You can wear it with chinos to the country club. You can wear it on casual Fridays. You can wear it to The Loeb Boathouse while watching the rowboats drift by. It's both formal (the shirt has a collar) and casual (the shirt has short sleeves.) There are many brands you can buy. Polo by Ralph Lauren and Lacoste are the priciest (each around under 100 bucks) but the most ubiquitous. Both do the job and have slim-fit versions for that tailored look.
Buy a lot, you'll need them. You can wear them out on the weekend or even on a night out paired with a blazer for an ultra-cool effect. You can even wear them to sleep. White, blue and black are the staple T-shirt colors you should get. And when we're talking basic, we really mean that. T-shirts wear out a lot, so don't invest in expensive ones. You don't need a James Perse cotton T, which will set you back around $60; Look to the Gap for the T-shirt.
Now that you're no longer in school, the key to wearing just a T-shirt is how it fits over your body. Slim Fit apparel has been going on for a while, and on some sites, that's what fashion companies only offer. The T-shirt should hug your body but at the same time it needs to have just a little slack so its comfortable to wear. If you have a beer belly, tough luck looking neat. You may just have to wear a jacket or a blazer over the T.
As an essential in a man's wardrobe in his 20s, you need to buy a good pair of jeans. Don't buy jeans that have a "regular fit." You'll be swimming in the pair and end up looking sloppy. Again slim-fit is the way to go. The color you want is dark blue or mid-indigo because those match with almost everything else in your wardrobe. And here you'll want to splurge a little because of everyday use.
If you want to look smart and stylish, pair a pair of jeans with formal or 'proper' shoes. For formal offices, only Oxfords will do. What brand should you get? Alden. It's the oldest shoemaker in New England and is made from Chromexcel leather, the best kind of tanned leather. A pair will set you back $500, and while that seems high, remember that Aldens will last and that the first thing women notice about you is your shoes. (Source: JCrew)
You'll need a fall jacket, and if you only buy one, get a Barbour. The Barbour Bedale is one of the most iconic jackets in the world. Made with an exterior of waxed cotton that repels rain or water, the jacket, which comes in navy or hunter, has a classic touch. At just under $400, this is an investment jacket. We first bought one while in college. Six or seven years later it still looks new. The secret: return the Barbour to the company to get it waxed again to extend its life.
Stylish men have a lot of sneakers in their closet. Nike, Vans, and Adidas come to mind. But if you could only buy one pair of sneakers, get the iconic New Balance 574, the footwear that doesn't go out of style. As Esquire said, "[F]or a lot of guys, it's the first thing that comes to mind when someone says "sneaker." If you can't appreciate the value of having a shoe like that in your wardrobe, well then there's just no helping you."
Here's what you should invest in: the suit. You'll need a proper one when you go to job interviews or work. You should buy two: one in solid navy and one in charcoal grey because these colors go with the widest variety of shirts and shoes. In other words, they match everything. Note when we're talking about a suit that it's comprised of a jacket and a pair of trousers made of the exact same fabric. And speaking of fabric, wool is the best material because it's simply classic. After you choose your suit, go to a tailor to make sure it fits as if it's been custom-made. (Source: TheIdleMan)
To start out, you'll need three different colored dress shirts: white, light blue and blue-and-white striped. These are "safe" colors that go with any ensemble. They are considered formal shirt colors. When looking for a shirt, you want one made of Egyptian cotton or 2-ply fabric. Egyptian is the best as it has an extra long staple, which means the fibers are longer to lend the shirt a silkier, more durable fabric. Fabrics are either 1 or 2 ply. This is the number of yarns twisted together to make a single thread. A 2-ply is generally finer with a tighter weave than a 1-ply, so always go for the 2-ply. It will last longer. For more info that will definitely help, check out The Anatomy of a Dress Shirt by Men's Journal. (Source: MensJournal)
In addition to the white formal shirt, you should maybe get a few of the same color but with different style collars. That's because, in your 20s, you'll quickly learn that white shirts go with everything and at any occasion. You should look to stock up on formal collars or button downs. You'll be dressed to impress if you wear your white shirt over an informal blazer. You can go to midtown, crosstown and land in Alphabet City and still look great.
While in college, you probably had a polyester duffle bag with a Nike swoosh label on it that you used for every occasion, from working out in the gym to traveling home to see your rents. Now that you're in your 20s, garish labeled bags made of polyester are a no-no. Invest in a Filson duffle bag and you'll never have to buy another duffle bag again. Filson is classic American and known for its no-nonsense duffle bags. Made of rain-resistant rugged twill that won't rip, this bag can go anywhere. Get the medium-sized duffle, as it's designed to meet maximum airline carry-on size restrictions. If you want to show the world that you're stylish but steeped in tradition, get the tan-colored duffle. It's Filson's trademark color. Look, even Robert Pattinson carries Filson! (Source: Forbes)
What every gent should have in their closet is a blazer. The blazer is somewhere in between the suit jacket and the sports coat, which is less formal. It's tailored closer to the body whereas a sports coat is cut more loosely. Stick to the basics and get a wool classic blazer in navy, as navy goes with everything. According to a reporter in Business Insider, "Every woman I know still likes to see a man in structured, traditionally masculine garments like blazers. Experimentation with fashion is great, but stock your closet with the basics."
