There are certain items you shouldn’t go without in your wardrobe.
The things I’m listing out today may seem obvious at first glance, and you may take these must-have menswear items for granted, but they’re must-haves for a reason.
Think of them as “outfit finishers”, the final touch to your overall look, like icing on a cake or freshly-grated parm on your pasta.
Mmm, I think I’m hungry. Anyway, let’s get into the 5 menswear must-haves!
A high quality, well-designed slim wallet
I’m a big believer in buying the best you can afford — especially when it comes to the things you use every day. If you have to interact with something multiple times a day, every single day, don’t you want it to be a pleasurable, not miserable, experience?
The wallet falls into this category.
Keep yours slim. A card case is great because it forces you to be a minimalist with what you keep in there. And if that card case has a slot for cash, all the better.
There’s no reason to hold onto months-old receipts and credit cards you only use once a year. Follow this simple rule: If it’s in your wallet, it should be an absolute essential.
Another benefit of having a slim card case? It doesn’t look like you have a tumor growing out of your backside.
My two current favorites are the slim cash wallet from Anson Calder, and the front pocket wallet by Rogue Industries. They have enough room for a $20, my license, a subway card, my debit card, and the two credit cards I use most.
What more do you need?
Shirt stays (the key to staying tucked in)
It seems inevitable. You’re at work or a special event. You’re dressed sharp AF. And then… your shirt comes untucked.
Maybe not fully untucked, but at least partially. Excess fabric bunches at the waist, making you look unkempt, sloppy.
You can’t help it though, right? You’re standing up and sitting down, moving and walking around. So your shirt just doesn’t stay in its place. Wearing a belt doesn’t help, either.
Your options are 1) stealthily tuck it back in, or 2) run to the closest restroom for a complete shirt-in-pants reset… and how annoying is that?
That’s where shirt stays come into play.
Add a couple of these to your formal look and you can go through your whole day without having to constantly adjust and readjust.
Our friends at KK&Jay (who were kind enough to sponsor this article) make two types of shirt stays: one you can wear with socks, and one you can wear without.
So if you’re wearing socks, the shirt stays will attach to them, keeping your socks up and your shirt tails tucked in. Brilliant, amirite?!
And if you’re going sockless (or wearing no-show socks) the other end of the shirt stays wrap around your calf.
KK&Jay shirt stays are built to last, right here in the US (Brooklyn, NY, to be exact!) These are a game changer if your shirts come untucked constantly during the day… and whose don’t? I mean, let’s be real here.
So if you want to stay looking sharp all day, with your socks up and your shirt tucked in, add a few pairs of shirt stays to your wardrobe ASAP.
When you’re checking out, make sure to use code ‘GENT’ for a special discount!
A signature scent
What’s the best way to find your signature scent?
It’s like figuring out the perfect size and fit for you. You have to try a bunch of different fragrances and find what’s right.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Fragrances change when applied to your skin, and it happens for a bunch of different reasons (body temperature, your skin’s pH balance, how oily or dry your skin is naturally, even your diet!)
This means a fragrance can smell completely different on a sample paper strip vs. when you wear it. It can also smell different from person to person.
So when trying a new scent, first apply it to your skin. Does it smell the same on your wrist as it does when you smell the bottle? Then go about your day and check the scent later. How fragrant is it after a few minutes, an hour, or a few hours?
2. Check out the fragrance wheel to get an idea of what you’re going for.
Without getting too bogged down in details, just imagine what scents you’d find most appealing. Next time you’re at a department store, Sephora, or somewhere similar, tell a salesperson you’re looking for fragrances that have those specific notes.
Personally, I wear light, fresh fragrances for spring/summer and woodier notes for fall/winter.
My current favorite for warm weather is Dolce and Gabbana’s Light Blue Italian Zest (light, floral, fruity). Last fall and winter I wore Viktor & Rolf’s SpiceBomb a lot (which, you guessed it, is a bit heavier, woody and spicy).
Once you find a few scents to try, ask for samples if possible (Sephora is usually accommodating), and wear them around for a few days.
See how each one develops after applying on your skin. Once you find a scent that you love, buy, wear, and enjoy.
A nice watch
Wearing a nice watch is one of the few ways a guy can really stand out.
But don’t get it twisted; nice doesn’t necessarily mean expensive.
What’s most important when it comes to choosing a watch? Finding one that you like looking at and will actually enjoy wearing. For conservative work environments, the simpler the better. But if you don’t have a dress code to worry about, go with anything you like.
The most basic approach (which still works great) is to browse until you find a timepiece that catches your eye. From there, do some research to learn about the style, the brand, and its history.
Maybe it’s a simple date watch from Timex, an automatic diver from Seiko, or a pilot watch from Hamilton.
Whatever it is, remember that wristwatches are a whole world in itself. So it’s good to have an idea of where yours came from and why it’s designed the way it is.
If you have no idea where to begin and you want a casual yet grown-up wristwatch that goes well with a smart, sharp casual style, check out the Seiko SKX013 Automatic Diver.
This is a solid tool watch from a storied brand in a smaller 37mm package that can handle daily wear. Plus, the classic diver style will look great in all situations, except maybe the most formal of occasions.
If you have bigger wrists, (7″+ around) try the Seiko SKX007. This diver’s 42mm dial may work better (remember, it’s all about proportion).
For a simple, polished dress watch, the Seiko SARB065 (dubbed “Cocktail Time”) is a solid choice.
A Handkerchief (the utilitarian pocket square)
Sometimes the term “pocket square” and “handkerchief” are used interchangeably. But I consider handkerchiefs to be the more functional version of a pocket square.
Whereas a pocket square is placed in the breast pocket of your jacket for aesthetics, a handkerchief is kept hidden (maybe your jacket’s hip pockets, or the back pocket of your pants), usually made from cotton, and used when something needs to be wiped or dried—your brow, your hands, your SO’s tears (of joy, hopefully).
I can’t count the number of times I washed my hands in a public restroom, only to discover there were no paper towels (let’s be honest, anything other than the Dyson Handblade doesn’t dry your hands) and the only thing that saved me from wiping my hands on my pants was my hanky.
Whatever you choose, always keep one in your back pocket! It’s a lifesaver, I tell ya.
Bonus: Insoles (better than no-show socks)
With the exception of a few brands I’ve found to work well, most no-show socks suck because they slip off your heel the minute you walk out the door.
(By the way, here’s my full roundup and review of no-show socks.)
Life then becomes a living hell until you’re able to take your shoe off to put your sock back on… only for it to fly off your feet again after taking 5 steps.
Check out more details about each of them in this article. Your mileage may vary, and you may not like insoles over no-show socks. But if you’ve ever had trouble keeping them on your feet, these are worth a try.
How many of these are you currently using?
I hope uncovering a few of the most underrated menswear items helps you step up your style and keeps you nice and sharp.
Thanks to our friends at KK&Jay for sponsoring this article, and thanks to you, dear reader, for supporting the brands that make EG possible!
Make sure to check out their shirt stays; they’re easily the most useful item I mentioned in this list. And if you need suspenders as well (my preferred method over belts when wearing suits), they’ve got you covered.
And don’t forget: use code ‘GENT’ at checkout for a special EG reader discount 😉