The following is a guest article by Robert van Tongeren of Restart Your Style.


There’s an easy way for you to make your style reinvention a lot easier, and it’s simply by establishing a good wardrobe foundation.

Very few men do this when they start working on their style. Instead they start investing in all the latest trends, without any know-how to pull them off.

Building a good foundation first is a much better way to go about it. It not only teaches you the basics on putting an outfit together, but you’ll have a wardrobe that trendy items can easily be added to.

I’ll explain how this all works, but first I’ll tell you…

What I Mean By a “Good Wardrobe Foundation”

A good wardrobe foundation is a timeless collection of basic men’s fashion staples. Good example are:

  • White shirt
  • Dark blue jeans
  • Grey sweater
  • Navy blazer
  • Camel chinos

Simplicity is the key here. The items in your wardrobe foundation don’t have to be eye-catching. In fact, they should be low-key. Think solids and neutrals.

Use These Foundational Items as Training Wheels

The great thing about these foundational items is that they are great training wheels for putting an excellent outfit together. Because of their simplicity, it will be very easy for you to mix and match these clothes, without having to worry about them clashing.

If you want to improve your style, you should start with the fundamentals.

Too many men neglect to work on this though, and it results in them trying their hand at more advanced techniques before they’re ready. You can balance the colors in your outfit as perfectly as you want, but without proper fit it won’t make much difference.

Getting the basics right is half the battle.

Since the items in your wardrobe foundation are of such a basic nature, you won’t have to worry about color schemes and mixing patterns. You can just concentrate on getting the fit right and learn how to layer the different items over each other to create interesting looks.

Once you understand the fundamentals, the next steps become drastically easier, which brings me to my next point.

Adding Statement Pieces

Once you have a good grip on the fundamentals, your foundation will make it very easy to add more interesting items to your wardrobe.

Because the clothes in your foundation are all solids and neutrals, they won’t clash with any other colors and patterns. This makes them excellent supporting pieces for when you decide you’re ready to add such items to your outfits.

Start wearing only one color at a time while keeping the rest of the outfit simple. This will give you a good sense of how just a bit of color can make an outfit more visually pleasing. It will also teach you some restraint, as it’s very easy to overdo it in the color department.

After a while you can try and start combining colors in your outfit. Make sure to put some effort in learning how they match. Find out how the color circle can help you pick a color scheme for your outfit, and really sit yourself down to internalize this.

The tips above also apply to patterned clothing. Wear just one pattern at a time, since mixing patterns is even harder to get right than matching colors. A style novice really shouldn’t be attempting such things.

So, have you built a good wardrobe foundation yet?

If not, I hope to have convinced you of the benefits. While I agree that other items can look a lot more interesting, you should never underestimate the importance of proper support. When you add a trendy item to a very basic outfit, it won’t have to vie for attention and this will make the item pop.

What other types of clothes do you think make good foundation pieces? Let us know in the comments!


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15 Responses

  1. Christopher on

    This is a very important article. I talk about the basics a lot at The Approach and I know Barron is big believer in it too. If you take nothing from him but this you’re still in good shape.

    You need a core wardrobe to build from. They’re simple timeless items that will look good no matter the situation or occasion. You know what they are by now because bloggers like us have probably drilled it into your heads by now. Dark denim. Good quality brown shoes. Button up white shirts. A blazer. I could go on and on but you get the points. From these seeds will grow your reinvented self. Everything comes from the basics. You can’t skip them. People notice. 

    Go back in time four years ago and I barely noticed other men had feet let alone look at their shoes. Now, if I see a nice outfit the first thing I do is look down. Shoes are the often overlooked and yet so vital final touch. Same thing with jeans. I rarely ever look at an outfit that includes acid washed denim and say “wow, glad he skipped dark denim” Never once has white button up been a bad way to go. Safe, certainly. Bad, never. 

    Are the basics boring. Kinda? But the basics are your frame work. You need them. I come from the world of Food Service. To me, skipping the basics is like having a working knowledge of Pop Tart toasting and then being thrown into a full service kitchen during Valentine’s Day dinner rush. You aren’t ready without the basics. 

    Once you get the foundation of a wardrobe down you have the bedrock sturdy enough to support your particular flair. 

    Listen to Barron. The man knows what he’s doing. 

    • Robert van Tongeren on

      It’s funny that you use a cooking analogy, as that’s exactly what Marcus Jaye used in his quote on a recent post of mine.
      I’ts very accurate. You don’t start with cooking 5-star gourmet meals. You first learn how to boil an egg. You start with the basics, and work your way up.I totally do that shoe thing these day btw, and I hadn’t even been conscious of it, until just now.

  2. Drew Conway on

    The companion article on Image Granted also written by Robert helps visualize the reality of needing so few clothes:

    • Kevin on

      Thanks for the link mentioned. But unfortunately after clicking on the link it takes me to a site that asks for a password. No user name or sign up. Just password. Any help would greatly be appreciated.

  3. Brian Alcorn on

    Thanks for this simple approach.  Seeing it laid out, it makes so much sense, and confirms what I was starting to lean toward already, as a new-to-style kinda guy.

    • Robert van Tongeren on

      Yeah Brian. I’ve learned when it comes to style, everything just makes a lot of sense once it’s simply laid out for you. It’s just hard cutting through the clutter of information out there, which is why I started Restart your Style in the first place. To give guys a clear path to follow and get them started. 

      Good luck on your style reinvention 🙂

  4. Brock on

    Hey Robert,

    Great post. What do you think about the whole buying an outfit vs. buying pieces argument? I’m with you on establishing a solid foundation before expanding based on your personality and taste. Also, buying whole “getups” can get expensive really quickly.


  5. Robert van Tongeren on

    Hey Brock,

    that’s a great question. I’m not on either side of the argument. I’m on the side of buying a wardrobe, rather than outfits or pieces. 

    Consider the clothes you already have in your wardrobe, and add items that can be matched to them.

  6. Barron on

    I’m personally against buying complete outfits. Doing so doesn’t teach you how to pair things. It also limits creativity and allows you to be lazy, which I think can be bad. That’s why guys tend to wear the same combo over and over; they don’t know how to mix and match what they already own into a combo that works.

  7. Christopher Barker on

    Okay…here’s the thing…your wardrobe staples while stylistically essential…they are completely impractical in weather over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Which where I live is most of the year. I mean khaki shorts and button ups just don’t fly in the “inland empire”. It’s a total dead zone when it comes to men’s fashion. Wait I apologize..only skinny little hipsters actually try to look put together. .What is it about southern California? You are a pariah if you dress to impress.

    • Barron on

      Disagree. Everything works, you may just need to adjust the types of fabric if it’s always hot where you live. If khaki shorts and button downs don’t fly, what does?

      You have to observe what others around you are wearing to an extent, but if you live and die by their opinions, what they wear, and how they act if you dress differently, I think there’s a bigger issue than just figuring out your wardrobe.

  8. Christopher Barker on

    You do have a point. Perhaps a change of perspective is needed on my part. I guess I’m just sick of seeing basketball shorts and skinny jeans everywhere. Sorry for the rant.