Chinos or khakis are the most versatile of men's pants. They're in the middle ground between casual and formal. When you're tired of wearing jeans, the chino is the go-to pants that look great with about almost everything, like a slim-fit T-shirt, a sweater or a button-down shirt. Men in their 20s may already have chinos, as they often wear them with navy blazers in prep school or during an informal but dressy college event. Chinos are more comfortable and breathe easier than jeans. The twill fabric will get softer in time, and are lightweight enough to wear in the summer. (Source: FashionBeans)
Otherwise known as tuxedo shoes, you'll be glad you invested in a pair of chic black lace-ups that are glossy in color and should be made from fine Italian patent leather. That's because in your late 20s, all your friends will be getting married, and all you need to do is rent a tux. You should never rent shoes, as they may look like poor quality. The black shoe is also perfect for any formal occasion.
Ray-Ban first started to produce their now iconic Wayfarer sunglasses back in 1952. Decades later, it's the go-to sunglasses for men who want to dress to impress, and lend an inimitable retro look to their outfit. Buy the classic black ones and you'll look as if you've just stepped out from an Aston Martin when really you just walked up twelve steps to get to your hole-in-the-wall studio. A pair will set you back $150, but if you're careful with them and not break them, they will last a very long time.
There's no second-guessing. If you need boots during snow or bad weather that are built to last, you get a pair of Red Wing boots. While these rugged, high-quality boots are designed for people who actually work outside under extreme conditions, recently the boots have found favor with style aficionados for their practicality, above all hipsters who live in Brooklyn. They're so anti-hip that they've become hip. If you work in a trendy office setting and the weather sucks, chances are some 20 something is wearing a pair, trading the brown lace-ups for thick red ones for that Carhartt look.
A good parka should leave you toasty and warm while out in the cold and also leave you free from inclement weather. The hands-down brand you should get is from Canada Goose. It became an instant hit among stylish aficionados the moment they were released in the early 2000s. You don't wear them while shoveling your driveway. Instead, they're designed with the city commuter in mind. There are many to choose from, but we suggest getting the waist-length parka because its the only version that looks tailored.
Young men in their 20s don't carry stuffy briefcases. They carry messenger bags. You want something stylish that you can take all over town. And you need one to fit your laptop or iPad. So we recommend Paul Smith's Portfolio bag. Made of grained-leather, the bag is defined by the British brand's iconic multi-colored signature stripe, which will reveal to those in the know that you shop at Paul Smith, which can be notoriously expensive. The bag costs $595. But you'll love it because when you carry it using the handles, it's kind of like a briefcase. And because it has shoulder straps, it will look like a messenger bag. Two in one!
Your formal look for work is not complete without a watch. They are as much for telling time as they are for making a stylish statement, and they're the only accessory that a man can truly wear every day. Your watch should look, well, timeless, as well as classic-looking and of high quality. One with stainless-steel bands are formal and look great with suits. Watches with brown or black leather straps are more casual and reveal that you're a quiet traditionalist. And ones with rubber or canvas straps are great for weekends and for going to beer halls in the LES. If you can only invest in one watch, buy the stainless steel. (Source: BusinessInsider)
You probably have a ton of white socks because that's what you probably wore every day with sneakers while in college. But now that you're in the real world and are wearing brogues or oxfords to work, you should be investing in enough dress socks that will last a week before you wash them during the weekend. Like everything in your wardrobe, you should get colors that go with anything and are classic and neutral, which means shades of black, navy and gray. (Source: JCREW)
If you work in a formal setting, you probably need to wear a tie. You should invest in as many as you can afford. But there are so many choices out there. Brooks Brothers and J.Press are the way to go if you're preppy since they mostly stock rep ties, which are striped ties in two different colors. But they cost $70 and more, which means, if you're not making the big bucks in your twenties, you can probably only afford three or four. Stick to The Tie Bar, which has various patterns and colors. (Source: BusinessInsider)
For a pulled-together look and a touch of retro, the tie bar, the small clip that fastens your tie to your shirt, is our favorite instant upgrade and the finishing touch to your suit. Clip between the third and fourth buttons from the top of your dress shirt. It's the detail that counts, and it's also functional because it keeps your tie from moving. Go to The Tie Bar to get one, the affordable place where you should get your ties. Try a plain sterling silver one first; the cost is only $25. It goes with everything. (Source: TheTieBar)
The hoodie is the perfect sweat for young men to wear on weekends with a T or a V-neck shirt. Get the full-zip hoodie rather than the pull-over because then you'll be able to pair the hoodie with a tie and a button-down shirt for a stylish look that's both formal and informal at the same time. In cooler weather, wear a blazer over the hoodie--a look that still has not gone out of style. Reigning Champ offers the perfect hoodie; it's 100% midweight cotton that will make you rethink how good sweats can be.
Get a (semi) dress boot that you can take you to the office and then to dinner at Gramercy Tavern. There are so many styles to choose from, with such exclusive brands like Common Project, Grenson, and Officine Creative. But we love the lace-up Saint Laurent Army Leather Boots. We love the minimalistic design, and the high-quality craftsmanship shows. Able to withstand the rigors of hiking or wading through snow, the boots, more often than not, are worn for their style, not function. You have to shell out $1,095, but the cost is justified because they'll last a long time. (Source: Barneys)
Okay, so maybe you're 25 and all your money is going to rent. But just because you live on a budget doesn't mean you should look like it. For instance, you probably think the velcro wallet you carry is fine. It's not. At your age, you need to invest in a good leather wallet, a small detail that will go a long way. But don't overstuff it with receipts; a messy wallet says a lot about a person. So which wallet you should get? Lucky for you, for reference Esquire has given us the best wallets you should carry. (Source: Esquire)